The Philippines Adventure Continues – Part 2: Boracay – Cebu – Bohol
After a week of perfect weather exploring Luzon I hit a patch of rain as I flew into Boracay. Several low pressure systems had developed off shore building into a Typhoon and settling over the islands of the central Philippines. So I arrived in Kalibo to a steady but light rain. Unfortunately I had booked a flight into the wrong airport. I didn’t realize that there was no airport on the island of Boracay and there were two different airports listed as serving the island. The Caticlan airport is just a short tuk tuk or tricycle ride to the port then a 20 minute ferry ride to Boracay and another tuk tuk to the hotel. The alternative is to fly into Kalibo then take a 2 hour van ride, hour ferry to Boracay then 10 minute tuk tuk to the hotel. I chose the long way of course!
So after a long day of travel I arrived at my hotel around 10pm in the steady rain. Checked into my room quicky ate my first meal of the day choosing what I thought would be a safe choice -meat lover’s pizza. I should mention that Filipinos love the more exotic parts of animals like pigs ears, nose, tongue, tail, penis ,hide, fat, and intestines. I laid in bed one
whole night wondering what they did with the hams, shoulders, pork chops, ribs, and loin. For some reason these more civilized cuts of meat never appear on Filipino menus – so what do they do with the rest of the animal after they take his ears, lips, feet, tail and penis? No one would tell me! Maybe you will have better luck finding out.
Next morning and the morning after I woke to a steady drizzle of rain ruining my planned two day of lounging on Boracay’s famed white sandy beaches resting my old bones after a very active week of hiking, drinking Red Horse beers and watching the lovely bikini clad natives frolic in the surf. Instead I sat at a small seaside café crowded with other rained out beach bums drinking Red Horse and eating very good calamari. But I would have to say the best part of my time in Borocay was eating the nicest big red juicy melons I’ve ever tasted. LOL I couldn’t get enough of those melons. And unfortunately that was the highlight of my short visit to the Philippines most famous beach. But I will be back if not just for the melons!
Leaving a water soaked Boracay behind I made for Cebu City where upon landing discovered another rainy day. I spent my first day in Cebu City visiting the traditional sites of Magellan’s Cross, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu, and the 1565 Fort San Pedro. I tried to visit the Taoist Temple but it is closed to all but Chinese due to COVID. Can you imagine the nerve! First the damn Chinese manufacture and release this biological weapon on the world then they restrict their temples to just Chinese. Clearly an issue for the World Court.
Finally the weather broke next day for my planned trip to Bohol to see the famed Chocolate Hills. I booked a one day tour that included the hour ferry ride across to Bohol and back, a private guide and driver for the day, a buffet lunch cruise on the Loboc River, a visit to see the tarsier- world’s smallest primate, the beautiful man made mahogany forest, the Chocolate Hills, and a historic Cathedral.
The river cruise was pleasant and the homesteads along the river bank were interesting. The food on the other hand was not so good. Again lots of strange and less than appealing cuts of meat, rice and more rice, and thankfully watermelon and bananas.
After the River Cruise we drove up into the interior mountains and stopped a beautiful man made forest of mahogany. Back in 1972 the island elected a governor whose profession had been in agriculture and forestry. Recognizing that the clearcutting of highland forest was causing mudslides he developed a program of planting Red Mahogany trees and 44 years latter there is an entire forest of beautiful mature mahogany trees covering 2 kilometers.
Our next stop was to get my first glimpse of a Tarsier the world’s smallest primate. These little guys grow no bigger than the palm of your hand. And at birth no bigger than your thumb. The little guys are nocturnal, eats insects, has huge creepy eyes and have the world’s fastest sex. Apparently the copulation time for a tarsier couple is a mere 3 seconds. So ladies stop complaining about your minute man – you could be a lady tarsier!
And finally the big finish – the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. News Flash!!!! They are not chocolate year round. During my visit they were more pistachio green. Seems they are only chocolate hills during summer. The rest of the year vegetation grows quickly in this warm humid tropical climate covering the hills with leafy vegetation. But when summer arrives and the sun is at its hottest the limestone hills heat up and cook the vegetation turning the hills from a pistachio green to a Hershey Kiss brown. Interesting side note – these hills were once coral reefs in a shallow sea. Today they are at least 1,260 chocolate hills covering 20 square miles and one of the Philippines major tourist attractions and natural oddities.
We had a little extra time before the ferry back to Cebu so we made a quick detour to visit an old colonial era Catholic Cathedral. The structure was built from which limestone and coral blocks with beautiful artwork.
My last day for this portion of my Filipino adventure turned out to be my most fun, interesting and exhausting. Canyoneering through the Kawasan Canyon for 5 hours to reach first the Kawasan Falls then the mouth of the river as it empties into the sea. I was a little apprehensive about taking this project on since I can’t swim and am a bit intimidated by deep and fast water. But since you only live once and I don’t want to be laying on my death bed a few years from now thinking “I wonder what it would have been like doing something stupid like throwing my body into raging rapids or jumping off of a 20 foot boulder into a pool of ice cold water and hoping the life vest would lift my fat old ass back to the surface before I drowned.” I just went for it!
And now I can lay there and think “What the hell was I thinking, I was a fat old man, I couldn’t swim, my knees were shot, and I am terrified of water. What about that sounded fun?” Was this an early symptom of senility or just the same old bad case of stupid that I’ve been afflicted with all my life?
But I paid my money so no turning back so I strapped on my life vest and helmet and prepared myself mentally for the day. Unfortunately due to either a little confusion in translation or just outright misinformation to ensure the sale of a tour I was led to believe the canyoneering experience involved a 45 minute stroll through a canyon with a little wading to a peaceful serine waterfall then 45 minutes back down the same lazy river.
But no, the experience began with a 20 minute ride on the back of a Filipino Evel Knievel wantabe’s motorcycle, then a 45 minute hike along the canyon wall and into the canyon to a raging river, then five hours of hiking, wading, bouldering, jumping off house sized rocks, and swimming. And as much as I am bitching about it now you could not have wiped the smile off my stupid face with a brillo pad for the 5 hours.
Except for the few times I lost my balance on uneven underwater rocks and fell skinning my legs or moments of terror as I tried to muster the courage to jump from a bus sized boulder into water of unknown depth, or a few seconds of gasp producing pain as I plunged into the water with my 230 pounds being forced down my gravity and momentum and my life vest wanting to shoot in the opposite direction from its buoyant material. And the only the groin straps of the Vest and my testicles left to decide which force of nature won out. After the first jump I learned not to test my new soprano voice while still under water.
Five hours later I finished the Canyon from Hell and emerged to slowly make my way along a much more peaceful stretch of river making its way to the sea. Tired, wet, triumphant and questioning my sanity once again I limped to the SUV, crawled in the back seat and directed my driver with “Home James or Paco, or Raul” or whatever his name was.
And that ended the second part of my Philippines Adventure without still accomplishing any of the three must do things I have set out to do here. I still need to spend a night drinking Red Horse Beer listening to people screech to a karaoke machine thinking they sound like Celine Deon or Kenny Rogers when they actually sound like cats mating. Ride in a packed Jitney. And eat lechon (a hole suckling pig). But hope springs eternal and I have another 14 days to sing, ride and eat a pig…