bewitching bohol

"the hills are alive
  with the sound of music..."

lady gaga's soulful rendition of the julie andrews classic "sound of music" at this year's humdrum oscar ceremony (the winners of the acting, directing and best picture categories were all just as expected, except for the best actor trophy, which went to that british former model instead of batman) was playing on my mind endlessly, helping cheer me up as i exerted all my energy into climbing the two hundred and fourteen steps to reach the top of the viewing deck to get a better glimpse of the magnificent chocolate hills.

yes dearies. you heard it right. two hundred and fourteen steps up. a herculean task given my body weight and lack of exercise that i all blame to my sedentary lifestyle -- staring at the tiny screen of my macbook all day, ogling at young handsome men in their naked glory...oppps .

but the young man in our group convinced me that the view from the top was much, much better.

"like watching a four-d movie," he said. whatever that means. heck, i don't even like three-d movies! simply because i don't relish wearing a cheap, tacky plastic eyeglasses on top of my own armani glasses!

still unconvinced, he added: "the air up there is as fresh as a morning dew."

that did it. nothing like breathing fresh air could entice a city dweller who inhales manille's black smokes, cigarette smokes, and other pollutants twenty-four-seven.

so i climbed. with heavy footsteps. as though i was facing the death row.

less than halfway through the steep climb, i could feel all the muscles on my legs getting stiff and painful. my heart was beating so fast and i thought i was having a heart attach. so i stopped for a while. i was about to turn back and walk down, ready to quit and give up, when i saw a young gorgeous man (french), lean, tall, tan, beardy, running up the stairs in tiny shorts and a figure hugging shirt, carrying a heavy backpack. i was bewitched!

he made it look so easy. like he was just climbing the stairs in his apartment in paris and calling it a night after a round of reds and cheese, and a romantic music (by former french first lady carla bruni but of course whose sexy, throaty and soothing voice can awaken dormant feelings deep inside your soul).

so i resumed my trek. slowly. i even held on to the stair posts for fear that i might get out of balance and fall. have i mentioned that i have a fear of heights?! indeed, all odds were against me. sigh.

after a few more hours, with loud screams in between just to get off the pressure, i reached the top.

the young man in our group who suggested the climb was right. up here, the view was cerebral. the chocolate hills were indeed alive, more alive than a newly-born baby giving out a cry right after emerging from its mother's womb, vibrant, with the gentle sound of the wind and the swaying leaves from nearby trees, and the pious flapping of the birds' wings.

you can't help but feel god's magical hands in all of these!

then i saw the young french guy (i knew that he is french because when i greeted him at the stairs, he said oui! and then he gave me a breathtaking smile that only the french could ever do),  taking photos. up close, he was even more gorgeous. his muscled, hairy legs, tan and shameless, were unnerved by the cold wind from the mountains. it was baguio temperature up there. shivering cold. i regretted leaving my sweater at the comforts of my villa in panglao island.


i never had the chance to speak with him because a few minutes later, his girlfriend arrived. also good looking, but not as gorgeous as her boyfriend.

though the hills were covered with mists, they were still stunning. the fog added a certain mystery, as though the hills were these shy, young ladies from a certain era hiding their gorgeous faces beneath a lovely, flimsy veil. but still you could see a glimpse of their profiles. indeed, you can't hide great beauty. specially of the natural kind.


chocolate hills did not disappoint.  on a cold weather, with misty clouds circling their faces, they looked like scooped ice cream in cones inside the freezer.


according to web pages that i explored prior to my visit, there were more than a thousand of them spread through out the town of carmen in bohol province. the site itself was a two-hour ride from the capital city of tagbilaran. when i say two-hour ride, that's sans traffic. so it's quite far. but the trip was well very worth it.

nothing compares to the feeling of getting up close and personal with one of god's works of art.

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before punishing myself with the two hundred and fourteen step climb, which instantly gave me modelisque abs, a flat stomach, and hard muscles on both legs, i had a meeting with missing relatives -- the lovable and very tiny creatures called tarsiers. yes, them with tiny bodies, long tails and huge eyes that are nearly half of their entire body.

unlike in chocolate hills were you can watch the hills for free, you have to shell out around sixty pesos to get a photo opportunity with the tarsiers. without flash, mind you, because you might awaken them. you see, tarsiers are nocturnal animals, or mammals, or species, or creatures, (i really don't know. i failed science in elementary, high school and college!), so they come alive at night like vampires.

too, they are solitary in nature. they love their solitude. they don't like sex. their mating season is from october to january, and the sex act lasts for only ten seconds. i say it again, ten seconds! talk about quickies, and premature ejaculations. then they jump back to their own branches, savour the silence and solitude once again, and contemplate about the meaning of their lives, and why their tails are longer than their bodies, and why they have such huge eyes!


(come to think of it, they really remind me of myself and most of the people in my family -- solitary, nocturnal, and lithe.)

from what i have read (not wikipedia, not!), their body length is about fifteen centimeters, but their tails can be as long as twenty three centimeters. they are also very light, at 140 grams. they are so small they fit into an adult's palm.

here's one sad fact i found out upon reading: found mostly in southeast asia, tarsiers are slowly fading away. they are endangered species. maybe because they don't like having sex. in their bohol sanctuary, there are only four of them left. sad indeed.


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what's a visit to bohol without the loboc river cruise?


well as faithful citizens of this country, we did our part. we rode in a bamboo raft as big as a typical poor filipino living room that could accommodate up to fifty people.

there were tables for dining and drinking, and a bigger banquet table at the center full (a friend said overflowing, but i disagree) of filipino dishes that are the mainstays for picnics and fiestas -- pansit guisado, pork barbecue, fried chicken, rice, lots of rice, a fish dish, young jackfruit with coconut oil, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, and other local kakanins for dessert such as maja blanca and suman.

since this is the philippines, there was a singer (doing covers of elton john classics) to entertain us as we cruised the river that offered nothing really but the view of the murky water, and tall, proud trees on the mountains.



some tourists, maybe out of boredom, joined the singer to the delight of some of the cruisers.


someone even took her photo. i was guessing he was her boyfriend or husband. maybe they were on a honeymoon in bohol? or just rekindling romance?



another cruiser, another tourist from out of the country, couldn't be bothered. she sat at the edge of the raft and smoked. relishing the view of nature. i wanted to join her, have a short chat about life for a while, but i realized i quit smoking ages, nay, eons ago.


then as the trip went on, there were a few surprises along the way. such as this girl washing clothes at the river bank. the scene was very rustic, very classique. it reminded me of a botong francisco or fernando amorsolo painting.


it also brought back some childhood memories, decades and decades ago, when we used to spend summer vacations at an aunt's house somewhere far away, enduring hours of uncomfortable travel on dusty, unpaved roads, cheered by the thought that we would be spending endless hours swimming and playing on the river which was right next to her very huge, two-story home.

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midway through the cruise, the raft stopped at a shed where old women and young children in native costumes entertained us with filipino folk songs complete with dance choreography, and for the finale, a couple of young kids performed the famous tinikling.




there was a wooden donation box if you care to give some money. i did. but i won't tell you how much. it's good for the soul, mind you. sharing whatever small amount you have for these folks, who are still recovering from a massive earthquake that devastated centuries old churches, houses, farms and roads, and killed more than two hundred people.



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then after the chocolate hills adventure, we were back to the comforts of our luxurious resort, an exclusive one that's famous for its privacy and seclusion. (more about this on my next post!)

that's all fairies, witches, bitches. if you have the time and money, and so tired and stressed out of the polluted and crowded manille, then head off to this bewitching southern part of the philippines. i assure you, you too will be singing not just "sound of music" but also this: "bewitched, bothered and bewildered....."

(all photos were mine, except for the one with the tarsier, which i took from an internet site. no copyright infringement intended. please inform the blogger if you want it removed. thank you.)

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