Tagbilaran City as a tourist spot

RIGHTFULLY SO, Tagbilaran City has always been criticized as it has not played any key role in the tourism development in the province.

Yes, Bohol is known as one of the country’s most coveted destinations but the city is just a second fiddle- a supporting role- in fact, just a mere “Gateway”.

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This is not to reopen old wounds – but let us call a spade a spade.  Especially during the  9-year incumbency of former city mayor  Dan Lim, tourism took a nap, like a Rip Van Winkle.

This was primarily because the city’s top executive publicly ridiculed tourism as not really beneficial to the constituency. He was thinking like a pure- lawyer with a blindside to economics which said that one tourist creates three jobs as a consequence. And that next to the OFW remittances, the BPO foreign payments – Tourism was the third largest dollar earner sector of the country. 

And because of that over-riding principle governing his psyche, he never lifted a finger to have any tourism destination developed in Bohol, much less in the city. “Gateway” the city remained to be.  Only the airport and the city port merely served as entry points.

Worst- during his term – the city was known to have the most despicable road condition, even far worse than the roads in the seldom-visited towns.

Not much business firms were getting into the city then-during that forgettable  9-year journey. In fact, that was that time when our neighboring city of Dumaguete made a  much faster development that left Tagbilaran behind. 

Well, we don’t have to advertise (what can be seen by the naked eye) that the youthful mayor Baba Yap had- generally- fixed the road conditions, eliminated the “moon craters” in some and collected the garbage. And no dreaded “Task Force” to implement peace and order. 

Not only that finally- the city has its first brand new tourist spot developed. 

The Tagbilaran City Friendship Park –  the former Blood Compact in Barangay Bool. is its name.

Last Friday, it was inaugurated and immediately it can become the venue of cultural shows and such. The site – is marvelous – an open-air amphitheater – perfect for tourists to relax and watch homegrown shows. 

Let’s face it -there are types of tourists that primarily want to imbibe the culture of the place- more than anything else. Sites and thrill rides fulfill the human senses- but their soul hunger for culture, music, and history. Heretofore, we had little of that.

And such a pity -because if one looks around here in the province- and in theaters and bars in many sites in the world- there are Boholano musicians, actors, and directors. Poets who want to read on stage their English, Tagalog and Bisaya masterpieces.

A place to tell the world about the exploits of our heroes via stage dramas or musicals. Let them know- through the rhythm of music and the cadence of words- who Datu Sikatuna, Dagohoy, and other heroes are to Boholanos and their respective places in the niche of Philippine history.

Also, it is not every province in the 70 or so provinces in the country that has produced a Philippine president -like Bohol’s Favorite Son- Carlos Polestico Garcia. He was a war hero, an intellectual giant and a president of a Constitutional Convention. Let’s create a drama-musical centered on him. That phase of his love life with Inday Lelang of Opon, Cebu alone will move people to tears with the knowledge of his “balaks”. 

Outside some of the noisy bands along Alona Beach and a few scattered music joints- Bohol is known to be bereft of a “wholesome nightlife.” Why keep the tourists clogged inside their hotel rooms and contemplate their navels or watch CNN- when we can educate them of the greatness that is Bohol and his people through the amphitheater?

With this, the city can now claim to have a destination within Tagbilaran as even the tourists from Panglao resorts will now troop to this venue to watch cultural shows and the like.       Extrapolating further- the thousands who go on the day- Countryside Tour can also spend some time to watch say- a show before going to the Chocolate Hills -Loboc River lunch tour.

Why not make the Loboc Children’s Choir who never stop amazing us with an ever-evolving repertoire every occasion we hear them sing- be a regular feature there? Just listen- and intently- into their rendition – of the “Broadway Hits” medley – and know what world-class is all about.  (Even the snooty, a man of this world – a TV reality veteran- president of the greatest nation on earth-America-  Donald Trump gave a 5-minute standing ovation to the Philippine singers who serenaded him while he was in Manila- with popular and Broadway renditions.)  Wow, is all one can say. 

So, this is something that should be organized really soon. Otherwise, the newlyinaugurated Friendship Park will become a  mere “white elephant”- a symbol of monumental failure and lack of follow-through.

It’s a challenge to the government and tourism stakeholders to have this park utilized soonest as there is a need for such a venue. To the city government, the call is to have the amphitheater equipped with the best light- and -sound system.

If one recalls,  this dream to have a Friendship Park all started in the creative mind of our late publisher-editor, Jun Dejaresco- who already had seen what was lacking in the tourism landscape even during his time, or some 15 or so years ago.

Being a well-traveled journalist, it was his dream for Bohol to have a night  or day of good cultural shows, so, he  thus started the project – conceptually- with Architect  Eufrasio “Boy” Araneta and  top photographer Ric Ramasola for the artistic perspective. 

The life-size bronze rendition of the treaty of friendship between Datu Sikatuna andSpaniard Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was given life with the intricate sculpture executed by the late national artist Napoleon “Billy”  Abueva. That was the last portion of the project done prior to the demise of the “dreamer”- Jun Dejaresco.

As the romanticists say “Every reality always begins with a dream”. So, here we are today.

Now 15 years after, by a twist of fate- the former Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez came to Bohol to trace back his childhood days when his late father was assigned here as Bohol provincial treasurer. Upon being apprised of the plan for such a Friendship Park, he made a “rush order” for TIEZA to fund the project. And that started the first step towards the realization of the dream to have the amphitheater built.   

We hope the government will continue its funding until project completion. The life-sizestatues of other Boholano heroes such as Tamblot and Sikatuna will be in one corner of the park. 

The |Grand Finale, as it were,  of the park is the construction of a replica of the huge Spanish galleon to be positioned at the bay with a boardwalk passing through the mangroves… At the galleon will be a restaurant, coffee shop and a library.  Jun Dejaresco, before his departure in 2002- tried to initiate talks with the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines to fund the project. Now, here it is- with or without foreign funding.

Once completed, the Friendship Park will become a destination by itself or a stand-alonedestination where tourists can stay the whole morning, afternoon or evening to dine, buy souvenir items, dine and watch a scheduled cultural show.

With the park, the city should pick up its momentum to become a true-blue tourist destination, and not allow the tourists to merely proceed to Panglao or Anda, Chocolate Hills or Loboc River. 

They should have a place to linger around in the city. and be impressed enough to include the Friendship Park in their “Memoirs of a Bohol Visit”.

A challenge- and a potential feather-in-the-cap of last -termer Mayor Baba Yap.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com



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