By Cooper Resabal
TAGBILARAN CITY – Visitors experienced a journey with Tagbilaranons as they took a guided tour of heritage houses and structures in the city, and witnessed tableaus and dramatizations of unique events that stirred residents to action in crucial moments of history.
Led by by Tagbilaran Mayor John Geesnell Yap II and Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, they were also treated to an afternoon of heritage music, song and dance, and a lifestyle exhibit at the Eladio Balili Mansion in a blast from the past called “Balik sa Kagahapon” that was test run July 22 as a possible heritage-based creative hub in the provincial capital.
The tour started at the Plaza Rizal, formerly called the Plaza del Principe, with cultural historian Marianito Luspo giving an account of the origin of the name of Tagbilaran as derived from Tagu-Bilaan, or a place of refuge, a kind of sanctuary, from Moro raiders who came during the habagat season during the Spanish era.
He noted that the old mahogany trees in front of the capitol building have been planted in the 1930sby then President Manuel L. Quezon, and then Bohol Governor Carlos P. Garcia, who eventually became President of the Philippines.
Kasing Sining gave a short portrayal of the “Reduccion” scene from the musical “Dagon sa Dagohoy” that showed the oppressive condition of Boholanos during the Spanish era that led to the Dagohoy Revolt lasting more than 80 years.
The guests were then taken to sitio Ubos where they were shown a variety unique architectural designs during the Hispanic era, and tasted torta from a former bakery house under the watchful eyes of guardia civiles.
Next stop was the Reyes house which the Boholano Resistance used as a meeting place during the American occupation of Bohol. A tableau of Boholanas clad in 1900s attire stood in front of the house pleading that American invaders stop burning their houses and towns.
After passing through the house of President Carlos P. Garcia, the People’s Mansion and Bohol High School, the guests proceeded to the Balili Mansion, which was made into an office by Japanese Military Officers during World War II.
Gloria Balili, along with 2 other sisters, children of the owner of the house, welcomed the visitors and gave them a tour of the well-preserved mansion. The architect youngest daughter of the Balili family thanked the organizers of the Bol-anong Kabilin, Atong Bahandi (BOKAG) program, artistic director Lutgardo Labad in particular, for bringing back to life the splendid memories of the mansion that her family would like to share with the world.
Emceed by Jeycelle E. Inting, the visitors then witnessed Bohol talents, starting with the Tagbilaran City Government Choir which sang Visayan songs under the baton of Butch de Juan, riotous young champion balitaw singers, Ms. Antoni Aleli who sang “Usahay,” and a young Kundiman champion singer who sang “Saan Ka Man Naroroon.” A group of dancers capped the program with a Charleston dance.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), PROCESS BOHOL, Kasing Sining Teatro Bol-anon, the Provincial government of Bohol in cooperation with the City Government of Tagbilaran Tourism Office and Culture and Arts Office have been the prime movers of the first heritage-based creative hub in Tagbilaran City.
BALIK SA KAGAHAPON Guided Tour by JEYCELLE C. ESPEJO – INTING
HERITAGE TOURISM & CREATIVE INDUSTRY
Tagbilaran City has a rich history beginning from its earliest days. A period of Spanish colonization spanning three centuries then made an indelible impression among the Tagbilaranons. This mercurial era, along with the American occupation and brief Japanese interlude, played a vital role in the shaping of Tagbilaran and its people. A vivid past has left its mark all over the city of friendship in many different forms that the present-day visitors and even young Tagbilaran generation can discover and embrace.
The rich culture and heritage of Tagbilaran can now be experienced not only in museums and history books, but also in beautifully preserved historical houses and sites within the city.
Balik sa Kagahapon would give its guests and visitors the experience that won’t be forgotten in their lifetime.
- Plaza Rizal
Originally called as the Plaza del Prinsipe, the Plaza Rizal is situated between St. Joseph Cathedral and the Bohol Provincial Capitol. It is one of the major manifestations of the more than three hundred centuries of Spanish colonization in the country. Reducccion (resettlement) bajo el son de la campana (under the sound of the bell) or bajo el toque de la campana (under the peal of the bell) was a civilizing device used by the Spaniards to train the Indios the Spanish way of life. With the reduccion, the Spaniards tamed the reluctant Indios through Christian indoctrination in a quite novel settlement pattern using the convent/casa real/ plaza complex as the focal point, thus paving way to the birth of a centro, poblacion, or sawang.
A stone’s throw away from the plaza lies the picturesque St. Joseph Cathedral, a marvel in engineering skill and Gothic architectural structure which was originally built by the Jesuits in 1595, but was reconstructed and enlarged during the stint of Fr. Valero de San Pascual (1839 – 1855). In 1886, the work started to build a new belfry which was inaugurated on May 30, 1891 amidst a grand celebration.
On the other side of the plaza stands the grand and historic Bohol Provincial Capitol which was built in 1860. It guarded the civil affairs of the town under the Spanish, American, and Japanese periods. The present National Museum (Bohol Branch) was formerly the Escuela de Ninos or school for boys and on the other side of the capitol was the former location of the Escuela de Ninas or school for girls.
Plaza Rizal is now becoming a major attraction and a favorite leisure place of the Tagbilaranons who want to relax and commune with nature. Many friendly pigeons inhabit the area which makes the place a favorite haunt for kids and adults alike.
In this place, guests and visitors will have a taste on how the early Filipinos followed a pattern under the civilizing device called reduccion.
- Sitio Ubos
Sitio Ubos is part of Poblacion Uno which is situated at the heart of the city. Poblacion Uno has always been the center of business and trade particularly at Sitio Ubos where the first marketplace in Tagbilaran was established.
From the year 1751 when Tagbilaran was made a “Visita” (religious district) of Dauis until 1900, the center of population was Sitio Ubos. Fish were sold at the shorelines or peddled by fishmongers. “Dry goods” and pastries were sold at stores which were usually at the ground floor of two-storey houses of the rich people like the original residents of Sitio Ubos, the Rocha and the Beldia families.
By the year 1890’s up to 1912, a Tiyanggi or wet market was established at the place where the plaza of the old Tagbilaran City hall was located, now the present office of DepEd Tagbilaran City Schools Division, Tagbilaran City Police headquarters and the ComElec. It was the house of Don Felipe Rocha which was the general store.
A 15-minute stop-over will be allocated for the guests and visitors to view and take pictures of the heritage houses in Sitio Ubos. Women in Spanish Era costumes shall welcome the guests with some local delicacies like torta.
Fernando Reyes House
From Sitio Ubos, guests and visitors will pass along V.P. Inting street where they will see another heritage house which has a big historical impact to the lives of the Boholanos
The house of Fernando Reyes played a vital role in the historical pages of Bohol during the American period. It was on this house that the “Boholano Patriots” secretly met to plan for a resistance against the American colonizers in August 1900. The women played a vital role in the secret meeting by staging a nightly novena in honor of San Roque, the second patron saint of Tagbilaran.
The house is well-preserved up to the present which is now the home of an antique shop.
Guests will also have a glimpse of the beautiful and grand heritage structures in Tagbilaran which are owned by some prominent and significant personalities in Bohol. Among the houses are the following:
Meridian Hotel / Butalid House – residence of the former governor of Bohol Atty. Rolando Butalid, now converted into a hotel.
Carlos P. Garcia’s house – the residence of the illustrious son of Bohol, the former Pres. Carlos P. Garcia, which was converted into a museum.
Ogan’s House – adjacent to CPG’s heritage house is the house of the former who lived in Bohol for quite long. The building was used before to house the Royal Christian School during its early days of establishment.
Along CPG Avenue, the group will then pass through the People’s Mansion. The once upon a time girls’ boarding house during the mid-1900s, People’s mansion now serve as the official residence of the provincial governor of Bohol and also housed some agencies of the government. From the People’s Mansion on the way to Balili’s house, the tour will pass along the Gabaldon building of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School originally named Bohol High School, which is now the biggest secondary school in Region 7 in terms of students population.
III. BALILI HERITAGE HOUSE
The majestic Balili house is barely visible from the street. The grand villa is tucked away in the vast estate of Eladio Balili , a history teacher of Bohol National High School and businessman. The house was constructed sometimes in 1934 when Mr. Balili was still a bachelor. The house served as the venue of grand social functions of Tagbilaran which were attended by prominent political and social personalities from both local and national levels. One of those grand gatherings was the meeting of then President Roxas with Elpidio Quirino, a senator then, former governor Perfecto Balili, the brother of Elpidio and some other important local political personalities.
In March of 1942, the war (WWII) reached Bohol. Tagbilaran was occupied by the Japanese Imperial army. Almost everyone evacuated the town. The fine Balili house was requisitioned for use by high ranking Japanese officers where social gatherings were still held.
The house which still stands today, still carries the marks of its past grandeur that manifests how the Tagbilaranons lived their lives in the past. It has a very rich cultural value which will help us understand the rich culture of the Tagbilaranons and the Boholanos in general.
On the historical note, the house plays a significant role in the administrative and political development of the city, being a venue of the city’s grand social gatherings mostly attended by the city, province, and nation’s political and public personalities.
At the Balili’s House
The city heritage tour will end at the grand Balili’s house where guests and visitors will be entertained by various cultural presentations to be performed by selected students of chosen public secondary schools of the City DepEd.
PARTICIPANTS OF THE HERITAGE TOURISM AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY LAUNCHING Tagbilaran City include:
City Mayor John Geesnell “Baba” Yap; City Administrator Edi Borja; City Tourism Officer Mrs. Shobel Ligalig; City Events for Culture and the Arts Officer Alexis Cadelina; City General Services Office, Chris John Rener Torralba; City Engineering; Emmie Roslinda of PROCESS-Bohol; BOKAG Over-all Artistic DirectorMr. Lutgardo Labad; Historian Marianito Luspo; and Costume Designer Mr. Cooper Resabal.
1) Ms. Jeycelle C. Espejo – Inting – ( DepEd/ CCCA – Treasurer
2) Mr. Butch Bernas, Ph.D – ( DepEd/ CCCA – Dance Committee)
3) Mr. Edison J. Gumapac – ( DepEd/ CCCA – Dance Committee)
4) Ms. Marie Aleli D. Antoni – Singer ( Math Teacher & Glee Club Adviser of TCSHS)
5) Mr. Cornelio Reputana – Guitarist ( Owner, Manga Traditional Guitar maker)
6) Dr. Cecilio Putong national High School – Special Program for the Arts – Instrumentals
Trainors: Mr. Tammy Relampagos & Mr. Rancy June “Jok-Jok” Micabani
7) Balitaw Singers – Mr. Michael Cosmod ( Grade 11, UB) & Miss Christine Angcog (Grade 11- DCPNHS)
8) Kundiman Singer – Mr. Avin Jake Adovo ( Gr. 12, TCSHS)
9) Dr. Cecilio Putong national High School – Special Program for the Arts – Theater Arts majors
Adviser / Trainor: Mrs. Farah Priscilla Anaviso
Ladies in Filipiniana costumes and in Party Dress costumes (Sitio Ubos, Reyes House, Balili’s house):Maria Erica Zafra, Jea Navea, Julien Remuel Fabroquez, Mary Grace P. Lopez, Whenhel T. Saco, and Ma. Mhelby C. Agravante.
Guardia Sibil: Christian Alaba and James Dee Belhida
American Soldier: James Miguel Dumagan
HERITAGE HOUSES – HOME OWNERS
1) Balili House – heirs of the late Eladio Balili:
– Architect Gloria Balili
– Mrs. Amparo Balili – Castaneda
2) Mr. Sammy Cal
3) Mrs. Norma Beldia