The historic town of Baclayon lies just six kilometres along the seashore from Tagbilaran city on the Visayan island of Bohol in the Philippines. It was the first town established in Bohol by the Spaniards.
The town was founded in 1595 by two Jesuit priests, Father Juan de Torres and Father Gabriel Sanchez, the first to enter Bohol for missionary work. In 1596 the priests built the Baclayon Church of the Immaculate Conception, a heavy-set stone church considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.
The church, in combination with the pier and harbor it overlooks, and the elegant and well-preserved heritage houses lining the roads, makes the township a charming and idyllic destination.
The town of Baclayon got its name from their tribal chieftain Baclayon. He was a warrior of a conquering tribe from the "Malays." He guarded the invasion of pirates and pillagers from Cebu, Iloilo and Mindanao. When the two Jesuit priests came, he submitted his tribe and warriors and embraced Christianity. He was given a Christian name "Zacarias" by the Spanish priest Sanchez. Considering the popularity of Zacarias' leadership in the territory, the priest used the name Baclayon as the name of the territory.
The original territorial jurisdiction of Baclayon was so vast that it covered the present areas of the municipalities of Balilihan, Alburquerque, Catigbian, Corella, Sikatuna and San Isidro combined together.
Municipal Tourism Activity Center - +63-38-540-9474 - Located in the Baluarte Grounds, Poblacion, the newly constructed building can provide tourists the information they need on accommodation, transport and tours to Pamilacan Island. The center also offers extremely clean, free-of-use toilets and showers, a welcome sight in Bohol.
The closest airport to Baclayon is in Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. Tagbilaran Airport is very small, and as such, gets highly congested. The airline flight times and direct destinations are quite limited – currently the airport only caters to flights in the morning and afternoon, as it currently does not have any runway lights for evening flights. There are development plans in place to extend and upgrade the airport, but these will not be completed until 2012.
The airport does not receive international flights, but can be accessed direct from Manila only through the following airlines. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, ZestAir, AirPhil Express.
Accessing Tagbilaran (and Baclayon) by ferry from Cebu, Dumagete, Siquijor, Dapitan or Manila is a great option as the routes pass by countless beautiful islands while providing the chance of seeing dolphins at play. Ferries also present more route options than flying and can often be faster than an indirect flight. Many ferries travel the most popular route of Cebu - Tagbilaran, with high-speed ferries taking 1.5hrs, or 5hrs on the regular, slower vessels. As regular ferries are the cheapest way to travel from island to island, they tend to get very crowded during the high season (Holy Week or Christmas).
Ocean Jet – +63-32-255-7560 – Cebu to Tagbilaran (1hr 40min); 06:00, 09:30, 13:50, 15:35,18:00 daily (Php800). Dumagete to Tagbilaran (1hr 40min); 07:30, 14:20 daily (Php650). Dapitan to Tagbilaran (3hrs 40 min); 12:20 daily (Php900). Siquijor to Tagbilaran (2hr 40min); 06:00 daily (Php700).
Supercat - +63-32-233-7000 – Cebu to Tagbilaran (1hr 45min); 08:30, 12:30, 16:30 daily (Php510).
Wessam Express - +63-62-992-3756 – Cebu to Tagbilaran (2hrs); 09:00, 14:00, 18:30 daily (Php400). Dumagete to Tagbilaran (2hrs 20min); 14:00 daily (Php350).
Cokaliong Shipping Lines - +63-32-232-7211 – Cebu to Tagbilaran (5hrs); 18:30 Mondays only (Php165-480).
Lite Shipping Corporation - +63-32-255-1721 – Cebu to Tagbilaran (5hrs); 12:30, 22:00 daily (Php225-395).
Negros Navigation - +63-2-554-8777 – Manila to Tagbilaran (31.5hrs); 18:00 Wednesdays only.
Sulpicio Lines - +63-32-232-5361 – Manila to Tagbilaran (28hrs); 12:00 Wednesdays only (Php1808.80-3264.80).
The cheapest form of transport from Tagbilaran to Baclayon is by Jeepney (Php8). The terminal for the Jeepneys passing through Baclayon is outside of the Bohol Provincial Hospital (J. Torralba Street), and they will be advertised on the outside as traveling to Albur, Loay or Loboc. Jeepneys are always filled to capacity before they leave the terminal so don’t expect a particularly comfortable, spacious ride. Those with claustrophobia should be cautious.
Motorbike transportation (habal-habal) is usually the quickest and easiest form of public transportation. The fare can be bargainable with the driver, so you need an understanding of how much you should pay so that you don’t get taken advantage of being a tourist. Fares from Tagbilaran to Baclayon are usually Php50-60. Be wary that this sort of transportation can be quite unsafe as the motorbikes do not come with helmets and there is no regulation on driving capabilities.
Tricycles are slightly more expensive than the habal-habal, with a trip from Tagbilaran to Baclayon expected to cost around Php70-90. Tricycles however offer a safer option than habal-habals, and are a slightly more comfortable ride than Jeepneys.
Taxis are not prolific in Bohol and subsequently the prices charged are incredibly expensive for the same distance traveled in cities such as Manila (in excess of Php150). However, for travelers requiring comfort and safety assurance, this is the best option.
- Baclayon Church and Museum. 8AM-12PM; 1PM-5PM. Baclayon is known for its historic Catholic Church, an important part of Boholano and national heritage, being declared in 1995 as a National Historic Treasure. This massive ancient edifice still retains its centuries old architectural design and is considered the best preserved of its kind in the region. The relics of antiquity found in the church, and museum, which date back to the early 16th century include crystal chandeliers, brightly colored window panes, life-size religious images, carved altars with gold embossing, and a silver tabanacle. Nearby are the centuries-old stone buildings like the belfry, the hermita and elementary school. Church opening hours. Museum opening hours 8:30AM-12PM; 1:30PM-5PM (Php25). free.
- Historic Marketplace. Another Spanish-era building in the town ís the spacious public market with giant stone columns supporting the roof. The products of local industries like the sarok, winnowing baskets, fans, shopping bags, mats and the like are sold at the market day every Wednesday. Fruits, vegetables, pigs, chickens, dried fish, and other products from people in the hinterlands are also sold to serve the needs of the town’s residents.
- Ancestral Houses. Spared through community advocacy from a provincial road-widening project’s plan for their demolition, the Spanish colonial ancestral houses that line the main road of Balcayon have instead been preserved and stand as compellingly as ever. There are over 67 ancestral houses in the municipality, which are within easy walking distance from Baclayon Church. The houses show Spanish-Filipino wooden craftsmanship and styling, some of which were constructed as early as 1853. In an effort to further fund the preservation of the heritage houses, they are often utilized for cultural shows and tours, festivals and fiestas, as well as some having been turned into home-stays; a great accommodation option for those wanting a true taste of Boholano culture and lifestyle.
- Pamilacan Island. part of the Municipality of Baclayon, is a small island situated 14km, or a 1 hour pump-boat ride, from the mainland. There are only around 235 families living on the island, whose main livelihoods now concentrate on dolphin and whale watching tours and subsistence fishing, but in the past have also included whale, dolphin and manta ray hunting. Officially Pamilacan means “resting place of the mantas’, but is also been interpreted to derive from the word ‘pamilac’ or harpoon, a weapon that was historically used to capture the mantas, dolphins and whales. Pamilacan Island is now seen as a success story in the transformation of the community from their destructive, unsustainable hunting practices, to the protection of their marine life with dolphin and whalewatching tours now providing a valuable alternative livelihood. Pamilacan Island has also been the recipient of numerous awards from tourism councils and environmental organizations in recognition of their remarkable makeover. The island has beautiful white sand beaches, and is endowed with some great dive sites, such as ‘Dakit-Dakit’. Additionally, the island is also home to a 200-year-old Spanish fort, located at the northeast of the island, which in the past served as a watch station for the Spaniards against intruders, such as pirates and other enemies. Pump-boat rides from Baclayon to Pamilacan Island can cost upward from Php1500 per boat and it is normally advisable to organize this a day in advance if possible through the Municipal Tourism Information Center (see Contacts). However, Wednesdays are Market Days in Baclayon, and as such, more pump-boats operate to cater for the islanders visiting the market. Boat rides on Wednesday therefore can be as little as one tenth of the normal price.
- Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours. The waters of Baclayon are renowned throughout the Philippines as being the premier site for Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours. The Whale species to be found are the Short-finned Pilot Whale, Melon-headed Whale and Pygmy Killer Whale, while the Dolphin species include the Rissoís, Spinner, Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins. As of February 2011, many Whale Sharks have also been spotted off the cost of Pamilacan Island, suggesting a regeneration of a once thriving species in the area. Tours start in Baclayon around 5AM; the best time for sightings and appreciating their antics. Tours typically run until around 2PM including a rest stop at a nearby beach for snorkeling. Tour prices depend upon boat size and start from around Php1,500.
- Buggy Rides. Now run through Peacock Garden Resort, an exhilarating buggy ride through the rural barangays (villages) of Baclayon is available. If merely speed and tight turns aren’t your things then the tour can also be ideal for naturists, with flora and fauna, and bird watching information stops included along the way. The tour is designed to be beneficial for the remote barangays, with a portion of the revenue from every tour going back into the barangays that are accessed. Tour price for two people in one buggy for 1.5-2hrs is Php1500 with all safety equipment is provided.
- Scuba diving. Baclayon offers an extremely rich and biodiverse marine system perfect for Scuba diving. An especially popular dive site off Pamilacan Island is ‘Dakit-Dakit’, where the once damaged coral reefs from dynamite-fishing are on the repair with many varieties of coral heads, soft corals and coral strings growing. The sloping reef dive also provides encounters with huge schools of large Jackfish, Napoleon Wrasse, as well as Barracudas, Batfish, Turtles and occasionally Manta Rays.Dive sites have also been created off the coast of the Baclayon Mainland with two areas being converted into Marine Protected Areas (MPAS) in 2008 in Barangays Taguihon and Guiwanon. Already there are vast improvements observed in coral cover and fish abundance within the two, and they provide some very nice macro diving for underwater photography enthusiasts
- Mountain Biking. Many of Baclayon’s off-road trails have recently been developed for mountain biking, and the municipality is fast becoming a hub for the sport in Bohol. The mountain biking trails include easy and moderate cross-country rides, using barangay roads and single track, carabao trails. Baclayon also has long off-road trails connect different municipalities, such as Loboc, Albur, Loay, Corella, Sikatuna and Tagbilaran city. As has been well publicized in the adventure magazine “Action Asia”, the most popular and longest of which is “Bong’s Trail”. This 20km off-road ride begins at Mount Banat-i, passing through Baclayon’s upland barangays and neighboring municipalities, and ends 2 to 4 hours later at Loboc River. Additionally, the Baclayon to Corella route is a 2 hour off-road ride, ending at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, a great place to view Tarsiers in their natural habitat. Bike rentals are scarce in Baclayon, as well as nearby Tagbilaran City, so it is preferable to bring your own bike. However, it is possible to organize bike rentals, mountain biking guides, and gain further information ahead of time by contacting +63-928-197-9165 or +63-906-531-0860.
- Heritage Walk. Baclayon Ancestral Homes Association (BAHANDI) is a neighborhood organization set up to promote and preserve not only the Baclayon ancestral houses, but also the heritage of the community. BAHANDI offer a Heritage Walk, touring the historic church, elementary school, ancestral houses, and visit a demonstration of Broas making; a Baclayon delicacy. The tour also includes a beautiful table set-up outside Baclayon Church serving refreshments of the aforementioned Broas, and traditional hot chocolate. Meals and nighttime entertainment can be organized upon request. Contact +63-38-540-9030 or +63-38-540-9327 for tour bookings.
- Market Day Wednesdays. Poblacion - Set in the historic, Spanish-era Baclayon marketplace, the Wednesday Market Days provide a great opportunity to see and taste Baclayon culture up close. Native handicrafts are available, along with delicious, locally produced delicacies and sweets such as Broas (ladyfingers), nut bars, pastels, tortas, rice cake and suman . An impressive variety of fruit, vegetable and dried fish are also tempting to the curious. It is important to stay away from buying dried Manta Ray in the dried fish section, as doing so encourages the hunting of these endangered, but only supposedly “protected” animals.
- Aproniana Souvenir Shop, ☎ +63-38-540-9411. Self proclaimed “Bohol’s ultimate souvenir destination”, Aproniana sells a wide range of souvenirs covering all of Bohol’s major tourist attractions at more affordable prices than sold near at the destinations themselves. The air-conditioned store covers 100sq meters over 2 levels, but can still get somewhat overcrowded if multiple tourist buses are passing through at the same time.
A recent development for the (once limited) range of eating options and night atmosphere in Baclayon is the introduction of wharf-side barbeque vendors (Habhabans) offering a delicious range of grilled fish, pork, chicken, squid and chorizo in a style unique to Baclayon. Meals are inexpensive between Php30-100.
A variety of low-cost Filipino food outlets are available at the back of the historic marketplace. Meals range from around Php20-50. Plans are in place to develop and upgrade these restaurants by the end of 2011.
6 to 7 - A small restaurant located along the main highway in Poblacion underneath an ancestral house. Filipino food is offered at cheap prices (Php30-60).
All Habhaban restaurants have tables outside where you can sit back and enjoy a beer or two looking towards the Baclayon Church and the harbor. After their development, these have become a particular favorite with the local community and is a great way for tourists to immerse themselves into the social setting of Baclayon.
Boo Boo's Pride - A large floating restaurant positioned beside the wharf, which has been converted into a Karaoke Bar. This is a favorite amongst the locals of Baclayon who can be found singing 7 nights a week until the small hours of the morning. Meals are also available on board.
Baclayon has a good range of accommodation providers, from home-stays in the historic ancestral houses, to high-class luxury resorts and spas.
- Bohol Narra Homestay, Pobalcion, ☎ +63 38 540-9435. Nestled in a tranquil locality beside the sea and surrounded by luscious trees, Bohol Narra Homestay provides a great family option with one room comprising of four beds available. ₱1200 per night (for 2) including breakfast.
- Homestay de Bai, Poblacion, ☎ +63 38 540-9056. Located very centrally beside the Baclayon Church, Homestay de Bai offers simple and clean air-con rooms with an ideal location. ₱1000–1200 incl breakfast..
- Mary's Pamilacan Cottages, Pamilacan Island, ☎ +63 917 563 4599. Located right on the shore front of Pamilacan Island, these very basic but clean cottages offer a ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of mainland towns. Prices are; Cottage ₱500pppn including breakfast and dinner; Cottage including 3 meals ₱750pppn; Large cottage including meals ₱1,000pppn
- Malon House, Poblacion, ☎ +63-38-540-9514. Dating back to the 19th Century, Malon House is the largest of the ancestral houses in Baclayon. As unassuming as it looks from the outside, inside it’s historic grandeur is realized with antique furniture, religious icons, paintings, and impressively large wooden floorboards. Rooms including breakfast are Php900 per night.
- Bohol Coconut Palms Resort, Aba-a St. Laya, ☎ +63 38 540-9250. Resort with function room for 200 people; leisure facilities include a semi-Olympic-size swimming pool with slides and kiddie pool with fountain. Best rates on official website start at ₱1,300.
- The Peacock Garden Luxury Resort and Spa, Upper Laya, ☎ +63 38 539-9231. Peacok Garden is an elegant German-owned and managed resort perched on a hill with an extremely impressive infinity pool overlooking the seascape and Pamilacan Island. This was the first resort in Bohol to be granted 5-star accreditation. The resort features a fine-dining restaurant, a Roman-inspired spa, a wine cellar, music and dance club, fitness room and a members only cigar lounge. ₱8,000-18,000.