Holy Week is next week. If you’re still looking for a place to go for some recreation and reflection, allow us to point you to the direction of Bohol.
Because apart from the chocolate hills, tarsiers, and the Loboc River—all of which will make you think of God and the wonders of his creation, by the way—Bohol has little pockets of spirituality that perfectly complement the fun to be had on Alona beach. We mean:
1. Check out Isola di Francesco
Off Panglao is an island dedicated to Padre Pio, the Italian priest who experienced stigmata. Isola di Francesco better known as the Virgin island will gently force you into meditation. As you approach the island, an installation of Jesus and his disciples on a boat right on the water, will greet you, signaling this isn’t any ordinary island. As you get closer, you’ll notice a giant rosary floating on the water. A huge statue of Padre Pio will greet you on the entrance, alongside a small sign that reads “enjoy HIS beach,” meaning God. Inside is a prayer garden full of statues of saints, where doves freely fly. Further in is a chapel that houses the relic of Padre Pio. Speaking of Padre Pio…
2. Go to the Old Baclayon Church
After the 2013 earthquake the devastated the province, an image of Padre Pio suddenly appeared on the outside walls of arguably the oldest church of the country. Boholanos like to say only the pure of heart will be able to trace the face of the Italian priest in what looks like muck on the walls. Built by the Jesuits, the Old Baclayon Church is right next to what locals call the Baluarte. Swing by here late afternoon, figure out Padre Pio’s face, make three wishes, and catch the sunset at the Baluarte. As soon as you start vibrating in that solemn space of peace, it’ll be hard not to catch the magic of Bohol. But now that we’re talking about churches…
3. Take a tour of Bohol’s ancient churches
Apparently, Bohol has the highest concentration of historic and heritage structures, which includes the highest concentration of pipe organs outside of Manila. After the quake, about 11 historical churches all through the province collapsed, strangely attracting attention from tourists and visitors eager to see what’s left.
4. Abatan River Cruise
Unlike the Loboc River Cruise that takes guests on the river through lunch, the Abatan River Cruise is an-hour long experience that happens in the darkness of night. Why in the evening, you may ask? Because it will take you firefly watching. You’ll see entire trees lit up by fireflies, and when you’re lucky, planktons lighting up the riverbed. It’s equal parts weird and scary and magical, making you say prayers for protection, paranoia, and upon seeing a tree lit up by fireflies, a prayer of thanksgiving.
5. Visit the Tarsier Foundation
If you’re going to feed your curiosity with the famed nocturnal animals of Bohol, it’s best to swing by Tarsier Foundation in the town of Corella, where you are sure that the Tarsiers are best taken care of. Hectares of land are dedicated to the animals’ wellbeing. It’s quiet, it’s lush, and you’re right smack in the middle of a forest. There are hiking and bike trails for the more adventurous.
6. Book a room at Blue Water
The homegrown resort comes highly recommended for three reasons: (a) it’s not a high-rise so it makes you feel like you were just home in the province, (b) it’s a sprawling estate that affords you your important alone time, be it by the water, in the large garden, and even in your room, and finally (c) there are day beds on the pool, so you can do some reading or thinking or some introspection and take a dip when it gets too hot.