Chocolate Hills of Bohol

September 29, 2010

Chocolate Hills of Bohol

We were picked up by Tatsky, our tour guide, around 8am at Isis Bungalows, Alona Beach, Panglao Island. Since the weather that morning was great, Tatsky suggested that we visit the Chocolate Hills first to take advantage of the weather. In the past few days, it rained in the afternoons. Even though we visited  Bohol in the midst of summer in April, it still rained in the afternoons. The Chocolate Hills cannot be seen from the viewdeck once it rains because of the fog.

Things the Kids Should Know
  • Why it is called chocolate hills: during summer, the grass covering the hills turns brown and resembles Hershey's Chocolate Kisses.
  • What it is made of: limestones covered with grass  
  • No. of chocolate hills: 1268-1776 hills in uniform conical shape
  • Height of chocolate hills: mostly 30-50 meters high, but the highest is 120 meters.
  • Where the chocolate hills are located: It is spread in 3 towns: Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan in an area around 50 square kilometers. The highest concentration of chocolate hills is in Carmen town.
  • Explanation for the formation of chocolate hills
  • Scientific: geologists still have no conclusive scientific explanation. The most popular theory proposed by Philippine geologists (see here) is that Bohol was formerly underwater and that coral deposits forming the chocolate hills used to be coral reefs.
  • Myths and Legends: 
  • chocolate hills are stones thrown by 2 giants fighting each other.
  • chocolate hills are tears of a giant who fell in love with a mortal who died
  • chocolate hills are the feces of a giant carabao
  • chocolate hills are the feces of a giant who wanted to lose weight to win the affection of a lady mortal so he excreted all that he ate
8AM-930AM: Travel time from Alona Beach, Panglao Island to Carmen, Bohol

There are 2 viewing sites for the Chocolate Hills, one in Carmen and the other in Sagbayan. The one we went to is the original and government owned resort called "Chocolate Hills Complex", located in Carmen. Carmen has the most concentration of chocolate hills so they built the 1st viewing site there.

The Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen, Bohol is around 55 km from Tagbilaran City. Since we were coming from Panglao Island and not Tagbilaran City, our travel time to the Chocolate Hills Complex is 1 1/2 hours.

As you travel along the highway leading to the Chocolate Hills Complex, this is the sight that surrounds you. Because of the sheer number of chocolate hills, you have the feeling that they are just all around you. Wherever you look, you can spot the chocolate hills.

930AM-1030AM: Chocolate Hills Complex 

The Chocolate Hills Complex is built on top of  2 chocolate hills. So when you go up the Chocolate Hills Complex, you are actually climbing up a chocolate hill. 

This is the Chocolate Hills Complex nestled between 2 chocolate hills and surrounded by thousands of chocolate hills. You go up a cemented road to reach this complex

The Chocolate Hills Complex includes a resort, a restaurant, stores and a 360 degree view deck.
The road on the left is the entrance to the complex. The stairs you see is the one leading to the view deck. The rest stop is the one you see at the foot of the stairs. It's only one of several rest stops on the way to the view deck

There are 2 ways to climb up the 360 degree view deck:

First option: By climbing the stairs with 214 steps

These are the stairs opposite the area where the stores and restaurant are.
There are 214 steps to the observation deck.

Second option: By taking the sloping ramp at the left side of the stairs

My tip: The easier way up is the sloping ramp. Seniors or the elderly should use the slope. It's possible for the elderly to climb to the view deck because they can pace themselves and use the several covered rest stops along the way leading to the view deck. My mom, who's 77 years old, was able to go up the view deck.

This is the view on the right side of the view deck. 
You can see the cemented road below that leads to the entrance of the complex.
Upon reaching the view deck:

Plaque declaring the Chocolate Hills as a National Geological Monument. 
It also shows the popular theory for the formation of the Chocolate Hills
To see in detail what was written in the plaque, click here
The view deck

See the next stop: The Manmade Forest

Dinner at Pyramid Resort Restaurant at Alona Beach

September 28, 2010

Dinner at Pyramid Resort Restaurant at Alona Beach

Fresh seafood is displayed and sold by the kilo. 
They cook it any way you want it: fried, steamed or any specific recipe you have in mind.

This is a few of the many seafood to choose from. 
On our first day, we ordered steamed lapu lapu, calamares, and for my other kids who are not too adventurous, barbecue chicken.
My tip: For a most memorable dinner at the beach, request the singers going around the beach tables to serenade you with the song Usahay, a traditional Visayan love song. 


English Translation of the Visayan love song "Usahay" 

Sometimes I do find that I dream 
That you and I are indeed in love, 
Why do I keep dreaming of you 
I keep dreaming of you 
In my loneliness. 

Sometimes I really do regret, 
That I should ever be 
Born Iinto this world. 

Why do you keep on belittling 
The great love that I have for you, 
For you alone. 

Why do you keep on belittling 
The great love that I have for you 
For you alone. 

Copyright Manuel Lino G. Faelnar

Other tips:
1. Do not wait until your kids are hungry before you find a place to eat. Restaurants at Alona Beach do not serve fast food, especially during dinner. They only cook the food when you order it. Kids who live in the city are used to fast food. This is one of the things they had to adjust to.

2. Pyramid Resort is one of the cheaper places to eat. I love the fresh seafood cooked to your specification. My daughters loved their barbecue chicken.

3. We spent around 1000-1200 pesos per meal for 6 people. It included steamed fish, calamares, seafood clear soup, 4 barbecue chicken and 7 rice. If you want a cheaper meal, just order the barbecue chicken. The bulk of the cost is the fresh fish I ordered.

No. 19 is Pyramid Resort.No. 8 is Amorita. No 49 is Isis Bungalows. Big thanks to For further information, go to

Contact Information:
Go to

Our day with the Kids Snorkeling at Balicasag Island and Walking the Sandbar of Virgin Island, Bohol

September 25, 2010

Our day with the Kids 
Snorkeling at Balicasag Island 
and Walking the Sandbar of Virgin Island, Bohol

8 AM         
  •  what to bring to the sea tour:  

    waterproof backpacks, extra change of clothes, cellphone, swimsuit, sunblock, off lotion, coconut oil, hand sanitizer, underwater camera case, underwater plastic case for gadgets, cellphones, wallet, toilet paper, emergency medicines, slippers, bottled water, cookies or biscuits
My tip: for feeding fish, tear the white bread in small pieces and place it inside an empty mineral water bottle. Then while snorkeling, fill the mineral water bottle filled with bread then feed the fish so you can see them up close. It's easier to hold the mineral water bottle than the plastic bag containing a loaf of bread. See pictures below:
Mineral water bottle filled with bread for fish feeding
This is how it is used to feed fish

9AM: Pick up by the boatmen to go on Sea Tour

Our boatman, Dodong
Our boatman, Dodong, picked us up from our resort, Isis Bungalows, which is located along Alona Beach. The night before, we were instructed by Tatsky, our tour guide, thru text, to look for Dodong's boat called Starseas,  near the beachfront of Isis Bungalows. 

9AM-930AM: Travel time from Alona Beach to Balicasag Island

We boarded the boat from the beachfront of Isis Bungalows. We were given lifejackets as we traveled from Alona Beach to Balicasag island. We had an uneventful banca ride.

Riding the boat going towards Balicasag island
My daughter wearing the life jacket provided by the boatmen

I noticed that they're not strict with the use of lifejackets during banca rides. Unlike in Palawan where we were admonished to wear the lifejacket at all times until the moment before we get off the boat. The waters at Honda Bay, Palawan have strong undercurrents, unlike those in Panglao Island, Bohol. 

My tip: If they don't immediately give you lifejackets, ask for them, especially since kids are with you. It's better to be safe than sorry.

9AM-930AM: Travel time from Alona Beach to Balicasag Island

As soon as we arrived, we were met by boatmen offering themselves as guide to the snorkeling site. The snorkeling site of Balicasag Island is just a few meters from where our boat docked. Since Tatsky already arranged everything for us, Dodong called the guide Tatsky hired.

Approaching Balicasag Island
930AM-1130AM: Snorkeling at Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary

The guide to the snorkeling site also owns the boat we rode to the snorkeling site. You ride a big boat frm Alona Beach to Balicasag island, then transfer to a smaller boat  The fees of the guide includes the use of the boat and assistance during snorkeling. The guides also rent aqua shoes at 100pesos a pair. Aqua shoes are needed only if it's low tide and you're forced to walk on the corals. Otherwise, you don't need it if you're floating on your life vest.

Boats at the Balicasag marine sanctuary, 
which is the snorkeling site.

This is the small boat used to go to the snorkeling site of Balicasag Island. 
It is a different boat from the one we used to travel from Alona Beach to Balicasag Island
This is the snorkeling site and at the background is the shore of Balicasag Island, where the boat we used from Alona Beach is docked. 
You can see that the snorkeling site is just a few meters from the shore.

We hold on to a rope as we feed the fish.  
This and the following series of underwater photos were taken with a camera encased in a DicaPac WP410  Waterproof Digital Camera Case with Optical Lens (Clear) 

You can see how shallow the waters are at the snorkeling site.
This is the aqua shoes we rented from the snorkeling guide we hired. At low tide you can practically walk on corals while snorkeling

I chose this photo to show the amazing diversity of fish swimming through us and around us. 

This felt like we were swimming in a very large aquarium. You can see the diversity of fish in a very small area and in shallow waters

1130AM-1PM: Lunch at Balicasag Island

After snorkeling, we immediately paid, thru Dodong, our snorkeling site guide. The fees we paid are P150 per person guide fee and P100 per pair of aqua shoes. 
The makeshift tent is where we had lunch at Balicasag Island. You order fresh seafood kept in a styrofoam cooler and the locals who live on the island cook it for you. They charge you per kilo of seafood that you buy, plus cooking charge. They also sell softdrinks and bottled water.

The sand at Balicasag island is rough with crushed corals and shells
The part of the shore of Balicasag Island, where our boat docked and where we had lunch has shallow waters

1PM-130PM: Travel Time from Balicasag Island to Virgin Island

We traveled for 30-40 minutes from Balicasag Island to Virgin Island.

130PM-3PM: Virgin Island, Walking the sandbar

Virgin Island is an uninhabited island. If you know the local film, Muro Ami, they shot scenes of the movie here. Virgin Island is a very small island. It is known for its fine white sand and its very long sandbar. While on the boat, we spotted tourists walking the sandbar. It seemed like they were walking in the middle of the sea because the sandbar stretched that far.

The shore of Virgin Island. We were preparing to walk the sandbar.

This is how far the sandbar stretched from the shore. The camera man is on the shore.
Virgin Island is at the background

Starfish found while walking the sandbar of Virgin Island
Virgin Island at the background while floating on the sandbar
My daughter floating on the sandbar
The sandbar in the afternoon at low tide.

3PM-330PM: Travel Time from Virgin Island to Alona Beach

4PM: Back at Isis Bungalow
When we returned to the beachfront of Isis Bungalows, we paid Dodong the sea tour fee of P1300 and tip.

List of Mosquito Repellant Available in the Philippines

September 22, 2010

List of Mosquito Repellent 
Available in the Philippines

Below is a list of mosquito repellent available in the Philippines. The article below is from the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I am reproducing it word-for-word. 

Note: Off lotion, Off for kids, Off overtime, and Off soft & scented is available at any grocery and drugstore in the Philippines. It is the most common mosquito repellent in the Philippines.

Protect your family from dengue by arming yourselves with these products
What: Anti-Bug Balm is created by Badger, the same company behind the popular Sleep
Balm (another product we love). Badger Anti-Bug Balm is a USDA-certified organic insect repellent that contains all-natural ingredients, including citronella oil, cedar oil and lemongrass oil. Don’t let the pretty packaging fool you—this balm is effective. And we’re not the only ones who love it. It has gotten great reviews from people who used it, including one who brought it to the jungles of the Amazon and swears the balm kept her protected.

Where: Rustan’s Essenses

How much: P495 for the big 2-oz tin

How: Apply it to your face, hands and other exposed areas.

Why it’s good: This balm doesn’t just drive bugs away, it’s good for your children’s skin, too.

Bite Be Gone

What: Bite Be Gone Mosquito Duo is a two-in-one product—the tube contains a repellent cream that promises to prevent mosquito bites while the cap holds a balm that can be used to soothe
mosquito bites.

Where: Rustan’s Essenses

How much: P295

How: Apply a small amount of the repellent cream on the skin. Apply the balm onto bites and massage lightly. Apply two to three times a day.

Why it’s good: Bite Be Gone comes in a tube that’s handy and can easily be slipped into your bag.

Off! Soft & Scented

What: Off! Soft & Scented is an insect repellent lotion that contains chamomile. Dermatologically tested, Off! Soft & Scented doesn’t just offer protection from mosquitoes, it also promises to soothe the skin.

Where: Ace Hardware

How much: P114.75 for 100 ml

How: Apply lotion on exposed areas.

Why it’s good: Off! Soft & Scented is extra gentle on the skin.

Off! Aqua Spritz

What: Off! Aqua Spritz is an insect repellent spray that feels light on the skin.

Where: Watsons

How much: P79.75 for 30 ml

How: Spray evenly on exposed skin. To use on your face and neck, spray onto hand and rub on. Repeat application after four hours. Do not spray onto the hands of small children—they might rub their eyes and cause irritation.

Why it’s good: Off! Aqua Spritz’s formula is non-greasy. We love the convenience of easy application—no mess!

Bug Off! Wristband

What: Bug Off! is an insect repelling wristband that contains no DEET and no chemical-based insecticides. Since it uses plant oil-based ingredients such as citronella, lemongrass and geranium to keep bugs away, it is safe and nontoxic. There are Bug Off! wristbands for adults and for kids.

Where: Ace Hardware

How much: P179.75

How: Wear it like a bracelet.

Why it’s good: If your kids don’t like being rubbed with lotion, this wristband might be a good way to go. Bug Off! lasts for as long as 180 hours. If used for just eight hours a day and stored properly after every use, it can last up to 22 days. A bonus? The wristbands for kids glow in the dark, making it fun for kids to wear.

Off! For Kids

What: Off! For Kids is an insect repelling lotion that was formulated for kids. It offers three hours of protection and comes with a tropical fresh fragrance.

Where: Watsons

How much: P65

How: Apply lotion to exposed skin.

Why it’s good: Off! For Kids’ formula is gentle and smells like melons and berries.

Off! Overtime

What: Off! Overtime is an insect repelling lotion that offers eight-hour protection.

Where: Ace Hardware

How much: P79.75 for 50 ml

How: Rub lotion on the exposed skin.

Why it’s good: Its long-lasting effect offers convenience. No need to reapply every four hours.

Pest Off! Anti-Mosquito Patch

What: Pest Off! Anti-Mosquito Patches are patches that can be attached to clothes to offer up to 12 hours of protection from mosquitoes.

Where: Ace Hardware

How much: P97.75 for five patches

How: Attach adhesive side to clothes.

Why it’s good: Pest Off! is chemical-free and can also be attached to furniture to drive mosquitoes away from your home.


What: Para’Kito wrist bands are natural refillable wrist bands that offer protection from mosquitoes by using natural essences.

Where: Kidz Station (Power Plant, Glorietta, Shangri-La Mall)

How much: P495

How: Insert the active pellet into one of the wristbands and wear it.

Why it’s good: Para’Kito is easy to wear and safe. There are different colors you and your kids can choose from.

Buzz Away

What: Buzz Away is a natural repellent that doesn’t just protect you from mosquitoes—it keeps ticks, flies, gnats away, too.

Where: Healthy Options

How much: P745

How: Just spray it on.

Why it’s good: The spray offers ultimate convenience. Buzz Away’s formula is non-sticky and leaves the skin feeling cool.