We did the touristy works in Bohol, one of the Philippines’ destinations of the moment, an island province at the heart of the archipelago with nice beaches, diving sites, a clean river to cruise on, old churches, intriguing fauna, landmarks that are worth your while, well-appointed resorts and an overall rustic feel much touted and romanticized by stressed out city dwellers.
A burst of rain welcomed us when we arrived the first day of July, the start of the run of Cebu Pacific’s Wandering Juan, a Web site in which its customers can create their own travel photo blogs. The best ones will win trips. The rules are: They must be creative and they must incorporate the tsinelas or flip-flops in the photos.
Why the tsinelas? Although it is of Japanese origin and design, the tsinelas has been part of Philippine popular culture, supplanting the traditional the wooden clogs called bakya as the footwear of choice around the home, when going to the market and even when on excursions. Once relegated as "lowly" or "uncouth," the flip-flops became fashionable with the surge of branded ones, particularly the Brazilian Havaianas. Not just worn around the house and palengke, the flip-flops are now also worn inside malls and offices.
Like footprints, the tsinelas has become a symbol of an itinerant lifestyle. And how Filipinos on excursions love to boast "I was there" indirectly, via photographs of themselves with the landmarks. Never mind if they don’t know the history and meaning of those landmarks. There will always be kodakan moments along the journey. The pictures will be shared with friends, most often as pang-iingit.
Now, with easy access to digital technology and the Internet, pictures are not only shared with friends, but with the larger public. Travel photos are posted in online journals and blogs, spawning travel photo blogs—not much words, only photos.
Cebu Pacific makes use of old loves and a new craze for their latest promotion: The Wandering Juan online travel journal photo contest.
"Wandering Juan provides Pinoy and Pinoy-at-heart travelers a venue where they can brandish their travel achievements for all the world to see," said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution.
The country’s popular budget airline has been one of the spurs for Filipinos to travel around the country. The country’s topography, an archipelago, and the high cost of transportation have been restricting travel around the country. Now, with Cebu Pacific’s low-cost promotions, different destinations are made relatively accessible.
Travel spurs travel photo blogs, which inspires more travels. In the case of Wandering Juan, creative travel photo blogs win more travels.
The contest runs from July to October 2009, and accepts entries taken during that time and in Cebu Pacific destinations both local and international. Those who wish to join the contest must create a visual journal of their travel experiences — photos featuring their tsinelas in landmarks and sites they’ve visited, with people they’ve met or in a sequence a la travelogue story. The complete mechanics may be viewed at the Wandering Juan site, www.wanderingjuan.com. At stake are trips to Kota Kinabalu in
Incidentally, if contestants want their entries printed, they can avail of Cebu Pacific’s Fun Prints service, which is operated and maintained by Mozcom, the
"This is a good time to be a traveler and learn more about the world and our places in it, given all the affordable options and unique services that make travel dreams possible and more meaningful," Iyog enthused.
We, a group of journalists, had sort of a test run in
Bohol is a rising star of Philippine tourism together with
We booked for the popular Bohol Countryside Tour, which takes you around the island’s popular spots, including the famous Chocolate Hills.
From Tagbilaran, we went about 20 kilometers east to the town of
The Chocolate Hills are located in the middle interior of the island, more than an hour’s drive from Loboc. Going out of Loboc, we through the Tina-i sa Manok, literally "chicken intestine," a portion of the road that winds around the mountains, and passed through two kilometers of highway fringed and canopied by a "man-made forest."
The forest, about 800 hectares in the towns of Loboc and Bilar, of mahogany trees growing in an orderly manner looked beautiful in its uniformity, the result of a reforestation program in the 1960s. Today, tourists frequently make brief stops to take pictures. At the time we went, it was probably the mating season of the giant millipedes. The millipedes here are many times larger than the ones found in
In Bilar, the Chocolate Hills began to appear—huge limestone mounds like islands on the bristling green sea of rice stalks. There are about 1,500 of these haycock hills scattered on the island’s central plain, mostly in the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan. They turn brown during the summer, looking like giant Hershey’s Kisses, hence the name. This early part of the rainy season, they were green.
To have a panoramic view of the hills, we went to the barangay of
Aside form the Chocolate Hills, which amazes me every time I see them, another iconic image of
Managed by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit organization established in 1996 that aims to conserve and promote the tarsier, the sanctuary maintains about 130 hectares of secondary growth forest on the foothills of the barangay of Canapnapan.
The sanctuary has a large cage where the tarsiers live, maintained by Carlito Pizarras, who is frequently interviewed in articles and documentaries. Called the "Tarsier Man," Pizarras once caught and sold tarsiers. Now, he is conservationist, working with the sanctuary.
Staff members accompanied and guided us as we searched for tarsiers among the thick growth. We found about five, including a mother and her baby.
Out last stop was the
About six kilometers east of Tagbilaran, the
We retired in the modern comforts of Amorita Resort in the
Amorita has 20 deluxe rooms and two sky suites at a hotel near the reception, and 14 villas, six of which have a view of the
Though the resort has no beachfront, it has an enviable view. Guests are afforded a panorama of the Alona stretch, best enjoyed at the infinity pool, or at the restaurant or at a platform where dinner can be set under the trees and globular lamps and diners can feel as if floating toward the sea and sunset. The open-air Saffron Restaurant, so named because of the color of the sunset which casts a lovely glow on the restaurant, is where one can watch the beautiful sunsets of
We imbibed the view while sipping cocktails and lying on the lounges. With legs propped up, the whole