Set between the stunning picturesque backdrop of the Cebu Mountains, and the azure waters of the Bohol Sea is the sleepy little fishing village of Boljoon Cebu. This historic town was an epicenter for a new developing culture and commerce. The Spanish explorers and Augustinian Friars landed in 1590 set to expand Catholicism to a new people. Finding an abundant supply of fresh water and friendly locals they began establishing the first Christian settlement area in Cebu. Officially established by the Friars in 1599. In 1606 Boljoon was constituted as a parish before becoming a municipality, making Boljoon one of first towns in Cebu. Being the first of anything lends itself to a reason to create a history tour and that is just what the Boljoon Heritage Council have organised.
The areas history doesn’t start with the Spanish however. Recent archeological excavations have unearthed evidence of a much earlier history where the local villagers lived in “Post and Beam” houses, where they buried their dead under their house with various “valuable” traded goods such as bowls with Japanese origins, beads and bolos (machetes).
Boljoon, (pronounced Bol-Hole-ôn), Cebu historically has had several assigned spellings (or mistakes?). Often refered in historical text spelled as Bolhon, Bolhoon, and the current spelling lends to the areas Spanish Herratige with the “j” in the spelling providing the “h” pronunciation. The common referenced history on origin of the name for Boljoon is when the Spanish landed in the area they asked the local villagers for the name of the area. The villages replied “Bolho” which is the local term for “Gushing Water,” a this is source of the areas where requirements for drinking, bathing and such.
With such a long history in the area the current town hosts many historical buildings and areas from the origional settlements. Many of these structures suggest a rather turbulent history for the area, attempting to protect themselves from the invasion of pirates!
The 400 year old church near the center of the town, Nuestra Señora Patrocinio de Maria Church, was constructed as a “Fortified Church.” The church walls were built with coral stones nearly one meter (3.3 ft) thick to help provide shelter from cannon fire by the Moro Pirates. Adding to the turbulent history, under the bell tower hides an origional jail cell, complete with graffiti from a previous tennent of what is presumed to be their ship. What self respecing history tour would be complete without pirates?
Helping to make up the fortified church grounds is the El Granade Baluarte designed as a watch tower to provide early warnings against such attacks. Many of these two/or three story watch towers are found in strategic areas along the entire southern coastline including our Granada Beach Resort peninsula.
One of these Spanish Watch Towers remains can be seen on the very top of Ili Rock, one of the popular landmarks of the area. Serving as an impressive backdrop for Boljoon, this natural rock formation is believed to be a natural fortress and one author even describes it as Cebu’s version of the “Rock of Gibraltar.”
The Boljoon Tourism Ministry has established a self guided heritage walk (history tour) which visits the heritage sites around the town including; Dr. Niere Ancestral House, Boljoon Bridge, Baño sa Poblacion and the Museum. For this walking tour map you an visit the Tourism and Heritage Council office at the Boljoon Municiple building just across from the Church.
During your stay at Granada Beach Resort schedule a day to explore this charming little town and discover some of it’s past secrets on this self guided history tour. This true Pinoy Hertiage Town is begging to be discovered, but hopefully not too quickly to help keep it’s sincere charm and personality.