Beholding the Beauty of Bohol
I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE: I’M NOT A TOURIST. For that matter, I can actually count the places I’ve been to with just one hand. For all of our government’s efforts to jolt tourism, I’ve never felt the urge to see the sights except on The Discovery Channel. That is, until Isuzu came along.
With its fine and capable fleets of Crosswind, D-Max and Trooper vehicles; they’ve opened my eyes to the beauty of the Philippines. You see, I enjoy driving and going places is just an added bonus. I once ended up at the southernmost tip of Luzon behind the wheel of a Crosswind, and I absolutely loved it. So when Isuzu invited me to explore Bohol in the D-Max, I quickly jumped at the opportunity.
From Manila, our group landed in Bohol’s capital, Tagbilaran, where six Isuzu D-Max pick-ups waited for us. With no dealership in Bohol, the 4x4 and 4x2 units were shipped to Cebu via Sulpicio Lines (the official partner) and then to Bohol.
Though now a regular on our roads (it is after all the best-selling pick-up), the D-Max is still a looker. The simplistic lines and angular features give it a no nonsense on-road presence, while the squared fender flares and 16-inch alloys give it muscle. Exterior aesthetics aside, the D-Max is a modern road warrior with its tough chassis and powerful direct-injection diesel engine. The cabin is equally impressive with great ergonomics, excellent materials and usable space.
For the first day, I rode shotgun in the lead D-Max. As we left for Loboc, it was clear why Isuzu chose this to host its third “D-Maximum Drive”. The rough roads, overloaded buses and ambivalent tricycles are tough challenges; but it was no match for the D-Max.
Upon our arrival, we were treated to a wonderful lunch while cruising down the Loboc River. Animal lovers also had the chance to see the Philippine Tarsiers up close in a nearby sanctuary.
After satisfying our belly and curiosity, we headed to Bohol Tropics Resort for some water sports and a much needed rest. That night, the mayor of Tagbilaran, Hon. Dan Neri Lim was the guest of honor.
The next day, our agenda was to travel 240 kilometers—a mixture of torture test (for the D-Max) and souvenir hunting (for us). We took the scenic coastal road, where the lush mangroves proved to be a sight to behold. The road is still undergoing a major re-work, so we had to negotiate narrow dry gravel pavement with the sea and a deep embankment sandwiching us. Of course, the D-Max’s tough suspension simply glided over these challenges. The ride was good to the point that Isuzu’s Ronald Baladad dozed off a couple of times.
The first stop was the Blood Compact Site between Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. This was the first-ever formal sign of friendship and camaraderie between an Asian and European leader. The next one was Baclayon Church, the oldest church in Bohol. The rich Spanish influence was clear in its classical design and the vast Religious artifacts found inside. Though it still holds regular mass, a part was converted to a museum where 17th century manuscripts and statues are kept. Sadly some were stolen and never recovered.
A trip to Bohol won’t be complete without seeing the Chocolate Hills, so we made our way through the unpaved coastal road (most tourists take the interior roads). When we reached Sagbayan, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch and an amazing view of Bohol’s most prized spot.
A bit of trivia about these Chocolate Hills: the “hills” are actually limestone underneath, formed long ago when Bohol was submerged under the sea. When the sea dried up, wind formed the hills to its modern shape. This very nature of the Chocolate Hills means that you can find fossilized plants and animals inside if you have the time to explore. The name actually comes from the fact that the hills turn completely brown when the grass dries up during summer.
After absorbing the breath-taking view, we headed back home. A short detour took us to a man-made forest, where non-indigenous floras (like Mahogany) were planted. The density of the foliage was so great that it blocked the sun in some areas.
With me behind the wheel for the entire six-hour journey, I found the D-Max to be extremely comfortable and driver-friendly. The engine gave power when needed and the brakes were equally responsive. The chassis balance was quite optimal especially after making it drift a couple of times. Seat support was great and I had no aching muscle when we got back to the resort.
As I boarded the plane the next-day, I wondered if there will be another place as magical and unique as Bohol. Though my stay was short, the province had such an endearing quality that I plan to return some day. And while we’re headed home on a plane, the Isuzu D-Max proved once again as a wonderful partner in seeing the Philippines.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang