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Impressive Packaging of a Tour of Bohol

So alright… This is going to be another Bohol note; but then, I reckon, I can be forgiven because I had not had a proper holiday in years until last week’s brief sojourn to the island.

Back in 2000, I had the chance to tour Bangkok with a group of fellow school administrators. Apart from the fact that I brought home a bag full of football jerseys, there was nothing pretty much in the way of bells and whistles to remember the trip by.

The landscape looked the same as here in ‘Pinas. Ditto the natives. The traffic was the same as in Manila, sans the jeepneys. And yes, it was just as hot and humid…

What impressed me the most was the way the tour operators packaged the country. We were whisked a way in a van from one destination to another with clockwork precision, each bala-balâ tourist spot having a shop where the hapless tourist would be tempted to part with a few bahts for a trinket or something.

Some of the places we were taken to were fascinating; but by and large, it was just yeaaahhhh…. Coming as we did from another Southeast Asian country, there was no real novelty in the Chinese-style architecture of the temples we were taken to or in the countless statues of Buddha in various poses that we saw.

Yet, for starters, one could not help but be impressed by the meticulous planning that went into the tour. Apart from each stop being precisely-timed, the planning of the destinations ensured variety. Yes, we were even taken to a backyard factory that manufactured sangkakâ; and while the Eastern European tourists who were at the site when we arrived were gushy at what they were seeing, we were just… Yeaaahhhh… Sangkakâ

Oh, and the petite tour guide talked incessantly… She obviously knew what she was doing, giving us a running commentary on the places we were visiting all day long… Talking all day long… Gaahhhhhddd…!!! That would have killed me…

If I’m being honest, I had no real way of knowing – then – if our own local tour guides were as meticulous in planning their itineraries for visiting tourists. I mean, if I wanted to go on a trip or something around here, I just got on a bus and went… Yah know… Not go on packaged tours…

That was why I was so pleased with the way our day trip in Bohol went… It was just as well thought of and as neatly-packaged as our Bangkok trip years back, with the added benefit of the driver himself being the tour guide and not being as talkative as the Thai who took us around Bangkok.

So, alright… A visit to the Chocolate Hills, a cruise-cum-luncheon along Loboc River and a stop at what Ces called the tarsieran were no-brainer staple must-dos… But I would not have been impressed with the packaging if there were no ho-hum stops that were made to look more awesome than they actually were…

There was this leaning bell tower that – in all fairness – was not really part of the tour but I asked for a stop, nonetheless, to be able to take a couple of snapshots. There was also this brief stop at the alleged site of the historical Sikatuna blood compact, which somebody later told me is actually contentious because the blood compact was performed somewhere else.

Then, there was this stop at this butterfly sanctuary which, although the entrance fee was cheaper than the one we visited in Baguio City and there were – to be fair – a handful more butterflies, still fell short of what one could be forgiven for expecting in an alleged sanctuary.

The real ha-ha stop was at this small zoological garden where the main attraction was a huge, caged python that was inert when we were there, anyway. Whatever the python’s shortcomings were made up for by this thickly made up Vice Ganda transvestite character who sat just outside the cage and talked on and on, encouraging the visitors to touch the snake’s scaly skin or have their pictures taken inside the cage. Duhhh…!!!

I was reminded of that sangkakâ stop in Bangkok which no promdi Pinoy like me will ever find interesting but must be totally fascinating for visitors from far away lands who live in dissimilar cultures.

I guess, to plan a tour, one not only has to have the ability to see what one has with the familiar eyes of a resident but also the ability to see exactly the same things through the eyes of somebody who lives far away and who is seeing these things for the first time. If I look around with the latter eyes, what can I say but, “God! This country is beautiful…”

I’m glad we have tour planners who are packaging this beautiful country the way it ought to be!!!

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