I WAS in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu when Super Typhoon "Odette" cut through Central Visayas last Dec. 16, 2021, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. This, along with the economic ruin brought about by Covid-19, left many provinces in the Visayas reeling.

These days, however, I'm happy to report that the Visayas has picked itself up from the devastation and has soldiered on, especially in the field of tourism. Bohol and Negros Oriental, with the help of the Department of Tourism Region 7, have been promoting their tourist hot spots.

Primary among them are their pristine diving destinations.

The diving industry in Bohol is thriving again. Now that health protocols are being relaxed, tourism has revived. Both local and foreign travelers are coming again, which bodes well for this beautiful island and its hardworking people.

A diver focuses his flashlight on a bed of corals. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANDREI SAVIN VIA DOT
A diver focuses his flashlight on a bed of corals. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANDREI SAVIN VIA DOT

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A turtle emerges from a hole as a diver approaches. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANDREI SAVIN VIA DOT
A turtle emerges from a hole as a diver approaches. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANDREI SAVIN VIA DOT

A macro shot of a pair of yellow fish. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANALYNNE CHRISTINE SISON VIA DOT
A macro shot of a pair of yellow fish. This is one of several photos that won in the photography competition sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in Negros Oriental province in August 2022. PHOTO BY ANALYNNE CHRISTINE SISON VIA DOT

As first-time divers, some of the guests were a bit worried about what would happen under the sea in Panglao. But during the briefing, the professional divers encouraged them to trust their diving guides and conquer their fear. They did that, and let themselves go. It was lovely to see the marine life underneath, in all the colors of the rainbow.

If you are adventurous and amazed by marine life, you must visit Bohol and start learning to scuba dive. You can swim with the fish or the turtles, and let the sea anemones and the coral reefs enchant you.

Another highlight of the tour was the All-Terrain Vehicle, or ATV ride escapade. It is an extreme adventure as you drive to potholed and, in some cases, muddy roads. It will be a thrill for adventure-seeking tourists to drive an ATV at the foot of the world-famous Chocolate Hills!

Another must-see in the south is Negros Oriental, a beautiful province with a rich cultural heritage and gifted with biodiversity.

The DoT Region 7 also organized a four-day Dive 7 Festival at the tail-end of July. I was invited to this event, but since I was out of the country, I just assigned an informant to take my place.

The events included coastal and underwater cleanup, full-face mask scuba diving, a "mermaiding" activity and an underwater photo contest. The winners of the contest were proclaimed on July 31.

The entries in the photography contest showcased the awesome variety of marine species beneath the seas of Negros Oriental. Beyond the underwater reefs and ridges in Zamboanguita and Daulin are riches not usually seen by the tourists.

Local and foreign scuba divers trooped to Zamboanguita to kick off the event, and then visited Dauin for its final leg. Lugging their underwater cameras, the divers wanted to capture what Ms. Glorieve Do, the Dive 7 program head, called "the marine kaleidoscope that has flourished underwater during the two-year Covid-19 hiatus."

On August 1, mainstream media, vloggers, social media influencers, content creators, tour and travel operators from the Visayas and Manila also donned their dive suits to explore the underwater paradise of Apo Island in Negros Oriental.

They snorkeled around in the blue waters, touched the undulating seaweeds and even swam with the turtles. In 2021, a UK-based dive magazine, Atmosphere, named Dauin and Atlantis Dumaguete among the "top five dive centers in the Philippines."

Aside from diving in its emerald waters, Negros Oriental also offers other attractions.

Known for its magical sight and refreshing waters, the Pulangbato Falls is located at Barangay Malabo, just a few minutes from the town proper of Valencia. It is a calm and beautiful place shrouded by mature trees.

You can also visit the 60 monkeys in Obat, Santa Catalina, which are not confined in cages. They live freely in their natural habitat. The monkeys are tame and comfortable interacting with people, and are happy to be fed with bananas and coconut.

Another breathtaking experience is the Santa Bucks Eco-Adventure Park in Santa Catalina town, a few minutes away from the monkey sanctuary. Here, you can try the spider web walk, huge swing and the pàlwa ride, which is becoming popular with tourists.

If you are an art lover, then you should not fail to visit the Mugna Art Gallery. "Mugna" is a Visayan word for "create." The gallery, owned by Mike and Jana Alano, is located at the boundary of Valencia and Dumaguete City. It showcases the best art works now being done in the province.

The bounties of nature and the beauty of art are found in Bohol and Negros Oriental. Book a cheap flight down south and experience once again why "it's more fun in the Philippines."


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: DantonRemoto