Why ‘Chocolate Hills’ is trending and what’s a resort got to do with it

March 13, 2024 - 4:49 PM
Captain's Peak Garden and Resort
A view of the Captain's Peak Garden and Resort in Bohol in this photo posted on its Facebook page on Nov. 12, 2023 (captainspeakgarden2018/Facebook)

A resort in the middle of picturesque hills in Bohol drew flak from Filipinos who questioned how such accommodation was permitted in the country’s first UNESCO Global Geopark.

Travel vlogger “Ren The Adventurer” on March 6 shared a video on his Facebook page featuring The Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in Sagbayan, Bohol.

The resort is surrounded by some hills and sits in a space below it.

“Resort sa gitna [ng] Chocolate Hills,” the vlogger claimed with emojis of a scared face and a red heart.

His post has amassed 2.6 million views, 69,000 likes and reactions and 11,000 comments so far.

It did not amuse Filipinos who found the facility an “eyesore” to the natural beauty of the rolling symmetrical mounds.

“Nakaka-pang galit naman ito. It’s an ugly, no-taste resort pa! Sinira ang natural beauty!” a user on the X (formerly Twitter) platform wrote.

“Bakit pinayagan ‘yan? Other than an eyesore, sustainable ba ang swimming pool? Daming ginagamit na tubig ‘yan,” another user commented.

“Ang PANGIT ng resort! PANIRA ng view! Pasara [niyo] na dapat ‘yan ASAP [nang] ‘di pamarisan!!” exclaimed a different Pinoy.

Another user questioned how the facility was granted permission in an area that was supposed to be “protected” by the government.

“Paano nangyari ‘yan? Sino may-ari nito? Paano sila pinayagan?Paano sila nakakuha ng permit? Pwede ba ‘yan? Hindi ba protected ‘yan ng gobyerno?” the user asked.

Another user shared a brief timeline featuring how the property developed through a thread.

A different Filipino claimed to have visited the province last January and asked a tour guide whether it was allowed to build a house in the Chocolate Hills.

“Ang sabi, pwede daw as long as sa paanan ng hills… I’m not defending. I’m just relaying what I know,” the user alleged.

More about the resort 

Past reports reveal that the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort was already a titled lot when it was acquired in 2005.

The family first thought to use it for farming, but the soil around the area was reportedly “acidic” and could not grow plants and crops.

Edgar Button, a seaman, then thought of converting it to a tourist spot.

Sagbayan Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Maximo Lomosbog previously said that while the Chocolate Hills is a protected area, it is still privately owned. He admitted that there is “no delineation” about it.

Julieta Sablas, the resort owner’s sister, also said last year that they had presented a proposal to the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) before its construction.

She admitted that some parts of the hill were extracted, but the amount was supposedly minimal and within the allowed level.

Republic Act 7586 prohibits the “mutilating, defacing or destroying objects of natural beauty; squatting, mineral locating, or occupying any land; constructing or maintaining any kind of structure, fence or enclosures” of protected areas.

Chocolate Hills was declared a protected area in 1997 and designated a National Geological Monument and Protected Landscape.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday said that it had issued the resort a temporary closure order on Sept. 6, 2023.

It also said it issued a notice of violation to the establishment last Jan. 22, 2024 for operating without an environmental compliance certificate or an ECC.

As of March 13, the Bohol Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office said it would also conduct an inspection to see the resort’s compliance with the temporary closure order.

On the same day, Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado also said that DENR Region 7 “will issue [a] cease and desist order of the resort.”

It was his response to a Facebook post by controversial online personality Xian Gaza who tagged him about the issue.

The significance of the hills 

The Chocolate Hills consist of some 1,776 mounds spread over the towns of Carmen, Batuan, Sagbayan and other towns in Bohol, according to the DENR.

A special report from The Freeman noted that the controversial resort is located “mostly at the base of some of the identified hills that form part of the famous Chocolate Hills.”

It is located in Barangay Canmano in the municipality of Sagbayan via Barangay Libertad Norte.

Chocolate Hills is on Bohol Island, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared as the country’s first Global Geopark.

The designation makes the hills part of the sites and landscapes with international geological significance.

The UN agency said Bohol Island’s geological identity has been pieced together over 150 million years, as periods of tectonic turbulence have raised the island from the ocean depths.

The geopark abounds in karstic geosites such as caves, sinkholes and cone karst, including the famous cone-shaped Chocolate Hills at its center.

UNESCO described the Philippine area as having “scenic and varied landforms and structural features.”

“The Geopark features one of the six double barrier reefs in the world and the only barrier reef in Southeast Asia,” it said before.

The UNESCO Global Geopark designation recognizes “geological heritage of international significance.”