June 12-18, 2017
Location: Panglao (municipality), Bohol (province), Philippines
My stay in Alona Beach and visits to other places in Panglao would not have been as pleasurable without Oasis Resort as my base and SeaQuest as my dive go-to. I knew that at the end of the day, I would be resting my weary body on a very comfortable bed in a well-appointed room in this luxury resort.
Alona Beach is a 1.5km stretch of fine white sand beach in Panglao, lined-up by restos, bars, dive shops and resort hotels - think Boracay but smaller and less grandiose. Touts and hawkers offer tours, dives and transport rides. This is a very commercial area. A coldie on a beach bar watching people promenade before sunset is Alona's most catchy moment.
TRIVIA - it is only now that I learned Alona Beach was named after a very popular 70s actress, Alona Alegre, who made a film here when there was still no name to the beach. I was delighted when I learned about this. I know Alona personally back in the day. I was seeing her younger sister Tess and I would chillout at Alona's digs in Forbes Park. She and Tess were living the high life. She would be driving her Jaguar while Tess (and I) would follow in her 450SL Mercedes Benz convertible. She likes hanging-out at Stargazer and lavishly down Champagne bottles. She would spend for everyone in her dozen-strong entourage (Tess and I would be a part of that entourage). Good old days. They were good people. Now, I begin to wonder where they are.
Alona Beach prices perhaps equal that of Boracay. It is expensive! Cheapest lodging starts at P300/night on a hammock but it goes up steeply to US$ 4,275/night (Eskaya Beach Resort And Spa). An average viande would be in the P250 range. Beer is about P70 but you get it for P50 on happy hour in some bars. Shakes? P100!
Bohol is safe!
With the current siege in Marawi City plus the recent attack by extremists in April 2017, business is slow marked by booking cancellations. Some establishments have cut down on operating hours while some have closed shop. The lingering thought of the news-reading public is that Bohol is not safe.
I'd been in Bohol now for a week and I can safely say the place is far removed from all that turmoil. It's fun here with security measures well in place.
Bohol Coco Farm
My Tagbilaran hostess, Dang, took me over to Bohol Coco Farm in Panglao to visit her friends, Julia and EJ, who own and run the place. Coco Farm resonates. Lodging price of P350 with Filipino breakfast is competitive. It's my kind of environment - backpacker crowd, natural food, organic farm, nature all around, wifi, hammocks, wellness-thinking, etc. Its energy also attracts like-minded people - the forward-thinking type who wants to make a difference. This overall vibe is exemplified by the family who runs the place.
Bohol Bee Farm
Raisa and Geraldine took me here at the main Dauis location. It is a 3-acre seaside property with elevation for a scenic view of the waters and the surrounding islands - great spot for good eats. Within the grounds is a hotel, boutique shop and resto. Their honey bahalina is a must! With their free-tasting station, we could be forgiven for throwing our own party-shots - to the concerned look of the staff! They have branches across Bohol, whether it's the Buzz Cafe or just the ice cream parlor.
I invited my Tagbilaran-based Vipassana sis, Kins, to visit me at the resort. Vipa-Theosophical Society member,Ludwig, came with her and together, we did our 1-hour meditation sit. We were joined by Raisa who was new to the practice. We helped ourselves to daku-bananaQ and tuba after. Later, we settled at Shaka resto for healthy eats.
I have really just scratched the surface of Panglao. There is a rich culture underneath all that commercialism but it takes trust by the locals for an outsider like me to experience it. I am simply thankful to have met great people, privileged to have stayed in a plush resort and have all that wonderful experience. Panglao has many layered dimension to it that needs further discovery, but I've reached the end of the line. Next time should be exciting.
Next stop: Tagbilaran
Bohol FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Alona Beach area
- the tourist attractions in Bohol are far apart and spread-out. It would be difficult to visit them all using public mass transit. Better hire a van (P3500/day) if in a big group, or rent a motorcycle (P400/day + gas)
- Bohol relies on its tourism for revenue. As expected, everything they can capitalize on from tourism is extensively used and developed
Tagbilaran Port to PanglaoYou can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
- don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
- in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)
Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
- Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
- Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
+63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
- SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
+63 32 233 7000
Things to do, Places to go in Bohol
- Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
- Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
- Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
- Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.
Carlos P. Garcia Island
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