BOHOL TOUR: Loboc Man-made Forest and Chocolate Hills

In my previous blog post, I shared about the start of our day tour in Bohol where we visited the Bohol Bee Farm and the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.

Here, I’ll be sharing about the second half of our trip. :)

 

MAN-MADE FOREST 

Before going to the chocolate hills, we passed by a zigzag road covered with beautiful, towering Mahogany trees. According to our driver, these trees were planted many years ago for the purpose of rebuilding forests in the land. They needed to do so because the people of Bohol used to clear lands before by slashing and burning trees.

Now, the trees have grown tall and have occupied a stretch of two kilometers. There are no parking areas nearby, so if you’re bringing your car or a motorbike and you want to have your pictures taken in the middle of the road (which is commonly done by most tourists), then be sure to quickly park at the side of the road and carefully document the experience. It was fun and thrilling to alternately stand in the middle of the road and sprint a second after the picture is taken. Haha!

 

CHOCOLATE HILLS

Finally, our last stop for the day: one of the places that I’ve read about in our history books back in gradeschool. The lovely chocolate hills! Okay, so they weren’t brown when we visited because of the recent rainy weather. But, it was still an amazing moment to finally see them with my own eyes. It reminded me of God’s greatness! Only He can create such beautiful sceneries.

In order for us to have a nice view of the hills, we needed to pay an entrance fee of Php 50 and climb 214 steps on a steep stairway. We weren’t prepared for that, but we just laughed along the way, as we did our best to catch our breath and reach the top. Unfortunately, because we needed to catch our ferry ride at 6 pm, we weren’t able to ride the ATVs near the chocolate hills anymore. If I can still squeeze this in our itinerary next time, I would love to ride one!

 

 

So, there you have it! The Bohol Bee Farm, the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, Man-made Forest in Loboc, and the Chocolate Hills. Four stops in seven hours! Not bad, I guess. Haha. If you’re planning to do a daytrip in Bohol, I would strongly suggest that you join a group tour or rent your own car/driver. Most of the tourist spots can’t be accessed by public transportation. Also, taking uber or taxi rides will be very difficult too since one destination is far from another, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

On our way back to the port at Tagbilaran, we thanked our driver for his assistance and we took time to rest before our 2-hour ferry ride to Cebu. I highly recommend our driver, kuya Joseph. If you want to hire him for your tour in Bohol, let me know so I can give his contact number to you.

It was a tiring trip because we didn’t have much sleep the night before. But, being able to tour around Bohol was such a refreshing treat for my friend and I. I can’t wait to go back and experiences the beaches next time!

Daghang salamat, Bohol! (Thank you very much, Bohol!)

*Go Pro photos c/o Zee*

BOHOL TOUR: Bee Farm and Tarsier Sanctuary

“I’m glad we went to Bohol.” This was what Zee and I told each other when we were on our way back to Cebu. By God’s grace, He protected us from harm and He provided what we needed during our day trip in the beautiful province of Bohol. Whew!

We stayed in Cebu last weekend, but since Bohol was just a 2-hour ferry ride away, we decided to drop by for a day. We were only able to visit the tourist spots in the countryside. Next time, we’ll be back for the beaches!

Our total cost per person for a day trip in Bohol’s countryside is Php 2,960. (Of course, this cost will go down if you’ll be traveling in bigger groups.)

BREAKDOWN IN PESO:

1,125 – Rental fee for a car and driver (personalized tour)
900 – Roundtrip for a ferry ride (1 non-airconditioned and 1 airconditioned)
45 – Terminal fees for the port (roundtrip)
60- Fee for the 30-minute tour at the Bee Farm
450- Lunch with shake or dessert at the Bohol Bee Farm’s restaurant
60 – Entrance Fee for the tour at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
50 – Entrance Fee for the Chocolate Hills

Our driver for the trip, kuya Joseph, was awesome! He prepare a printed sign for us and he welcomed us at the port. He also made us feel relaxed and comfortable during the whole trip. Moreover, he exerted effort in taking our pictures and even stopping the car every now and then so we could take photos of the signs and sceneries. He also did his best to carefully drive fast, so we could squeeze in as much activities as possible.

Next time, we’ll try to book an earlier flight so we can make it to the first ferry trip (6 am) to Bohol. Or, we could just fly straight to Bohol! Haha!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our day tour in Bohol!

Here are some of the sights that we visited:

BOHOL BEE FARM

One word to describe my experience at Bohol’s Bee Farm? SURREAL. After our ferry ride from Cebu port to Tagbilaran port (Bohol), it was refreshing to stop over at the Bee Farm and Restaurant first. We got there at around 12 noon, just in time for lunch. The 30-minute tour around the farm was scheduled at 1 pm, so Zee and I decided to walk around, take photos, rest, and eat lunch at their restaurant while waiting.

I felt very much at home because of the environment! There was an area where organic plants were being grown and the place had a calm atmosphere. You could only hear the silent conversations, soft summer music, hustling of leaves, and the sound of the waves softly splashing on the shore. The dining area of the restaurant had the perfect view of the beach. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see the beach on our trip to Bohol because I knew that we only had time for the countryside tourist spots. So, seeing the lovely view of the clear blue sky and sea really made my heart melt.

For lunch, Zee ordered spareribs while I ordered honey roasted chicken. Both dishes came with red rice and organic garden salad. We also had mango-based fruit shakes.

After our delicious lunch, we went back to the lobby to meet our tour guide. Our 30-minute tour started at the garden patch where our guide explained the different herbs and edible plants they were growing. We then proceeded to walk around the production areas for some of their palm tree products, homemade ice cream (with honey as its only sweetener), green tea made from Ashitaba leaves, cabcab honey chips, and cassava ice cream cones.

The last stop of our tour was the home of the bees. Our tour guide gave some facts about bees and casually joked about how he wanted us (his participants) to also get stung by a bee. I guess he was trying to make the experience fun and light? But, to our surprise, it did happen! I got stung by a bee!! I’ll share more about the experience in another post. But, that moment was definitely the highlight of my surreal experience in the farm.

Before leaving the place, Zee and I tried their homemade creamy avocado ice cream on their homemade cone. It certainly helped me calm down a bit after the incident. Haha!

Overall, the experience was great! I would love to try more dishes at their restaurant and more ice cream flavors next time.

PHILIPPINE TARSIER SANCTUARY

Our next stop was at the official sanctuary of tarsiers in Bohol. We met the “Tarsier Man” of Bohol, Carlito Pizarras. He was very instrumental in developing a conservation program for the tarsiers. Throughout the tour, we learned that the female tarsiers only produce one offspring every six months. Unfortunately, not all of those offsprings reach their maturity or survive. This is why the sanctuary helps create awareness about the dwindling number of tarsiers in the country.

We saw seven tarsiers clinging on to different trees and branches as we walked along the trails inside the sanctuary. Their curved bodies were only 4-5 inches long. One of the instructions that they gave us before the tour was to avoid making loud noises, touching the tarsiers, moving the branches, or taking photos using flashes.

Since tarsiers are noctural animals, they don’t want to be disturbed during day time. The tour guide even explained that when the tarsiers become stressed, they eventually commit suicide by not eating for days or jumping off of a tree. It is a sad reality. So, we did our best not to make them feel stressed while we were there.

They look so adorable! I hope they can still produce more offsprings!

This ends the first part of our day trip in Bohol. In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing about a childhood dream fulfilled! After decades of knowing about it, I finally saw one of the famous landmarks in our country!

It’s All About Me, Right?

“You can find the taco shells… at the… uhh… frozen section.”

Clearly, the staff member at the grocery store didn’t know where the taco shells were. Hahaha. I am able to laugh about this now, but last night, when it happened, I honestly couldn’t contain my irritation.

TACO, TOMATO, & CORN

It all started when I was buying ingredients for tacos and shrimp kebabs for yesterday’s dinner. The staff member was arranging the spices on the rack when I asked him where the taco shells were. I already had an idea but because the supermarket had around 40 aisles, I didn’t want to waste time going through a lot of them.

“Frozen section? But sir, they’re taco shells. Similar to chips?” I said. I even showed a picture of the taco shell which was on the packaging of the taco mix I was holding.

He slightly panicked, mustered enough strength, and said “Yes, ma’am. At the… uhh… frozen section.”

“Umm. I don’t think so. But, I’ll just find it somewhere.” I replied as I gave him an awkward and confused stare.

While I was pushing the cart away from him, my mind started to heat up. “What in the world?? Who keeps taco shells or chips at the frozen section?? Was he trying to look confident? If he didn’t know where it was, he could have said so or endorsed me to another staff instead! Ugghh.” I then saw another staff member and asked him where the taco shells were. He gladly assisted me and showed me the correct aisle.

A few minutes later, I went to the vegetable section to get tomatoes and raw corn. Again, I had another encounter with a staff member. After putting my tomatoes in a plastic bag, I asked a staff member who was arranging potatoes in front of me if he could weigh the bag for me. Without even looking at me, he said “Pumunta ka sa kabila.” In English, “Go to the other side.” He was referring to the staff lady who was two meters behind him. (Just two meters!!!)

I didn’t expect that to happen because every time I ask the staff members at the fruits, vegetable, meat, or even fish sections, they usually get the plastic bag and weigh them. If they weren’t in charge of weighing, they would give the bags to the one who is, so that we (customers) wouldn’t have to go around or walk towards the weighing machine. But, unfortunately, the staff member wasn’t in a good or polite mood.

I then walked towards the corn area. As I was selecting the peeled raw ears of corn, I noticed the date printed on the price tag. The packed date was May 7, 2017. It was only May 6. At that moment, I was already starting to have trust issues with this supermarket. If I would go to the store today, I would believe that they only peeled and packed them today (7th). BUT!!! They were packed a day before!

I got a few pieces anyway, paid for the items, and left the supermarket. As I was driving home, I thought about what happened in the grocery store and my encounters with the taco shells, tomatoes, and corn. “What a failure. Wow. They were soooo HAPPY to serve! Right.”

 

JOY IN SERVING

As soon as I sarcastically commented on their service today, I recalled what I read and learned from Matthew 25:31-46 an hour before I went to the supermarket. I remember being reminded by God to put others before myself. To love and serve others and not remain in my selfishness. I even wrote down the acronym shared by our senior pastor at church many years ago: JOY. Jesus first. Others next. Then, You (myself).

I realized how ugly my heart was when I was feeling entitled and selfish the whole time at the grocery store. I wanted people to serve me. I wanted them to make things convenient for me. It was all about ME. But, in reality, everything about me and everything that I have is only by God’s grace.

Maybe the staff member who didn’t know where the taco shells were was new at his job. Maybe the staff member who shrugged me off at the tomato section had deadlines to meet (sacks of potatoes he needed to finish arranging by last night? I don’t know.). And maybe, the computer used to print the price tags of the corn just accidentally had the wrong date — that they didn’t mean to deceive the customers.

Immediately, I apologized to God for my selfish attitude and for how I allowed my anger and annoyance to brew even for just 30 minutes that night. As I surrendered it to God, I remembered the good points that I did see that night too. First, I still got to find the taco shells (at the chips and salsa section) thanks to another staff member. Second, the store sold headless shrimps, which was the kind of shrimp that I needed for kebabs. Third, the cashier lady double checked with me if I wanted to check my balance first before swiping my debit card.

After remembering these things, I thanked God for preparing my heart even before going to the grocery store and for allowing me to instantly experience first-hand what it means to serve others joyfully. Putting others before myself helps change my perspective and behavior. I may not be able to change how people behave or react. But, I can always choose to humbly serve and honor God and others in any situation.

Before I went to the grocery store, after reading Matthew 25, I even asked myself “How can you be a blessing to others? How can you genuinely serve?”

Last night, my older sister (Michelle), younger brother (Gabo), and I were supposed to eat out. But, we decided to spend time together at home instead. Ate Michelle graciously offered to pay for the grocery items and I helped by buying the ingredients and cooking dinner for the three of us. After dinner, Gabo secretly followed me to the kitchen where I was washing the dishes and he whispered “Thanks for cooking dinner!”. When he left, I smiled and thanked God for His grace.

We are all called to serve each other, even through the simplest ways. How can you serve others today? :)

Ready, Set, Go! My First 10K at Nat Geo Run 2017

“Again, Nicole. Why are you doing this? Hahaha.” I said this to myself many times while I was struggling through my training a few weeks ago. I was a beginner runner who recently accepted the challenge of running 10 kilometers for the first time in my life. Although signing up for the Nat Geo Run at the Mall of Asia this year was very exciting, I did not have any clue about the proper way to run, the best kind of diet for runners, or how to comfortably breathe while running. Nonetheless, one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience is the importance of finishing well no matter how difficult, heartbreaking, or tiring the process is.

After going through eleven 30 to 60-minute interval trainings in a span of six weeks, quick mentoring conversations with seasoned runners, various articles online about preparing for a run, fasting from Starbucks frappuccinos, and riding an emotional rollercoaster this month, by God’s grace, I was able to finish running (and occasionally briskwalking) 10 kilometers around Pasay city. For someone who enjoys working out by following instructors in workout videos, running a long distance race outside was a challenging yet refreshing treat. But, without a doubt, I will be joining the succeeding marathons in the coming years.

Until now, I still have a hangover from the recent running event. Even my body clock’s still pretty messed up too, since I needed to wake up at 2 am on the day of the run. However, because it was a memorable experience, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights for me as I prepared and ran in this year’s Nat Geo Run. Hopefully, this will encourage you to willingly welcome challenges and faith-stretching moments not only in marathons, but in life as well.

 

BEFORE THE RACE:

1. Interval Trainings

For beginner runners, it is advisable to train at least once a week for 5K and at least three times a week for 10K. In my case, I used an app called “Running” which suggests a training plan recommended for a specific distance that I’m training for. The plan I used for six weeks started with 30-minute interval trainings which then progressed to 40-minute, 50-minute, and 60-minute trainings. The interval training I did consisted of both running and briskwalking.

2. Healthier Diet

I have to admit that I wasn’t strict in maintaining a healthy diet throughout the 6-week training. However, I did let go of one major unnecessary drink which eventually helped me jog and run better. Yes, I gave up my Kryptonite, Starbucks Frappuccinos. Surprisingly, after removing this from my diet, I didn’t crave for it anymore even until today. It does help to lessen calories and sugar especially if it won’t be beneficial to the body. I also was intentional in adding more fruits and vegetables to my meals and in taking in more than 2 liters of water everyday.

3. Support System

It also encouraged me to be surrounded by family and friends who cheered me on from the start of my training up until the race day itself. At first, I was already satisfied with running for 5 kilometers, but, one of my closest friends challenged me to do 10K instead. Also, my very supportive sisters woke me up at 2am on the day of the race to make sure that I wouldn’t be late.

 

DURING THE RACE:

1. Minding my Own Pace

I could sense how eager everyone was when we started to run. A bunch of happy and motivated 10K runners were determined to finish the race. However, after 10 minutes, I began to notice changes in the crowd. Some were slowing down, some were sprinting, others were lining up in the portable restrooms along the way, while others maintained their original speed. There were times when others would run faster than me and I would notice my legs running more quickly. Other times, when I would run beside runners who breathed heavily and were obviously very tired, I would somehow feel weighed down too. It was very interesting to see how quickly I accelerated or slowed down when I focused on the pace of other runners. But, when I decided to look ahead and run at a pace that worked for me, it freed me from feeling pressured and anxious.

2. Finding Strength in Weakness

Two weeks before the race day, I wasn’t doing well. Because of a number of difficult personal concerns that I needed to deal with, I wasn’t able to continue my training. As a result, I didn’t even have the appetite to eat for two weeks and my mind wandered off a couple of times in a day because of my distress. However, a few days before the marathon, God reminded me of the weeks of training that I did before and how I shouldn’t give up on it. He also showed me how it is still possible to run 10K despite having a weak body and spirit – by His strength which is magnified in my weakness. Not because of my ability to run, but because of His grace for me. I did show up that day and I did my best to finish the race.

Interestingly, while I was halfway through the race, I saw a man who was briskwalking while holding two walking sticks. I wasn’t sure if he was blind, but I was very much inspired by his determination to finish the race in spite of having a physical disability. God used that moment to encourage me to continue persevering even during difficult moments in life. There’s really no room for excuses. It just boils down to making a choice, either to give in to our weakness or to persevere as we trust in God who is able to help us finish well despite our weakness.

3. Stopping Over

There were about four water and Gatorade stations all throughout the 10K route. Those stations were my second favorite part of the race. My first favorite part is of course, the finish line. Haha. I still remember how I felt every time I saw the water station from afar. Just a small cup of cold water or Gatorade reenergizes and gives you an extra boost to go farther. I probably would not have finished well if I did not drink every 2 or 3 kilometers. (Thank you, sponsors: Summit and Gatorade. Although, for the next events, the event organizers may want to add more waste bins.)

4. Documenting Progress

Another thing that helped me persevere was being reminded of my progress along the way. The app that I was using, Running, was updating me every time I reached a kilometer. For me, I needed it because it gave me a bigger picture of the progress I’ve made so far. It also served as a slow countdown for me. I remember struggling through the first 3-4 kilometers, but when I saw the sign that showed “5K”, I started to feel more motivated. Then, I struggled again during the 6-7K run, but when I heard from the app that I already reached 8 and 9 kilometers, it didn’t seem that difficult anymore.

5. Encouraging Others

I already ran 9 kilometers by the time a random runner was sprinting ahead of us. He caught my attention because as he was sprinting, he joyfully exclaimed “Konti na lang!! Kaya natin ito!!”. In English, he said: “Just a few more meters!! We can do this!!”. The runners near me and I started to smile and laugh when we heard him say those words. But, looking back, it was really an encouraging moment for all of us. Even though the man was surrounded by strangers, that didn’t stop him from encouraging others to finish well with him. What a nice picture of our last few moments in the race. Before we knew it, we were already at the finish line! How I hope to encourage others to finish well too.

After the marathon, I spent time walking around to cool myself down and I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for a fun and meaningful experience for me. It was then that I realized how He graciously allowed me to enjoy preparing for and joining the race.

I arrived at the assembly line three minutes before the gunstart time.

I was able to witness interesting moments during the race.

I was able to feel the familiar pains and joys while I was running as I remembered all those nights of training.

I was even given the privilege of having a nice photo taken by one of the photographers at the event. (Thank you, Mr. Photographer, for capturing that one second of me giving two thumbs up while I was running in front of you. Awesome shutter speed and skills. Haha)

I was also able to enjoy freebies after the run, including a baby cup of Starbucks Frappuccino (how ironic!).

What a lovely first run! If it isn’t obvious yet, I really enjoyed it. Somehow, I feel that God really wanted me to still run and finish the race even though I wasn’t feeling well (in many aspects) a few days before the event. I’m glad I decided to push through because I would have missed out on His blessings and the many things I shared with you if I didn’t go. It is only by His grace that I was able to get out of bed at 2 in the morning and go through the activity that day. Now, I am even more encouraged to keep on persevering and trusting that even in my weakness, God can still help me start and finish the things that He wants me to accomplish, for His glory.

The verse that encouraged me to press on during the race:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14

As long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late to try. It’s not too late to trust God as you grow through challenges and finish well. You just have to choose to do it.

Well…

Ready, set, go!