Bohol, Philippines — They call this area the Chocolate Hills, and while the name sounds like something out of Willie Wonka, it’s actually a collection of more than a thousand (1,247-1,776, depending on who’s count you go by) limestone haycock hills spread over 20 miles on the island of Bohol, Philippines. During the dry season, the green grass turns brown and looks like endless rows of Hershey Kisses, hence the name Chocolate Hills. I guess Muddy Hills just doesn’t have the same ring to it – or tourist draw.
The Chocolate Hills are cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills and are actually made of grass-covered limestone. The domes vary in sizes from 100-160 feet, with the largest ones going to nearly 400 feet. Trees grow on the base of the hills but the rest of them are bare, filled only with grass (which turns to dirt in the dry season).
The legend on how the Chocolate Hills formed is a bit more fun. There’s a romantic story of a giant named Arogo who was extremely powerful. Arogo fell in love with Aloya, who was a simple mortal. Aloya’s death caused Arogo much pain and misery, and in his sorrow he could not stop crying. When his tears dried, the Chocolate Hills were formed. Full story of the legend can be found here. Read more...(303 words, 5 images, estimated 1:13 mins reading time)
I went to my first cockfight, or “Sabong” as they call it (“tupada” if it’s an illegal cock fight), on the island of Bohol, in the Philippines. It’s as brutal as you might imagine – truly inhumane. Two roosters battle until death, or can’t fight anymore. These gamecocks are specifically bred their entire life for these fights. Each cock has a razor sharp blade (“gaff”) that’s 2-3″ long attached to their left leg. They’re fenced in a cockpit, and there’s a referee that seems to have exclusive authority on when to call a winner.
People gather around the fenced cockpit cheer the cock that they’ve just bet on. And as you’ll notice from the below video clip, the betting is frantic!
A guy standing next to us during the fight was telling us how the next fight on the card would be a good one, since both owners are known to raise birds that are tormented into significant aggression. He was visibly excited as he mentioned this. Umm…awesome (sarcasm). Read more...(262 words, 4 images, estimated 1:03 mins reading time)
“Malling is really popular in the Philippines” – Xtina
After landing at Clark Airport in the Philippines (formerly the largest U.S. Airforce Base outside of the United States, until 1991), I had extra time on the layover so I decided to see a bit of the area. After trekking in the wilderness for a few days, I needed a few things so I headed over to the Clark “Super Mall” (locals just call it “SM”).
They LOVE going to the mall in the Philippines, so much so that they made it a verb. “Malling” is a huge Filipino pastime, and thus three of the top ten world’s largest malls are SM’s in the Philippines. This is shocking to some, since more than 40 percent of the country’s 94 million people live on $2 or less per day. Despite this (or perhaps because of this), malls are packed at all times. It’s not always about shopping – air conditioning is quite the draw. Read more...(360 words, 2 images, estimated 1:26 mins reading time)
I’m OK! I’m currently in the Philippines (I’m about a month behind on posting this blog – catching up soon!) but I’m safe! They’re bracing for a possible tsunami on the east coasts of the northern islands (I’m in Boracay, an island in the center) after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the northeast of Japan, sending waves crashing through coastal towns. I thought I’d address the recent news (just as I did after leaving Jordan and Bahrain).