One of my biggest frustrations is local travel. As a Filipino, it shames me to admit that I have yet to visit places that have become regular holiday haunts for a lot of my friends: Sagada, Dumaguete, Coron, to name a few. Last weekend found me particularly triumphant because I was able to cross off one of the many places on my Must-Travel List: Bohol.
When I first saw the photos that Albert took of the newly-opened Bellevue Resort in Panglao Island, Bohol late last year, I immediately decided that we just had to go there this summer. (Yes, I admit it: it wasn’t the thought of visiting such a historic province — the land of the famous Chocolate Hills and the endangered tarsier — that firmed my resolve to travel to Bohol. It was the lure of infinity pools, sumptuous buffets, and five-star accommodations that reeled me in. So sue me.) Luckily, Albert was able to manage a free weekend during this incredibly busy month to oblige my request for a family beach trip; luckier still, Jay and his brood happened to be free to join us! Just how excited were we? Albert and I were so keen on this vacation that we booked a 530am flight out of Manila for our family (Jay’s family took a later flight), which meant getting up at 330am, just so we could hit the beach as soon as the sun was up.
Our plane touched down at the Tagbilaran Airport at 645am. The Bellevue’s efficient car service staff welcomed us outside the airport, and smoothly navigated the 30-minute drive to the resort while pointing out relevant landmarks along the way. By around 8am, we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing as we walked into our swanky bedroom suite at The Bellevue Resort (we booked a deluxe room, but the hotel management deemed us worthy of an upgrade; they must really love the work Albert has done for them!)
Jay and Jocel, who arrived later in the day, were assigned a spacious deluxe room with a king-sized bed, while the 2nd-gen Labrats — Mikey, Pixie, Gita and Sari — were very comfortable in their shared deluxe room with double queen-sized beds.
As soon as we got settled in, we headed downstairs to the Lamian Restaurant, where Gita and Albert made a beeline for the breakfast buffet. While they piled their plates high with freshly baked breads, crispy bacon, breakfast sausages and the like, I decided to avoid the temptation of a bottomless plate by ordering á la carte: beef tapa with garlic rice. Sari also ordered from the menu, saying she just wanted a hard-boiled egg, some bacon strips, and toast. As it turned out, I might as well have had the buffet breakfast; their á la carte servings were HUGE. Definitely enough for sharing (said the person who licked her plate clean, in addition to eating half of Sari’s bacon-and-eggs order as well — the food was that good). We were too hungry to bother with the camera, so there are no photos of our gargantuan breakfast; you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Our appetites finally sated, we had nothing left to do but head for the beach. My girls and I lounged lazily in shin-deep water a few feet beyond the shoreline, while Albert ventured further out to explore the deeper, crystal clear waters. After an hour or so, he came back incredibly excited about his discovery: a small reef teeming with life just several meters from shore!
We spent the rest of the morning soaking up the rays by the infinity pool. By noon, the blistering heat chased us back into the shade of the restaurant, where we ordered more food: pasta, sushi, and refreshing fruit shakes. Eventually, the lack of sleep, coupled with our overindulgent feasting, rendered us totally dopey. Gita and I retreated to the room to take a nap, while Sari and Albert… ah… I don’t know what Sari and Albert did. I was too sleepy to care. I assume they met up with Jay and fam, who arrived at the resort soon after I slipped into oblivion. I managed to join them a few hours later, when it was time to — say it with me — EAT!
During our three-day stay at the resort, we fell into a languid rhythm: sun, swim, snack, sleep, repeat. We did manage to get off our butts for a half-day tour of the Bohol countryside during the second day. On our way out to catch our tour van, we saw this display of handcrafted items for sale at the resort lobby — crocheted knick-knacks and jewelry, and a bunch of charming, colorful tin geckos. They were products of a livelihood project spearheaded by The Bellevue Resort and WorldWide Familia Mission (WWFM). Apparently, The Bellevue management invited WWFM to Panglao Island to set up their STEP program for the local community (Specialized Training and Education for Philippine Students), and even financed the construction of a STEP center for this purpose. I wanted to take home one of those tin geckos, but had no idea where to display it, so I bought a pretty crochet bib necklace instead.
On our last day, Albert spent the morning combing the shallow waters with the girls, pointing out different kinds of starfish and even handling a live sea urchin (which I wanted to break open to eat its yummy roe, until Jay and Albert corrected me by saying that it isn’t actually roe but gonads. That turned me off for all of one minute, by which time the uni was smart enough to float away to safety). Albert also took the girls kayaking, where they actually witnessed a tern swoop down to catch a fish with its beak. So very Nat Geo.
I would have wanted to stay one more day (or three!). I will miss doing early morning laps in the pool, the non-stop eating, the little plate of mignardises that would magically show up at our bedside at night, the ridiculously opulent suite with that fantastic ocean view. Mostly, I will miss the good-natured, accommodating hotel staff who made our stay that much more pleasant. Till we meet again 😀
The Bellevue Resort is situated in Barangay Doljo, Panglao Island, Bohol. Tel: (6338) 422 2222 | Fax: (6338) 422 2202.