Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bohol Countryside Tour

An archipelago comprising of 7, 107 islands, the Philippines  has  a diverse cultural background, thanks to the  bodies of water that separate its people. With 94 million populace and  over 170  local dialects,our ethnic diversity  goes deeper than our way of saying, ''Good Morning!''. We are   akin yet   in some way, foreign to each other and yes to our own country as well. Even I for example, who have done a bit of travelling have seen but just a speck of what beauty my own country has to offer. So it has  been and will always be a great pleasure  to visit other places in the Philippines and discover a  town or  site that seems so different yet reminds me of my  very own  root at the same time.

With an equally eager FF in tow, we went to the island of Bohol for 4 days after our 5 day stint in Cebu. The ferry ride from Cebu to Tagbilaran was smooth sailing that barf bag remained stashed away and unopened. Tourism is blooming in this place and it's not surprising, after all,  Bohol in one of the most visited area in  country. The ferry wharf  was filled with tourist guides and  private tour drivers of vans, jeepney and  tricycles . Each offering almost exactly the same tourist routes . Haggling is the key here.I guess Tagbilaran airport don't look any different.  It took us less than 10 mins to find our tour guide  . He too, offered a tour not so different from his comrades and was chuckling at my refusal to visit some sites. I was not overly keen to see a non distinct hanging bridge made of bamboo stilts. Just across the sea, where I came, it was abundant. (^_^)

FF and I  decided to take two tours, each tour starts in the morning and last until late in the afternoon.  We  spent the remaining days of our holiday lazing out at the beach. Tours on both land and waters are abundant to suit people's taste and interest. Since I can't swim, diving and any underwater-surface-surprises are completely off  in our itinerary. Thankfully, Bohol have enough interesting  things on dry lands so I don't particularly felt left out.

 After checking into our resort ( different Post), we headed off to Alona Beach and spend the rest of the day basking in the sun,drinking coconut juice then   feasted on seafood for dinner before   heading back to the resort.

Seafood galore. I'm grateful I'm not allergic to it.

Where's Bubba when you need him? He would definitely know what to do when 'em shrimps.

Big, fat, succulent prawns  bigger than my palm!

We did the countryside tour   on our second day.We  asked our tour guide not to come earlier than 9:30 in the morning. We don't want to feel rushed up while having the most important meal of the day. Wishes of holidayers..who lead a completely different lifestyle abroad..Read: Driving wheel on the left hand and donut on the right.. 

Filipino breakfast at its best..Kain tayo!

After a very satisfying breakfast, our driver picked us up at the resort. Weather could not get any better, the sun's up and shining but not harsh. It took us about an hour travel from Panglao Island to the town of  Carmen, Bohol. Our first stop....

The Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills, Bohol

 The chocolate hills is one of the Philippine's geological wonders   . This picturesque mountainous terrain is almost always present in many  tourist pamphlets and has become a permanent fixture in any Bohol tour itinerary .  It is proposed for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.I grew up looking at pictures  of the Chocolate Hills in many of our  books in  school so I was pretty thrilled to see it for real.

The Chocolate Hills

There are 1268 of this headstock of   hills scattered around 3  towns of Bohol. These dome-like  mounds rise between  30  to 50 meters high. During hot seasons, the green vegetation that covers these hills dry up  leaving the limestones bare  and turning its usual greenish hue to  chocolate brown making it look  like cluster of Hershey's chocolate Kisses, hence the name.

An awed FF on the observation deck.
Our next stop was the  home of the world's smallest primates......

 Tarsier Conservation Area

Ops ! Sorry wrong monkey!

The Philippine Tarsier

The  adorable Tarsier which is about the size of a human fist.
Spotting them  is a bit tricky. These are nocturnal animals, so finding a tarsier which is not having a siesta during the day  is almost as difficult as spotting it among leaves and branches. FF and I had a great time playing hide and seek with these tiny furballs. Tarsiers do not  well in captivity. Touching it or using camera flashes while taking its picture causes it to get stressed out and nervous making it bang its head against hard objects causing it to crack its thin skull. So when you see a tarsier, keep your distance, stop howling and it's not Paris Hilton  so please  stop playing paparazzi . These are endangered species.

Loboc River Cruise

Staff setting up the buffet under the watchful  eyes of hungry costumers.

It was past noon  when the monsters in our tummy start growling and gnawing our intestine's inner wall,  fortunately our lunch destination, Loboc River Cruise Buffet is just a couple of minutes drive away. We invited our tour guide to eat with us and ask him to choose the floating restaurant, thinking he knew the place better. The lunch buffet itself was nothing special, but after waiting for eternity for our boat to be ready , the crowd simply rush madly into the buffet table and started piling up their plates more enthusiastically than any Shangri La  buffet diners as it finally docked .  I was imagining this lunch cruise to be laid back, relaxed with buffet opening while cruising. This  crowd starts digging in way before the boat sails off .  The whole set up  looked so disorganized and chaotic.

15 Minutes after the boat took off, a  sense of ease and tranquility finally  envelops the air as the raft glides through the water. It could be the beautiful backdrop of rich greeneries or the  calm and gentle gush of Loboc River the mellows the rush hour rash . Lunch is now at a lazy pace, devoid of any bustle and turned exactly into how I expected it. A musician duo, a guitarist and singer started serenading us with their best of the best karaoke hits. They were not bad and could really give April Boy Regino a run for his money. Halfway through the cruise, our boat made a short stop ata  floating stage . A group of locals, armed with guitars and  clad in traditional Baro at Saya provided cruise diners some nice song and dance entertainments.

Our last stop for the day before heading back to Alona beach was:

Baclaynon Church

The Baclayon Church

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.  The church was built in the early 16th century shortly after the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries and was completed in 1727.

Inside the Baclayon Church

There was a wedding when we visited the Baclayon Church. The fresh floral decoration gave the already charming interior a boost.

The pretty much sums up our Countryside Tour. We intentionally miss few sites and decided to spend more time lazing around Alona Beach before heading back to our nest.

FF sweating buckets in the background and my refreshing calamansi juice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Forever 21: Reloaded

Lighter on the left hand and fire extinguisher on the right..

FF added another candle to his already well lit birthday cake and could not get any more grateful. He refused to worry about getting another year older but simply rejoiced at  the  gift of being well and healthy. Although he wants to celebrate such  occasion, he  is not your all out, sociable, belle of the ball kind of person. He likes things quite, intimate with very little  limelight thrown at his direction. His birthday celebration is a reflection to that. He wants his birthday to be celebrated among close family members, joined over cozy lunch or dinner with home cooked meals  and still wants to keep it that way. This year was not different. The birthday lunch was attended by his family ( mine's across the sea) of 11 adults and 4 kids and although mood was non boisterous, it was a merry. Free flow of wine  has its effect. It lightens mood and makes people quick to laughter...among other things. At least that's how it was that day. I prepared a three course meal, all at the request of the birthday boy. He was excited and a bit stressed out by the mess after the party and said he's happy he only have to do it once a year. Hah men! ( Rolls eyeballs)

Starter: Sweet Potato and Fish Chowder
 Birthday lunch started off with this light bit wonderfully flavored soup. I got a lot of compliments after serving this. I know it is ethical to pay compliments to the host/cook but I did notice how our guests savored and enjoyed this starters so when they said it was good, I  believed  . A numerous request for  seconds vanquish whatever doubt I have in mind.

The main dish

The main dish although almost devoid of meat was nevertheless  filling. I cooked Risotto Ala Milanese with baked Salmon fillets, bacon wrapped green beans and served it with Saffron Bechamel sauce. Plates were returned to the kitchen, empty. No better compliment to a cook could top that.

Bacon wrapped green beans with balsamic-orange sauce.

What surprised me in this meal was this bacon wrapped beans and how it went wonderfully well with the fish and the risotto. Preparing it was a brisk. After cutting the tips off, beans were blanched uncovered for about 7 minutes and the plunged into a bowl of ice cold water. Then I  wrapped a bundle of it in bacon then sear it in a bit of butter, seams down until bacon softens. I then baked it in the oven until bacon crisps, about 15 mins  at 200°c and drizzle sauce over it. For the sauce, I heat a  tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, then sauteed finely chopped garlic ( 3 cloves), added 3 tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir until sugar dissolved, stir in 3 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and juice of 1 orange. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Sauce was delicious, tangy and sweet.

Dessert was pretty straight forward but was  still a hit. Nothing beats  warm on cold sweets. Our guest was aaahing and ooohing between mouthfuls of homemade warm decadent brownie and vanilla ice cream. A drizzle of chocolate sauce and wedges of fresh strawberries just added a fruity note to this end of the meal delight. FF proudly claimed that even the vanilla ice cream was homemade and a series of compliment echoes at the  table. An uncle who obviously had enough wine blurts out, why all the hassle when there's enough ice cream for sale at the groceries?! Labors of love, that how I called such hassles and it was worth it, I replied smiling. He rest his case and asked for another scope. (^_^). Happy birthday FF can't wait for next year!
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