Bohol isn’t what you’d necessarily tag as a romantic destination — there are many other palm-fringed spots in the Philippine archipelago that, at the first glance of wispy white curtains floating dreamily from cabanas, might seem better suited for a couples’ getaway.
But love is definitely in the air in the Central Visayan island. For starters, it was in the name of our resort. When my fiancé and I needed a weekend away from the work stress that had begun to consume us, we packed our bags for Bohol and ended up in a sweet beachside retreat called Amorita, an 82-suite and 14-villa boutique resort on Panglao Island, just over the bridge south-west of the main Bohol landmass.
Also read: Hotel review: Amorita Resort, Bohol
It is indeed “dearly beloved” — for its location on one quiet end of Alona Beach, for the way calming shades of blue spill almost unbroken from the infinity pool to the Bohol Sea, and for the little details that can turn a holiday from merely relaxing to rewarding.
At some point in the day, for example, staff handed out home-made fruity iced lollies to help us deal with the overbearing heat as we lounged on a sunbed. When the temperatures cooled, we climbed the stairs up the resort’s cliff. We pedaled around the countryside on bicycles provided by the resort. The following day, we stretched out luxuriantly in an outdoor yoga session.
Within this well-curated slice of Bohol, we quickly found our comfortable silence. We would have been perfectly content to remain here, had my desire to experience more of Bohol not taken over. My partner and I reluctantly climbed into a tuk-tuk to explore another holiday home nearby, one that began as a labor of love and now stretches over five hectares.
I had heard a lot about the Bohol Bee Farm, the former one-bed vacation home of Victoria “Vicky” Sandidge, who formerly worked in New York. Since the mid-1990s, the forested cliff area has been transformed into a beekeeping property with rooms and a restaurant, The Buzzz Café. Although the farm has only three hives left on site — the rest were wiped out when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area in 2013 — honey from other parts of the Philippines is still sold and served here, along with local and organic produce. What was once a humble holiday home employing a handful of workers is now a buzzing colony of 350 employees, most of whom live within a 5km radius.
Vicky’s dogged pursuit of making the bee farm self-sufficient, and to bring value to herself and the people around her, has never faltered. The enterprise started by “Tita” Vicky — as she is affectionately known to all her staff — now also extends to cooperatives and workers across Bohol. Woven products are made by loom operators from towns like Inabanga and Tubigon; jewelry and accessories by artisans in Dimiao; vegetables are grown in Jagna; organic rice comes from the Carmen Samahang Nayon Multi-purpose Cooperative; and coffee is harvested from other parts of the island. To think this all started with Vicky wanting to plant her own herbs for her little piece of vacation heaven.
The food was what enchanted us: organic roast chicken served with an umami-rich, naturally sweet red rice, fish tacos innovatively served in kabkab (fried cassava) shells, and home-made breads served with smooth, creamy honey butter and pesto made onsite. You wouldn’t think these dishes were any different from a top chef’s offerings if you ate them with your eyes closed.
That was when it hit us — we weren’t escaping real life on our short holiday, we were seeking inspiration for what we’d like our future reality to be. What we found in Bohol was everything we wanted: a home with a lot of heart, a place to relax and rejuvenate, a model for giving back to the community, and a haven to enjoy the sweet moments of life.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Smile magazine.