To get the best of Bohol island in the Filipino Visayas, I rented a motorbike and went for a cross-island trip. At the center of Bohol, about two hours from the entry port of Tagbilaran, are the Chocolate Hills, perhaps Bohol’s most recognizable tourist attraction.
As there were lots of things to see on the way, I arrived there pretty late, a bit before sunset. Driving on the road, you can see the occasional hill, but it’s only when you get to the top and look at the view that you get a real sense of the natural attraction.
(still trying to figure out how to shoot scenes with strong light contrast between earth and skies, but atleast you get the idea)
The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol’s most famous tourist attraction. They look like giant mole hills, or as some say, women’s breasts, and remind us of the hills in a small child’s drawing. Most people who first see pictures of this landscape can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact. However, this idea is quickly abandoned, as the effort would surely surpass the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. The chocolate hills consist of are no less than 1268 hills (some claim this to be the exact number). They are very uniform in shape and mostly between 30 and 50 meters high. They are covered with grass, which, at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown. From this color, the hills derive their name. At other times, the hills are green, and the association may be a bit difficult to make.
Legend has it that the hills came into existence when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days. When they were finally exhausted, they made friends and left the island, but left behind the mess they made. For the more romantically inclined is the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills, as a lasting proof of his grief.
However, up to this day, even geologists have not reached consensus on how they where formed. The most commonly accept theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay. If you climb the 214 steps to the top of the observation hill near the complex, you can read this explanation on a bronze plaque.
Ready for the climb?
Enter from the parking spot …
Go up the 214 stairs…
An behold! the chocolate hill as far as the eyes can see…
Care for some panoramas?
Not much to do on the top other than ring the bell…
Or take some photos with eager Filipino tourists from Manila. “She really likes white boys”, one of the Manila guy explained before forcing me into a photo-shot with his sister/girlfriend/wife/daughter (could be any of those, take your pick) and her tightly grabbing me. It’s not the first or last time I felt sexually harassed during that trip. :S
If you look towards the north…
And, then, slowly, the sun came down and the skies turned heavenly…
“What’s the best way to get back to Tagbilaran in the dark?” I asked the Chocholate Hills hotel security guard. He passionately discussed this with the other guard for about a minute throwing his hands around in odd gestures before responding – “not North, road unsafe, many robberies. Go back through southern road and don’t stop if someone tries to flag you down”. The Manila folks followed with a similar advice before entering their car and driving away.
Honestly, riding an old motorbike of questionable quality in the dark on a small island with unlit roads when you’re not familiar with the route and not sure how safe it is – crime wise – is not an experience I’d recommend to tourists. But, I quickly realized the way to handle this was to wait for a big car with powerful headlights driving at a reasonable speed and then trail it closely all the way till I hit the larger roads. Once on the main “national road”, you can even allow yourself to stop in one of the resting spots and sit down to chitchat with the locals.
More on the Chocolate Hills :
- The Chocolate Hills of Bohol
- Bohol, Philippines – Chocolate Hills
- Bohol Series: Chocolate Hills
- Bohol’s Chocolate Wrapped in Green