South America meets Bohol
Photos by the author
There is no shortage of captivating sights and destinations in the Philippines. Each of the 7,641 islands has so much to offer, from diverse cultures to hospitable people, and scenic landscapes unique from one another. A haven of natural beauty that both Filipinos and foreigners should visit at least once in their lifetime—and then again and again—is Bohol.
The Central Visayan province is home to beaches on par with those of Boracay. There are several white sand beaches including Anda, and Panglao Island, which is famous for its rich marine life and fantastic snorkeling and diving areas. Those looking particularly for beach front accommodations and water activities should check out Alona beach, the south-west tip of Panglao.
And yet there is more to the 10th largest island in the country than its beaches. Historic landmarks like the Blood Compact Shrine and the Baclayon Church are also found there. A phenomenal spot is the Hinagdanan Cave, which features pool-clear waters with stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations. A must-try activity is a cruise, along with island hoping and crossing the bamboo hanging bridge at Loboc River. After or before going to the river, also visit the Bilar man-made forest, a two-kilometer stretch of mahogany trees, a stunning masterwork of nature in Loboc. Another wonder of nature is the Dimiao twin waterfalls also known as the Pahangog twin falls, a 98-feet waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation and orchids. There are the Sagbayan peak, the Danao adventure park, the Sipatan twin hanging bridge, and so on.
Something worth exploring in Bohol, not so much talked about as its destinations, is the food. There is a flourishing culinary culture in Bohol. The rare artisanal sea salt that had just trended online, Asín tibuok, is made by the Boholano people from filtering seawater through ashes. Sipping on sikwate or Cebuano hot chocolate made from cacao Jagna tablea is recommended when setting out to view the scenic Chocolate hills. Comparable to chorizo of Cebu, Chorizo de Bohol is the province’s own version of the pork sausage. It has a hint of garlic sweetness best partnered with egg and steaming rice. Two popular afternoon snacks in Bohol are the calamay, which is made of coconut milk, glutinous rice, peanuts, and sugar, and the torta, a soft, fluffy, moist bread cake available at local vendors and eateries. These are, of course, just a small sampling of what Bohol has on its plate and steaming, simmering in its kitchens.
Elevating the food experience in Bohol is the monthly dining event called BEats, a portmanteau for “Bohol Eats.” This pop-up event by the Little Darling of Bohol, Amorita resort, grew into a project that introduces international flavors to the Boholanos, all the while promoting local Bohol food and products to resort guests. As explained by Leeds Trompeta, general manager at Amorita, BEats is also the hospitality brand’s way of helping out restaurants suffering from the impact of the health crisis. How it works is a renowned chef is invited over to present amazing fares, depending on a theme, for Filipinos and tourists alike to partake in, and using Bohol resources, ingredients, and implements as much as possible in preparing the dishes to be introduced.
The fifth edition of BEats “Flavors of South America” was held early June, in line with the easing of travel restrictions in Bohol. The group’s executive chef Greg Villalon prepared the five-course meal inspired by South American cuisine. It was a fantastic event, replete with Latin American music, from bossa nova to rumba, refreshing cocktails during sunset by the cliffside, and dinner at the Saffron Restaurant.
In the late afternoon, guests and BEats-goers were invited for cocktails on the cliff’s edge, overlooking Bohol Bay, Alona beach, and the breathtaking expanse of sky at twilight. Empanaditas, bite sized baked pastry, and Aborrajados, deep-fried plaintiffs stuffed with cheese, were served alongside signature alcoholic beverages while Latin American beats played over the backdrop while the sun sets.
It’s worth sharing that the signature cocktails, the Low Tide, a mix of vodka, lemon grass, and pepper corn, and the Midnight, shaken local Tanduay rhum with calamansi juice and a whole lychee fruit, were so good. I wouldn’t mind flying all the way to Bohol just to have a taste of these cocktails again.
The dinner at Saffron was congenial with our hosts, Ferdi Salvador, COO Lyba Godio, and GM Leeds Trompeta, deeply engaged in entertaining guests at every table.
First we had the ceviche, bay scallops cooked in citrus juices mixed with char grilled octopus and spicy clams escabeche. This incredibly refreshing cold appetizer made way for the second dish, the pastel de choclo, fork tender goat birria stew baked with a rich and creamy corn crust. Choclo is also referred to as Peruvian corn, a large-kernel field corn from Andes in South America. The casserole was sweet and savory, in contrast to the dish that came before it, which was sour and spicy.
For our palate cleanser, a popsicle mojito was served. The frozen white rum, lime, and mint made way for the main course Parillada de Carne or mixed grilled meat in English. It is a selection of grilled meats particularly Australian beef tenderloin in adobo coffee rub, pork back ribs in tequila anchiote, and chicken thigh in chipotle guava. It was a proper main entrée with the pork back ribs as the showstopper. The serving sizes of all the dishes were big, almost to a fault. At ₱2,000 for the entire course, the dinner was a steal.
Dessert was Chocotorta, crispy chocolate cookie crusts, layered with whipped queso crema and dulce de leche. If that sounded good, it tastes better. The huge slice of this sweet confection induces food coma, if you’re still standing after the meat the dish that is.
The resort is known for its signature personalized service and hospitality. Amorita has received the safe travel seal issued by the world travel tourism council conferred only to hotels and lodgings that have passed strict sanitary standards. Its four-point C.A.R.E. initiative, short for “Cleaning and Safety Protocols, Actions for Health and Well-being, Responsible and Mindful service, and Education and Advocacy,” is in place and heightened in view of the ongoing pandemic.
The Parillada de Carne was a proper main entrée with the pork back ribs as the showstopper. The serving sizes of all the dishes were big, almost to a fault. At ₱2,000 for the entire course, the dinner was a steal.
Thus, Amorita remains to be the idyllic place for those who want to experience luxurious seclusion. It’s a peaceful retreat with nature, thanks to the lush greens surrounding its 98 elegant suites and villas, and other facilities like infinity pools, gym, restaurants, and the spa that has yet to reopen.
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