Posted by: buntuan72 | May 8, 2010

Fiestas, Tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills

Bohol is an island province in the Visayas known for fiestas,  tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills. This is one of the places I visit almost every year. Its popularity among tourists is due to a number of pristine white beaches, which can rival the best in the world, and a number of the best dive sites at this side of the archipelago.

I usually go to Bohol before the first day of May since this is the ‘visperas‘ for the month-long series of  fiesta across the island. In fact a good friend of mine, who is a ‘Bol-anon’, once said to me that you will never go hungry in Bohol during the month of May since there is always a fiesta happening in one of its 47 municipalities. He even says that they even welcome strangers to join the feast in their homes since they consider it ‘ma-ot’ if no one visits their house during the fiesta. And I was able to experience this . . . well only for about a week when I got to join the fiesta in at least ten different houses in a span of five days (Due to the overabundance of the food during the fiestas, we would eat just twice each day since we would not have enough time to digest our food before the next meal time comes). Bol-anaons are also known to return to their hometown during the fiesta.

However, Bohol is also known for the Philippine Tarsier or what locals call the Maumag, which is endemic only to the Philippines. This is one of the smallest primates in the world and is now considered endangered, although efforts have been made to make sure they do not disappear from the face of the earth. This conservation effort is spearheaded by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. The foundation was able to acquire some land in Corella, Bohol to allow the tarsiers to live out in their natural habitat. A number of towns were also asked to donate some of their land for this effort. The area is protected by a seven-foot high fence which is meant to keep out predators. There are reports, however, about tarsiers scaling the fence to forage for food at night. Fortunately, they would seem to be observing a curfew since they would also return to the protection of the sanctuary before the break of dawn.

Tarsier in Corella, Bohol Tarsier in its natural habitat 180-degree head turn by a tarsier

Aside from the tarsier, the island, to which Boholanos refer to as the “Republic of Bohol”, is also known for the Chocolate Hills. Although this unusual geological formation can also be found in other places in the world, I don’t think any of those places can match the sheer number of these grass-covered hills which are spread out in an area of around fifty square kilometers. These limestone formations number more than a thousand according to the last count by the DENR, although there were rumors that one of the hills disappeared due to ‘human-induced’ erosion. During one of my trips to Bohol, we went to Sagbayan Peak, which was an alternative place to go to if you want to see the Chocolate Hills. I think this place is run by a private individual who really had a lot of spare money since its is more than just a place to view the hills, it also has its own mini-park and playground for the kids. Although the number of hills in the place is nothing compared to the one run by the Department of Tourism, this was more spacious and you would not have to tire yourself out in trying to get a good view of the hills.

Sagbayan Peak main entrance The Viewing Deck at Sagbayan Peak Long walk to the Viewing Deck at Sagbayan Peak The Chocolate Hills at Sagbayan town

There are actually a lot more places to visit in Bohol which I hope to write about in one of my future entries. So if you get to visit the Philippines, Bohol should be in your ‘to go to’ list, especially if you come here in the month of May. Bohol – the land of fiestas, tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills.

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