Offbeat Bohol : Loboc – Jagna – Sierra Bullones Trail

Think you have seen all of Bohol? This might change your mind.

My dad is from Bohol, from an early age, I have already seen most of the touristic places in this beautiful island. Everytime we visited we always followed the usual route. Swimming at Alona Beach in Panglao then a day trip to Chocolate Hills in Carmen and stops in Loboc to for the river cruise and at Carmen to see the tarsiers. For a moment I thought I already explored Bohol well enough. When I found out that there was a long weekend, I decided to challenge conventions and carve out a different path.

The original plan was just to stay for one night in Bohol since we wanted to go from Jagna to Camiguin to spend more time there. We left Cebu City around 4:00 P.M. OceanJet offers P600 roundtrip Cebu-Tagbilaran. It was a 3 hour boat ride and sunset  greeted as we docked in Tagbilaran port.

Sunset in Bohol
The sun sets as the fastcraft docks in the Port of Bohol.

When we reached Tagbiliran port, we immediately followed the directions that most of the travel blogs wrote on how to get to Loboc ( located 26km. east of Bohol). People do not usually stay in Loboc, most of the crowd would flock to Panglao. Loboc is just one of the popular stops when doing a tour around Bohol. It is famous for the river cruises and the nearby Tarsier Conservatory. We chose to stay at Loboc because it was nearer to Jagna and to avoid tourists.

Getting a tricycle is not a big problem but finding a reasonable driver to give you a local price is, so we walked for a bit to the main road. We managed to get a cheaper one eventually. We headed to Dao Central Terminal which was right across Island City Mall. One thing a traveller should remember when going around the Philippines or any place for that matter is to always have a plan B. I did not expect that the jeepney bound for Loboc had specific schedules so we ended up going back to the plaza where the other jeepneys were. Luckily, we managed to get inside the last jeepney.

Filipinos in the jeepney.
How many heads can you count? This is what I call “Filipino capacity”.

It was a tight squeeze as they had people sitting in the aisle with wooden stools. If they cared about making the passengers comfortably sitted, one side would fit 10 max but since it is Filipino capacity there were 12 people on each sides and 6 sitting in the middle. We had huge luggage with us and for a while we worried about it. The good thing is the fact that most jeepneys have space on top. It took us 40 minutes to reach Loboc ( probably 20 minutes if there were less stops). When we reached the landmark of the place we booked, it was pitch dark and we had to use our flashlights. We barely noticed Loboc River on our right side as we walked through the dirt road. It was very tranquil and you can hear all sorts of sounds echoing from different critters. Relieved not to have a lot of people walking about asking you to buy stuff or have a massage, something that you would normally experience when staying around Panglao.

Pitch black
Darkness greeted us on our arrival.

We finally reached Fox and the Firefly Cottages but then realised that we booked the wrong night. Luckily there was no one occupying the room so the receptionist just let us stay. We woke up with a beautiful site. The place was serene and surrounded by lush greens.

Fox and Firefly Resort
The Fox and Firefly Resort offers a cozy and unique option for those tired of the beach.
Morning View
Good morning Loboc!
Fox
The local fox looking all pensive.
Shell Chandelier
The details matter.
Dragonfly
My spectator during shower time.
Outdoor Shower
My favorite part in Fox and the Firefly. I wish I had my own outdoor shower.

After having our hot shower and grabbing breakfast, we had 4 hours to kill so we went for a 1 hour paddle tour. I have never tried paddle boarding but I have been on top of a long board and a kayak so I did not worry much about the idea of falling over.

Paddle boards galore
The others went for the full day tour.

The tour guide first taught us the basics of finding the proper length for the paddle and the proper way to stand on the board. It was really not that difficult. You will only have trouble if you cannot balance well.

Loboc River
The magnificent Loboc river.

After the tutorial, we started the tour. The guide just went with us to make sure we were safe. I did expect him to tell a thing or two about the river but he didn’t. He was nice enough to take photos of us paddling across the river.

Sky's reflection
The weather was perfect.
Me Paddling
I always wanted to try paddleboarding.
Effortless along Loboc
An hour of paddling was not much of a challenge.

The paddle tour ended near the Loboc River Resort, we thought we needed to paddle back to the cottages but we got picked up by their multicab. It was a relaxing tour and the hour spent was really worth it. It would have been better if we did the full day since the 1 hour tour was P800 for each person.

Buko
Refreshing buko after the paddle tour.

It was already 10:00 a.m. and I initially planned to leave by then, we had to rush to the main road to catch the jeepney.

Path
The paved road to Fox and Firefly

We waited for at least 30 minutes before we got on a jeepney. There were more jeepneys heading to Loboc than heading out. At one moment, I considered hitching a ride with a bunch of locals but did not take the risk.

Loay bound
Jeepney heading to Loay Market

It did not take long to reach Loay Public Market and in less than 10 minutes we found a bus heading for Jagna.

Loay Public Market
Loay Public Market, where most of the buses heading to Jagna stops.

The only problem with the bus is that it was full. We had to stand near the doors and had to move back each time the conductor would shout, “Naay manaog!”, which in Visayan means someone is getting off. It took longer than expected with all the stops.

Filipino Capacity
Nothing like a full bus to keep you up!
The hot road.
The hot road.

Two hours later, we reached Jagna, only to find out that the ferry to Camiguin left at 8 a.m that the schedule I knew was not updated. So we had no choice but to stay in Jagna for the night. Jagna, a historical port town on the southern coast of Bohol is also known only as a stopover before heading to Camiguin and its delicacy called Calamay (sweet sticky rice packaged inside a coconut shell). The good thing of me being obssessive compulsive was I did my research on the town and had a list of places where we could eat and stay.

Idea Pension house is not like your ordinary bed and breakfast. It is a project of a 25 year-old organisation IDEA, where they provided employment, training and housing to the deaf around Visayas.  When the driver dropped us of we were wondering where the pension house since we only saw a cafe. We walked in and found out that it is within the same building. We booked a room for the night. Their accommodation came with free breakfast and WiFi. It was a good deal and we felt good that we were supporting a good cause.

IDEA Cafe Menu
You also learn some sign languages in their menu.
Pancakes and Bacon
Pancakes and bacon! You can never go wrong (if you are a carnivore that is).

It was still 3p.m., we were looking for things to do around Jagna, they have a nearby waterfall and a spring reservoir. Later, we reached a conclusion and decided to go to Chocolate Hills since it was his first time in Bohol. I did not want him to miss Bohol’s iconic geological wonder. In Tagbilaran City, it would be easy to find motorbikes for rent  but it was the contrary in Jagna, since people barely stay there, there was little market for it. The pension house was just walking distance from the public market so we went there to try to find a way to head to Chocolate Hills.

We had to bargain ( being with a foreign guy did not help). We asked around and most of the habal-habal drivers (extended motorcycle that could fit up to 6 people) wanted to charge us P2,000 which was ridiculous. Going back on the bus to Loboc was also not an option because it would take us another two hours. We ended up with an old guy who finally agreed to take us to and from Chocolate Hills for P1,000.

Roads of Sierra Bullones
Long and winding roads of Sierra Bullones offers a pleasant drive to the hills.

It was a pleasant ride through the hills of Sierra Bullones. Located at the interior part of the province, the municipality of Sierra Bullones was a place of refuge for insurgents during the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War. After the road construction, more people started settling in and started farming. The roads were surprisingly smooth and well paved. Apparently, it was as a national highway but people rarely pass there.

Magnificent view above Bohol
I have never seen this view of Bohol.

As we went through the road, we saw several rice terraces. I have never known this about Bohol so it was cool to know it. After an hour on the motorbike ( my butt hurt), we finally reached Chocolate Hills. It was funny while paying the entrance fee, one woman was saying that we really needed to buy water because it was 250 steps to reach the top of the viewing deck ( maybe a lot of people find it already tiring but since I love walking, it was easy).

Bohol Chocolate Hills
My 2015 version of the cliche photo of Chocolate Hills

Since it was a top tourist stop, you would normally have to wait for your turn to take a photo of the hills. Somehow Chocolate Hills always gives me this alien vibe. The view is just out of this world.

Less Photographed View
Another perspective from the viewing deck. The less photographed side.

Last 2013, the viewing deck was destroyed by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake including the old churches around Bohol. Until now, you can still see remnants of the disaster. You will see the site landmark on the ground. You can still help in the rebuilding here.

Origin of Chocolate Hills
A scientific explanation to how Chocolate Hills were formed.

We grabbed some ice cream and water to cool down, we stayed for an hour on the viewing deck to rest our butts. The driver took us through the Sierra Bullones again as the sun sets. He was very happy to get paid that much (he was even showing us where he lived), he said that it was good that travellers like us decided to stay in the less popular places as it helps the local earn more.When we reached Jagna, we had a light dinner and headed back to the pension house to prepare for the morning trip to Camiguin.

Sunset over Sierra Bullones
Sun was slowly fading as we head back to Jagna

It was a nice cap off as we saw the starts shining over us and the cool breeze slowly calling us to sleep. As part Boholana, I saw my father’s province ( with an area of 4,821 km²) in a different perspective far from the popular beaches and more into the historical and geological ones.

Indeed, you can never be too familiar with one place. There will always be a different facade waiting for you to discover.

Browse over the gallery more photos of the adventure.

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Warrior Wednesdays: Always Do Your Best

Be the best, this is a common line that we hear. Perfection is what we want from others, more than what we expect from ourselves. How many times do we notice our faults over the imperfections of others?

We like to troll all over the internet searching for people’s mistakes. From how they express themselves to how they look. We never fail in looking at what is wrong. But wait, how often do you look at your own reflection?

I too am guilty at times of judging others. I always had a comment about things and how everything is going wrong. Eventually I realised that it as counterproductive. My life is not getting any better with it. I knew how to spot imperfections but refused to see my own. Now, I would rather spend the time trying to always be the better version from who I was. It is the only way to live. If you only give half of what you can, the universe will pay you back in half. Doubts will slowly creep in and plague your thoughts.

“If only I have given it my all.”

Do not give yourself the chance to suffer from this. Put 100% into everything you do. It is the only way for you to live life to the fullest. Dare to reach your maximum capacity. Be relentless in bringing out the best version of you. If you succeed in this then the thoughts of self-doubt will never haunt you.

Do your best and you will live your life more intensely. This will push you to take action. If you take action just for the sake of doing it, without expecting a reward, you will find that you enjoy every action you do. Rewards will come, but you are not attached to the reward. Only with this can you really enjoy life.

“Just do your best — in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.”
― Miguel Ruiz

As what Steve Jobs said, “Do not settle…Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

Monday Musings: Unlived Lives

What if you could have all the possibilities you want out of life? No more unlived lives. Would living be any better than now?

Monday morning and you find yourself sitting on the desk, contemplating how your long weekend did not turn out to be as exciting as your colleague’s. You then start to check your email hoping to start being productive and in the end, you find yourself browsing over FB looking at how others are living your dream life. You start to wish you were in their shoes. What if I took that job offer? What if I stayed with him? These questions begin to plague your mind. Unlived lives, who doesn’t have them?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cat so I could have nine lives. I figured I could live 9 different lives but then again I wonder how much different each would be if I were a cat? Not much I suppose. But we all have an inner craving, we dream of being a millionaire (I prefer to dream more so I think in billions) living a luxurious life where money worries you little, a world explorer visiting beautiful destinations where there are less boundaries, a daredevil pushing oneself to one’s limit with little worried of aging or death, a successful man/woman raising a wonderful family with gorgeous kids with a loving husband/wife and a world icon who is creating a great legacy that will never be forgotten (think Einstein or Mandela level).

These unlived lives are what gives us frustrations and yet we thank them for giving us the motivation to continue living in the present. What would it be like to have none of these? Would you appreciate life more? What we want and what we have both exist for a reason. As Nietzsche puts it,

In our unlived lives we are always more satisfied, far less frustrated versions of ourselves… Our possibilities for satisfaction depend upon our capacity for frustration; if we can’t let ourselves feel our frustration — and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do — we can’t get a sense of what it is we might be wanting, and missing, of what might really give us pleasure… That frustration is where we start from; the child’s dawning awareness of himself is an awareness of something necessary not being there. The child becomes present to himself in the absence of something he needs.

Our present lives and the unlived ones shape who we are.

The more we frustrate ourselves in wanting something, the more we value our desire for it… Waiting too long poisons desire, but waiting too little pre-empts it; the imagining is in the waiting… Wanting takes time; partly because it takes some time to get over the resistances to wanting, and partly because we are often unconscious of what it is that we do want. But the worst thing we can be frustrated of is frustration itself; to be deprived of frustration is to be deprived of the possibilities of satisfaction.

Monday Musings: Modern Day Slaves

More slaves today.
Are you one of them?

Charles Bukowski was a postal worker in the U.S. post office. He worked in the post office most of his life until Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin noticed him (a year before his 50th birthday). Martin then offered Buk a monthly stipend of $100 to quit his day job and dedicate himself fully to writing.

Not everyone is lucky enough to find one’s life purpose at an early age. I also struggled through my early 20’s to find a career that was fulfilling. I worked as an english tutor, a company nurse, a sales and marketing coördinator, executive assistant, and a model. I would go through the 9 to 5 job hating it and complaining why I was there in the first place. I was a modern-day slave, pressured into working in a field that did not make me wake up happy in the morning. I took the job because of expectations from others and the need to find a source of income. It is not an easy task to pursue. At times, we can only find time to do the things we love on the sides.

There is no need to compare yourself to others. So what if the rest of your classmates have higher positions, while you are still starting off. What is important is you have the courage to pursue it.

Here is Bukowski’s letter of gratitude to the man who has helped him find his life’s purpose.

August 12, 1986

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s overtime and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,

Hank

Have you found your calling? Who helped you? Did you ever get to say thank you?

Diving in Camiguin

The second smallest island in the Philippines is more than an island born of fire. Read about my dive trip in Camiguin.

“Island Born of Fire”, Camiguin is the second smallest island of the Philippines in area and in population and yet it offers a lot to travellers. In this island, you can create your own adventure, whether it is visiting the old ruins, swimming in refreshing springs or in my case diving.

Camiguin
Small but a lot to offer.

I have already visited Camiguin 9 years ago with my mother but then I was doing the usual day tour around the island. This time around was different. First my mom is not around travelling with me (she worries when I dive even when I swim in the deep) and second because I am a diver.

On the bangka
On our way back from White Island.

We stayed at Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort. It was a popular place to stay for divers and even non-divers (they are top 1 in TripAdvisor for hotels in Mambajao). Unfortunately, we arrived a day late because of the change in ferry schedules from Jagna Port to Balbagon Port, before it used to leave Bohol around 1:00 PM and from Camiguin 8:00 PM but this time the ferry left Bohol 8:00 AM and I arrived 12:30 at Jagna. It was sad to not have enough time in Camiguin.

Dive Map of Camiguin
Dive sites around Camiguin

I was only limited to a dive (disadvantages of having a normal 9-5 job) and since we had to leave before noon, we decided to dive in White Island. The sandbar is roughly 10 minutes away from the resort.

White Island is an upper reef slope. The site is a Japanese garden with dense coral growth and diversity. It offers a forest of black corals on white sand. Common marine life seen are Sting rays, Moray Eel, Lion Fish, Frog Fish, Ribbon Eels, Orange (Cerianthus) Tube Anemones  and Sea Snakes.

Depth: 6-20m.
Visibility: 10m.
Current: Strong
Temperature: 25° C

Underwater
Sandy bottom
Lionfish
A lionfish hiding.
Moral Eel
A Moray Eel peeks out of its hiding place.
Green Sea Turtle
A green sea turtle swims away.
Green Sea Turtle
The second green sea turtle swims across the corals.

We got lucky during the dive, saw 4 green sea turtles and a hawksbill turtle. I never expected to see that much in one dive. The dive instructor said that it is still a good place to dive because Camiguin is not commercialised like in Bohol. It took only this dive to convince me to go back to Camiguin. Next time I will not miss Mantigue Island.

More than fire, Camiguin is an underwater paradise!

If you are not into diving, I will be sharing more about Camiguin in the next post.