Thursday, March 9, 2017

Adjacent Leyte: The 2017 Bohol Update:

 This entry is mainly for public service purposes because relevant information was scarce when I researched my travel from Leyte to Bohol Island here in the Philippines. Here’s hoping this will be helpful to anyone traveling from Leyte who desires to venture to this all-encompassing island named Bohol.

Panglao Area
 First off, for those traveling with a vehicle, as of February 2017, there remains only 1 cargo ferry which traverses Leyte to Bohol and vice versa and that is provided by the Medallion Shipping Lines in the port of Bato, Leyte.  Departure is scheduled for 0900 but we didn’t get to leave until 1300 hrs. There are pump boats in Hilongos and Bato which sail up to 3 trips in one day if one is traveling without a vehicle. Single motorcycles can also be accommodated in the pump boats (believe it or not) but not 4-wheeled vehicles for obvious reasons. 

Bato's Plaza near the port.
For those who do not know, Bato is in the southwestern side of Leyte, right after the town of Hilongos and before Maasin. It is a small rural town and the port is it’s center, if you need to stay for a brief period here while on a budget, check out Three J’s Hotel for a little over P1400/night in Hilongos, it is clean (in a general sense) and is reasonable for an over-nighter. For splashier accommodations, the Citi Hotel which is foreign-owned and has a Shell petrol station in front of it, has better beds, sheets, is also very clean and has a restaurant on the first floor which features an international menu. If one does not wish to be bothered with the rigamarole of all that, simply schedule to arrive at 0700 at the Bato port because the Medallion office/window opens at this time.

The Ferry Ride: if traveling with a vehicle, it is imperative one makes a reservation the day prior to the departure as the ferry might already be at it’s maximum weight and there will be no guarantee one will make the trip. The cell phone number is: 0932 151 7908 and they will ask for info of your plates and make and model of your auto. Motorcycles cost P1,300.00 and  4-wheeled vehicles cost P2,400.00. Fare for a single person is around P240.00, this does not include the terminal fee of P15.00. On the whole, we paid P2,748.00 for a 4-wheeled vehicle and 2 travelers. As previously mentioned, the ferry was scheduled to leave at 0900 but did not do so until 1300. Travel time is 2 - 3 hours from the port of Bato to the port of Ubay, Bohol.


The port of Ubay in Bohol (if one surveys the map) is at the opposite end of the swanky Panglao Beach and Tagbilaran City but be not dismayed; since the whole island is only roughly half the size of Leyte, the trip from Ubay to the other end of Panglao will only take 2 hours and 15 minutes. 


For all intents and purposes the tourist hive of Panglao specifically Alona is foreign and barely resembles the Philippines. Think an intimate beach village like the ones in Sarasota and the Keys but with an Asian flare. By "foreign" I mean this: the sari-sari stores, multicab transportation, sikad-sikad bicycles with sidecars, mounds of rubbish on the side roads, pot holes on the streets and shanty town clusters have all been done away with. There are only private vehicles, Vespa-type scooters for rent, convenient stores at every quarter of a kilometer and honest to goodness international gourmet restaurants. On a side note I did see single motorcycles which appear to transport people all over Panglao but they are unmarked. Big buses and jeepneys do exist but not around the tourist beltways. 

Information to directions. 

The beaches in Panglao except for the one open to the public located way out of the Alona area are governed by the resort hotels and can best be accessed if one is a part of their clientele. The roads on the nooks where the resorts are webbed through are not paved and perhaps they keep it this way on purpose to discourage the general public from readily venturing on these areas. I had a better beach experience in Anda as it was more intimate, relaxing and the sands are more sugar-y.

Cost for resorts range from: P3,000.00 to the upper P10 thousands OR $60 - $200 and up. 


 Average cost for restaurants in the Alona area range: P150’s - P800’s and up or $3’s - $16’s and up.
 Entrance to Luna Rossa, the village's most excellent vegetarian joint.

Pizza at Noah's

Cost: P450.00 or $9.00, buffet meal included
This river cruise is straight forward but the route I believe has been shortened from when I was here last. Locals have informed us that the night river cruises are waning if not nil after the big earthquake in 2013. Located in the municipality of Carmen and closer to Bohol’s main city of Tagbiliran, the Loboc River cruise takes about 1 mile with bends and nature scenes through the boat ride. The cruise includes a nice lunch buffet meal and live lounge-y music in a makeshift catamaran. The river is pristine, a very far cry from any of ours in Leyte especially in the Eastern areas. There is only one station of performers left for the cruisers to watch, unlike before. Performances in said stop display Bohol’s hospitality and their sweet spirit. 
Loboc River

CHOCOLATE HILLS: Cost: P50.00 or $1. :
A majestic and mysterious creation of over 1700 mounds/hills spread all over a land area of 50 square km, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol is a sight to behold from where one will stand to view it and way far as the eyes can see. The grass of the hills are draped with greenish and brownish color and the mounds have that manicured-looking round shapes. One may view the hills at the highest peak at the Sagbayan Observation area.
Bohol's iconic Chocolate Hills. 

For Lepidoptera and flora lovers, come visit this one. This butterfly garden houses many of the butterfly and moth species of the region. My sightings included eight beautiful kinds up close and personal. The center has hatcheries, breeding areas and an enclosure where one can admire the arthropods closely. A side note: butterfly gardens connote a peace about them right? So please try not to conduct business, yell at your cellphones or at each other especially when you are inside the enclosure. That really is just common sense isn’t it? Another area with butterflies is the Bonsai and Butterfly Farm which is in close proximity with the Habitat.
 Kite Paper Butterflies at Habitat.

 The conservation center also offers a night safari if one is interested in flying Lemurs and wild boar sightings; hiking and bird watching trips are also available. Got to spend one night of nature tripping in this 2-floor casita made of natural Amakan and wood materials. Though the casita includes the conveniences of a toilet and a hot and cold shower system, beware the palm-sized spiders falling while you shower and the Tuko (a 15-inch Gecko) keeping watch directly above your bed stuck to the nipa ceiling which may slip at anytime. It was a blessing to have the secret garden, the breeze, the moon (though only a quarter), and the sound of cicadas and all manner of crickets with different tones through our slumber. 

 Cost of Casita: P950.00 or $19/night

Bohol’s Tarsier Conservation Center is located in the Loboc area. The tarsier is the smallest primate in the world which measures only from 3 inches to 6 inches in height as an adult. They are indigenous to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and ours truly and is a threatened specie. The tarsiers are carnivores - bats, insects and some snakes are among their fare. They appear docile in the day as they are nocturnal; fuzzy, brown and cute-looking they are with their big round eyes and knobby knees and fingers clutching on trees. Caretakers of the conservation inform us their numbers indeed are dwindling as there are only 115 Tarsiers left in the breeding area. I wonder if exposure to homo sapiens are doing them harm? What with the microbes and viruses we harbor and all. 

Guys, meet my new friend Timmy the Tarsier. 

The Bohol Bee Farm or the BBF (as I will call it):

Bohol Bee Farm, a One Stop Shop Vacation Spot.

I only got to eat here and wasn’t able to tour the farm because we were on a rush headed for the Anda municipality; from what I was able to survey, this resort alone is a "one-stop shop.” It has a restaurant (Lantaw), coffee shop, extensive herb garden, bed and breakfast and offers boat trips to neighboring islands for snorkeling and diving, as well as diving courses. All food items are made from organic fruits and vegetables raised from their farm including coffee blends. I might be able to give a more extensive narrative if and when I am able to return, God willing. 

Lantaw Rastaurant

 Coffee Shop

 Herbs at BBF.

Meals at the BBF cost from the P100’s to P800’s or $2 to $16 or more.


Because I was entreated by an important person not to tell anyone about Anda (for fear of it becoming overexposed), I will only divulge that it doesn’t do Anda justice to refer to it as an alternative to Panglao because as far as beaches are concerned it is a quite contender. Except for the Alona section of Panglao, reasons why Anda will be preferred by quality vacationers include the sugar sandy beaches, cave pools and other aquatic activities, after that, my lips are sealed.

 Unspoilt Anda.


 Tagbilaran lights.
This is the capital city of Bohol and the center of commerce, this is the part of the island that has the congestion and a tad bit of dirt but their level of rubbish is practically non-existent compared to other cities including Cebu, Manila and Tacloban (sorry to report). They have one major mall which is not the usual mega malls like SM or Robinson’s but it will do the trick; also, because the island is inundated with expats, specialty stores like the food supplies in Panglao will suffice for your cheeses, fruit and vegetable preserves and deli meats. 

One can’t really find a worthy hotel in Tagbiliran itself, best just get the nature tripping huts by the river in Loboc or Carmen or luxe it up with the glam resorts in Dauis or Panglao. I want to mention the hotel atop the mountain in Dauis or right after the bridge heading to Panglao from Tagbilaran, it’s called the Bohol Plaza, the plus here is that it’s quiet, more or less clean and will give you the vista of the surroundings which is stellar. The downside, it’s old, a bit musty and the bathrooms aren’t designed efficiently. 

Vista of the mountains and the lake. 

Back to Leyte:
With the rebound trip to Leyte much like the preparations from Bato to Ubay, Bohol, one needs to make a reservation a day ahead for vehicles to make the ferry. The cell number for reservation is 0942 989 7093. The experience on the way back is like a mirror image of the trip coming to Bohol but in reverse. One will wait up to 2-3 hours before the ferry leaves and travel time is up to 2-3 hours as well. The cost also sums up to the same amount (rounded off to P2,800 or $56 in total). Perhaps because at this moment Medallion is the only player in the ferrying business in the aforementioned 2 ports, this cost is exorbitant even compared to the ferries bound for Cebu or Manila from Leyte or Samar; to borrow from Miss Daisy, "Ah, highway robbery.."

In it’s entirety one will never tire of Bohol, I think it is the most viable island in the Philippines, sure Palawan, Boracay and other islands maybe  snazzy but would a quality vacationer enjoy that quiescent, almost stress-free environment elsewhere? Not just the natural and man-made resources but the people too makes Bohol you see, for it is ingrained in them to be clean, courteous and to honor the resources God gave them. Pollution too was absent in the highways. It seems the citizens of Bohol are the ones taking the initiative to beautify the island so the success of their tourism is a reality and not merely wishful thinking. Here's hoping we all follow that example.

 The cascading mahoganies of Bohol.

I hope you find this entry invaluable for your Bohol travel plans coming from Leyte, if you do end up going and decide to stay behind, I wouldn’t take it against you. 

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Old School Leyte: Price Mansion, The Prize That Was.

Photo of the north facade of the Mansion.

NB: Photos taken covertly as the mansion is currently off limits to the public due to the court case in progress regarding ownership. Photos are also the property of the Living Leyte Blog under (ymt). 

In the year 1910, one of the most historical landmarks Taclobanons and her visitors would ever behold was erected. Owned by an American ex-pat businessman who was the pioneer of transportation services in Leyte, henceforth the abode would be called, “Price Mansion” after it's possessor, one Walter S. Price.

As a wee lass in the 70's, urban legends ran all over town about this family, a particular one I heard was in reference to their endless supply of cash. It was told that the Price brood would fill their pockets with coinage from their chest of treasures and because their wealth was so immense the children and grandchildren needn't work ever. It was also said that their cache would never run out even if all they did was squander it all away in their lifetime. But we know too well that that killjoy of an adage “nothing is forever” prevails over all things ephemeral like uhm... money right? So, by the time I had a sort of awareness of the world around me, it was rumored that the last of the Prices occupying the mansion was a granddaughter of the progenitor and with the coffers empty, it was not long after that the building became one of former First Lady Imelda Marcos' sleeping quarters when she visited Tacloban City which also happens to be her hometown. In the late 80's, after the People Power Revolution, this property was one of many (listed under the Marcos and Romualdez families) which was seized by the PCGG (Philippine Commission of Good Government). 

The Mansion's main entrance.

East-side entrance.

 Wrought Iron grills and Capiz shell windows (a hallmark of Spanish-inspired homes in the Philippines).

Going back to the 1940's during the Second World War, Price Mansion took a dramatic role when it was made as the interim Capitol Building of Leyte and General Douglas MacArthur of the US Armed Forces resided here after his troops landed on the shores of Palo to liberate the Filipinos from the Japanese forces. The quarter which MacArthur occupied in the mansion was bombed by the adversary, however, the weapon turned out to be a dud, the general was spared, and the room still bears that evidence today.

Hole where the infamous bomb meant for MacArthur lodged and failed to detonate.

Remnants of the dud bomb.

The Price Mansion has a robust piece of history so much so that when it was purchased by the College Assurance Plan Foundation (CAP) in the 90's as their base of operations in Region 8, the romance attached to this real estate turned paltry. I mean no disrespect to the purchasers of the edifice; however, in my opinion, something which bares significant markings of heritage in any place is simply mismatched with something as perfunctory as an educational or insurance plan office. In my journeys, I've just known for properties such as these to belong to the people of the town just as their history does; however, if it was never officially donated by the family to the city or province, then it's status is untenable to be made as a museum and such like.

A territorial marking in place.

In the present time though, one would be sorry to see Price Mansion in a derelict state and is in obvious need of rehabilitation. The roofs are tainted with mold, the frame work itself is in disrepair and conspicuous damages are abundant due to age, atmospheric conditions and undeniable lack of care. True to the form of it's controversial past, the property is currently being bitterly contested between two parties who claim ownership, the CAP Foundation and the Marcos/Romualdez family. People residing here at the moment are caretakers under CAP Foundation's employ who cannot be blamed if they pitch their mosquito nets or hang their undergarments alongside prized World War II memorabilia like MacArthur's wood bust, two of his iconic Tankard pipes, documents of Japan's “Instrument of Surrender,” framed photos of Brig. Gen. Ruperto Kangleon Vice Pres. Sergio Osmeña and so on. This boorish irreverence is not their fault as they simply are hirelings doing as they are told, the question really is for those who know better, isn't it? 

 Notable WWII memorabilia misappropriated next to t-shirts and other garments of the caretakers living inside the historical mansion at present. 

 Liberation route map.

A shot of the interior.

 More photos and maps
A monochrome photo of Gen. MacArthur and Pres. Osmeña and party.

Wood bust of the General

MacArthur's Tankard-styled pipes

A document smeared with red dye.

Photo of  Gen. and Mrs. D. MacArthur

Copy of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

 A photo of Pres. Manuel Quezon, Brig Gen. Kangleon and another important personage I cannot name.

Suffice it to say, mismanagement is the bane of Price's Mansion and it runs in the annals of this house. How unfortunate that something as worthy as this will potentially fail to transition to the future world of Tacloban, only becoming a byword and a tale of an era it took part of; yet, it helps in defining our city and our island as a whole doesn't it? If its walls could talk what illustrious words would it speak you think? To sum it up, perhaps Price Mansion was built in the wrong place and fell to divergent hands through it's time of existence; it would even be sadder if it were to be just another open and shut case of casting pearls before swine. 

 Not a part of the original structure, this monument to commemorate the Leyte Landing was added in the 90's.

Friday, February 10, 2017

#OOTD : #Awesome !

One nautical shoulder peek-a-boo dress up for grabs!

#OOTD is the hashtag bomb. Lol! One must really be into these sort of brevity to be able to keep up these days and may I say that this apparel joint does exactly that!

 Located close to the Van-Van terminal at Burgos St., #OOTD (#Overruns Of The Day) houses the only pret-a-porter you need in Tacloban today. I am not a brand name idolater (anymore), but these garment and footwear brands spell of good quality if nothing else: Zara, American Eagles, Esprit, Mango, Zuiki, Forever 21, Chuck Taylor's (Converse), Havaianas, am I right? Well, they are found in this store and not to mention items are very reasonably priced indeed. By “reasonable" I mean, the P1,200.00 girl jeans at Forme is a P600.00 Zara at #OOTD, like there’s a comparison? Szhahh! 

 W/ a DSLR, Gory here can be NatGeo material.

Feline Fashion in the house!

Also present in the store are casual, business-casual and sportswear for the non-contrived hipsters and fashionistas. Cross my heart. 

Jeans and khakis 
Check out the cool vibe inside huh? The witty puns to lure your inner shopaholic, the relaxing consumer ambience, I really love it; this amiable concept is a creation of my co-kindred pal Sharon M. Ogsimer who I admire for her authenticity, coolness and congeniality! 

What Wisdom...

Oh just discover this one for yourselves why don’t ya? And you'll thank me later. Peace! 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leyte's Consumate Deli Experience: Italian Market Deli

A Delicatessen to me is a place that houses cured meats, a plethora of cheeses with names unpronounceable at times, exotic oils, olives, antipasto delights; and most especially one that constructs those foot-long deli sandwiches which contains a myriad of tastes that takes my palate into a journey so ambrosial I have to write about it. 

Said experience and or place is no longer foreign to us Leyteños (and I say this with giddiness) because guess what? We now have our very own Deli here in Leyte!

The Italian Market Deli located at Brgy. 93 Bagacay, inside Villa de San Juanico Subdivision (close to THE bridge), is as ideal as it gets in the realm of delicatessens. Hand on heart I can vouch for the authenticity of this joint and even dare to opine that the Subway franchises I've been to in the Philippines lose luster when pitted next to this veritable deli in Tacloban. 

the Deli's flagship sandwich - the Spicy Italian.

Delis are gratifying and I will say Italian Market will not leave one wanting. Go ahead and sample those promising cured and seasoned meats i.e., Copicola ham, black forest ham, sausages, peppered hams, baloney, assorted salami and blocks of cheeses like Gruyère, Swiss, mozzarella, Parmesan, Cheddar and so on. Turn neither to the right or left my friends for these items are no longer stuff to wonder about for here and now, it has become tangible. It is a plus of course that the prices are friendly for items so rare in our parts. I personally like it that the owners are welcoming and are eager to share the deli experience with everyone too. 

Deli meats.

 Fromage, formaggio, queso, cheese!

Assorted sausages.

Italian Market Deli too has a cornucopia of non-perishables one can take if concocting one's own creations is preferred.

Items one will fall in love with!

flavored-olive oils and dressings

And here are ...
My deli meat and cheese going through the blades of glory.

Check out that marble-ization !

Gruyère, one of the few things that truly ages beautifully.

Tarry no longer and vamos!

The location may be away from the city center but let me say, it reminds me of those times driving on a less traveled road in a quaint beach town (say Siesta Key, FL), looking for something to eat, being non-expectant but then... Serendipity! Italian Market Deli.