Bohol Bee Farm: A Hidden Jewel
Organic food and honey-based cooking are just a few of the attractions that lure visitors to Vicky’s Bohol Bee Farm in Barangay Dauis, Panglao Island in Bohol. The farm’s values statement sums it all: “Everything we do at Bohol Bee Farm is geared towards encouraging and inspiring our farmers to practice organic farming. They don’t need to spend for costly conventional fertilizers, nor use harmful pesticides in their farms. Basic composting and companion planting are alternatives we offer.”
Aside from observing organic farming and bee culture, the farm’s showcases, visitors can also watch Bohol Bee farmer-artisans engage in raffia-based crafts and furniture making. Vicky explains her basic philosophy, which she believes is suitable for an agricultural economy like Bohol’s: “We also introduce and teach them different livelihood activities they can pursue in tandem with farming, and assist them in marketing their products to make such activities sustainable.”
Indeed, she practices what she preaches.
Vicky uses some of the decors and furniture they make to decorate the rooms where visitors can spend quiet nights. They can choose to stay in The Colony, a fully furnished two-bedroom villa on top of the cliff overlooking Mindanao Sea, or in any of the bamboo- or wood-inspired rooms in the Honeycomb and Beehive clusters. Her open-air function room is a mix-and-match of different furniture crafted by the farm’s artisans. A number of woven hammocks are tied under the trees and to some posts, silently enticing the diners to linger a little longer to savor the gentle sea breeze. Bumblebee lanterns are scattered over.
And many of those who are charmed by the rustic furniture and decors and developed the taste for Vicky’s honey-based food products can readily pick up these items from Vicky’s restaurant-cum-souvenir shop where they can also watch some women weave and sew.
For the more active, Vicky offers horseback riding and paddling. A flight of stairs behind the villa leads to the shallow water with rich colorful marine life right beneath the cliff.
Two decades ago, a Bohol-based enterprise was a remote possibility for Vicky although this nurse based in Hawaii already demonstrated her tendencies to veer away from well-trodden paths.
In the early 1980s, at 20, she married a 58-year old African-American Thomas Edward Wallace. Much of her energy was then devoted to raising her two children Melanie and Abdul Kareem. Thomas died in 1988.
Three years later, she decided to pack up and bring her children home to Bohol. By then, she had enough savings to buy a 4.8 hectare lot in Barangay Dauis in Panglao Island, where the white beaches comparable to that of Boracay’s had yet to be discovered by both local and foreign tourists. “You can’t imagine how cheap land in Panglao was back then,” Vicky recalls.
She buckled down to work. And while her property does not have a white-sand beachfront that Panglao is known for, she single-handedly transformed the farm bounded by a cliff overlooking Mindanao Sea into a quaint tourist destination.
Soon, Vicky was able to re-establish roots in the country. As her garden and bee culture activities grew, Vicky added a resthouse where close friends would periodically stay. The resthouse morphed into a compact 8-room lodging complex that offers spectacular and limitless view of the sea. She moved her bee culture operations to another property in Barangay Inabanga, 70 kilometers north of Bohol although Vicky still keeps a bee colony in her Dauis farm-resort for interested guests to see.
Those who are staying in Bohol Bee Farm should not fail to sample Vicky’s mango pancake and camote bread with honey spread. Those who prefer heavy meals in the morning can try her putomaya.
And instead the readily-available brewed coffee, one can opt for the Boholano’s standard breakfast fares – kape mais, a caffeine-free brew from roasted ground corn or Vicky's honey-laced version of the Visayan tsokolate, brewed from the dark brown tableya or tablets of ground roasted cocoa beans which, in Bohol Bee Farm’s case, are organically grown.
The more adventurous can try kinutil – honeyed tuba or coconut wine spiked with honeyed tableya. Some of those who wrote about their memorable experience at Bohol Bee Farm and The Buzz Cafe in Tagbilaran often suggest to try the kinutil as a cocktail drink.
But I, who grew up in one of the islands in this part of the country, still remembers the warm kinutil my grandfather would prepare for breakfast. His variation included milk and, when he was feeling more generous, a raw egg, newly-laid by our free-roaming pet chicken. Too bad, I did not get to try Vicky’s version and compare it with the kinutil of my childhood.
For lunch, our group of 10 had seafood soup (clams, shrimps and organic vegetables), organic garden salad, grilled marlin, honey-glazed chicken and seafood pasta. We also tried the squash muffins and cabcab with pesto and tomatoes. Uniquely Boholano, cabcab is taco-like crackers from dried cassava paste which Vicky spikes up with her organic version of the West’s pesto. And we washed down each of the memorable dishes with refreshing lemon grass (tanglad) iced tea.
A hands-on manager, Vicky, her hair covered with her trademark bandanna, was there to greet us, offer advice which items in the menu to try, and generously share the story of her own life.
She had remarried, she adds. Her husband, retired JAL pilot Neil Sandidge handles purchasing. Vicky simply keeps on moving on.
Bohol, the 10th largest island, is in the middle of the Philippine archipelago. It is accessible either by plane or by boat – an hour flight from Manila and an hour-and-a-have trip by fast boat from Cebu. Its capital city, Tagbilaran City is a four-hour trip by regular boat from Cebu.
Bohol offers some unique sights, among them the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. Watch the tiny and very shy tarsiers while waiting for your boat ride down Loboc River. Or inspect the bridge across Loboc River that remained unfinished because doing so would have required destroying the historic Loboc Church.
Those keen about Bohol’s history, culture and religion should visit the many churches in the island, starting with Baclayon Church, one of the country’s oldest. The environmentalists would appreciate the reforestation area between Loboc and Carmen.
Aside from the white beaches of Panglao, devote a day in Balicasag Island, reputed to be one of the country’s best diving spots. Indeed, Bohol offers a lot more, but then, that would be another story.