Bohol + Cebu (2014): The Churches of Bohol

Every year for the past four years I’ve been constantly going to Cebu to start my year with Cebu City Marathon (CCM).  This year was no different, except that the places I love had changed due to the strong earthquake that rocked the region last year.  With that, my itinerary had also changed: I decided to just donate my CCM registration fee and support the locals in my own small way by visiting the areas affected.  I fortunately had planned for a four day getaway so I had time to explore both Cebu and Bohol.

Goodbye for now, Manila!

I arrived in the Visayas through Cebu but my trip started with the province of Bohol.  We took the first flight out of Manila and the earliest ferry out of Cebu City to Tagbilaran, Bohol upon arrival.  At this point, everything was as I remembered it.

Philippine Airlines’ first flight to Cebu from Manila uses a bigger plane which offered so much better leg room
Rains greeted us on our arrival
The plane has a 2-4-2 seat configurations
We’ve arrived!  Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Viva Pit Senyor!
We passed through the old bridge out from Mactan giving us a view of the newer Marcelo Fernan bridge

Upon arrival in Tagbilaran though, you immediately notice something different.  The road out of the port now only uses half of its lanes as the other half was full of cracks.  The restaurants that are found nearby also noticeably have more supporting beams below.

Our ferry to Tagbilaran, Bohol

Our first agenda was a visit to Baclayon Church.  Baclayon is not that far from Tagbilaran, but the commute was quite difficult.  Public transportation in Bohol even before the big earthquake was already a challenge, and now it’s much more difficult.  Many of the asphalt roads had crumbled so badly that it’s now mostly dirt (or mud to be more accurate) and the concrete ones were cracked in so many places and sometimes became uneven that many remains unpassable to this day.  In best cases, the cracked sections were just cleared and evened out with dirt to be paved later, but in some areas entire roads were closed and you have to find an alternate route that could support the type of vehicle you have (buses and trucks don’t always fit in some alternate routes).

After what seemed like a very long journey to Baclayon Church, we had to brace ourselves on what to expect.  The road in front of the church is still closed so we reached it from the back.  After walking around the church compound, we were greeted with a sad sight.

Baclayon Church after the earthquake

The current structure was erected in 1724 and had withstood typhoons and earthquakes for centuries, only to be greatly damaged in 2013.  It was really such a sad sight to behold, especially if you had seen this church in its former glory.  I cannot imagine how frightening it must have been in this area during the earthquake.

These rocks probably came from the demolished bell tower
A closer view of a rock that came from the bell tower
The bell tower from another angle
What the church looked like in 2010

The church is still closed but the museum is open so you’re very much welcome to visit.  I also suggest that you visit the nearby park as you get some amazing views of the church and the area here.

View from the park of the sea
View of Baclayon Church from the park

Afterwards, we were off to another popular tourist destination in the island, Loboc.  The Church of San Pedro (Saint Peter) in Loboc, Bohol is the second oldest church established in Bohol and the current structure was completed in 1734.  Sadly, the damage here was even graver than in Baclayon.  Even newer structures around the church sustained significant damages.  On a good note though, the Loboc river cruise is now back in operation.

What remains of Loboc Church
This used to be a tower
Even the nearby structure was just demolished
Panoramic shot of the length of Loboc Church
Aftermath of the earthquake on the terminal of Loboc floating restaurants
Even the bridge has some additional support
The elevator of the bridge crossing Loboc river is now leaning and is literally just hanging on metal ropes for support
Loboc Church in 2010

In case you’re wondering what the river cruise is like, check out my video from 2010 below.  The experience shouldn’t be far off from what it was:

After the heartbreaking sights, we went back to Tagbilaran to find a hotel.  Yes, up until this time we were hauling our bags and haven’t settled in a hotel yet.  Tagbilaran is a great place to stay in Bohol as, being the capital of the province, you have quite a lot of hotel options for all budget, and we didn’t have any difficulty finding one on such short notice.

Travel Tip: Google Maps is a great way to find hotels in Tagbilaran in case you don’t want to walk around aimlessly.

Even in Tagbilaran, scars of last year’s earthquake remain apparent.  Our hotel room has some quite noticeable cracks on the wall, but it’s not that bad to compromise the structural integrity of the building.  Our room was quite decent but nothing noteworthy to write about, but it did gave us a safe haven to stay for the night.

For just ₱69 you already get two sticks of barbecue and unlimited rice in Payag Restaurant at the fifth floor of BQ Mall
View from the fifth floor of BQ Mall

Travel Tip: While I don’t normally recommend going to a mall during travels, BQ Mall in Tagbilaran is an exception as this is a great place to find local delicacies.  There are some good, value for money restaurants at the fifth floor which offers great views while you eat.

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Bohol + Cebu (2014):

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