Evolving from a mere gateway to Bohol, the city government of Tagbilaran has packaged the capital city into a heritage and culture destination that is bent to claim a bigger share of tourist arrivals once the New Bohol Airport in Panglao starts commercial operation in August next year.
Acting Vice-Gov. Venzencio Arcamo said that Tagbilaran City has positioned itself as the heritage tourism capital of Bohol, as a unique niche, with the launching of the heritage and culture-base tourism development plan last Friday.
“Bohol hit the 1 million mark in tourist arrivals in 2016. We expect to double this tourist arrival with the New Bohol Airport to be completed in June 2018 and commercially operational in August 2018. We look forward to see Tagbilaran getting the bigger share of tourist arrivals with the new heritage and culture-based tourism development plan,” Arcamo said in his message of support during the launching ceremony at the Bohol Tropics Resort.
For her part, Nonet Bolo, managing director of Dagohoy World Travel and member of the Provincial Tourism Council (PTC), lauded the city government’s proactive approach to tourism.
“We welcome this timely initiative of the city as we are looking forward to a dramatic increase in tourist arrivals very soon with the opening of the New Bohol Airport. Our guests will need to see more interesting sites, engage in more fun and meaningful activities, taste more of our delicacies and buy more of our products,” Bolo said.
She added that it is the aim to make the “visitors enjoy spending money in Bohol and with the city’s proactive approach to tourism, much of that money will be spent in Tagbilaran”.
City Tourism Affairs Coordinator Maria Shobel Ligalig said the city government launched the Heritage Tour in July 22 as “Balik sa Kagahapon”.
The Heritage Tour is a walk from sitio Ubos to Balili Heritage House. The walk passes through Plaza Rizal in front of the old Capitol building that is now the Bohol National Museum and a portion of J.A. Clarin St. leading to Café Caloy at the CPG Heritage House (the home of the late Boholano President Carlos P. Garcia) before clinching at the Balili Heritage House.
No less than United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director for Philippines Lawrence Hardy II, for his part admired the “rich culture” niched in Tagbilaran City.
“I must admit that I’m in the same boat as most tourists in their first visit to Bohol. I am just now learning that Tagbilaran City also has a rich culture- -a mix of different eras that involved the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese,” Hardy shared in his message during the launching of the Tagbilaran Tourism Development Plan (TDP).
Hardy experienced soon first-hand, the city’s heritage tour after the launching ceremony.
“USAID has been very pleased to collaborate with Tagbilaran City to develop a new tourism strategy anchored on the city’s heritage assets and creative industries. It is expected that this approach will transform the city into a leading heritage tourism destination and a major hub for cultural arts not only in the Philippines but for Southeast Asia as well,” Hardy said.
Hardy considers Tagbilaran City, together with the entire province of Bohol, as one of the key economic hubs of the Visayas Region- -“a hub with so much potential to spur on further growth, livability and dynamism for the region”.
“Through the years, I am delighted to learn that USAID’s partnership with the city and the province has resulted in a more competitive tourism and business climate, better and more accessible health services, higher quality basic education and improved marine biodiversity conservation. Since 2014, Tagbilaran City has been one of USAID’s partner cities of under the Cities Development Initiative. Through this partnership, USAID provides a range of technical assistance in economic growth, health, energy, environment, governance and education to help them realize their full potential as engines of inclusive and resilient growth for their respective regions,” according to Hardy.
He also said “USAID believes that broad-based economic growth is essential to sustainable, long-term development”.
“This growth creates the opportunities impoverished households need to raise their living standards, provides countries with the resources to expand access to basic services, and- -most important of all- -enables citizens to chart their own prosperous futures. This is why USAID has been helping people access markets, so they can play a productive role in their economies. This is why we are working with private sector companies to spur economic development that benefits all Filipinos. And this why we have been investing in improving infrastructure such as roads and electrical grids, critical to boosting tourism revenues and lifting the limits on a country’s growth,” Hardy added.
He also traced the partnership of USAID and Bohol back to 1995 when their Governance and Local Development project “helped identify and strengthen the capacity of local champions”.
“Among these champions was none other than Governor Chatto, who then led Bohol’s local government in formulating a development plan based on its core strengths and resources that would one day transform Bohol into the ecotourism destination that it is today,” Hardy said.
He added that it was also such time that USAID provided technical assistance to the province in the process of crafting the Bohol Environment Code of 1998, “the first environment code prepared by any local government in the country, that would help the province to sustain growth while protecting its precious natural resources”.
Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II officiated the oath-taking of the pioneering members of the Tagbilaran City Heritage District Council (TCHDC) and its technical working group (TWG) after the launching ceremony for the TDP.
City Councilor Joseph Bompat, who chairs the Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Tourism, serves as the chairman of TCHDC, while Arch. German Torero serves as vice chair.
The members include City Administrator Leonides Borja, City Planning and Development Coordinator Estella Margate, Virginia Manguilimotan of the Office of the City Treasurer, City Legal Officer Kathy Jamila, City Engineer Pianicita Castolo, City Tourism Affairs Coordinator Maria Shobel Ligalig, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer Cesar Pelaez, PTC Chair Lucas Nunag, Engr. Teodoro Estoque of the Office of the Building Official, City Schools Division Superintendent Virginia Zapanta, Holy Name University president Francisco Estepa, University of Bohol president Nuevas Montes, Bohol Island State University OIC University president Dioscoro Avergonzado, City Council for Culture and Arts Chair Joshibiah Gaa De Juan, Lutgardo Labad as an heritage advocate, Charlemeine Tantingco of the Heritage Site Association, and City Councilor Vicente Polinar- -who chairs the SP Committee on Public Information and Public Works.
The members of the TCHDC-TWG include Engr. Estoque as team leader, Engr. Torero, Arch. German Janus Niño Guidaben, City Assessor Livio Sarabia, City Zoning Officer-Designate Fulgencio Sabijon, Construction and Maintenance General Foreman Arch. Artmarie Tolang, BPLO Head Samuel Belderol, Ligalig, Fr. Estepa, Montes, Avergonzado, and Engr. Joel Dahiroc.
The TCHDC believes the “city has the strategic position as the island’s center of education, trade and commerce, seat of political power and primary gateway of Bohol”.
The TCHDC also recognizes “the vital role of heritage tourism to fuel the economic development of the Tagbilaran City”.
In line with this, the city government and partners intend to “attract more tourists that would linger a bit and discover what the city has to offer”.
“The greater challenge, however, is to make tourism sustainable, ecologically-friendly and value-laden with the goal of making Tagbilaran a leading heritage destination,” according to the TCHDC.
The strategic framework for the city’s heritage tourism is seen to establish the city’s position in the region’s tourism map and, more importantly, to help strengthen and revitalize the city’s arts and cultural life as well.
The TCHDC puts premium in sustaining the city’s natural and cultural heritage assets.
“As the City of Tagbilaran pushes forward towards becoming a highly livable city, the role of tourism as an impetus for growth cannot be understated. Eco-cultural tourism is acknowledged among the key drivers for economic development of Bohol. The provincial capital and main gateway to the island, Tagbilaran has long been the service center for tourists and the city residents themselves have long felt the impact of tourism in their lives,” according to the TCHDC.