by: Diana Lyn Lopez


The term "Boholano" derives from "Bool" the earliest name of Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol Province, and refers to the people of that island, their language, and culture.  Mountainous and measuring some 4, 117 sqkm, Bohol is situated below the typhoon belt.  Bohol island is surrounded by Southern Leyte in the east, Cebu island on the west, Camotes Sea on the north, and Bohol Sea in the south.  Many linguists classify the Boholano language as a dialect of Cebuano. 


The earliest discovered stone tool is reported to belong to the Paleolithic Age.  Two other stone tools found are said to belong to the late Neolithic.  Archaeological finds also include copper or brass, led, and iron implements; shell and glass beads; Tang to Ming porcelain; wooden coffins; and artificially deformed skulls.  The chronology of these finds, however, has not been made.  In early 1521 Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator under the Spanish service, sighted the island of Bohol and landed near the present-day Tagbilaran City.  After he was killed in Mactan, an island off Cebu, His followers retread to Bohol, and there burned one of their ships, the Concepcion.  In 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi stopped in Jagna, Bohol, where he was met with native resistance.  Later, as a peace pact with native leaders, Legazpi initiated a blood compact with native chiefs Sikatuna and Sigala on 16 Mar 1565.  As the Spaniards explored the rest of the Visayas, they converted the natives to Christianity.

To facilitate easier administration and evangelization, the colonial government placed Bohol under Cebu, then already an alcaldia or organized province.  In the 19th century, Bohol became a separate province through a Spanish royal decree.  The politico-military province of Bohol had control over Siquijor Island until close to the end of Spanish rule.  Siquijor became the subprovince of Negros Oriental.

The Boholano participated in the Philippine Revolution of 1896 which brought about a brief period of independence until the American occupation of the central Visayas from 1899 to 1900.  The Boholano resisted American occupation but their resistance failed to defeat the new colonizers.  On 17 Mar 1900 the Americans took over the province.  On Eastern Sunday 1901, 406 revolutionaries led by Capt. Gregorio Casenas died resisting the Americans in the battle of Jagna.In 1901 the Americans appointed governors to the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, and Negros Oriental.  Popular elections were held after peace and order were enforced by the colonizers.  American colonization fostered public education, health  and sanitation, government organization, agriculture and infrastructure.


Major livelihood activities are agriculture, fishing, cattle raising, mineral production and cottage industries.

Agriculture on island's sparse arable land is the main economic activity in Bohol, and comprises 56% of the labor force (Philippine Atlas 1975; Aprieto 1986).  Important crops include rice, corn, tobacco, ube, sweet potato, abaca, and coconut.  The last is significant since the island is one of the largest coconut producers in the country.  Other agricultural products include legumes, abaca, maguey, vegetables, and fruit trees.  Fishing is done regardless of season.. it is mainly found in the northern part of the province but the industry is localized as reefs off the coast obstruct fishing activities.  The industry's full potential has yet to be tapped.  The livestock industry is represented in Bohol by various ranches, the more notable of which are the animal farms in Talibon and Ubay (Philippine Atlas 1975).

Bohol is served by 4 national and 23 municipal ports, 2 national airports at Tagbilaran and Ubay.  Tagbilaran City is the leading commercial and trading center where interisland ships regularly arrive.  Electric, postal, telegraphic, and telephone services are provided by both government and private firms.  The literacy rate in the province is 81%.


Bohol is divided into 47 mayoralties, with Tagbilaran City administered by a mayor, a vice-mayor, and four councilors.  The provincial government consists of a governor, a vice-governor, and 10 provincial board members.  Bohol sends 3 representatives to the national assembly.. It is served by a Municipal Circuit Trial court in Dagohoy-Danao.


To Boholano have strong affinity with their family, and are respectful towards their elders.  Terms like manong, manang, tio, tia are used.  Like most other Philippine groups, filial duty of helping to support the family is observed.

The life cycle of the Boholano is celebrated in various ceremonies that include both Christian and native elements.  Traditionally, the Boholano performed the paglelehe after childbirth.  This consisted to tying the unbiblical cord of a boy to a nonoc tree.  This is believed to confer strength on him.  If a girl, the cord is tied to fragrant pandan plant to make her eligible someday for the local chieftain.

In the past, education of the youth was entrusted to an elderly person known as the paratagbao (literally, "he cried out loud"), whose instructions on morality and ethics were done at the children's homes.  The Spaniards introduced formal classroom education and the Americans strengthened I with the public school system.

In the past, the Boholano believed that there s a next world which is a continuation of life.  When a person died, the relative  cleansed the deceased wit water made fragrant with leaves, herbs, and preservatives, such as lime and buyo.  Jewelry and work implements were interred with the dead.  Mourning took the form of abstinence from fish and meat.  Christianity has effectively stopped these practices.


Almost 96% of Boholano are Catholic.  The remaining 4% are Aglipayan, Protestant or Iglesia ni Cristo.  Although most Boholano profess the Christian fait, many still cling to traditional beliefs in spirits to this day.  Belief in the Christian god coexists with the reverence for the anito (spirits) of animo ( life in objects of nature).  Anito are either good or evil, and are placated with prayers and offerings.

The Boholano, like other Visayans, believe in miracles.  Miracles of the Holy Child are often cited as the reason for the end of long drought of pestilence in Hanopol, Balilihan.  Tales of the intervention of the Blessed Virgin during pestilence and natural disasters are told in Loboc.  Stories have in that during the Japanese occupation, the people held novenas for the Blessed Virgin and Loboc was spared.  Communities in Bohol have patron saints which are the focus of religious devotion.


In Bohol, as in many island provinces, the native settlements line the coast.  The Spanish colonial period did not change this but merely encouraged the natives to dwell around and near the churches built by the priests.  To this day, the coastal pueblos remain.  The most important architectural monuments in Bohol are the churches of the Spanish period.  There are many outstanding examples of such architecture and two of the very best are the Church of the Inmaculada Concepcion in Baclayon, and the Church of San Pedro in Loboc.


Scheans (1977) classifies Boholano pottery under the Cebuano one.  A major difference, however, lies in the building technique.  In the towns of Albur and Valencia, turn modeling is a major building technique, thus distinguishing the Boholano potters from the Cebuano.

Bohol mat weaving had had a long tradition.  The material employed is not buri but seagrass, and the process involves weaving the material finely in a loom.  Colors employed are similar to those used by the Samal - dark green, purple, and magenta. J Talibon specializes in the finely woven buntal hats: another town displays its combination of bamboo and nito weaving, producing such artifacts as the antequeana baskets. Some towns produce hats of nipa overlaid by nito basketry.  The Boholano also used to make the sails for the galleons before the trade died out. The material used was canvas raw cotton.

Bohol Island stands out in the history of Philippines art as a center of artistic activity in the 19th century.  Because of this, scholars have likened it to Santa Cruz, Manila, the hub of artists and to provincial centers like Lucban and San Vicente, Ilocos Sur.  Unlike the works coming form these other centers, the innumerable pieces of Bohol have survived the encroachment of the chromo-othograph at the beginning of the American period as well as WWII.


Boholano literary arts consist of riddles, proverbs, lyric poetry, myths, legends, folktales, fables, and magic stories.  Riddles are primarily  told for enjoyment and relaxation, but they also serve a pedagogical purpose by honing one's wit and by developing an awareness of, and appreciation for, one's environment.  Moral, psychological, and practical truths are encapsulated in Boholano proverbs which are universal in them but indigenous in metaphor.  Boholano lyric poetry deals with multifaceted character of romantic love and its expression. Here, as in most poems, the imagery is derived principally from nature.  Patriotism, or more accurately, love of home province, also figures as a them in Boholano lyric poetry.

The origin of things is explained in the various Boholano myths and legend, which include not only Christian-inspired pieces like "The First Man and Woman" but also early attempts at explaining social stratification as in "The Origin of the Social Classes."  Folktales evolve from everyday folk material retold in countless novel forms.  On such tale is "The Chocolate-dropped  Hills of Carmen, Batuan, and Borja towns" which highlights kindness and faith in God.. In man instances, n the story reminds one of Grimms fairy tales which are populated with fairies and giants.  Nonhuman characters populate the fables, which focus on human nature.   Told for pure entertainment, fables teach values to children and comment on human frailty and society in general.  Supernatural beings and occurrences are the subject matter of magic stories which encapsulate some of the folk beliefs that some Boholano still cherish today.


The musical instruments used in Bohol are similar to those played in other parts of the Visayas.  The Spanish occupation introduced Western secular instruments, like the guitar, and religious instruments like the organ.   The bigger churches, like Loboc and Baclayon, have organs which are painted with royal designs. Bohol folk songs can be grouped into children's songs, humorous songs, occupational songs, occasional songs, love songs, and religious songs.  Children's songs include lullabies and nursery rimes.  The former are sung to lull a baby to sleep.  Nursery rimes serve to train the child in music appreciation.  As the name implies, humorous songs are meant to be jocular and may often be naughty.  Occupational songs are sung to accompany work.  The melody is evolved to fit or support the rhythm of the work pace.  There are work songs for various occupations.  Love songs tell of meetings and partings.  The express one's feelings or intentions in the most sentimental manner.  Religious songs find expression in the Christmas carol, in the pasyon song during the Lenten pabasa, and during wakes. 

Most dances are performed during social occasions, such as baptisms, wedding or fiestas.  The Hispanic influence is easily discerned in these dances.  A formal ball opens with the rigodon or lanceros, both lively square dances, with the latter having more variety in movements.  Formal attire is needed for the dance.


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