When a 7.2-magnitude earthquake damaged, if not reduced to rubble, some of the churches, among 70,000 other structures, in the predominantly Catholic province of Bohol in Central Visayas in 2013, people were obviously taken aback.
A few weeks later then—while Boholanos were still picking up the pieces, so to speak, of their lives affected by the quake—a super typhoon pummeled the province.
“Life was really hard after Yolanda and the earthquake,” remarked our tour guide, further lamenting, “Our tourism was down right after those incidents.”
But the resiliency of Boholanos prevails, as almost three years after the disasters, the island province is getting up on its feet and recovering.
Offer a prayer
“Some of our churches were really badly damaged,” said our tour guide.
Perhaps even non-Catholics would be sad to see the severe damage on Loboc Church, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines. But restoration efforts are currently ongoing to bring the old glory back to the coral stone, Baroque church.
Also damaged but currently being restored is the Neoclassical Baclayon church, the oldest coral stone church in the region. Declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines, Baclayon’s portico and bell tower sustained major damage.
Tourists are welcome to go inside the church. Residents of the town, on the other hand, are optimistic that just like the rest of the province and the nation, Baclayon church will officially open and stand tall again.
A visit to what was once Maribojoc church should not be missed, though. While there is no more part of the church left, after the 2013 earthquake left the entire building in rubble, one could offer a prayer to the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which remained standing when the church crumbled to the ground.
While restoration process is ongoing in these churches, one can visit Sta. Monica church, which features the artistic talent of Boholanos. Churchgoers and visitors will appreciate the detailed woodcarvings at the altar made by the church’s artisans.
“Part of Bohol rehabilitation program is to teach and encourage local artisans to create wood carvings such as those showcased at Sta. Monica Church,” shared our tour guide.
Eat lunch on the boat and meet the tarsiers
First time visitors in Bohol can enjoy a different kind of lunch at the Loboc River Cruise.
Partake of a buffet spread as the boat moves gently along the palm-fringed banks in Busay and a band serenades the guests. A stopover on a stationary bamboo balsa, where an ensemble of singing folks are gathered, invites guests to a taste of local culture and entertainment.
After a filling meal, head over to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary where about a hundred tarsiers live in the one hectare area. Lucky guests won’t only meet Bohol’s popular primate but also the man whose dedication to the conservation of Philippine tarsiers made him the name of a new tarsier genus, Carlito Pizzaras.
“I was a [tarsier] hunter before since I was 12. We used to sell them. Now I’m dedicated to conserve them,” Pizarras told Manila Standard.
Chase dolphins in the morning; catch fireflies at night
Having breakfast on a boat while watching or chasing dolphins play is perhaps one of the best way to spend your morning. Waking up early is a must, though, as these friendly creatures can be seen in Pamilacan at 6 to 7 a.m. only.
At the end of the day, visitors can go firefly watching along Abatan River. Guests may choose to join a cruise on a motorboat or paddle their way to the mangroves that look like Christmas trees, thanks to the fireflies.
Rest and relax in a luxurious resort
After a day of discovering and rediscovering Bohol, Bluewater Panglao offers just the right kind of respite for its tired guests.
The premier resort is situated on Panglao island, where white sand beach, pristine water and marine sanctuaries abound.
The Panglao branch of Bluewater resorts, which opened in 2011, boasts organic yet elegant feel, with its warm Filipino concept and sophisticated features and amenities.
“Return guests love the atmosphere here, the peace and relaxation this place [offers],” Bluewater General Manager Rhyz Buac said in an interview.
Each of the 54 rooms in the 5.5-hectare resort has cantilevered beds designed by Benji Reyes, who also designed the building and the two free-form lagoon-shaped swimming pools.
International and local fare are available at Aplaya Restaurant, while Baroto Pool Bar offers cocktails and other drinks. Guests can let their hair down and enjoy a massage at Amuma Spa, or revel in the wonders of nature and check out diving, snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and other activities the resort offers.
“We see to it that we can create an experience that’s very memorable to our guests,” said Buac.
Bluewater Panglao invites everyone to rediscover Bohol through its package that includes three days/two nights accommodation, countryside tour and other amenities. Because the resort believes that even after the disasters that struck the province, “Bohol is still beautiful.”
Bluewater Panglao Resort is located at Daurong, Danao, Panglao Island. Visit www.bluewater.com.ph for more information.
Photos by Klara Fernandez