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Tourist Bohol

August, 2002

After living here for a year, we finally decided to see the tourist sites of Bohol Province. We arranged to take a guided tour with a hired van, accompanied by Andy and Maria. The places we visited are not major international attractions. All of the tourists we met along the way were Filipinos, mostly Bohol residents bringing out-of-town visitors to see the sites. We visited the Church in Baclayon, Loboc River, Chocolate Hills, and Magaso Falls. As usual, we had a great time.

Baclayon Church.
Baclayon Church (83k)
Behind the alter.
Behind the alter (65k)
Baptistry photo.
Baptistry (80k)

— Baclayon Church

The Church in Baclayon is very old. The foundation was laid in 1595, although the first priest was not assigned to the church until 1727. We have no idea when the building was complete; perhaps it was never really finished. Today, the church is in a state of advanced decay. The current roof is old corrugated metal instead of the clay tiles that were almost certainly the original roofing material. It is badly rusted and leaking. The exterior walls are being eroded and blackened by weather and pollution.

The interior of the church must have been really impressive at one time. You can still see a shadow of its former glory. But the colors have been obscured by the dirt and grime built up over the centuries. The ceilings are badly damaged because of the leaking roof. The wooden doors and frames have been abraded by use. Several valuable artifacts were recently stolen from the altar. Throughout the church, we had a sense of poverty and decay. Without money for maintenance, this ancient church in Baclayon will continue to crumble.

Jamie and a tarsier.
Jamie and a tarsier (54k)
Floating restaurant.
Floating restaurant (80k)
Loboc falls.
Loboc falls (56k)
Suspension bridge.
Suspension bridge (75k)

— Loboc River

For our trip to the Loboc River, we followed the coastal road along the southern coast of Bohol, then turned inland through a large valley filled with rice fields. It was planting time, and we saw many men tilling the rice paddies with caribao-drawn plows. The caribao move at a very slow pace, pull one plow, and when they get tired or overheated they stop. We saw caribao lying down in the mud, and we saw them standing in the paddies with men throwing watery mud onto their backs to keep them cool. Jim found the comparison to American farming practices to be quite amazing. American tractors are now pulling gangs of plows over 40 feet wide, travel much faster than caribao, and don't need rest breaks during the day. The difference in labor productivity is absolutely stunning. As is the difference in the pay of the farm workers.

The big attraction at the Loboc River is a small falls (see photo at left). It is reached by boats which carry tourists for a fee. Some of the boats are restaurants which serve lunch. At the boat landing, there are tarsiers on display. These are small, nocturnal relatives of the monkey, and of us. They are native to this area of the Philippines and are an endangered species. The tarsiers didn't seem to be much aware of the turmoil around them, and didn't object to being handled. Jim thinks they are simply asleep during the day.

We rode on one of the smaller boats, without meal service. Our guide was friendly and accomodating. Jim took his picture with the camera behind Jim's back. Neither of us had noticed the religious picture in the rafters until we looked at the photos later.

On our way up to the falls, we passed people in the river doing their laundry. They smiled and waved. We were surprised they were so welcoming to what must have been the hundredth tourist boat they had seen that day. Perhaps we were interesting because we are foreigners.

Although the falls are the primary attraction here, we spotted an ancient looking tree near the falls that must have come straight out of a Tolkien novel. Jim asked the guide to take us back so he could get a picture.

Our final stop along the Loboc Rive was a suspension bridge. It is made of steel cables and bamboo, and doesn't look all that sturdy. Jim walked out on it just far enough to get a picture. Jamie was somewhat bolder and walked out a bit further.

Chocolate hills.
Chocolate hills (55k)

— Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills are the signature attraction for the Province of Bohol. They are limestone formations that remain from ancient coral reefs after a long geologic process including burial deep in the earth, then being raised up above sea level, and finally being eroded away. The hay stack shaped hills extend for miles.

The Chocolate Hills get their name from the color of the sparse vegetation on their slopes. During the dry season, the plants usually turn a brown, chocolate color. This year, of course, the dry season was somewhat wetter than usual, and the color never changed. So, this year we got green chocolate.

There is really only one place where tourists can get a good view of the Hills. There is a road part-way up one of the hills, then a series of steps to a look-out area at the top. We counted the steps (Jamie counted 214; Jim counted 213), so there are 214 steps up the hill. It was a long climb, and surprisingly tiring. I guess we are getting old.

Maria at Magaso Falls.
Maria at Magaso Falls (68k)

— Magaso Falls

Last, we visited Magaso Falls. The name means "smokey falls" referring to the mist that sometimes rises from the falls during moist, cool weather. The day we were there it was hot and humid, and there was no "smoke". There were even more steps at Magaso Falls, and they were higher than the steps at the Chocolate Hills. By the time we climbed down and back, we were barely able to walk, sweating profusely, and drinking water like crazy. Being a tourist can be very hard work.

— return to the 2002 Journal Archive


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