Heritage Tour in Bohol
The province of Bohol is known for being home to the internationally renowned Chocolate Hills. Because of this fame, however, I think that both foreign and local tourists have a limited and surface-level appreciation of Bohol. This is why I feel fortunate that I was one of the bloggers invited by Bluewater Panglao Resort (resort info) for a three-day, two-night vacation in Bohol.
Upon arrival at the airport, we immediately boarded our respective vans and proceeded to our heritage tour right away.
Our first stop was at Balili Ancestral House in Tagbilaran. From afar, nobody would have guessed it was first constructed in 1934.
The elegant staircases that spill into the well-kept gardens, accompanied by the white façade of the house, hide all of the years that the house stood through at a distance.
Inside, however, it held many objects that prove the age of the house. Photos that dated back to the 1940s, furniture which were used by historical figures Manuel Roxas and Elpidio Quirino, and antique wall clocks are some of the relics that stood the test of time. The interior of the house let us travel back in time.
A few minutes away from Balili Ancestral House is Casa Rocha-Suarez, which is one of the oldest houses in the area. Built between 1800 and 1830, the simple, two-storey wooden villa has been around since the Spanish era and has been the residence of at least five generations of the Rocha-Suarez family.
After the ancestral houses, we started visiting churches.
First is at the St. Joseph Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker. The original structure, then a parish, was founded in the 16th to 18th century. Although the church has been there since its original construction, it has undergone several renovations for calamities and for expansion.
Another church that had undergone much reconstruction is Baclayon Church or the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Parish Church. It is the oldest Christian church in Bohol.
In 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol, and this particular church suffered a particular amount of damage. This is why it had been closed since 2013 for restoration. When we got there, we saw that the restored façade is almost finished.
A short drive away from Baclayon Church is Santa Monica Parish Church of Alburquerque, which is more commonly known as Alburquerque Church. It was partially damaged during the 2013 Bohol earthquake as well, but fortunately, it had been restored quickly. The church had an exterior that I thought was very unique, with a single bell tower right in the middle.
Alburquerque Church has been declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2013, and a year after, has been declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute.
Afterwards, we visited Loay Church. Like most Spanish era churches, this one had the shape of a cross. The bell tower was constructed as a separate building. It is one of the newer churches in our itinerary for that day, as it was constructed sometime in the 20th century, just before the Spanish colonizers left the country for good.
We had our lunch in a cruise boat in the nearby Loboc River. The tour started at the mouth of the river, which is actually one of the cleanest body of water in the Philippines. We had our lunch at one of the floating restaurants and it was a wonderful experience. We had the whole boat to ourselves too. The Filipino food tasted so close to home, and seeing the sparkly water while feeling the breeze added to the experience.
After our cruise, we proceeded to Dimiao Church. The church is still under renovation and the main door is still closed. We used the backdoor to checkout the interior of the church. It looked small at first, but entering the halls made me shrink. It is believed to be constructed during the latter parts of the 19th century, although there have been records of activities there in 1750.
We also visited the Ermita Ruins of Dimiao, which is located right beside Dimiao Church. The Ermita Ruins are often referred to as the “honeycomb tombstones”. The very few archaeological excavations conducted on the site reveal very few information on it, and thus the rows and rows of what appears to be honeycombs are deduced to be tombstones, since they are located near ruins that appear to be mortuary chapels.
We headed to Balilihan afterwards, where we visited Carmel Hill. There is a centennial watchtower looming over the top of the hill. The short walk up and down the stars pumped up for our last destination of the day, which is Balilihan Church.
The bell tower is what greeted us when we dropped by Balilihan Church. It had a very green environment and nobody would think the huge building is a church if it weren’t for the cross. It looked like a rather modern villa compared to the other churches we saw that day.
After crossing out the last church on our list, we finally headed to the heavenly Bluewater Panglao Resort (resort reviews), our official accommodation for the long heritage tour. It felt nice checking in smoothly after a long day.
The staff were all very great people, and my room is so awesome that I wrote an entire article just for it. For now, suffice it to say that I couldn’t ask for more in here—the rooms went well with the hospitable, seaside atmosphere of Bohol. You may contact them at +6338 416 0702 (telephone) and +6998 588 3439 (mobile). Their e-mail is [email protected].
For dinner, we had a memorable boodle fight by the beach. It was the perfect way to end the day. The mood was so festive, and I felt, at that very moment, that I gained a deeper appreciation of Bohol’s history, culture, and tourism beyond Chocolate Hills. I was geared up for the following days.