The group of islands that make up the
Visayas including Panay, Negros, Leyte,
Samar, Masbate, Bohol, Boracay and Cebu
are rich with religious relics.
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. This means
miles and miles of pristine coastline for beach lovers and sun
worshippers. But this nation in the southwestern Pacific has much
more to offer.
The country of 85 million is divided into three geographic
zones: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao arranged from north to south.
While Manila in the Luzon region is the gateway to the Philippines,
a visit to the group of islands that make up the Visayas including
Panay, Negros, Leyte, Samar, Masbate, Bohol, Boracay and Cebu is a
must for those who want to explore the physical and symbolic heart
of the country.
The diverseness of the Visayas is best exemplified by the
islands of Boracay and Bohol and the historic city of Cebu.
Cebu is the commercial and educational center of the Visayas as
well as the hub of air and sea travel throughout the central and
southern region of the country. It’s the oldest city in the
Philippines and it is here where Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521.
Located near the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is a
shrine-enclosed wooden cross which entombs the remnants of the
original cross the Spanish explorer planted almost five centuries
ago. The Basilica itself houses the Santo Nino de Cebu, the oldest
religious relic in the country. A half-hour away on Mactan
Island is the marshland where Magellan was killed on April 27,
1521, by Lapu-Lapu. A huge replica of the Philippine chief stands
near a monument erected by the Spanish to Magellan.
Also on Mactan Island is the Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort
with Chi, a state-of-the-art spa facility, and a fantastic seaside
restaurant named Cowrie Cove. The Shangri-La can arrange for a wide
range of off-property activities including scuba diving and golf.
Golf is especially popular with Korean and Japanese tourists who
take advantage of the relatively low greens fees compared to their
home courses. Nestled into the mountains above Cebu is the
challenging Alta Vista Golf & Country Club with panoramic views
of the city. For the non-golfer, an equally breathtaking view can
be attained from the nearby Taoist Temple. For nature lovers,
excursions include Central Cebu National Park, Cawasan Falls,
Sudlon National Park and the Balok-Balok Mineral Springs.
A Bohol rice field
From Cebu there is a fastcraft ferry to Tagbilaran on the island
of Bohol as well as flights into the city. The Panglao Island
Nature Resort is an excellent choice for travelers who want to be
far from civilization and bask in the Philippines’ natural beauty
but still have access to world-class pampering, including the
resort’s Mit-Hi spa. Many of the thatched-roof villas on this
property have great views of the sea and are furnished with private
Jacuzzis. An alternate, more rustic
hotel option is the Bohol Bee Farm hotel. Their all-organic al
fresco restaurant is open to non-hotel guests and features
mouth-watering homemade items. Their carrot, corn and squash
muffins are out of this world.
While it would be fairly easy to spend an entire vacation at
either resort a day should be devoted to exploring the historical
and natural highlights of Bohol. A typical tour, which can be
arranged through the hotels, includes the Blood Compact Shrine, a
historical landmark commemorating the First Treaty of Friendship
between the indigenous people and the Spaniards made by drinking
from a vessel with drops of blood from the representatives of both
sides in 1565; Baclayon Church; the unique cone-shaped formations
of the Chocolate Hills; a lunch cruise from Loboc along a nipa
hut-lined river; and a visit to an animal sanctuary to come face to
face with a tarsier, the world’s smallest primate.
Sun worshippers and party animals from around the world descend
on the small island of Boracay via flights to Caticlan Airport on
the nearby island of Panay along with a short boat transfer. A sand
path runs between many of the hotels and is trolled into the wee
hours of the night by revelers. For those who want to be centrally
located in the nightlife, the Boracay Regency is a wise choice. For
those wanting to experience Boracay, yet be a little more removed
from the energy reminiscent of weekends in South Beach, Discovery
Shores is an excellent option. The 88-room resort is a member of
the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The national anthem is called “Lupang Hinirang” in Tagalog,
which translates to “Chosen Land.” It’s easy to understand why
after spending time in the heart of this island nation.