TAGBILARAN THROUGH THE YEARS

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TAGBILARAN THROUGH THE YEARS

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“Tagbilaran city born today.”

Thus, goes the banner headline of the Bohol Chronicle exactly forty nine years ago today, on July 1, 1966.

The story proceeds stating how simplicity marked the rites accompanying the birth of the capital city of Tagbilaran which was created by Republic Act 4660 and passed by the First Session of the sixth Congress. The law enacting the new metropolis was jointly authored by Rep. Natalio Castillo, Jose Zafra and Teodoro Galagar. The measure was signed by President Ferdinand Marcos on June 18, 1966.

On the eve of the inauguration, the Tagbilaran City Mayor Venancio P. Inting spoke over Station DYRD urging the city residents to assist in the moral and spiritual uplift of the community as paramount to its existence. He stressed that his administration needs the spiritual assistance of all to guide him in steering the ship of state towards progress.

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Since then, massive economic and infrastructure development has transformed Tagbilaran from a once-sleepy town into the bustling city that it has become today. The city has a strategic position as the center of education, hub of trade and commerce, as well as the seat of political power and the primary gateway to the province of Bohol.

There are at least three major universities located in the city with a number of colleges, schools, and other educational institutions that cater to students not only from the neighboring towns but also coming from other provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In recent years, state-of the art malls, shopping centers, hotels and restaurants have mushroomed in the city. Tagbilaran now offers adequate accommodation and dining facilities to tourists and other visitors. The city is also the major provider of services, utilities and telecommunication facilities that connect the island to the rest of the world. Its seaport and airport provide access to the thousands of travelers coming to Bohol.

Several centuries earlier before the coming of the Spaniards, settled off the waters of Tagbilaran was a rich water-bound city known as the Bool or Dapitan Kingdom that was part of an extensive international trading network throughout Southeast and South Asia.

It was in the early 1700s that Tagbilaran was made into a town. The year 1724 was when Tagbilaran has its own parish records. The creation of Bohol province July 22, 1854, necessitated the appointment of a capital town. Tagbilaran was favored over Calape for the reason that it has a promising harbor.

But it was during the term of then Mayor Celestino Gallares that the urban plan for Tagbilaran was first launched in 1913. The so-called “Gallares Plan” created the streets and enlarged the town’s boundary defining its limits with “circumferential roads” that still exist up to this day. It was also during the time of Gallares that a municipal water system was installed and a new public market in place, which eventually became what is now downtown Tagbilaran.

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The first City Mayor Venancio Inting, also the last Tagbilaran Municipal Mayor, was succeeded by Atty. Rolando Butalid G., who served for two terms and later became Governor of Bohol. After him, elected former Tagbilaran mayors were: Jose Ma. Rocha, Jose V. Torralba, and Dan Neri Lim. The present City Mayor John Geesnell “Baba” Yap started his administration in 2013.

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As the City of Tagbilaran marks its 49th Charter Day, it is apt to look back at those past events that contributed to its present standing.

Local historian Marianito Luspo details the events that led to the rise and growth of Tagbilaran:

*The Moro Wars. The annual slaving raids inflicted by southern pirates on Christian Philippines ironically resulted in the sudden rise of a town in a place that would not have attracted a sizeable population until much later. According to legends, the place where Tagbilaran would someday rise used to be called Tinabilan, so-called because the island of Panglao that rises before it serves as a veil that prevents its exposure to open sea. Tinabilan had a rough bluff before it and was thickly forested. When the Moro Wars started, people would flock to this area to hide from the raiders. Thus, the place came to be referred to as Tago-Bilaan – a place “where one can hide from the Bila raiders.” In time, the population of this village became more stable as more and more people opted to stay in the vicinity. Interestingly, the year 1724 – the year when Tagbilaran began keeping its own parish records, coincided with that period in Philippine history when slaving raids was experiencing a lull. This would not be resumed until the 1750’s, but by this time Tagbilaran had already become stable enough in terms of military fortifications and for this reason the town’s growth remained unimpeded despite the constant threat of attack.
*Creation of Bohol Province. On July 22, 1854, the island of Bohol and Siquijor was created a new province separate from Cebu. The new status of Bohol necessitated the appointment of a capital town. It is said that the toss up was between the towns of Calape and Tagbilaran. The choice of Calape was pushed by Don Jayme Vaño, a rich landowner who owned a large hacienda in the area. The Spanish authorities, however, preferred Tagbilaran over Calape because the former has a promising harbor. The town’s close proximity to the prosperous town of Dauis with its port may also have clinched for Tagbilaran the choice as Bohol’s capital. This proved to be a wise decision since by the 1920’s the old port of Dauis had become so silted it could not anymore accommodate large ships. A few years later, the new insular port of Tagbilaran was inaugurated to service all interisland shipping in the area.

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Tagbilaran would have remained a backward and sleepy town had it not been for the following developments:

  1. The Americans came to Bohol on March 17, 1900 and established themselves in the capital town of Tagbilaran. As a result, the town escaped the burning and destruction of the other towns in Bohol that joined the uprising against the Americans from September 1900 to December 23, 1901. The Americans threatened to burn Tagbilaran if the insurgents would not lay down their arms by Christmas Day of that year 1901. Since most of the insurgent leaders were citizens of Tagbilaran, they were finally convinced to surrender, beating the American deadline by two days.
  2. In 1909, the Presbyterian missionary, Dr. James Alexander Graham, opened the first-ever medical facility in Tagbilaran, the Presbyterian Mission Hospital located roughly where the Galleria Luisa now stands. The same year also saw the introduction of Protestantism in Bohol.
  3. Then mayor of Tagbilaran CelestinoGallares launched his urban plan for Tagbilaran in the year 1913. The so-called “Gallares Plan” created more streets and enlarged the town’s territory and defining its limits by “circumferential roads” (liboron in Bisayan) Gallares also inaugurated a water system for the town, thus priming it for future developments. In the mid -1930’s the new Tagbilaran Public Market was inaugurated at the place it still occupies. This resulted in the dismantling of the old talipapa located in the vicinity of the old town hall, but not without controversy because many Tagbilaranons considered the new market area as “impossibly far.”
  4. In 1926, two important developments happened in Tagbilaran. First was the arrival of German nuns belonging to the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit. They opened the first exclusive school for girls in Bohol – St. Joseph’s Academy. In that same year, the former American soldier-turned entrepreneur, Mr. William Ogan, came to Bohol to start his transportation business- the Bohol Land Transportation Company. Giving salaries higher than what government-paid teachers were receiving, BLTC soon began employing a large number of Boholanos. Mr. Ogan soon purchased a large house formerly owned by a Mr. David from Manila. The house still stands today, located near the house of President Carlos P. Garcia.
  5. By the eve of World War II, Tagbilaran already had a new insular wharf, an airport and government-run hospital. In 1940, the old Spanish cemetery located where Lourdes parish church now stands, was abandoned in favor of the bigger one in Dampas.
  6. In 1950, Tagbilaran became the seat of the newly-created diocese that in effect severed the four hundred years ecclesiastical relationship Bohol had with Cebu. Bishop Julio Rosales was the first bishop.
  7. Finally, on July 1, 1966 Tagbilaran formally became a chartered city. This was under the administration of Mayor Venancio P. Inting. Tagbilaran then did not look much as a city; in fact it had just allowed motorized tricycles to take the place of the tartanilla, the former means of public transport in Tagbilaran.

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