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Monday, March 14, 2005

Side trip: Sagbayan Peak

Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
November 28, 2004

There are two ways to go around Bohol – move about in every nook and cranny, spending a lot; or, choose to be in newly developed visitor sites and spend less.

Out after a fiesta-vaganza experience in the town of Calape (Bohol), my gang thought of a side trip. To experience the best of Bohol is to first partake of their fiesta celebration. After that, check out the most talked-about sites. Mapping out where to go next is peanuts, as the Boholanos are very eager when it comes to showing you around their “home”. They will tell visitors how and how much it takes and costs for one to arrive somewhere, and they share tips on the art of haggling for tour vehicles that are up for the “pakyawan” or “sabot-sabot” system.

In our case, it was a plus factor to be staying with a household in preparation for a banquet because we were able to pack rice, fried milkfish, pork, and other goodies for our provision, saving us a considerable amount for what could have been cost for meals. We were also able to refill our water canteen with ice-cold coffee, milk, or cola.

And what made the journey even more exciting was being in a household with a big truck used for moving pigs and goats from the hillylands to the markets, because this allowed some of the first-timers to sample what “pamukong” (hitchhiking) is all about.

The truck, I endearingly called “Mad Max”, brought us to Tubigon, 15 minutes away from Calape. The one thing a “viajero” should master when hitchhiking is to treat himself like some smuggled item at some point in his life (grin!). We had fun at the back of the truck; we were even noisier than the bleating goats and the grunting pigs combined (laugh out loud!)

Upon our arrival at the Tubigon town plaza, a barker waved at us pointing to a van for hire. “P2,500 ma’m. Aircon na, round-trip tour from Sagbayan Peak to Chocolate Hills Viewing Deck in Carmen, Loboc river and tarsier watching, to the Bilar reforestation project, Blood Compact site and Baclayon church to Dawis and Hinagdanan cave in Panglao island. Sulit!”

That was tempting! We huddled to check how much time we have for a side trip, and agreed on the one point we could take that afternoon – Sagbayan Peak. It is a newly developed visitor site where we were able to view mounds of the Chocolate hills – wonders that make Bohol one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.

Then we tried to figure out how far we can go with our pooled P900. Would we be able to go to where we agreed to go? But the lure of going on a round trip for an additional P1,600 made some of my companions drool.

“Hey, we’ll opt for Sagbayan Peak,” I said. “It is a new structure where we can view the Chocolate hills, considered geological monuments. We don’t have to go to Carmen for that. At P900, we could get a jeepney and ask the driver to take us there, wait for us and take us back to Calape instead of just in Tubigon. That would save us the waiting time for the buses that go on hourly trips. And we could go back just before dusk so we could wash up, and get ourselves ready for the “diskoral”.

My word always end up being taken seriously (grin!). After 40 minutes of travel, we were at Sagbayan Peak, a new viewing structure in the town of Sagbayan – one of three towns where the famous haycock hills of Bohol are scattered. There you can get a feel of a mini Wall of China ambiance as you go up and down the stairs to reach the viewing deck nestled on one of those hills that turn chocolate-y yummy in April.

The collage of photographs couldn’t speak for everything we had shared up there at one moment in time, but for sure the hills gave us an opportunity to bond and invest more in our friendship. All in a day’s side trip.(/30)