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Asia: Best of Bohol Part 1: Boholano Delicacies

Past the Port of Tagbilaran, the white beaches of Panglao, and into the enchanted heartland of Bohol lies Philippines’ lost Edens with several lifetimes of exploration for hungry travelers. The island of Bohol…where one can come face to face with Troides magellanus–the largest butterfly in the Philippines, walk the footsteps of Francisco Dagohoy–a Boholano hero who harnessed the “power of the wind” in the mountains and caves of Danao (while quenching your thirst for adventure on The Plunge), watch the song of sunrise with wild spinner dolphins and whale sharks as you approach pristine Pamilacan Island.

Want more? This four-part destination guide (one per week for the next four weeks) will cover:

1) The Best of Eco-tourism

2) Where to Stay: Hotels or Homestays

3) Super Adventure Travel

4) The Hunt for Boholano Delicacies (and yes, the elusive, sweet-for-a-day island wine, tuba.)

See the Chocolate Hills, visit the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, then come with me as we unravel the world of imagination of the real Bohol.

Part I

Boholano Delicacies: 7 Ways to Bite into the Friendliest Visayan Island

[slideshow]

1. Eat on Water: The Floating Restaurants of Loboc. A tourist mainstay, Loboc town’s Floating Restos are a river cruise and lami (yummy) lunch in one. Glide past lush vegetation, be serenaded by a Filipino one-man-band (who can often sing any genre–on our cruise we heard a Chinese love song and Journey covers done equally well), pause mid-way for Filipino folk dances such as the tinikling where lithe barefooted couples bounce gaily between bamboo sticks, and view Busay Falls before completing your circle back to the dock at Loboc.

Loboc River Lunch Cruises – ₱400.00*

Loboc, Bohol, Philippines.

Tel: (38)510-8015

2. Garden of Eating: Jardin de Balilihan. In the barangay (village) of Balilihan beauty lies in the simplicity of life. Ma’am Menen Racho-Apalisok Valdez of Jardin de Balilihan has brought this tenet of simplicity to the forefront of her little slice of heaven. Open since April 2010, she and her doting staff prepare authentic Boholano dishes made with fresh ingredients and loving preparation. She prides herself on new concoctions like her bittersweet Ampalaya juice and introducing those that have the pleasure of finding Jardin to taste Boholano secret recipes like kinutil–a Boholano chocolate eggnog energy drink, supercharged with tuba–coconut toddy, and savoring the distinct crunch of a healthy pako (fiddlehead fern) salad.  Ma’am Menen can also arrange for you to witness tuba gathering and taste the sweet liquid for yourself, freshly harvested (the best way, in my opinion since it only stays sweet for a day before becoming the stronger and more bitter bahal).

Jardin de Balilihan – lunch prices vary, accommodations also available.

http://jardindebalilihan.multiply.com

Balilihan, Bohol, Philippines.

Tel: (91)853-85737

3. Tasty Flowers: Bohol Bee Farm. It was once famously said that,”Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.” Now, you can have both. At Bohol Bee Farm in Dauis the rainbow of blossoms are a colorful part of your midday meal served with an addictingly sweet honeyed mustard (from ₱140.00) and all of it is edible. Using 100% organic ingredients and their bees as a guide, the staff creates delectable masterpieces and a myriad of honey-based products to swathe them in. When your last piece of camote (sweet potato)bread with honey butter (both of which is readily available in the gift shop.  You might want to take some home as pasalubong–souvenir–for family and friends) try their homemade ice creams in interesting flavors like malunggay–leaves of the Ben Oil Tree also known as the Tree of Life for its various medicinal properties, pandan–the frangrant extract from the leaf of the pandanus plant, and ube–also called taro (in Hawaii) or purple yam.

Bohol Bee Farm

http://www.boholbeefarm.com/menu

Dauis, Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines

Tel: (38) 502-2288

4. Unusual Flavors: Tres Hermanas Cabao-Centric Restaurant. On a busy street in Loboc this eternally busy family-owned and operated eatery features cabao (water buffalo) in virtually every dish. Whether in soup, adobo-style or fried especially crispy into chicharon it’s a distinctly Boholano treat that has home-cooked meal written all over it.

Tres Hermanas Restaurant

Near the turnoff for Loboc River Floating Restaurants

Loboc, Bohol, Philippines

Tel: (38)537-9055

5. Island’s Bounty: Buenavista Talaba. When you take the Cambuhat River and Village Tour the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow (writer’s note: wear sunblock! Though the gorgeous emerald green waters with nipa and mangrove lined shores provides a lovely backdrop to a day on the river, the sun is very strong and can be overwhelming to those not used to such heat) is a spread of talaba (slipper oysters), tacla (crawfish), and other mouth-watering seafood. As one of the first barangays to offer eco-tourism in Bohol the site remains relatively untouched and slow-paced. This is neither confirmed nor denied, but my guess is the “good view” of Buenavista is brought on after the food coma, aphrodesiacs from the oysters and massive amounts of Vitamin D from the sun hit the blood stream. Most anyone would be hard-pressed to see the world through anything other than rose-colored glasses after that combination.

Cambuhat River & Village Tour

Buenavista, Bohol, Philippines

Tel: (26)922-0402 or e-mail: infocenter_buenavista@yahoo.com

(clockwise l-r): Peacock Garden's refreshingly cool Pinaquan Mixed Drink (pineapple + watermelon), Grilled Ostrich with Mushrooms + Spaetzle, Pork Schnitzel à la Room Service.

6.  Boholano…Spatzle?: A German Retreat at Peacock Garden Resort. Now, I know this article is about Boholano delicacies but I would be remiss to exclude the German presence throughout the island. Under new management, Peacock Garden, a luxury boutique resort nestled in the hills of Baclayon, satiates the tastebuds with German fare, Filipino favorites, and phenomenal refreshments like a fine-tuned port sorbet and the pinaquan (pineapple + watermelon) mixed drink–just right for a day lounging by the infinity pool. The resort also boasts an extensive wine cellar and a cigar room for after dinner relaxation.

The Peacock Garden Resort & Spa, lunch from PHP700/pp (minus the PHP500 to Day Rate to enter.)

Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines

www.thepeacockgarden.com

Tel: (38)539-9231

7.  Pasalubong, Please: Delicacies to Take Home. Some of my favorite food stuff to bring home are sweets; nothing says the Philippines like Goldilocks polvoron and dried mango. Bohol has it’s own sweet tooth satisfier–broas–Filipino ladyfingers;  these crunchy, sweet pastries are scrumptious with coffee or hot chocolate. If you’re traveling with children stop by Kiddies Bakehaus in Tagbilaran for one of everything; stand-outs are pretzelitos, otap, and pia-crisps. Last on the wishlist is the red (well more rosy pink, really) rice of Bohol. A favorite of Boholanos, this rice is known as a healthy alternative to white rice and is a tasty accompaniment with sauce-heavy dishes; not as heavy as it’s lighter sister, red rice let’s you enjoy many dishes without feeling too full. Organic versions are available for sale at Balay sa Humay (The Rice House) in Batuan, Bohol. Stay for the museum tour to learn what you never knew you always wanted to know about the Asian staple and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at their restaurant.

D’ Original Osang’s Homemade Pastries

Behind Baclayon Church

Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines.

Tel: (38)540-9072

Kiddies Bakehaus, multiple locations.

Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines

Tel: (38)235-4170

Red Rice at Balay sa Humay

Batuan, Bohol, Philippines

Tel: (38)533-9016

For more photos, videos, and Bohol travel tales visit my blog. Until next week, Aloha!

*At time of publication, American dollar to Phillipine peso conversion is $1 : ₱43.43.  For telephone numbers, press 011 63 before dialing.

Hungry for more?
Best of Bohol Part 2: The Tao of Adventure.

Best of Bohol Part 3: Hotels to Homestays

Best of Bohol Part 4: Tours for the Eco-Conscious Traveler


Editor's Note: Have a question or comment? Leave a message in the comments below.

Katherine HsiaKnown affectionately as "the wandering concierge," Katherine segued a hospitality career in fabulous New York City into a life pursuing her passions of writing, adventure and travel on the spectacular island of O'ahu. She is a freelance writer for publications such as Honolulu Magazine, Hawai'i Parent, Freesurf, and more, while working on her Hawaiian comic and non-fiction book. She enjoys seeing life for its whimsical beauty, great meals with good friends, her love affair with travel, and being overstimulated by new experiences. Want to get in touch with Kat? Add her on facebook or send her a message on her website, http://www.katherinehsia.com, where she's been known to get her blog on.

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