It was a good opportunity for me to see what is now happening in the tourism industry of
We avail of the van provided by Lugod Transport Services (telephones 038-4112244; 4112682; 5018907; 09209273025), a DOT-accredited transport service. The son of the owner Jaypee, a very polite gentleman (09173040135) became our driver for the day.
The hills were alive not from the sound of music but from the lucrative businesses now found everywhere in the Chocolate Hills! Have your pictures taken with you riding in a broom in just three minutes. Buko bar sir? Mani popcorn Mam. Picture. Picture. Asa ka sir, habal-habal ta?
From the P10 entrance fee it has escalated to more than 100% , to a tune of P25! And still the facilities were way behind international standards. Yes the sagging (yes, sagging!) restaurant is undergoing renovation. Yet the public CR at the foot of the viewing deck still exuded stench you would not like to pollute the air. Newer buildings constrict the panoramic view of the hills.
The souvenir stalls were not a pretty sight either.
The parking space was running out of space especially during our visit. About six busloads of foreigners and students arrived at the same time. I could hardly breathe. I was not even counting the taxis, vans and motorcycles parked anywhere and everywhere. Maybe the management (is it the provincial government or municipal government running the hills now?) have to make a big parking lot at the foot of the hill, near the entrance area, and let the visitors walk uphill. It would be exciting, I believe. People would be engrossed with the scenery. It is healthy, too, the walk with less vehicles at the viewing deck.
Still the Chocolate Hills never lost its aura of mystery and awe.
It was my first time to be at the butterfly conservation center. The simplicity of the place is what attracted me most. Simple and clean. Perfect. That is the visible difference when a “public” structure is run by foreigners as compared to structures managed (or owned) by Filipinos. I just don’t know why foreigner-run buildings would last longer and are well-maintained.
Aside from the standard tour around the place, the butterfly center boasted of its delicious fares in their restaurant, all natural, they told me. But what I liked most was their ICE CREAM! When I tasted the guyabano ice cream I screamed for more! In fact, I tasted all flavors available. Therewas even a durian ice cream!
The banana cake was also filling and so were the coconut nut cookies. All of their products were not “flavored,” actually, you can taste the real thing in them. The only thing I did not like much was the toffee candy. The restaurant also offered lunch and dinner.
I will surely recommend the place. For your bookings or orders for butterflies or their delicious food call the Butterfly Conservation Center at telephone number (038) 5359400.
After an exhilarating experience at the man made forest, off we went to Loboc for a river cruise and lunch in one of the floating restaurants.
We were accommodated at Tessie Labunog’s Loboc Riverwatch Resto (telephone 038-5379460) because we were long time friends. Eat-all-you-can lunch is not costly at P280 per person. The P30 was supposed to be the municipal tax and you would not speak evil about it because you can see where your money goes.
Now this is what an enterprising municipality should be. From the time the innovative Lobocanons started their floating restos, their services, their hospitality and the facilities have improved a lot to this time. Their tourist center including the souvenir shops were of class and should be replicated by the management of the Chocolate Hills. Even the stops during the cruise were an excellent idea! Local communities participated in the tourism growth. It was so nice to see the Japanese tourists mingling with the locals, dancing and trying the ukeleles with much gusto. We were even having a great time just watching them.
The only mishap during the cruise was the fainting of a Korean (or Taiwanese?) woman due to the humidity. Our boat has to go back to the station for medical aid. Maybe the staff of the floating restos must undergo training on emergency situations like this. The woman was lifted without dignity despite the situation.
*More to come...