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Alona beach at Panglao Island, Bohol may be one of the shortest stretches of white sand beaches on the island, but at 1.5 kilometers, it claims to pack more fun than any of Bohol’s other beaches.
My three days and two nights at Amorita Resort bore witness to the beach’s right for such a claim.
Day One is Night One
Round capiz lamps suspended in the air. Shell lamps set up on pillars surrounding the halls. Everything golden, set to twenty-four hour bossa and jazz and the breeze blowing from the direction of a rippling infinity pool overlooking a cliff.
Yes, a cliff. I am not in the city, not in the usual five-star hotel. This is Amorita, the proud back-to-back-to-back number one Bohol beach resort and hotel according to international trip advisors, says my host, guest officer Mickey Sepe.
Amorita, though it started operations only in 2007, easily overtook leadership in the resorts arena primarily due to th¬¬e strength of its corporate backing. Owned by the people behind Victory Liner, one of the Philippines’ leading bus lines, it can be said that Amorita has got its headway in the race. It is the place one is supposed to go to in Bohol if one wants fancy accommodation along with fun in the package. Amorita, after all, is the premier resort hotel in the entire Alona stretch, and Alona is referred to by Boholanos as their own little party place, their “pocket Boracay”, in reference to another world famous Philippine white beach island in the Visayas.
The thing is, as much as I am into the swanky and sexy atmospherics of classy tropicana, I prefer my beaches pure from the rave of urbanity. Would that be possible if Alona beach is the Bohol party place? A firm yes was Mickey’s answer. It’s all good clean fun here because that is the Boholano way, he assured me. And to prove it, we took a stroll by the beach right then and there, around 7 in the evening, when the partying has just begun.
He was right. I saw and heard no wild bohemia at Alona. Partying was good old grooving to reggae acoustics which could not even drown out the sound of baby waves crashing on the white shore. The scent of spicy delicacies and fruity desserts served to guests filled the air and mixed with the saltiness of the sea breeze.
My host and I were not the only ones strolling along the beach, the place was alive with people surveying what each stall, mini-resort, bar or resto on the Alona stretch had to offer. I even noticed some folks walking towards Amorita, perhaps to try its high-end fare. Mickey pointed out that Amorita guests themselves are free to explore Alona for its live music, local food in simpler spreads, and nighttime bazaars that sold native trinkets. After all, Alona beach is collectively taken care of by all the establishments along its shores, Amorita included. All Alona guests are therefore at liberty to roam every part of the beach.
Day two – a date with the sea
I lay my bikinis down on the bed, against the soft white cotton sheets lit by sunlight that peered through the equally white blinds. I munched on rich danish butter cookies that filled a jar next to my slick black widescreen flat TV, munching on as I contemplated on what pair to wear. Then I strutted around my fully carpeted Amorita suite with the pair I chose before finally running towards Alona.
Mickey arrived ahead and was with two Amorita attendants, who were picking up seaweeds from the waters and burying them in shallow holes in the sand. They turn into sand after one month, he said. The fresh salty, leafy smell of the sea weeds fi lled me up – I could no longer wait to hit the waters and taste the saltiness on my lips. My host must have sensed my excitement for he soon left the chore and accompanied me to the best swim spots on Alona beach.
It took only a few steps from Amorita to reach an ideal spot. I dug my bare feet into the cool sand, fi ne and white as milk, as is in all of Bohol’s beaches. I went past a narrow underwater belt of miniscule rocks that marked the shallow wading parts and into the slope towards farther, deeper waters. The sands felt warm beneath my feet at this point, complementing the cool waters that submerged me neck-deep.
I beheld brown and red starfishes as they were handed to me by my host one by one. He said there were blue ones too, usually near the reefs a few meters off the Amorita cliff. I have never seen a blue one in my life, I said, and just like that, I got myself a kayak ride with a little snorkeling later in the day, after lunch.
So I sped through lunch, the best from Amorita’s Saffron Restaurant. All I could remember was the Chicken Binakol, which is shredded chicken soup with coconut and ginger strips. Oh, and the Alona’s hit dessert of fried banana rolls, the Turon de Bohol. I was so excited to snorkel I could not concentrate on what I was eating. It would be my first time snorkeling after all, and what I kept thinking about was what my friends kept telling me: that seeing the sea from beneath would make me love it more.
My kayak ride brought me to a lush reef. I put on my snorkeling gear, grabbed hold of my host’s arm, took the plunge, and opened my eyes underwater. What did I see?
A wide bed of even whiter sands. Sprawled all over it were plump, curly corals from which glittery fishes emerged, hid, and re-emerged. And there were indeed blue starfishes, lying
side by side with spiny black sea urchins. All of that was blanketed by silence –
Which I had to break by groaning. Air had found itself in my gear. I had accidentally snorted water and had to surface. It was a puzzle to me and to everyone how I could have snorted water when I followed all the instructions and my gear was in optimum condition.
The thing was they did not tell me not to smile when underwater. Smiling creates spaces between the skin and the rubber gear. And I did give off a good wide grin while under there, perhaps even a little laugh, which messed up my breathing. I could not help it. The smile remained on my face, even through my groaning and even after my host decided I’d had enough. I contented myself with sitting back on the kayak, smiling at the sea urchin he laid on my hand, thinking how funny it is that I can’t be pricked or tickled by the spines.
Day three – the morning after
Actually, I only learned that I was not supposed to smile underwater during the introductory diving crash course given to me the following day by Bohol Oceanic Adventures, the water sports group Amorita has tied-up with so it can provide guests with water activities.
I was hijacked after breakfast to take the course at one of Amorita’s pools. I could not turn down the graciousness of my hosts, so I tried it for about an hour. The image of Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate diving into the family pool with his scuba gear during a party kept popping in my head. Soon I was smiling again, and snorting in water. They pitied and let go of me after I started coughing. I took off the diving gear and ran to the beach.
The beach! Where I could smile, laugh and giggle my giddy heart out! Besides, I wanted my last few hours in Amorita spent in its best beds – its beach, and the sea, where I stayed, snug in its waters until the last minute.