Philippines - Bohol and the Chocolate Hills - South East Asia 6

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 23rd November 2000

Getting to Bohol in a Typhoon

Packing for a trip to Bohol and Cebu in the Visayas. There is a typhoon alert out in Visayas.

Helen and (husband) Stewart and I eventually leave for our flight to Cebu. The traffic to the airport in Manila is terrible as everyone prepares to move out for the forthcoming national holidays. A usually 15 minute journey turns into an hour and it begins to look as if we will miss our plane. We finally arrive at the terminus feeling we had minutes to spare. Unfortunately, we are turned away as is the wrong terminus. PAL has their own. Helen is extremely embarrassed and by the time we have found a taxi and got to the right terminus the desk is closed. The next flights are all very full so Helen and Stewart offer to come back early next morning (2 a.m.) to get stand by tickets for the next days flights and I go back to Merville.

Catch the 7.30 flight with number one stand by tickets. The flight is hard work for a wimp like me. The turbulence from the impending typhoon is so bad that not even the airhostesses are allowed to stand up and I spend the whole journey in a cold sweat. We make our connection to the ferry at Cebu with spare time only to discover that most of the crossings have been cancelled due to the weather. Our crossing is going but is preceded by a number of announcements “This will be a rough crossing” . I take two seasick pills, but in the event it is nothing like as bad as the plane. The two hour journey is was more exhilarating than frightening though the ferry does yaw considerably and quite a number of passengers are making use of their paper bags.

Bohol

A taxi carries us across Bohol to Alona Beach on Pangalao Island where all is peace and sunshine. Little rattan huts on the beach and a superb restaurant with wonderful tamarind flavoured sweet and sour. We relax and sunbathe and stroll along the beach.

Spend the evenings till late drinking in the Safety Stop bar with a lanky Viking diving instructor called Karsten. The generator explodes sending sparks all down the beach.

On the beach the water has cleared enough after the typhoon to go snorkelling on the house reef. Like many of the local reefs it has suffered from dynamite fishing and (though to a lesser extent than in the Maldives) to bleaching of the coral because of the warming of El Nino. The crown of thorns starfish is a problem here also, as in other parts of the world. The shellfish that eats it has been totally depleted, so as to obtain its beautiful shell. Crown of thorns eats coral and has no other natural enemies. Karsten lectures us for hours about all these problems and vents his disgust at the way in which the locals cleanthe local weed off the beach by scooping it up and burying it. Nevertheless I see a big grouper, shoals of bright zebra fish and a black and white sea snake. The latter are poisonous but have very small teeth.

The Chocolate Hills and a Cockfight

A taxi to the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol, which are green at this time of year. They are an amazing clump of 1268 hills, which rise directly from the ground and are awe inspiring, in the same league as the Taj Mahal. We sit and drank in the atmosphere from a platform perched on the top of one of them and eat lunch in the restaurant before moving on to see the tiny local monkey called tarsiers down by the river. They have huge eyes and are really quite ugly. Many of the locals believe they are evil spirits and they have been stoned and hunted to the point of extinction.

We visit a reintroduction project. The monkeys crouch on my hand and then leap six feet back into their open cage. The scenery is beautiful and breathtaking – paddy fields, green swathed mountains, white beaches and glimpses of sea views though mangroves and palm trees. We watch the caribow cattle ploughing and crowds of children emerging from school in uniform.

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