Anda, Bohol. The province is known for the iconic Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the manmade forest in Bilar and the white sand beaches of Panglao Island which deserves to be in the hall of fame because of the number of visitors they lure. Hundreds of thousands of tourist flock this island province in the Visayas region each year. Composed of 47 municipalities and one city, the province of Bohol has more to offer than the usual itinerary. In fact, the island of Bohol is saturated with tourist spots, tour packages and accommodations which ranges from shoe string budget friendly options to luxurious capricios. We recently went on a three day trip to Bohol and went home with so many stories to tell. This will be the first of three articles that we are going to write about Bohol.
Everything in Bohol is tourist and backpacker friendly, and gathering information for off the beaten path destinations was a breeze. A handful of backpackers recommended the municipality of Anda which is almost three hours away from Tagbilaran City. Travel blogs dubbed Anda as the most promising tourist destination in the island province of Bohol.
We were greeted with the wide smile of Mr Arvin Rubillos from the Office of Municipal Mayor Angelina B Simacio when we arrived in the quiet little town of Anda. A six kilometer motorcycle ride for 100.00 pesos per pair of passengers brought us to Barangay Badiang. The environmental geek in me was thrilled when I saw the thick mangrove forest that stretched for 12 hectares towards the sea. Eleuteria Caslib, a member of the Badiang Fishermen Association (BAFIAS), was gleaming with confidence when we signed in for the tour. I was surprised when I found out that we are heading to Lamanok Island for a mystical tour and not the typical beach bumming. We walked pass a bamboo bridge under the shade of mangroves towards a hut on stilts where we boarded a small paddle boats that can seat three persons.
Our first stop was Tangub cave which used to serve as a refuge for fishermen during bad weather to avoid storms and big waves. Found nearby are remnants of fossilized giant clams attached to boulders. Our guide showed us traces where some giant clams used to be found before they were stolen by treasure hunters who exploited the area.
People from Central Visayas are no strangers to folklores and stories about supernatural creatures living in trees and caves. Lamanok is known as a haven for shamans performing rituals to establish, strengthen or mend relations with creatures from a mystical dimension. Ceremonies are performed for bountiful harvest, healing and protection from sorcery. Chickens or “manok” are the usual offerings of shamans during their rituals, hence, the name Lamanok Island. We quietly entered the cave to avoid disturbing the spirits believed to be living there for centuries. Potion bottles, lamps, clam shell and other paraphernalia used by shamans can be found inside the cave. According to our guide, shamans usually come here during the holy week to perform their traditional rituals.
If the shamans cave was not enough to give you goose bumps, Francisca’s cave might do the trick. Locals believe that the cave was inhabited by a woman rumored to be a witch who eat children and curse people in the community. As the rage of the townsfolk towards her grew, Francisca sought refuge in the cave where she spent her entire life until her death. Our guide said that the relatives of Francisca took her body and buried her in a secret place decades ago. What remains in the cave are some shells and other things believed to be owned by Francisca.
Our last stop was the red hematite rock hand prints on cave walls. Made up of iron ore, animal blood, plant juices and other pigments, the hand prints are similar to the ones found in found in Lascaux, France and some parts in Spain which is an evidence of civilization during the Paleolithic or Stone Age. However, the ones found in Anda, Bohol are different because of their abstract patterns. Archeologist say that it is the ancient way of geo-tagging similar to our modern day location check-in on social media. A wooden coffin made of molave wood or locally known as tugas, filled with human bones can also be found in the cave. Shards of clay pots used for burial rituals are what remains in the area after poachers and treasure hunters broke them in search for gold.
During my conversation with our tour guide, Eleuteria Caslib, I have discovered that Lamanok’s best kept secret is the Badiang Fishermen Association (BAFIAS)— the people’s organization that takes care of the entire area. International organizations, the local government and the provincial government rolled out a series of capacity building sessions to help the community establish and sustain a people’s organization. It can be seen in the faces of our guide and boatmen that they are proud of their heritage. Their sense of ownership is evident with their very well maintained bamboo boardwalk which stretches to 310 meters across a lush vegetation of 10 species of mangroves. The local Government headed by Mayor Angelina B Simacio is also supportive of the BAFIAS. The Filipino tradition of bayanihan where communities help one another is evident in the people’s organization of Badiang. Poachers and treasure hunters will never have a chance to exploit the archeological treasures of Anda because of the people’s organization who protects and preserves the mystic island.
The locals fishermen who are members of the Badiang Fishermen Association (BAFIAS).
Before the tourists came, it was taboo for the citizens of Anda to visit Lamanok. It was believed that some people lost their sanity after visiting the mystical island. In a good way, the island is insanely beautiful and rich in heritage. Lamanok Island may be shrouded with a lot of mystery but the Badiang Fisherman’s Association will surely take care of Anda’s mystical island.
Where to stay:
J&R Residence –secret paradise
Owned and managed by a Filipina and her German husband, J&R residences have limited but spacious rooms. Priced at 3,500-5,500 for two to four persons, J&R residences offers a quiet get away from the city life. Apartments/Houses are situated 12 meters above sea level with a breathtaking view of the Ocean with its offshore Coral Reef and with direct access to one of Bohol’s most beautiful white beaches. Enjoy the tropical scenery from your private terrace or their generous pool. Experience unforgettable sunsets, interesting snorkeling tours with their Resort Cruiser as well as relaxing beach walks to the town of Anda and get pampered in the overlooking “Sea Breeze Bar & Restaurant”.
Anda de Boracay –a backpackers haven
(038) 510.0750/ 0917.528.0734/ 0908.541.0788/ firstname.lastname@example.org
What started as a homestay for backpackers who visit the quiet little town, Anda de Boracay have expanded into a full blown resort with amenities such as swimming pool, restaurant, fitness gym and a spa. This is a perfect place for backpacking couples and groups. Rooms can accommodate solo travelers and backpacking groups. The resort also has conference rooms for seminars, workshops and corporate events. Relax and enjoy the fine white sands of Anda with your family and friends in their large beach front cottages.
We would like to thank the following for making our tour possible: Ms Emmylou Palacio-Noel, MBA (Executive Director of Bohol Provincial Tourism Council), Glace Saletrero, Maria Corazon Ponteres, Mayor Angelina B Simacio of Anda Bohol, Mr Arvin Rubillos of Anda Bohol, Anda de boracay and J&R Residences.