Tagbilaran is the capital city of the island province of Bohol in the Philippines. With close to 100,000 residents living within city limits, it is the main point of entry to Bohol, and serves as the province's political, social and economic center.

The city, known as the "City of Friendship" (similar to Cagayan de Oro), is one of the most liveable cities in the Philippines, having been recognized as such by the Asian Institute of Management in 2005 and 2007.


Tagbilaran Bay

Despite being the capital of Bohol, and despite its relative size, Tagbilaran does not feel like a big city. In some respects, the city feels more like a provincial town more than the bustling capital city of one of the Philippines' best-known provinces, and rightfully so. Few establishments are open 24 hours, many stores are closed on Sunday, traffic is almost non-existent, and Tagbilaranons (as local residents are called) seem to be more relaxed than their counterparts in larger cities.

Bohol Capitol

However, this atmosphere does yield several positives: locals are very friendly, the city is very safe, and as the introduction of most tourists to Bohol, Tagbilaran gives a good picture of what one can expect from the rest of the province.


Little is known about the pre-history of Tagbilaran, although it is believed to have been a trading outpost where, according to Spanish accounts, the natives conducted trade with China, the Malay states and present-day Indonesia. It is said that around the year 1200, the Lutaos of northern Mindanao established settlements on stilts along the Tagbilaran Strait, separating mainland Bohol from Panglao Island (which today separates Tagbilaran from Dauis), which later became the Kingdom of Dapitan, a prosperous local center of power. It is believed that these settlements were abandoned by 1563 due to attacks by the Portuguese and their allies from Ternate. Another kingdom, the Bool Kingdom, may have also existed within city limits in the 15th century.

Sandugo Reenactment

The first recorded event in what is now believed to be Tagbilaran was the Sandugo. Known as the first treaty of friendship between Filipinos and Spaniards, this blood compact was effected between local chieftain Rajah Sikatuna and explorer (and later Governor-General of the Philippines) Miguel López de Legazpi, which reportedly took place in what is now the eastern outskirts of the city. (This fact has now disputed by recent historical findings claiming that the event may have actually taken place in Loay, 17 kilometers away.)

Tagbilaran was originally part of neighboring Baclayon, and its parish church was one of the six churches of Bohol established by the Jesuits when they came to the island in 1595 to evangelize and convert the natives to Christianity. The town was later split from Baclayon in 1742, when Father Cesar Felipe Doria, Rector of the Jesuits in Bohol, petitioned for the creation of a new town as he believed Baclayon became too large to be administered by a single priest, and the town was dedicated to Saint Joseph the Worker, hence the town was originally called San José de Tagbilaran. It later became the capital of Bohol in 1854, after the island was made a separate province from neighboring Cebu.

The town grew throughout both the Spanish and American regimes, and on 1 July 1966, Tagbilaran was elevated to a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 4660.


Tagbilaran is divided into fifteen barangays, which are commonly referred to as "districts". Most economic activity is concentrated in the city center, which consists of Poblacion I, II and III, as well as Cogon, immediately north of Poblacion II. The city's remaining 11 barangays meanwhile are more rural, and more closely resemble neighboring towns, although they become more urbanized approaching the city center.


The main language of Tagbilaran, like the rest of Bohol, is Boholano, a dialect of Cebuano which differs from standard Cebuano largely in terms of pronunciation. These differences sometimes have linguists describe Boholano as a separate language altogether. Despite this, standard Cebuano is understood by Boholano speakers, as it is the language used in Cebuano-language mass media, and Boholano as spoken in Tagbilaran is closer to standard Cebuano than the Boholano spoken further inland. English is also well-understood by most city residents, although Tagbilaranons speak it to varying levels of fluency.

Unlike in neighboring Cebu, Tagbilaranons (and Boholanos in general) are less hesitant to speak Filipino, especially owing to the influx of local tourists from non-Cebuano speaking regions of the Philippines. Many Boholanos will know how to speak Filipino as Filipino language instruction is required in school, and they will normally respond in Filipino when spoken to in Filipino, though some will respond instead in English (as in Cebu). However, it is not uncommon for a Tagbilaranon to ask a Filipino speaker if one is new to the city, as speaking in Filipino is often (though not always) an indicator of not being resident in Tagbilaran.

Get in

By plane

Tagbilaran Airport is busy with scheduled jet passenger services

Tagbilaran is served by the Tagbilaran Airport (IATA: TAG), located in the northern part of the city, but close to the city center. As the only airport in Bohol with commercial service, it is very busy as it serves the entire province, and it doesn't help that the airport's size is relatively small compared to the amount of traffic it receives. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia, are the only airlines flying to Tagbilaran, serving the city several times daily from Manila.

Tricycles and taxis are immediately available outside the airport. It is also practical to walk along the airport access road to the intersection with Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, where it is possible to board a jeepney going toward the city center. In addition, many hotels located both in the city and on Panglao Island offer airport shuttle services. Avoid the touts offering shuttle, taxi or tricycle service to the city or to Panglao Island, as they overcharge for the service.

Passenger service charges

When leaving Tagbilaran, departing passengers have to pay a passenger service charge, more commonly known as the "terminal fee". The fee is ₱75 when departing by plane, and ₱20 when departing by boat. Some boat tickets however already include the fee into the cost of the ticket, so check first and ask before paying.

An alternative to flying into Tagbilaran directly, especially from outside the Philippines, is to fly to Cebu City, then go to Tagbilaran by boat.

By boat

Boats serving Tagbilaran dock at the Tagbilaran City Tourist Pier, which handles more than 4,000 travelers on a daily basis, and is currently under expansion. With connections to neighboring islands in the Visayas, as well as to Luzon and Mindanao, two types of ships transport passengers to Tagbilaran: fast ferries (catamarans) and regular ferries.

Fast ferries

Three companies currently provide fast ferry service to the city.

The Ocean Jet fast ferry boat in Tagbilaran ready for departure to Cebu City, Philippines

Fares are normally around ₱400-500 one-way, with all three companies offering promotions for buying tickets early. For example, a round-trip ticket between Cebu and Tagbilaran bought at least two days in advance on Weesam express is only ₱500, inclusive of passenger service charges.

Sunday ferries from Tagbilaran to Cebu are often fully booked, so book ahead or use the port in Tubigon if leaving on a Sunday.

Regular ferries

In addition to the three companies providing fast ferry service to the city, two companies provide ordinary ferry services to Tagbilaran from Cebu.

Fares on regular ferries are cheaper than with fast ferries, although the travel times are longer (five hours versus two hours with a fast ferry). Fares normally average around ₱200-250 for regular seats (open-air), and around ₱300 for a bed. Cokaliong Shipping Lines is also the only shipping line which has suite rooms on board: the price per room is ₱920.

2GO Travel also has a weekly service to Tagbilaran from the South Harbor in Manila. The same ferry also continues to Ozamis and iligan, which departs Tagbilaran every Monday at 23.00, returning at 18:30 every Wednesday. It then departs Tagbilaran for Manila at 20:00, arriving at the South Harbor at 23:30 the next day.

Trans Asia ferries have a ferry 3 times a week from Tagbilaran to Cagayan de Oro fares from ₱670 per way.

By bus

Most buses serving Tagbilaran from other towns in Bohol, as well as all buses from other cities in the Philippines, terminate at the Tagbilaran City Integrated Bus Terminal (IBT), located in the northern outskirts of the city, beside the Island City Mall. The relatively spartan structure also houses the terminal for vans serving the rest of Bohol: vans are located to the left of the entrance, while buses are located to the right.

By car

The main roads into Tagbilaran are the two halves of the circumferential road circling the island of Bohol which emanate from the city center: the Tagbilaran North Road and the Tagbilaran East Road. In the city center, both roads are known as Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (popularly shortened to "CPG Avenue") and Venancio P. Inting Avenue, respectively. Another major road into Tagbilaran is the Tagbilaran-Corella-Sikatuna-Loboc Road, connecting the city to Loboc and the interior towns of Bohol via Corella.

Get around

By tricycle

Tricycles in Tagbilaran

With over 3,000 of them throughout the city, tricycles are the main form of public transportation in Tagbilaran, and can be hailed from any part of the city. They can normally seat up to two people (three if the "seat" behind the driver is counted), with a small luggage space provided on the back. Fares vary according to distance (regular fare: ₱8/person), with drivers charging more to reach Island City Mall and Tagbilaran City Integrated Bus Terminal, the airport, the seaport, or destinations beyond city limits. Tricycles may also be chartered as well for day tours of the city and surrounding towns.

By jeepney or bus

Aside from tricycles, jeepneys are the other main form of transport in Tagbilaran, with many routes converging at the Island City Mall and the Tagbilaran City Integrated Bus Terminal. Some routes, particularly to the northwestern part of the city and to Panglao Island, also converge at points within the city center, such as Tagbilaran City Square. Jeepneys may either ply routes within the city, or may go to surrounding towns. The fare is ₱8 for the first 4 km (which covers most of the city area), plus ₱1 for every additional km beyond that.

Jeepney routes in Tagbilaran are not numbered. However, it is easy to determine what kind of route a jeepney plies: city jeepneys will normally identify specific points and roads within the city (eg: Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, the Island City Mall, etc.) while provincial jeepneys will only mention the town served from Tagbilaran (i.e. Baclayon, Panglao, etc.).

Buses which serve the rest of Bohol also stop at points within Tagbilaran, although they do not go through the city center. Buses are useful mostly for heading towards the Tagbilaran City Integrated Bus Terminal, where it is possible to transfer to tricycles and jeepneys serving the rest of the city.

By taxi

There are white taxis in the city, though they are not plentiful and they are mostly found at the airport, seaport and major malls. Taxi rates are the same as in major urban centers such as Manila and Cebu: taxis in Tagbilaran charge a ₱40 flagdown rate, plus ₱3.50 for every additional 300 m. It is not uncommon however to negotiate rates when going outside the city, especially to Panglao, as the taxi driver has to drive back to Tagbilaran without passengers.

On foot

Tagbilaran is small enough that the city center can be covered adequately on foot. However, as is the case with the rest of the Philippines, sidewalks are few and far between, except along major roads such as Carlos P. Garcia Avenue.


Tagbilaran cathedral, Bohol

Tagbilaran is often perceived as a city with nothing to see, and tourists often skip the city in favor of better-known sites in other parts of Bohol. However, contrary to popular belief, the city does have a number of unique sites.

The Site of the Blood Compact in Bool



Tagbilaran celebrates three major festivals.

Sandugo Streetdancing


There are four malls in Tagbilaran, of which two are in the city center.


Aside from the standard chain restaurants found in major cities in the Philippines, Tagbilaran also has a number of restaurants and other eateries unique to the city.

Cock Fight in a Tagbilaran barangay


There are a number of nightlife spots in Tagbilaran, although they're not as plentiful as in neighboring Panglao. For example, while there is only one nightclub, there are music and karaoke bars scattered throughout the city.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under ₱1,000
Mid-range ₱1,000 to ₱2,000
Splurge Over ₱2,000




Stay Healthy


See also: Philippines#Connect


The area code of Tagbilaran, like the rest of Bohol, is 38. Area codes are not required for calls made within the entire province of Bohol.

The three main mobile service providers in the Philippines: Smart Communications, Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular, have good (though sometimes spotty) coverage throughout Tagbilaran, and all three providers operate both 2G and 3G networks throughout the city. SIM cards are sold at convenience stores throughout the city, at mobile phone stores located in the city center (especially within Tagbilaran City Square), and by touts located along Carlos P. Garcia Avenue. All three providers also have offices in the city: Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular have their local offices at the Island City Mall, while Smart Communications has its office at the Ambassador Arcade on B. Inting Street, in the city center.

Unlike mobile phones, however, payphones are hard to find in Tagbilaran, though there are a few in the city center. Some convenience stores though offer use of their telephones for a small fee, often ₱5 for a three-minute local call.


There are Internet cafés scattered throughout Tagbilaran, serving both casual Internet surfers and online gamers. Use of a computer at an Internet café typically costs around ₱15-20 per hour. The cafés often offer additional services as well, such as printing documents, but most cafés close at night.


While there are Wi-Fi hotspots in the city, significant coverage is mostly limited to the city center. Many places that do offer Wi-Fi lock their networks and only provide access to paying customers. Most of the hotels and inns throughout the city normally offer free Wi-Fi to their guests, though sometimes coverage is limited to common areas.

Go next

The tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) is one of the world's smallest primates, and it is endemic to Bohol. It may be seen at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation's Tarsier Visitors Center in neighboring Corella.

The rest of Bohol awaits visitors to Tagbilaran, with many parts of the province reasonably accessible from the city.

There are good connections to other islands:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.