Camp John Hay – Baguio City

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Whenever I am in Baguio, I practically never leave John Hay. Alright, I would go to the SM Mall occasionally, like maybe once in three visits. Then maybe have lunch outside once in five visits. John Hay has everything, and just happens to be the only place in the city that is still dotted with pine trees. Thus, living up to the Baguio in everyone’s mind.

What’s in John Hay?

Golf. A Nicklaus designed golf course set among pine trees. A mini golf. Shopping for export overruns and items at factory prices. Wine shops and delis. Restaurants and cafes. A horse-ride trail. A hiking trail. Paintball. Butterfly sanctuary.  A smaller version of the Statue of Liberty. Plus restaurants and coffee shops. And fresh mountain air.

mini golf, at the Forest Estates area

shops, cafes, restaurants and an in at the Commercial Center

a butterfly sanctuary in front of the Filling Station

statue of Liberty near the Historical Core

picnic tables all over John Hay


What is coming up?  The Treetop Adventure


Update: The Treetop Adventure has actually opened for business. Find them near the Historical Core, at the back of the Statue of Liberty.

The Historical Core

Entrance fees are collected. Visit the old Bell House and Amphitheater. re-live Baguio and John Hay when the base was then exclusive to the American military and their guests.

take Scout Hill to go to Historical Core

The Lost Cemetery/Cemetery of Negativism.

This was created by as a way of throwing away angst, anger, loneliness, and any other negative thoughts among the US military personnel as a way to  cleanse their minds and hearts. Tombstones thus carry messages of the angst they were getting rid of, and burying underground.

"tombs" around the cemetery

Cafes and Restaurants

There are essentially 3 sections where these are concentrated: near the golf course, at the commercial center near the Manor, and at the Filling Station near the CAP Convention Center.

The cafes near the golf course: House of Waffles, Starbucks, and Cantinetta.

The Shops at the Commercial Center: My favorites are Diners, where I almost always have my breakfast, and Dencio’s, when I crave for spicy crispy pata and sinigang na bangus belly, and sisig. There is also a cake shop called Everything Nice, Carlo’s Pizza, a cafe at Mile-Hi Inn, and a coffee shop at the end of the center.

breakfast at Diner's : tapsilog or corned beef hash?

Filling Station. This area has metamorphosed into a more interesting eating out place. There is Shakeys, a Japanese resto , an ice cream parlor, Hotshots, Wrap & Roll, and a deli called Dinelli. Seating is al fresco – – on the road to watch people go by, or at the veranda at the back with a thick forest of pine trees as your setting.When it is too cold, you may also take the seats inside the building.

no, you can't gas up here now

Worth a special mention is a stand-alone restaurant called Chocolate de Batirol at the Igorot Park near the gate going to the Baguio Country Club. This is one of the most famous in Baguio. try bibingka with chocolate de batirol. They also serve lunch and dinner, al fresco, with the golf course as your view.

Accommodations

John Hay has the best hotel in the city. John Hay Manor has a country charm, with rooms furnished in the Cordillera theme. Guests have a choice of regular rooms, rooms with a veranda, or 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom suites, with living and dining areas. The bar with a fireplace is a hub in the evenings. The bakeshop sells the best raisin breads, wines, ground coffee, ice cream, and interesting finds.

The Manor

John Hay Manor rooms start at P5,200 with 2-bedroom suites at P12,300.

Contact John Hay Manor at (+6374) 4240931 to 43. Toll free number : (+632) 8450892. Website: http://www.cjhotels.com

The Suites is partially open, right beside the Manor, overlooking the golf course. As a John Hay Manor property, bookings can also be made with the above number.

The Suites, overlooking the golf course

Mile-Hi Inn is a small hotel within the commercial center, under the shops. Room rates start at P1,900. Phone (+6374)4466141. Website : http://www.mile-hi.com.ph

rooms for two at P1,900, at the heart of John Hay

a room for as many as six, with extra charges per person

Private Homes

Some owners rent out their vacation homes. At the Forest Estates, 3-bedroom forest cabins, fully furnished, are rented out for P15,000 per day during the peak season (Christmas, Holy Week, Panagbenga flower festival) to as low as P10,000 per day on the rainy months. These homes have a fireplace, living and dining, 3 T&B, ref, oven, microwave, cooking utensils, pots & pans, plates, cups and saucers, drinking glasses, spoons & forks etc that renters need only to buy food to cook. These homes accommodate as much as 10 persons, and have carports for 2.

private "forest cabins" are no cabins but 3-bedroom, 3-storey vacation homes

At the Country Estates, 4-bedroom Country Homes with a maid’s room rent out for as low as P15,000 when off-peak, and P25,000-P30,000 during peak season, depending on demand. these are lovely homes set within the golf course.

Country Estates

one of the country homes

These homes can be booked “unofficially” thru the front desk clerks at the Manor Hotel. These are not hotel properties, but these clerks will contact those in charge of these homes and they get commissions from the referrals.

You may end up enjoying John Hay so much that you will want to live there, and have a home built. Homes at Forest Estates (forest cabin) are available at P13M, and you only need to wait 8-10 months for your home’s completion.

a forest cabin unit is half of this structure, each with 150 square meters of floor space, with 3 bedrooms and 3 T&B

Or buy any of the homes for sale, like the one below:

http://forestcabin.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/welcome-to-my-home/

Next time you go up to Baguio, enjoy the experience more by staying inside John Hay.

Bohol : beyond Tagbilaran and Panglao

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Bohol is the 10th largest island in the Philippines. To regular visitors staying for 3 days,  seeing the tarsier, the Chocolate Hills, lunching on a raft in Loboc, and having a dip in the white sand beaches of Panglao complete the Bohol experience. Very few venture beyond Tagbilaran and Loboc.

I did, and I traveled to all coastal towns, effectively covering the circumference of Bohol Island. The trip made me want to go back to Bohol and travel to a few of the  73 other islands within the province, maybe staying at least 2 weeks to accomplish this mission. After the typhoon season.

a tour around the entire island of Bohol, not just Tagbilaran and Panglao on the bottom left

From Tagbilaran and Loboc, the next town via the Carlos P Garcia Circumferential Road is Alburquerque (and no, I did not misspell it). Locals just call the place Albur. I took a snapshot of the church which I thought had a more impressive facade than the older and much more popular Baclayon Church. Albur is also where the “balisong” makers are.

the church in Albur

a panday in Albur making balisong

Loay is a town that competes with Loboc in the “lunch on a river cruise” business. They also hold firefly tours at night. Loay is the major fishport of Bohol, and where fresh catch from Cebu or Mindanao find their way into the markets of Tagbilaran.

a Loay attraction

Loay competes with Loboc on the river cruies lunch business

Lila is a progressive town, but does not seem to offer visitors any ‘tourist attraction”.The town was originally part of Dimiao, and then at one point was annexed to still another town, the neighboring Loay.

Lila Public Library

Lila church

Dimiao is known for Kayla beach resort, the only spot in the town that draws visitors. Kayla is in Bgy. Balbalan and has a white sand beach, with a swimming pool, restaurant, and accommodations. The San Nicolas Church in Dimiao is also a must-see, made with cut stone in a neo Baroque architecture.

on the way to beautiful Dimiao

San Nicolas Tolentino church

the fenced-in Kayla beach

Valencia is an interesting town. I stopped at Badiang Spring Resort where the swimming pool is fed by fresh spring water. The owners of the resort are currently building a hotel to accommodate out of town guests.

a beautiful old house in Valencia

Badiang Spring Resort, with accommodations soon . . .

Garcia Hernandez is host to a the Philippine Mining Service Company, and it is the only town with a huge conveyor above the highway, to service the mines on the mountain and the offices on the other side of the road, by the ocean.

welcome to Garcia Hernandez

Garcia Hernandez town, still gaily decorated 2 days after the fiesta

the only Bohol town with an overhead conveyor on the main road

Jagna is a big town and is the gateway to Camiguin from Bohol. I actually came to Bohol from Camiguin, disembarking from my boat at the port in Jagna. The town naturally has pensions and inns for travelers who miss their boats or who would want to rest before moving to Tagbilaran.

the pier in Jagna, for boats from Camiguin

Jagna is the home of the Bohol “calamay”. I bought a piece and requested the owners to see how the calamay is made. It is made of sticky rice that with sweeteners and other “secret” ingredients are cooked over fire in a huge caldera, continuously being tossed by workers to make them even stickier.

I had coffee at Garden Cafe which is operated by the I.D.E.A., an organization helping the deaf. The adjoining pension house offers spartan accommodations. Rates start at P450 for dormitory-type rooms with fans, to P850 for a room for 2 with aircon and hot&cold shower. Call them to book at phone (038) 5310030, or (038) 2382398.

to Garden Cafe, behind the church in Jagna

use sign language to communicate with the Garden Cafe and I.D.E.A. pension house staff

best room at I.D.E.A. for P850

run by the International Deaf Education Association (I.D.E.A.)

I checked out another hotel in Jagna. It is called Domene Kaw, and has rooms that open to the sea. Rooms start at P1,000 and an ocean view suite goes for P2,000. Phone (038) 238 2127

Domene Kaw Hotel in Jagna, by the sea

Next town is Duero. It is another beautiful coastal town.

Guindulman is host to St Mary Academy and has a thriving trade going in its commercial center.

Candijay is a sleepy town that leads to Mabini, a town that is the jump off point to several islands like Calamangan, Tabangdiao, Cantil  and Lumislis.

a sleepy town, but

gateway to Mabini town and more islands ! ! !

From Candijay, we passed by the town of Alicia to get to the town of Ubay.

Ubay is a major Bohol town. It is also the farthest town from Tagbilaran, the provincial capital. It is a port town that is host to several businesses like restaurants, hotels, banks, and shopping centers. Crossing the Cunigao channel from Ubay will bring visitors to Lapinig Island where the town of Carlos P Garcia is located.

lunch stop at Chicken Ati-atihan in Ubay, the farthest town from Tagbilaran City on Bohol island

Ubay is famous in Bohol for dairy products

this town is a major trade center

In Trinidad town, I saw a rather unique sight: coffins being loaded onto a tricycle. I just hope they do not do the same thing during burials.

not a burial – – they were delivering to another funeral parlor on a “Ligaya” tricycle

Next town is Talibon, another port town. Talibon is the jump off point to the islands of Tambo, Banbanoan, Mahanay, and Jau.

watchtower at Talibon pier

pension houses and inns in Talibon, good for visitors hopping to the nearby islands

Getafe is still another port town In other literature, the place is also called Jetafe. This town is a sister city of a Spanish town called Getafe where a street is called Isla de Bohol. From Getafe, visitors can go to Jandayan and Banacon islands.

beautiful road to Getafe, a sister city of the Spanish city of Getafe

Buenavista is a town that is host to the oyster farm along a beautiful river. I checked out the industry, riding on a banca (P100) to get to the bamboo beds that serve as breeding places for oysters.

market by the river

oysters cultured in rafts on the river

From Buenavista, the next town is Inabanga, and then Clarin, until we reached Tubigon.

We got to Tubigon, another port town.Tubigon is closest to Cebu and is serviced 2x a day by roll-on-roll-of transport from Cebu.

Passed by  Calape. before reaching Loon. Loon is an old town where boats from Cebu bring visitors to Bohol. I actually saw the pier in San Jose town where passengers are brought to Loon, Bohol.

Antequera is famous for its Mag-aso Falls. I just had to make this detour from my coastal road drive to see the falls. Why? In the WOW Magic sing video od places in the country, the Mag-aso Falls was then the only remaining sight I have never been to. “Aso” means smoke or fog, and this is the effect of the cascading waters of the falls.

Back to the coastal towns, and we are in Maribojoc. This town is famous for the Sta Cruz watchtower.

The last town before hitting Tagbilaran City is Cortez. This town is being developed as another tourism destination, with the launching of the project done only a few days before my visit. Unfortunately, the center was closed when I dropped by. I was told visitors are taken to a boat that is configured to have seats like those in a bus, and the boat takes visitors to the 5 towns for a taste of local culture. Like riding a carabao. Snacks and lunch are part of the package. Check this out when you visit.

the bus-type ferry to 5 towns

The coastal road trip around the whole island of Bohol ends with a return to Tagbilaran City. I figure that visitors can do this trip on public transportation in 2-3 days. Or you can opt to tour the whole island for one day a rented car for P4,500. I guess the car rental was well worth it.

Bohol and Panglao

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Bohol is probably the most serious threat to Boracay’s supremacy in the tourism business. Bohol is not as crowded and has more to offer than white sand beaches. Its top attractions are Panglao Island and 74 more islands within its jurisdiction, the Loboc River Cruise,  and the Chocolate Hills. Indeed, one can stay in Bohol for one month and not run out of interesting sights to see.

Bohol Countryside Tour

This is how tour operators call the one day tour that includes Chocolate Hills. This is the most popular tour booked by visitors to Bohol.

The nearest point is the Blood Compact Shrine. It features a metal sculpture of the “sandugo” between Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna and their men. I had to wait for other tourists who pose with the cast for their souvenir shots before I was able to take a photo sans tourists.

Not Portuguese? I’ll drink to that

Nearby is the Baclayon Church, said to be the second-oldest church in the Philippines. Don’t ask me which one is the oldest, I have yet to research on that.

Bohol Python

I don’t know why this is part of the tour. Just a 30-ft python in a cage. With a few birds in cages, too. Skip this and find better use of your tour time.

This is all you will see. Waste of time and money (entrance fee si small, though, but still not worth it.

Tarsier Encounter. Some accounts say that the tarsier is the second-smallest primate, some say it is the smallest. Well, all I can say is that it is really small, about 4 inches long, and I wouldn’t think of cuddling it. Its tail is long, and longer than its body.

Loay Bolo making industry. A stop to see their local version of “panday”.

You will have to check-in your balisong, or you will be arrested by the airport security

Man-made mahogany forest. This is beautiful. It is surreal in the sense that Filipinos generally destroy forests, but in Bohol they make them. A stretch of more than one kilometer in Bilar town.

the reverse of deforestation

Chocolate Hills in Carmen. Visible even as we approach the view deck, built on top of one of the hills. There are accommodations on the hill, as well as restaurants and souvenir shops. Made me feel like I was in Baguio’s Mines View Park area.

 

Butterfly Sanctuary. For a small entrance fee, visitors are toured by professional guides. They talk about the different varieties, the scientific names of each specie (and who would remember at least one?), how the butterflies mate, the plants that serve as food, as well as host plants where they lay their eggs.

my cam caught the butterflies mating

Clarin Ancestral House. The Clarins are prominent Boholanos, with members of the family having served as senators before our time. A coffee shop serves patrons at the ground floor, and in the garden.

Loboc Town. The most intriguing sight is the old Loboc Church with an unfinished elevated road beside it. The elevated road (like the skyway) is supposed to have traversed the road but the church was on the way. The plan called for the demolition of the church until the resistance to this foolish undertaking won. Imagine tearing down an old, historic church. Why? Locals are saying that the skyway was conceptualized as an excuse to tear down the church and, in the process, dig up the wealth that people say are buried underneath, buried by the retreating Japanese during the second world war.

the skyway that was stopped (see right)

this beautiful and historic church almost went down

Loboc River Cruise. Easily one of the highlights of a Bohol tour. Buffet lunch is P300, but guests pay a terminal fee. Sumptuous lunch, with free softdrinks. The boat then moves thru the river, and turns around after reaching the falls, It then docks momentarily in one of the permanent rafts on the side of the river and guests are treated to singing and dancing by locals clad in their native costumes. Some guests join the dance, and try the tinikling.

do not miss this experience, and make sure you do Loboc and not Loay

a show by the locals, joined later by visitors

The Bohol Countryside Tour costs P2,200 per person, minimum 2 persons, and includes a professional guide on an air-conditioned car, and driver. All meals and entrance fees are included. Guests pay double when traveling solo (minimum is 2 pax). Tour is available in hotel tour desks. If you want to pre-book, call my tour agent: Aurora Travel and Tours , phone (038) 4120287 and ask for Leony Mendoza

Panglao Island Tour

For those who have never been to Panglao, be aware that you don’t need to ride a boat for Panglao Island. The island is separated by s small channel from the mainland and is connected by two bridges on both ends to Tagbilaran City. There are two municipalities in Panglao Island: Dauis and Panglao.

Panglao Church

A  tour is normally booked by visitors who decide not to stay overnight in Panglao Island. The tour includes a visit to Dauis Church, the Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao Church, Bohol Bee Farm, and Bohol Beach Club. Tour fee of P2,500 per head includes lunch at Bohol Bee Farm. Can be booked in any of the hotel tour desks, too, or the travel agent I used, above.

Dauis Church, Panglao Island

Where to stay

In Tagbilaran, I stayed at the Soledad Suites, and I will be happy to recommend this hotel to travelers. It is new, clean, and the rooms are comfortable. The restaurant has a limited menu, but the food is good. The cafe and bar is popular even among the locals and can get rather busy at night. The staff is professional and more attentive than in most hotels. I will definitely book in this hotel again if I should be back in Tagbilaran.

comfortable room for P2,000

Soledad Suites has rooms from P2,000 to P3,200. It is refreshing to see “water from the faucet is potable”. Call them at (038) 4113074.

A friend of mine who happened to be in Tagbilaran when I was there was happy about his accommodations in Villa del Sol. I suggest you also check them out. They welcome packages that include the room, the tours, and transfers to and from airport/pier. Their website is http://www.villadelsolbohol.com/index.asp

Accommodations in  Panglao

I first went to Alona Kew, the most recommended high-end resort after the Bohol Beach Club. I chose a superior beachfront room (P4,100) but was told their credit card facility was off at the moment. They suggested I go to the nearby BPI ATM, but I figured I don’t want to stay in a place requiring cash transactions. My driver told me that his guest last week was also asked for cash payments, saying also their credit-card connection was out of order. A high-end resort requiring cash and using out-of-order credit card connections for more than a week as a reason?  Besides, I was honestly turned off by their lobby and front desk area which seemed more appropriate in a city setting, not in a resort island. But some people like uber comfort and they do have P5,000 suites within the hotel building,  and a presidential suite at P12,000. I decided to check out a nother resort instead. But in case you want to book Alona Kew, you may call (038)5029042, 0r 5029027. Make sure their credit card facility is working if you forgot to bring your bundles of cash.

The resort that my driver suggested was Dumaluan, right beside Bohol Beach Club. I got an executive beach front room for P4,000. It was the room nearest the beach, with no room nearer. Room 101, and I made a note of it because I will specify this room when I go back. This is my idea of a beach resort. On hindsight, I liked this better than the much-hyped Alona Kew.

view from my ground level room in Dumaluan

The resort looks more alive. There are hammocks near the white sand beach. There are oversized all-weather wooden chairs and tables on the sand, just a few meters away from the water. They have lunch and dinner (by candlelight) settings near the water, too. There is a swimming pool with cottages around it. Pool tables are also available for enthusiasts, and may be booked by the hour. In the evening, diners were treated to live entertainment by a local band.

Dumaluan Beach Resort has rooms starting at P1,300 and suites for P6,000 and P7,000. They have water-sports facilities and can arrange for diving tours. You can book by phone (038) 5029092, 5029081. Visit their website http://www.dumaluanbeach.com

Bee Farm is interesting, and I think I will stay there one night on my return to Panglao. They are the Bohol version of Sonya’s garden and Ilog Maria (Silang,Cavite), combined. The theme is Balinese, and shabby chic. They have a beautiful cafe serving organic buffet lunches, up on a cliff with the beautiful blue waters as the view.

colony suite: P7,000 for 4pax

interesting shop

Accommodations ar Bee Farm start at P3,000, including the beautiful Colony Suite which can accommodate a group of 4 at P7,00o. Phone (038) 5022288, 5022297, mobile 09173041491

There are several other accommodations in Panglao. If you want to play it safe, book your first day in one of the better resorts, and then walk on the beach and find cheaper inns where you can move for the rest of your stay.

Shopping

If you get tired if island life and would want a city feel again, go to either BQ Mall or the Island City Mall. known to locals as ICM. ICM is big and has an SM feel to it.

Beyond Tagbilaran and Panglao

The 3 most popular islands off Panglao are Pamilacan, Balicasag, and Cabilao. A Dolphin Watching +Balicasag Island Tour will cost P3,000 for 1-4 pax

All of these are within the vicinity of Tagbilaran and Panglao. I will write separately about the northern towns farthest from Tagbilaran. They can be covered only by another tour and would be impractical to cover when one visits Bohol for just 2-3 days. To cover the rest, one needs to stay at least a day more, on a private car. Or 2-3 days more when commuting.

a 2-3 day visit will confine you to the lower left portion of this map

How to go to Bohol

The most popular access to Bohol is via a fast ferry from Cebu which takes just two hours. The boat is fast and comfortable. You can even check in your luggage at only P25 per piece. The pier is right there in Tagbilaran City.

Visitors can also fly to Tagbilaran, direct from Manila.

In my case, I was in Camiguin and the locals said boats travel the seas from there to Bohol.

boat from Balbagon, Camiguin to Jagna, Bohol

I canceled my other trips, including a visit to Zamboanga, and took the boat to Bohol instead, traveling for 3 1/2 hours to the port in Jagna, more than an hour away from Tagbilaran.

ihaw-ihaw on the ro-ro deck

visit to the navigation deck

Jagna, Bohol

Aircon vans are available in the town proper to ferry passengers to Tacloban  (fare : P80), but the dispatchers pack the vans like sardines, and the vans don’t leave until they are filled to capacity. You can rent a van all to yourself for P1,000 and not have to wait.


and the travel from Jagna to Tagbilaran is on picturesque coastal road