The famed Chocolate Hills of Bohol are not only two but more than 1,268 cone-shaped hills – a very strange geological formation that has baffled a lot of geologists. The hills are spread over an area of 50 square kilometers or more and vary in size from 30 meters to 120 meters in height.
The Chocolate Hills appear to be seemingly endless when viewed atop the hill in Carmen town. The viewing deck there gives you a 360° view of the hills “as far as the eyes can see”. It is more majestic when viewed from a plane – them appearing to be thousands of mole hills dotting out from verdant surroundings.
What’s unique with these limestone chocolate hills is that they are only covered in grass and the cone shape is more or less common to all although differing in size. The hills look chocolaty only during dry season when the grass withers and turns into brown and looks like giant chocolate kisses.
Grass species found to thrive on the hills are Imperata cylindrical and Saccharum spontaneum and several Compositae and ferns. Trees grow on the base of the hills and are lush and verdant rings around the almost bare cone-shaped hills resulting in its awesome natural beauty.
Likewise, the flatlands surrounding the hills are given to rice and corn farming and results in a beautiful green backdrop for the Chocolate Hills. Elevation ranges from 100 meters to 500 meters above sea level. Higher hills can be found but almost uniform cone-shaped hills are found in Carmen town.
The most acceptable geological theory of the Chocolate Hills of Bohol is that the hills were the result of thousands of years of weathering of marine limestone. Others say that the hills were formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits or that they erupted from the sea in a massive geologic shift, and the action of rain water and erosion for the past thousand years put in the finishing touches.
Considered sometimes as the “Eight Wonder of the World”, the Chocolate Hills has been declared as the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument by the National Committee on Geological Sciences on June 18, 1988 in recognition of its special characteristics, scientific importance, uniqueness, and high scenic value; and as such is among the country’s protected areas.
Proclamation No. 1037 was signed to this effect on July 1, 1997 declaring the hills as a natural monument and that they are now covered under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the lead implementing agency for its protection.
Furthermore, the Philippine House of Representatives introduced House Bill No. 01147 on July 6, 2004 wherein it was reiterated that the hills are a national patrimony and geological monuments, penalizing their plunder, destruction or defacement, and for other purposes.
Finally, on May 16, 2006, the DENR submitted the Chocolate Hills of Bohol to the UNESCO World Heritage for inclusion in the list of Natural Monuments because of its outstanding universal value, superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty. The area is now in the Philippine Tourism Authority’s list of tourist destinations in the Philippines.
A tourist destination way before the white sand beaches of Panglao came to be known, it is now featured in the provincial flag and seal of Bohol to symbolize the abundance of natural attractions in the province.
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol are spread over an area covering the towns of Sagbayan, Batuan, Carmen, Bilar, Sierra Bullones and Valencia. Most of the hills though are found in Sagbayan, Batuan and Carmen, the later having the most uniform cone-shaped hills.
Two resorts have been developed: one in Carmen town called the Chocolate Hills Complex, and one in Sagbayan and known as Sagbayan Peak. The oldest resort of the two is the Carmen complex and is located in Barangay Buenos Aires about 5 kilometers from the town. Carmen town is 55 kilometers from Tagbilaran City.
The Chocolate Hills Complex is a government-owned and operated resort. The Carmen-LGU and the provincial government presently own the complex with the former managing the operation anchored on a 70/30 sharing of its net income. The complex has a restaurant, souvenir shops, hotel with swimming pool, and a viewing deck.
The newly developed “Sagbayan Peak” is a5-hectare mountaintop resort and recreation center which also has a viewing deck that offers a 360° view of the hills and the blue sea beyond. It is 18 kilometers from the Complex in Carmen town.
How to Get There
Buses bound for Carmen town or Sagbayan are available at the Dao Terminal in Tagbilaran City. Just ask the bus drivers to drop you off at the junctions leading to the resorts. In Carmen town, the road leading to the resort from the junction is only a 10-minute walk along a winding uphill road.
Vans are the most common means of transportation though, especially when traveling with a group. Aside from convenience and comfort, visitors can visit more places in a short span of time. Waiting for buses or public rides is time consuming.