#BEHOLDBOHOL: Beyond Bilar

8:00 PM



Parts of this write up have been published on the December 7, 2014 issue of Lifestyle Bohol of The Bohol Chronicle.

Famous for its man-made forest, Bilar is one of Bohol’s crown jewels, boasting a picturesque landscape of pristine waters and lush greenery, from its rich rice fields to its sprawling trees.

For the unfamiliar, perhaps, Bilar would simply be equated to the man-made forest.  However, Bilar is the cradle of so many sights to discover and behold, one of which is probably what houses many other tourism destinations, the man-made forest included — the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape.

WHAT IS THE RAJAH SIKATUNA PROTECTED LANDSCAPE?

The Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape is a protected facility measuring to more than ten hectares of land area and sprawls into six municipalities: Bilar, Batuan, Carmen, Sierra Bullones, Garcia Hernandez, and Valencia.  The area was declared a National Park on July 10, 1987 before it was re-established as a protected landscape on April 23, 2000 under the National Integrated Protected Areas System. 

According to the Birdlife Data Zone, RSPL holds practically all of Bohol’s most significant forest. A large chunk of the entire land area composed of natural forest while the rest is the man-made forest.  The landscape is an attractive destination for tourists because of the chocolate hill formations, the heavily forested hills and the extensive network of good trails.

WHAT’S INSIDE?

To those who wish to explore the Bilar Side of Rajah Sikatuna Tree Park, here are the sites you can expect.

1. The Bilar Peak


Back in 2013 when I first reached the Bilar Peak. Pardon my face.

The Bilar Peak ranks among the highest peaks of Bohol at 1,673 feet.  A tower once stood on the peak but is now ruined which gives anyone on the tower the opportunity to see the breathtaking view of Bilar from atop.  Almost no remnants of the tower can be seen, though and there is nothing much to do there.  But it is still a must-conquer height.  Knowing that you’ve set foot on the Bilar Peak is an achievement in itself.

2. The Magsaysay Park
The Magsaysay Park is a Scout Camp/ Camping Site and a Nature Center inside the Bilar part of the RSPL.  In fact, the site was once a venue for a national jamboree.  A tunnel, which doesn’t really look like the conventional tunnel, is your gateway to the park.  If you want to have a Maze Runner moment, you can do so in that tunnel.  Or rock that tunnel like a runway!

The "maze runner" tunnel I was talking about.
Photo by Ann Therese Decasa of Curious Onion.

A snapshot at the entrance of Magsaysay Park,

Aside from local caretakers, long-tailed macaques frequent the area.  They are the bad boys of Magsaysay Park who tend to scare off visitors.  But don’t get scared because they don’t hurt or bite…unless they feel threatened or just go nuts.

This is just a part of Magsaysay Park.  But yeah! That is it.

3.  Cold Springs
The RSLP houses four cold mountain springs:  Anislag, Mabugnao, Abughan, and the most familiar one, Logarita. These springs, aside from being bathing areas, supply water to nearby communities particularly irrigation to the farms.

I didn't have a good shot of Logarita Spring that captures it's entirety so I opted to show this very fun snapshot.
Logarita has a pool with the water coming from the spring. And it is very cold.

4. Diverse Flora and Fauna
The Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape is home to diverse species of flora and fauna and is among the favorites for bird watchers, with 120 species, including bird species endemic to Eastern Visayas: Samar Hornbill, Visayan Broadbill and Yellow-breasted Tailorbird.  Threatened bird species like the Mindanao Bleeding-heart and Azure-breasted Pitta have been spotted also in the area.

The boss of Magsaysay Park, the long-tailed macaques. 

Elusive flying lemurs, Philippine tarsiers, and Philippine warty pigs also call the area their habitat alongside rats, and snakes, and bats inside caves surrounding the landscape.

GETTING THERE!

If you are heading from Tagbilaran City, Bilar would be a 45-minute drive via the Loay Interior Road should you be having your own transpo.  If you decide, the ride would be around an hour to one-and-a-half hours long.  All you have to pay is Php30.00.

Before reaching the actual RSPL site, you will be passing a military base and rice fields.  You can stop right there and experience how to plant rice.  The farmers of Bilar are very friendly and accommodating to teach you on how the rice is produce.

Right before I experienced planting rice. It's a must-try!
Photo by Ann Therese Decasa of Curious Onion.

If you are travelling through the cemented roads, you will have to pass by the "entrance" to pay a Php10.00 entrance fee.  Other activities such as swimming at the Logarita Spring or trekking also have their corresponding fees, pegged at Php10.00.

ADVENTURE TIME!

A variety of activities can be done at RSPL.  Here are my suggestions!

1. Trekking.
Those who long for an adventure may come and visit for a trek.  The trails prove to be challenging but you’ll feel more attuned with nature with tall trees, perhaps centuries old, surrounding you while the cool chilly air that has been the trademark of the man-made forest is all over the area, and the chirping birds welcome you to their habitat with subtle but sweet (or sometimes eerie songs).  

The Oriole Trail sign of the trail we followed.

My friend, Anter, trekking the forests of RSPL.
Photo by Rebecca Caliao.
2. Night Safari
Those who are in for more exciting adventure may hold a night safari. This could prove to be a lot more challenging since there is limited light.  But higher risk means higher yield, a very important lesson I learned in my Accounting class. Surviving the night inside the woods would be something to brag about.  Plus, this is your chance to see the nocturnal animals like the Philippine Flying Lemur and the Philippine Tarsier in action. You may also be able to spot some owls!

3. Tree Hugging
If you are in the midst of trees, what better way to express your love for Mother Earth than to hug a tree.  This would be a nice photo opt.  I suggest to hug a peculiar looking tree for additional drama or effect (whatever you call it!).  Try singing The Hanging Tree song also while hugging the tree and record it. Just make sure that there are no animals, particularly snakes, are on the tree, or else...

This tree is among the tallest on our trail.  The  aerial roots provide so much drama.

4. Bird Watching
What is the point of calling this one of the best sites for bird watching if you can't experience it yourself.  Prepare your binoculars and try to spot some birds.  You're lucky if you can spot the really rare ones.  The last time I was there, one of the local bird watchers said that a Philippine snake-eating eagle was nesting near the pool area! That was so cool.  I didn't see it though.


5. Lunch at Magsaysay + Swimming at Logarita
Those who opt for a more relaxing time may want to have lunch at Magsaysay Park before enjoying the waters of Logarita Spring, the nearest one from the former.  Just make sure to be alert as macaques tend to grab food or scare you off for the food.  Caretakers are there, though, to ensure maximum safety of visitors.

Back in 2013 at Logarita Spring

7. Skin Dipping
A pool, which is really out of view when you first look, is at Magsaysay Park.  The water comes from a running cold spring and I tell you, the water could get really really cold. If you plan to stay overnight, and you are confident enough, why not try plunging into the water with your birthday suit? Make sure no one is looking, though.

The pool by Magsaysay Park.  The exclusivity that it offers plus the scenic view makes this so tempting.
Photo by Rebecca Caliao.

The pool's watersource.
Photo by Ann Therese Decasa of Curious Onion.

6. Camping
Spend the night in Magsaysay Park.  If you have a tent, or a hammock, you can simply stay in the area and marvel about the existence of the universe with trees surrounding you while you gaze at the stars brightly shining up the sky.

Bilar equals to the man-made forest that you pass by going to Carmen? Nah! That is not Bilar. Before one draws that concluding statement, he better see the sights the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, among Bilar's other offerings to both tourist and adventure seekers.

Verdant trees, astonishing landscapes, pristine springs, rich biodiversity — these are what makes Bilar beyond “Bilar”.

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DEEJAY WRITES is a proudly Boholano lifestyle and travel blog by LifestyleBohol in-house writer Deejay Arro. Launched in June 2014, DEEJAY WRITES ranks among the Top 200 Entertainment and Lifestyle blogs in the country and has been consistently receiving positive feedback from readers..