July 28, 2010

MY PHILIPPINES: Tagbilaran in a Day

20 years ago, a rumor circulated that my long lost brother has been found and as proof that he is well and living, they showed me a photo of this funny looking creature with huge bulging eyes.

Philippine Tarsier
Soon I learned from my school teachers that the photo they showed me was actually a primate, just like me. Only he is endangered and has much bigger eyes. As the taunting of my classmates lessened over the years, my endearment to the Tarsier grew deeper and deeper and even vowed that someday I will meet him face to face.

So from Cebu, I boarded the Super Cat at Pier 3 of the city’s port. For 11USD the fast ferry was to take me straight to Bohol’s capital, and after two hours of seafaring, I finally arrived at Tagbilaran, the “City of Friendship.”

For the complete schedule of Super Cat trips, check out: http://www.supercat.com.ph/sched.asp
And because Tagbilaran is the City of Friendship, there he was, Mang Dodong, our tour guide and driver for the day, with a huge smile on his face and a make shift banner of a bond paper with these scribbles “welcome Kim Ignacio,” ready to assist us with the luggage.

With our luggage safely stowed in the air-conditioned van, we proceeded with the tour right away.

First stop was the Blood Compact site. If my history is correct, Spain sent out another expedition forty years after Magellan died, its mission was to establish a spice trade under Portuguese control, the expeditions failed. After a year, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was sent and had better success, but it didn’t come easy, after failing to land in Cebu because of the natives hostilities, they headed south in the direction of Mindanao and landed in Bohol because of strong wind changes.

Legazpi was welcomed by hostile natives who thought they were Portuguese who slaughtered and enslaved some 1000 Boholanos in 1563. With the help of his pilot, he explained to the 2 chiefs of Bohol Datu Sikatuna Bool and Datu Sigla of Loboc that they were Spanish and not Portuguese, he also convinced the Datu’s to end their hostility and enter a pact of friendship with them.

Blood Compact SIte:
Located in Barangay Bool in Tagbilaran, it is said that the location of the monument is exactly
where the ritual took place.
Best known in the Philippines as “sandugo,” the blood compact ritual took place in 1565 where Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna draw a drop or two of their blood into a cup, mixed it with wine and equally drank it (a bit vampire-ish if you ask me).

Our next stop was Baclayon Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines.

The Baclayon church offers a small museum where it houses old religious artifacts and relics some dating back to the 16th century.

First constructed during the Spanish occupation in the 15th century but the church itself (the one that stands now) was constructed 1717 and completed in 1727.
The area where the church stands today was once home to Jesuit missionaries.
 After a few photos and now with a grumbling stomach, it’s time for lunch.

The Loboc River is just 24 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, it has become one of the major tourist destinations in Bohol as it gives you a certain relaxing and calming feeling as you cruise its winding river and tropical scenery aboard the floating restaurants. As the boat takes you further down the river, you will be able to get a whiff of local life as you see them in their bahay- kubo’s, their little canoes with children swimming and playing in the river banks.

floating restaurants
buffet lunch
Before the cruise ends, the vessel stops at a floating cottage where guests are treated with a Rondalla (Spanish word for serenade) by a local group where they are very much welcome to join in the singing and dancing.

TIP: There are a lot of floating restaurants at the River, so be sure to check all of them as they offer different menus, prices usually start at 8USD per person.

With my taste buds dutifully satisfied, we took a ride to the most famous attraction of Bohol, the Chocolate Hills.

Spread over the municipalities of Carmen, Sagbayang and Batuan, it is estimated to consist of 1,776 green-grassed- coned-shaped hills that turns into chocolate brown during the summers. The hills are featured in the provincial flag representing the abundance of natural attractions in the province and have been declared as the country’s 3rd National Geographical Monument.

Chocolate Hills
There are a lot of theories on how the hills were formed, some include, tidal movements and volcanic eruptions, but like I said they are just theories.

There are also several legends explaining the formation of the chocolate hills. Among the local’s favorite was the story of a gentle giant named Arogo who fell in love with Aloya, a village girl. When Aloya died, Arogo couldn’t bear the pain and he could not stop crying, when his tears dried up, they formed the chocolate hills.

My favorite among the legends was the one with the giant named Dano who ate everything he came across with, till one day he saw a village girl and fell in love with her. To win the girls affection he needed to lose weight and excreted everything he ate, and what we now admire as the chocolate hills are actually the fecal remains of a giant named Dano!

WARNING: To get a good look of the chocolate hills, you have to climb the top of the viewing deck which is approximately 200 steps, so you might wanna improve those cardio before taking the trip.

Chocolate Hills viewing deck
To end our Tagbilaran tour was the much anticipated close encounter with the Tarsier, my long lost twin. The Philippine Tarsier is one of the known smallest primates, and by small, I mean smaller than the palm of my hands. It is a nocturnal creature, who’s usually asleep during daytime, so I guess we were lucky to find one hungry enough to open his huge eyes and munch on a worm on a stick.

The Tarsier has large mesmerizing eyes, kinda like mine and I’d be lying if I told you the idea of secretly putting him in my pocket never crossed my mind. But I had to resist the urge since tarsiers are protected and is illegal to capture and sell them.

ANOTHER TIP: I strongly recommend you hire a van with a tour guide (the drivers are usually also the tour guide) to take you through Tagbiliran, they know the roads and history quite well. You’d rather spend time admiring certain attractions than getting lost, trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Bohol has certainly lived up to its expectations, and I haven’t even been to Panglao yet!

written by KIM


  1. bakit naman hindi ka nakapunta sa panglao? pagbalik mo dun, punta ka bohol beach club, dumaluan, or bolod. :)

  2. Hi fetus! (?!) Haha, interesting name. From Tagbilaran we went straight to Panglao actually and stayed there for 2 nights. Went swimming at the Virgin island and snorkling at Balicasag island but haven't gotten around to writing about it yet, ugh! We love the place so much though we hope to come back:-D


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