Welcome to Tagbilaran, the capital city of Bohol province in the Philippines. With a population of 104,976 people, Tagbilaran is a 3rd class component city that serves as the principal gateway to Bohol. Located 630 km (390 mi) southeast of the national capital of Manila and 72 km (45 mi) south of the regional capital, Cebu City, Tagbilaran is a charming city that boasts a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and mouthwatering local cuisine.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Tagbilaran is its name. According to oral tradition, the name is a Hispanicized form of Tagubilaan, a compound of tagu, meaning to hide and Bilaan, referring to the Blaan people, who were said to have raided the Visayan Islands. Another explanation is that it is derived from tinabilan meaning shielded, as the town was protected by Panglao from potential invaders.
A hundred years before Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, the settlement which eventually became Tagbilaran was already involved in trading with China and Malaya. Tagbilaran Strait was the location of the Precolonial kingdom of the Kedatuan of Dapitan. This early settlement had contact with the Spaniards in 1565, when the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and the native chieftain Datu Sikatuna pledged peace and cooperation through the famous blood compact.
The city has a deep history and heritage that can be seen in the old stone churches and heritage houses that can be found throughout the city. One of the oldest and largest number of heritage houses in Bohol is found in Sitio Ubos (Lower Town), which was a busy trading center since the seventeenth century until the early twentieth century. Some of the surviving heritage houses to this day include the Rocha–Suarez House, Rocha House, Hontanosas House, Beldia House, and Yap House. The city is also home to other notable attractions such as the Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, white sandy beaches, and dive spots. Tagbilaran is a perfect place for both history and nature lovers.
The city is also known for its festivals such as the Saulog-Tagbilaran Festival, which is a celebration every April 20 to May 2. This festival includes street-dancing, fluvial procession, nightly activities, novena masses, and beauty pageants. Another notable festival is the Sandugo Festival, which is celebrated every July to coincide with the month-long activities celebrating the city’s Charter Day on July 1 and the Provinces (Bohol) Day on July 22. The Sandugo Festival commemorates the blood compact between Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna in March 1565, which is an event of immense historical significance for the Philippines.
Transportation in Tagbilaran is convenient, with land, sea, and air links to major cities in the Visayas Islands and Mindanao. The Tagbilaran Airport serves as the principal gateway airport to the rest of the province and is located at the Panglao Island southwest of the city. The city is also linked by sea to the major port cities in the Visayas Islands and Mindanao, making it an essential transport hub for the region.
Overall, Tagbilaran is a delightful destination for tourists looking to explore the rich history and natural beauty of the Philippines. With its charming heritage houses, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant festivals, Tagbilaran should be on the bucket list of every traveler visiting the Philippines.