MANILA, OCTOBER 3, 2003  (STAR) By NATHALIE TOMADA  - To paraphrase a Boholano folk song, if you’ve been searching for a partner in life, ending up with a Bol-anon would be worth the wait.

A favorite explanation would have to be my grandmother’s: gentle-natured, God-fearing and free of vices, a Bol-anon wouldn’t mind staying at home to run the household.

Whether that one’s for real or not, this oval-shaped island in the heart of Central Visayas has spun seemingly quixotic legends.

With imagination, its signature Chocolate Hills spread across the towns of Carmen, Sagbayan and Batuan, re-create the story of a love lost and unrequited.

The mounds that forever baffle geologists are said to be the hardened tears of the giant Arogo over the passing of the one he never had, the mortal Aluya.

If it’s easy to get lost in romantic illusions when in Bohol, you’ve got to hand the credit over to the island’s scenic offerings.

The island-province has somehow perfected a dreamy charm — and that you can discover on Bohol’s much-chronicled Panglao Island.

This small wonder, connected to the mainland by a bridge, is considered one of the country’s premier destinations for its ecotourism pleasures – from its dive spots and magnificent cave formations to its strip of world-class beach resorts.

As big surprises often come in small packages, nothing is as pleasant as the experience of paradise at Panglao Island Nature Resort.

Situated in Bingag, Dauis on the island of Panglao, the resort can be reached in 15 minutes by car from Tagbilaran City.

If you’re coming from Cebu, Tagbilaran can be reached via fast ferries that travel four times a day at a cruising time of one hour and a half. Direct flights from Manila are also available.

Along the way, you’ll pass by the Dauis parish church founded by Jesuit priests and said to be one of the country’s oldest. Inside is a freshwater well which locals claim is miraculous. Story has it that the well itself is a stroke of the divine. It suddenly appeared when the people of Dauis ran out of water after holing up inside the church when pirates raided the town.

Upon arrival at the Panglao Island Nature Resort, one is welcomed by the solicitous staff, refreshments and a lobby that affords an impressive view of Maribojoc Bay.

While away your time at the lobby and you’ll notice the cycle of departures and arrivals of guests, many of whom are couples and honeymooners.

Apparently, the exclusivity that Panglao Island Nature Resort offers brings about a coupling of sorts. As you go down a path and find yourself in a cove, the stretch of the beach beneath a bare sky inviting, it’s just you and Nature.

Fred and Barbara Ong, who also own the Metro Centre Hotel, the province’s premier business and convention hotel, bought the 14-hectare beachfront property standing on a limestone cliff in the 90s.

Its potential as a leisure resort, according to daughter Gretel, was too obvious to ignore that in no time the Ongs turned to Teofilo Vasquez of El Nido architectural fame to work extra wonders on the natural terrain.

The result is a work of art. Light filters through the reception area where there’s a mingling of old and new. Well-placed are antiques and heirlooms mostly courtesy of the Ongs’ ancestral home in Dauis, including a daybed with carved images of the tarsier.

A walk to the left brings you to the restaurant serving Filipino and Western dishes and a gazebo that makes surrender to the grand view inevitable.

You’ll discover what a special and salubrious landscape this is as the winding jogging path guides you to the resort’s trademark thatched cottages. Flower and fruit gardens also abound.

There are 48 rooms ranging from superior and deluxe to bungalows (there are 18 of them) facing the central beach, thus making most of the splendid site, with the silhouette of islands beyond as add-on. Bungalows have outdoor jacuzzis to help you recharge.

You can delight in the same luxury at the resort’s pool and other recreational enjoyments – a fitness gym, indoor games, pool bar services, and even a playground for children.

The rooms are one for your curiosity. They are well-appointed, featuring a fusion of stone, glass and wood furnishings – glass-encased bathrooms, rattan furniture, sawali ceiling, arorog sticks as blinds and broken twigs as towel hooks.

Warm hues give the rooms a sultry feel. As resident manager Evelyn Cabrera says, the resort wants to achieve a truly tropical ambience, a goal that is continually evolving.

In the meantime, Hiddefumi Sada of Tokyo, Japan is basking in its wonders. He confesses being fascinated by the resort and the island during his visit last summer that he’s back with his family, enjoying the resort’s other activities such as hopping to Pamilacan Island, fishing and scuba diving during their week-long stay.

Also, one activity that shouldn’t be missed when in the resort is paying its well-kept Cambagat Cave a visit. The resort is also within walking distance to another local attraction, the Hinagdanan Cave that has a lagoon ideal for a relaxing dip.

Heading back home, there’s a souvenir store that offers mementos of a vacation well-spent.

Indeed, to explore beautiful, romantic Bohol is to get wrapped up in the island’s tales – and wonders. And by experience, they never fail to enchant.

* * *

For inquiries or reservations, call the Manila office of Panglao Island Nature Resort at 724-1051 or the Tagbilaran office at (38) 411-2599. You can also e-mail at metroctr@mozcom.com or log on to www.panglaoisland.com.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved