22 January 2014

Philippines: Bohol - Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers and Earthquake!

I have never met so many smiling, friendly and not the least, honest people as in Bohol. I had read only a little bit about the 7000 islands before I went, but what stuck in my head was Bohol. The island of the Tarsier, Chocolate Hills and an unfortunate earthquake.

I could have gone anywhere in the Philippines before Bohol. It would have been logical actually because it's really on the other side of the country from where I landed in Manila. And now I am so glad I did, because after the earthquake, the same day I was supposed to leave, Bohol was left in ruins.

Idyllic Nuts Huts

I don't want to be one of those Lonely Planet people(like nothing exists unless it's in the Lonely Planet), but I did get a few handy tips from this so-called travel bible. Nuts Huts was one of them. Nuts Huts is about an hour away from Tagbilaran(where you'll be arriving by boat) from the bus station towards Carmen(60 peso). Tell the conductor that you wanna go off at Nuts Huts(everybody knows Nuts Huts). From the sign where you're let off, it's about a ten minute walk on a rocky road entering the rainforest. We thought at least two times that we were on the wrong path. It might not be the easiest place to find, but it's one of the coziest places I've stayed. The simple huts are situated all the way down by the Loboc River not far from a beautiful waterfall. Apart from the tourist boats that float down the river from time to time(like everywhere in the Philippines, they all have karaoke machines), it's really tranquil. The steps up to the restaurant are craycray, but gets you in shape...right? And before I forget...If you're looking to shake things up a bit, go to the local waterhole by the main road. It's a tiny little shop with beer and a karaoke machine. We went there one night and was welcomed with wide-open arms to sing with some really drunk men, and kids with amazing voices, what a fun night!
The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills are easy to get to by bus. The reason they're called the Chocolate Hills is the brown color they get during the dry season, but they were green when I was there. Unfortunately during the earthquake a lot of the hills suffered landslides, some completely eroded, and the viewing tower from the top of the main hill was destroyed. The viewing point is now moved to a different location.  It feels odd to want to share with you how awesome I thought the Chocolate Hills were, when you will not be able to have the same experience. Hopefully with time it will regain its notorious..well..awesomeness.

Try taking photo of someone who kills themselves if you use flash!

My main reason for going to Bohol was the Tarsier, the world's smallest primate. It's like a tiny little alien/monkey/gremlin that would fit in your fist. The Tarsier Sanctuary is pretty easy to get to from Loboc, just a really crammed jeepney ride away towards Corella. (Jeepneys are big commune taxis for small people and not really for tall, chubby westerners). There are no bus stops, just yell or beat something against the metal railing in the roof when you want to get off.) The Tarsier Sanctuary was founded to help protect the Tarsier from extinction. You need a guide to get into the sanctuary, in our case a Polish student who worked as a volunteer. It is an open air sanctuary, so the Tarsiers are actually allowed to leave if they want to. Every day the guides roam the small area to find out the position of the three Tarsiers that live there to be able to show the tourists what they came for. It was amazing to see these big eyed creatures so close. Warning: If Tarsiers are stressed enough they might commit suicide. So keep your distance and no flash photography!

The earthquake was on 15th. October 2013 at 8.30 in the morning. Some of the oldest and most beautiful churches were destroyed. Roads were cracked making it impossible to go anywhere without a motorbike. Houses were damaged bordering unrecognizable, and many were made homeless.
Loboc Church before earthquake
And after

The Loboc Clocktower before...

and after the earthquake

My Nut hut post quake

I was in the restaurant when the quake started. It lasted for two long minutes. And when it was over, the hut I was staying in was severely damaged. My room(with my belongings somewhere within) and the luckily empty 10 bed dorm next to it were halfway on the ground. The bathroom they were attached to was too heavy to carry an earthquake. The after shocks continued for weeks after, and even though I had plans to visit Siquijor,  an island just south of Bohol, I decided to move away from that corner of the Philippines sooner than I had planned to. 

1 comment:

  1. Fresh writing, Ingeborg, and lucky you for not being hurt! A whole lot of exceptional places to visit, and so sad about all the damage. I like the bit about the tarsier, imagine that there is a mammal fitting into your fist, and so sensitive too. 7000 islands is awesome, and you surely can find your own island there? The Nuts Huts seems to be a special place, but all in all there lurks a little fear in me about the Phillipines now. Keep writing, Ingeborg!