The original plan was to go to Palawan although we weren't exactly sure where to - Puerto Princesa, Coron, or El Nido. The Salvadoran also wanted to stay one more day wherever we were headed. So that would make the package a 4 days / three nights. I started making arrangements with the travel agent in Manila a little too late because the Salvadoran didn't arrive from Vietnam until 12/19. I learned that there are only a few chartered flights from Manila to Palawan so 4 days in the island would already include Christmas eve and we didn't like that. My mom and siblings wouldn't appreciate that either. I had to make another plan. Bohol and Panglao Island sounded right.
The Cebu Pacific flight to Bohol from Manila was full and the passengers were a mix of tourists on holiday and those who appear to be from Bohol who are going back home for Christmas. We got to Tagbilaran airport in about an hour. There seemed to be a problem with the plane's air pressure because both the Salvadoran and I suffered from earaches during the flight - his ears kept popping while mine failed to pop. I wonder which is one is more painful? By the way, it took a day for my ears to pop.
We were whisked to our hotel in an airport van service and we were joined by a friendly older Japanese couple. A lovely view of the sea and of the small island not too far from the beach greeted us. From where we were standing while checking in, I could feel the warm sea breeze blowing through the hotel's receiving hall. I thought that was relaxing already. Before we were led to our room, a hotel staff gave us a quick tour of the resort. The hotel complex is heavily guarded and the surrounding area is massive. There is a natural cave not too far from the main hall. Apparently, the province is dotted with caves.
The rooms at the Panglao Island Nature Resort (or locally known as PINR) are traditional nipa hut styled villas with amenities you would expect from a 5 star hotel. The hotel has its own private beach too. I didn't get why the majority of the hotel guests preferred to lounge by the pool. You can have the beach by yourself most of the time. It is great for taking afternoon naps or reading a good book. I actually finished reading the Fall edition of the Paris Review in just one sitting. Since the Salvadoran has been to Boracay, he kept comparing it with the water and the sand of Bohol. Although both have pristine white sands and crystal blue waters, Boracay still tops his list. Collecting corals is not allowed.
The buffet style breakfast and dinner were part of the package. Most of the dishes are traditional Filipino food with one or two trays resembling a Western dish. Good for me but bad for the Salvadoran. By the third day, the food started to taste inedible to him. The best part is the generous serving of grilled seafood and the unlimited supply of crabs during dinner which both the Salvadoran and I absolutely enjoyed. There were times that I felt bad for the other guests because we were hoarding the crabs or anything grilled for that matter.
We took a half day tour to see the island's pride - the Tarsier, the Chocolate Hills, Loboc river, old cathedrals, etc. The highlight of the trip for me is seeing the world's smallest primate. It is a realization of a childhood dream. The Salvadoran thinks that the Chocolate Hills are man made and were created as tombs of ancient chiefs of the island. I told him he has a lot of imagination.
Unfortunately, the Salvadoran didn't appreciate the fact that we couldn't easily leave the hotel's premises. While I enjoyed the seclusion and privacy, he felt bored and stuck. This is why hotel guests befriend one another because of desperation for socialization. We met a couple of guests who are also from the States. The owner of the Panglao Island Nature Resort (PINR) is also the owner of Bohol Quality mall (or just BQ mall according to the locals) so there is a free shuttle bus from the hotel to Bohol's mainland. It is about 20 minutes each way. Except the day tour, this was the only time we got out of the hotel's vicinity. BQ is far from being an SM or Ayala Mall but we were able to stroll around, buy stamps for my postcards, and witness the local scene. I can tell the Visayan they speak in the Island is a different Visayan that my dad spoke. Both are still unintelligible but pleasant to my ear.
For an island destination, Bohol is a complete one. You get the beach vacation with sight seeing on the side.
We'll try again for Palawan on our next trip to the Philippines.