Saturday, 14 April 2007

A Taste of Bohol Heaven

I WAS going to cap a series of pieces on corporate strategic alignment—which we had been discussing prior to the Holy Week break—when a number of events during my Easter holiday back home convinced me to defer the concluding article, in favor of more pleasant local matters.

This was our brief but very enjoyable getaway to Panglao Island in Bohol, during the first half of the Holy Week, which we took together with my brother Totol Batuhan and his family.

With all the hype and attention focused on that other Visayan island of Boracay, it is easy to forget that Bohol too has all the natural charms—and more —to rival the attractions of its more acclaimed cousin to the west. In fact, having revisited the island after last setting foot on it many years ago, I was astonished to discover that in a lot of ways, Bohol is a much better family destination than Boracay.

Unlike Boracay—which masquerades as Manila by the seaside—often frequented by drunken and rowdy college students on their summer break, Bohol is largely unspoilt, with no trace of the noisy crowds that have become mainstays of its rival vacation destinations. For families looking for some peace and quiet, as well as attractions to visit during their holiday getaway, this is a terrific advantage, which is why in my book, Bohol gets my vote over Boracay.

During our visit, which was a brief but eventful three days and two nights, we were able to pack in a gastronomic lunch cruise along the scenic Loboc river, dolphin- and whale-watching around Pamilacan island, snorkeling amongst colorful tropical fish in the Balicasag marine conservation reserve, touring historic sites like the centuries-old Baclayon Church, as well as observing tarsiers and flying lemurs in their natural habitat. Not to mention having our fill of Bohol’s delicacies, which are as numerous as there are hills of chocolate on this unique island.

Of course, the coup de grace to our total surrender to the charms of Bohol was our fantastic hideaway on Panglao Island—the boutique Amarelo Resort. Having already visited many acclaimed tourist accommodations in the Mediterranean, the United States as well as in neighboring Southeast Asian countries, I rank this one up there among the best, and definitely one to recommend to the discriminating international holiday-maker.

Owned and meticulously managed by former Baker McKenzie partner Atty. Doy Nunag—a native son of Bohol—Amarela is a tastefully furnished corner of heaven, an apt description given its vantage position overlooking the sea, with majestic views of the fiery sunsets and scenic moonrises over the idyllic island. And did I mention the food? No pot noodles in sight here, thank you very much. Instead the resort’s restaurant whips up a culinary offering comparable to the tastiest I have sampled anywhere else.

Having just opened last year, Amarela may not yet be as widely known as the older institutions on the island such as Bohol Beach Club. I have no doubt, however, that as word gets out from its many satisfied guests, it will get more and more difficult to get a booking in the near future.

Another Panglao attraction worthy of mention is this little gem of a place, simply called the Bohol Bee Farm. True to its name, it makes some of the finest honey products, as well as other goodies from ingredients organically grown and produced on its premises. With a scenic restaurant overlooking the sea, and serving original creations such as salads garnished with native flowers and herbs, this is yet another must-see for the discerning tourist.

Finally, just as it seemed our holiday could not get any better than it already was, we were given the warm Boholano hospitality by Tagbilaran Mayor Dan Lim, who graciously treated us to a wonderful meal at the Bee Farm, as well as a sampling of delectable goodies from the farm’s gift shop.

Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, April 14, 2007 (

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