The next time you plan to travel to the Pearl of the Orient Seas (nickname for the Philippines), there’s one place that you should include on your list of attractions to visit. The Chocolate hills are a mesmerizing geological formation whose formation still baffles both locals and visitors.
There are believed to be around 1260 hills that cover an area of more than 50 sq. km in the Bohol island province of the Philippines. The hills are covered in green grass that turns into chocolate brown color (hence their name) during the dry season. Soon, the hills will be included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list to preserve their geological and traditional values. They are already classified as a National Geological Monument by the government.
The hills are astonishingly dome-shaped, so they aren’t your usual cone-pointed hills in your neighborhood. The rounded hills are made of marine limestones and they vary in sizes with the largest being 120 meters in height but the average height for other hills is between 30 – 50 meters. They are the province’s major tourist attraction and are scattered throughout several towns like Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan.
How the hills came to exist or were formed is still a mystery that has made them a center of contention between geologists and the locals who firmly believe in their folklore legendary. Geologists contend that the hills are leftover deposits of dissolved marine limestone that were formed up when rainfall and water streams were uplifted above the sea level by tectonic forces. The formation and nature of these hills are described in geology terms as conical karst topography.
But the locals are still adamant. There are three legends to which they attribute for the hills’ formation. One legend contends that once there were two feuding giants who fought by hurling rocks and sand at each other. After some days, they ended their fighting out of exhaustion and then became friends but upon leaving, the giants forgot to clean up the mess they’d done.
The second is a kind of romantic folklore that tells of Arogo, a powerful and youthful giant who fell in love with Aloya, a beautiful mortal lady. The death of Aloya brought so much sadness to Arogo that he wept for several days. His resulting tears dried up and hence forming up the Chocolate hills.
The third one tells of a destructive giant called Carabao who used to invade people’s gardens and stores for food. After being fed up with the giant’s erratic actions, the village folks took all of their spoiled food and offered it to Carabao. He ate as much as he could but the spoiled food didn’t do well with him that he defecated and his dried feces formed the Chocolate hills.
The main vegetation on the Chocolate hills is the green toxic weed called Cogon grass that makes it impossible for trees and other plants to grow on the hills’ round slopes. During the wet season, the weed’s color is green but this changes to brown during the dry season. You won’t be permitted to climb the hills but there is a deck that is strategically raised for visitors to view as far as their eyes can enable them to.