Bohol · Philippines · Travel Tales

A Panglao Island Hopping and Land Tour (plus a bit of airport misadventure)

I hereby dub Panglao as Boracay lite, and in the best way. The powder-white sand of Alona Beach is perfect for barefoot walking in the day. In the evening, restaurants bring out chairs and tables, and you can have the freshest seafood for dinner under the moonlit sky.

Alona Beach, Panglao, right before a typhoon
Good eats along Alona Beach
Good eats along Alona Beach
Fresh seafood. Look at that sugpo. Yum.
Fresh seafood. Look at that sugpo. Yum.

It is not the deserted white sand beach of your dreams, but it’s not the wild party place that Boracay has become, either. It’s a place where my brothers and I could walk amid the crowds and banter over drinks without the bothersome presence of booming bass lines and half-drunk dancing teenagers. (Geez, I’m getting old.)

The day after our Bohol land tour, we went to an island-hopping tour to Balicasag and Virgin Islands arranged by Bohol Rent a Car. It was supposed to include a dolphin sighting tour, but there was none to be found that morning — either that, or we’d just overslept.

DSC_7383

We went snorkeling near Balicasag Island. My parents were on shallow waters, while we ventured to the underwater cliff just a few meters away. The corals on shallower waters are sadly already bleached. It was, however, pretty nice to see my parents enjoy seeing underwater life — it was their first time to go snorkeling, and my mom was positively high-pitched giggling.

We stayed on the island for grilled lunch. It was unfortunate, however, that one of the meals on the menu was a parrotfish. 😦 It was not a particularly appetizing lunch.

Virgin Island
Virgin Island

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Chocolate-chip starfish!
Chocolate-chip starfish!

We went to Virgin Island afterward. It is, well, naked — just a sandbar with a few mangroves and couple of coconut stalls shaded by tarps on bamboo stilts. Here we found a lot of starfish, also to the glee of my parents. (Mama and I had a somber moment back in Panglao when she saw shells and dead starfish being sold in one of the stalls along Alona Beach. I do wish local DOT offices are more aware of these things happening!)

When we got back to Panglao, my parents went to the market and cooked our dinner at the Alona Grove Resort. This was supposed to be our last night in Bohol.

The next day, we decided on the fly to tour Panglao by land. We arranged it with our tour operator. The first stop was at the lovely Bohol Bee Farm to look at their herb and vegetable garden and their (box of) bees. We didn’t have time to sample their flower salad, but we did join the tour and bought some of their goods.

Different herbs in Bohol Bee Farm
Different herbs in Bohol Bee Farm
The walls of their guesthouse are made of coconut husks and concrete
The walls of their guesthouse are made of coconut husks and concrete
One of Bohol Bee Farm's livelihood projects is weaving.
One of Bohol Bee Farm’s livelihood projects is weaving.

After Bohol Bee Farm, we went to Hinagdanan Cave. It was a very easy climb down as they had put up concrete steps. There is a pool where you can swim for a fee; for us, we were content to look around.

Hinagdanan Cave
Hinagdanan Cave

And now, a crazy ending to our otherwise peaceful trip —

At this point, we were told by our driver that an AirAsia Zest plane was grounded in Tagbilaran Airport because of a busted wheel. This was the day when Indonesia AirAsia 8501 crashed into the Java Sea. It was a creepy coincidence. The problem with the airport, though, is that none of the other planes could depart because of runway restrictions, and the plane is stuck in the runway, and no one can fly to/from the airport at night.   We hurried to the airport to see whether we were going to fly home that day. The airport personnel said yes, the aircraft was going to be fixed before sunset.

What ensued was a long afternoon of waiting and staring at the AirAsia plane…

And finally…

Also, typhoon Seniang was about to arrive, and there was a threat of eventual flight cancellations!

Tagbilaran Airport seriously needs to train its staff because there was no organization whatsoever in getting us accommodations for the night. There was lots of pushing in line and really stressful stressed people. It was actually a foreigner who got us all to organize two lines — those who wanted to get accommodations, or those who instead wanted to get P500  per passenger while we choose our own accommodations. We opted to just get the money. And I didn’t get a copy of their waiver, though I demanded it. Sigh.

We were also told that there would be no flights till 7 AM of the next day, but I should call them in any case. So, early the next morning, in our dingy accommodations, I called the airport — this was at around 6:30 AM. And the lady on the line said, “Ma’am punta na po kayo dito, aalis na po ang flight niyo ng 7.”

So we hurriedly checked out and ran across the Tagbilaran rain, told our tricycle drivers to rush like mad, checked in at a record time of less than five minutes, and we sure as hell caught that 6:57 AM flight to sunny Manila.

Some later flights were cancelled due to the typhoon. We were very, very lucky.

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