Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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Bloggers' Adventures in ANDA, Bohol

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Bloggers of Bohol and Cebu

The event initially started from an idea by Dalareich as explained here but, to her surprise, PIA (Philippine Information Agency) Bohol's sir Rey Chiu offered to organize an event to not only empower Bohol's budding blogging community and to help Anda's toursim efforts but also to spread the giving spirit.  

Eventually, an outing with Bohol and Cebu bloggers was scheduled on the 20th and 21st of December this year. More bloggers signed up for the event and brought along their bundles of joy for the intended gift-giving during the trip.

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USAID-sponsored transportation with the awesome tour guide, sir Rey

We all started at Chocoreich Cafe as a meetup point for everyone. The early birds, including myself, got to know a lot of new faces both from Cebu and Bohol. The most notable meeting for me was being introduced to Kim Mainit. I wasn't a big fan of cable t.v. so I had no idea who I had the privilege of talking to. After a proper introduction, I was blown away by how a person that has achieved so much remained humble and real and continued to just be his fabulous self during the whole trip.

I also met a lot of new, awesome bloggers during the trip and it was my delight and honor to be able to spend a weekend with them and to be able to see them do what they did best.  

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Rice fields at Lila, Bohol (thanks, Gilbert)

On our way to Anda, Bohol we had a lot of fun listening to sir Rey and his stories of Bohol, it's people, culture and past. Heck, I've lived in Bohol for ninteen years and even I had no idea about the beliefs and stories behind my home province.

He talked about Bohol's Great Sinkhole that stretches along a cliffside along the coast starting at Tagbilaran's Cathedral. What's most peculiar about it though was the iron ladder officials found in one of the crevices that leads to a restaurant across an antique shop. Another story is about the great kingdom of Dapitan which explorers called the Venice of the Orient that settled in the straight that sits between the mainland Bohol and the island of Pangalo. It's riches were of gold and many more stories originated from that fact.

The most important fun fact to me though was that the Loboc-Loay River actually sourced the krill and plankton that was needed to attract the migrating whales and dolphins in Pamilacan Island. If locals did not know it's value and abused that river, it's bye-bye to Pamilacan local's livelihood.

After a few long hours, we finally arrived in Anda and stopped over to the ANDAKidz Community Center to do some volunteer work. After meeting the kids and sharing the holiday spirit with them, we then moved on to a Mystic Cave Tour in Lamanok Island. 

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Life or death across the last part of this rickety bamboo bridge

To get to the boats that would take us to the island, we had to cross a long bamboo bridge and for those less confident of their physical ability like me, the struggle was real. The handles virtually disappear in the middle of the stretch of the bridge, leaving you with a thin platform of bamboo floor to walk through as the sight of dark, pointy mangrove roots stare back up at you as you look down. At the end of the bridge are just three or so long poles of thick bamboo that you have to balance through, sometimes without handles, as water splashed against it's base poles. And I don't need to talk about this experience after we came back form the tour when night came. It was fun in the end, though.

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Our competent paddler and the beautiful sunset boat ride

We were graced with calm seas that day, thankfully, as the boat ride to and from the island were easily my best parts of the whole tour. The local paddlers and tour guides were kind and careful and easy to talk to. They tell us of the best seasons you should come, which is in the summer, and a few fun facts they know about the site that the tour guide doesn't mention. Don't forget to give them a smile, a tip and a good conversation. It's well worth it.

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Notable attractions in Lamanok Island

The island itself was a sight to behold with evidence of the local's culture and practices, the shamans being the most memorable. A fossilized clam is seen on one of the cliff sides proving that the sea level was way past where it is now a thousand years ago. Red Hematite paintings could be seen in one of the top crevices, and even a grave site and a previous dwelling place of an accused witch exists in  the island. Locals still constantly visit the area to do worship and rituals, the pilgrimage to a cross on a windless crevice in the mountain being the most relatable one to me with the devotees being Catholic.

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Meals by the beach

After the long trip from the island and volunteer work with ANDAKidz, we all retreated back to our pension house where we would be staying the night. Before we could go inside the house though, we enjoyed a seaside dinner and breakfast the day after at Quinale Beach Bar, just a few walks away from the house. The food was great and the waiters were attentive, really awesome after a whole day of trekking.

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The view from the top balcony

A walk away from the beach bar is the pension house we stayed in. With one large room costing one thousand seven hundred and two smaller rooms at the bottom costing around one thousand two hundred, each room with sizable bathrooms, air conditioning and a full kitchen at your disposal, this is an awesome place to spend your Anda stay. I only had to pay a measly two hundred for everything for there were eight of us in that one large room. The care taker is a kind old lady that brings you warm towels, extra mattresses and a good conversation.

My most favorite part of the whole house is the fact that the church and beach are just a walk away with only a large field of grass separating the three places.

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The ceilings have beautiful classical paintings of saints and Christ by local artists

Some of the bloggers and I attended the seventh dawn mass at the nearby church and were the ceiling paintings breathtaking. The most peculiar part of the mass for us was the part at the the end where the priest himself announced the community's upcoming activities and parish's liquidation reports for the holidays. It was new to us yet made us appreciate their parish even more due to their priest's participation.

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Sunrise and mornings at the beach is beautiful

After the mass ended, we decided a trip to the beach was due. A walk away was the white beach with sand as fine as flour. It was low time when we came but because of that, we were able to walk on the shore and enjoy the cool feel of it. We even saw a few local children play soccer in the damp but flat sand.

The statue of the American soldier symbolized the coming of troops from World War II when the Japanese that escaped from Leyte were hunted down by American marines, much like the coming of McArthur.

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Cave pool hopping

Most of the itinerary of the second day revolved around visiting popular cave pools in Anda. A few note-worth ones were Kabagnow Cave which was literally a huge hole in the ground with crystal clear cyan brackish water. None of the divers were able to dive in it since access wasn't easy. It was a good few feet drop into the cave before you could hit the water and even then, the depth was so alarmingly deep that they couldn't assure the bloggers' safety.

The next two were Tibao Cave and Conbento Cave where the bloggers were able to take a dip in and was shallower than Kabagnow Cave. The latter was more accessible as it had a proper concrete stairway leading down built in. Conbento Cave got it's name since it has a crevice that resembles an altar. When you see it's entrance, you won't think the cave pool was as wide as it was unless you actually enter it and see the expanse of it.

The former, Tibao Cave, was visually larger than Conbento Cafe but deeper as bloggers were able to dive into it from a decently high rock.

Locals also frequent the area and officials are looking into educating them of a cave's life and hoping to preserve these natural wonders and keep it as clean and well-maintained as possible unlike the infamous Hinagdanan Cave.

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After visiting a total of five (or so) cave pools, we then moved on to Anda's second and third best resorts as rated by USAID. The first one, J&R Residence was introduced as a "middle class" resort but it easily goes past that rating. Despite it having limited rooms, the place is well worth the stay with a clean pool, beautiful view and the immediate shoreline at the bottom.

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The second resort we got the privilege to visit was Flower Beach Resort. It offers diving courses mainly and sports a very private shoreline as it is enclosed between two large rocks on either side. A driving, bartending, HRM and vocational course school called Florence also operates under the same owner. They also have a nightly film showing of classic 80s bands in the evening for the guests to enjoy.

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Singing and orations

The trip ended with a group lunch at one of the food courts in Anda and a long, fulfilling road trip back to Tagbilaran with live performances from the beautiful Kim Mainit and Ka Bino Guerrero. Hearing Cebu's best heritage interpreter's take on old Cebuano poems made me see a better light on our native language as it sounded beautiful and held so much hidden and sometimes humorous meanings and metaphors; something I couldn't dream of appreciating if not for his performance on the tour bus aisle.

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Happy Dalareich and Cebu Bloggers after a successful trip

With this event, we hope to let the world know that there's much more to Bohol than the wonderful Chocolate Hills and famous Loboc River Cruise. Eco-adventure is highly emphasized in the province of Anda and if you're into nature, peace yet full of adventure, Anda is the place for you!

For budding bloggers in Bohol, feel free to join us in future activities by connecting with me and sending me a link to your blog so I can invite you into the group. Lots of fun new activities up ahead so don't be shy and leave me a message :)

Lastly, check out these bloggers' take of the world by visiting their blogs:


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