Nestled by the sea, Tagbilaran is the capital city of Bohol, and the center for business, governance, transportation, and education. Over the years, Tagbilaran has experienced rapid growth—it has been awarded for its progress and competitiveness. The airport and the main port of the province are both located in the city, making it the gateway for those who want to see Bohol's main attractions like the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers.
Tagbilaran was the site of one of the most important events in Philippine History. The blood compact or sandugo took place in March 16, 1565 between Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna. It is considered the first official friendship treaty between Filipinos and the Spaniards. This was memorialized in the Blood Compact Shrine, which features life-sized bronze statues that depict the said event. It was sculpted by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva, who also hails from Tagbilaran.
But the commemoration of the blood compact doesn't end there as Tagbilaran also celebrates the Sandugo Festival every month of July. The locals don colorful costumes and participate in street dances and parades. Beauty pageants and dance competitions are some of the usual events held during the festival. This grand celebration lasts for the whole month and has constantly attracted both local and international tourists.
The Bohol National Museum is another interesting place to visit in Tagbilaran. This small museum has some of the interesting archeological discoveries, ancient artworks, and artifacts that show the colorful history of Tagbilaran and of the entire Bohol Province as well.
From Metro Manila, it's around an hour's flight to Tagbilaran. Commercial airlines like Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines serve frequent flights from Manila Domestic Airport to Bohol's Tagbilaran Airport.
It's also possible to travel to Bohol by sea. While 2GO Travel does not offer direct ferry trips to Tagbilaran Sea Port from Manila, you can opt to ride a ferry to Cebu. Once you arrive in Cebu International Port after your 22-hour cruise, ride a Supercat ferry to Tagbilaran Sea Port. The trip only takes two hours.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys are the preferred mode of transportation for short distances. Aside from being the most popular public transport throughout the Philippines, the jeepney also offers the cheapest fare, making it an ideal means of getting around for travelers on a budget.
Aside from jeepneys, multicabs also ply the roads of Tagbilaran. Multicabs are a bit smaller and shorter so it can accommodate fewer people.
For longer distances, you can take Bohol's mini buses. These vehicles take you from one city or municipality to the next.
Taxis are also available in Tagbilaran, particularly at the airport. It is the most expensive among all other public modes of transportation.
Taking the tricycle is another cheap means of getting around. It can accommodate up to three passengers. Tricycles can also be hired for a tour of the countryside.
For those who are traveling with a big group, renting a van comes highly recommended.
If you want to explore Tagbilaran at your own pace, you can rent your own habal-habal or motorcycle.
What to See
Whether you have a penchant for historical attractions or food hubs, you are sure to be captivated by Tagbilaran's satisfying mix of the old and the new.
The Blood Compact Shrine is one of Tagbilaran's most prominent landmarks and is one of the stops for the Bohol Countryside Tour. The bronze monument, which is a masterpiece of National Artist Napoleon Abueva, depicts the historical blood compact or sanduguan between Bohol's chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi which took place on March 15, 1565.
St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral, also known as Tagbilaran Cathedral, is a sight to behold. It was constructed during the Spanish colonial period. Tourists often visit this place to offer a quick prayer and light a candle.
History buffs will appreciate a visit to National Museum's branch in Tagbilaran. This establishment houses important artifacts—some even going as far back as the Prehistoric Era—that give you a glimpse of Bohol's past. There are also some historical memorabilia and works of art that date back to the Spanish period.
To complement your historical experience, go on a sightseeing tour of Tagbilaran's Hispanic houses. Caseñas House and Casa Rocha-Suarez are just two of the picturesque antique houses that you can include in your heritage walk.
Events and Festivals
July is one of Tagbilaran's busiest months because of the celebration of the Sandugo Festival in the whole province of Bohol. This feast is held every year to commemorate the historic blood compact between Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez De Legazpi. Much like other Philippine feasts, the Sandugo Festival kicks off with a holy mass. After that, the locals don colorful costumes as they compete in street dancing competitions. Grandiose floats are the highlight of the parade as well as band performances, trade expos, and beauty pageants.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
For fans of fast food, there are branches of your favorite dining establishments in Tagbilaran. Jollibee and McDonald’s has several branches around. For chicken lovers, there’s KFC and, of course, Mang Inasal. For some delicious pizza and pasta dishes, you can go to Greenwich or Pizza Hut, while affordable Chinese dishes are available in Chowking.
The dining scene in Tagbilaran is known for its variety. Whatever cuisine or dish you crave for, there's bound to be a restaurant in this city that offers it.
Gerarda's is a popular Filipino restaurant. This quaint restaurant specializes in delectable local dishes with a modern twist. Payag Restaurant has the same homey feel, and serves Filipino comfort food. For those who have huge appetites, the seafood buffet at Prawn Farm Restaurant will surely satisfy you throughout the day.
If you're craving for some Asian dishes, Shang Palace offers savory Chinese food. Meanwhile, Hola serves Mexican dishes with a local twist. And if you crave for gourmet international dishes, Aioli Cafe and Restaurant is worth checking out.
Acacia de Bubu is a budget traveler's best friend when it comes to dining. This barbecue place has a wide array of meat for grilling. You can enjoy pork barbecue, longganisa skewers, and even isaw.
Bars and Clubs
Martin's Music Restobar is a popular nightlife spot in Tagbilaran. People go there to have a few drinks and to listen to live music.
Where to Shop
Bohol Quality Mall and Island City Mall both offer a wide variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
Souvenir Shops and Pasalubong Areas
There are many souvenir shops in Tagbilaran, selling everything from keychains, fridge magnets, T-shirts, and even tarsier merchandise like stuffed toys. Islands Souvenirs, a popular souvenir shop which has branches in some of the country's famous destinations, also has a branch in Tagbilaran.
What to Buy
Peanut Kisses is a staple pasalubong from Bohol. These peanut cookies are available in most pasalubong stores and stalls.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are banks and ATMs in Tagbilaran should you need to withdraw cash for your expenses. You'll also find money changers and remittance shops around. Some shops and restaurants also accept credit card payments.
Fare: PHP 2,000.00 (By ferry); PHP 2,500.00 to PHP 6,000.00 (By plane)
The ferry ride from Manila to Cebu costs about PHP 1,500.00, while Cebu to Tagbilaran costs PHP 500.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
At a minimum of PHP 50.00, you can already enjoy a full meal at a carinderia. But if you prefer eating in a restaurant, meals usually cost around PHP 150.00 to PHP 300.00.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 ++
For pasalubong, a 200-gram pack of Peanut Kisses costs a little over PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, a souvenir shirt can cost anywhere from PHP 100.00 to PHP 300.00 depending on the design.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 1,500.00
Tagbilaran offers a wide selection of accommodations to suit any budget. For backpackers, there are inns and hostels that feature an overnight stay at an air conditioned room for only less than PHP 500.00. Meanwhile, an overnight stay for two in a mid-range to high-class hotel ranges from PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 1,500.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 100.00
A PHP 100.00 terminal fee is charged upon exit from Tagbilaran Airport.