Tagbilaran Market, Bohol

I was in Bohol last Saturday taking care of business at a beach on boh1Panglao Island, and I decided to shoot into town for a two-hour break to visit the market and stock up on dried fish. The Central Public Market in Tagbilaran City was a truly pleasant surprise. Huge, airy and clean, with over a hundred and fifty stalls, this market was a real joy to visit. Many of my visits to provincial markets are often disappointing as there is perhaps a lack of buying power that leads to an anemic offering of goods and produce (except in particularly fertile or seaside locations). Not true at all in Bohol. I was told that “tabo” or market days were Friday and Tuesday so being there on a Saturday afternoon should have been somewhat of a disappointment. But there was still a huge selection of seafood, dried fish, vegetables and fruit.

My camera battery was nearly out of juice so my photos are boh2limited and their quality level leave something to be desired…but you will get the picture, if you know what I mean. In the fresh seafood section, I spied some superb looking, feeling and smelling young octopus just out of the sea. I have never cooked octopus but if I had a kitchen to use that day I would have scooped these up and attempted to do something with them. The selection of fresh seaweed was also impressive. There were at least 6 varieties and they were reef fresh. Crisp, snappy and possessing a salty taste of the sea. Toss this with a bit of vinaigrette and served with grilled octopus, yum!

Also in the seafood section were some fresh dilis, great for boh3kinilaw or frying up with or without batter. I was amused by the use of old cell phone cards as the price tags. Apparently they are waterproof and with the prices written on them with pentel pen they act as really durable price tags. So all across the market there are these used Globe and Smart cards neatly announcing the prices of goods on offer. Frankly, I gain a lot of confidence in a market when prices are transparently displayed. A little bargaining is needed but it means locals and visitors aren’t treated too differently. The prices were superb, savings of 30-40% off of Manila market prices on average. Superb small tulingan, live shells, lapu-lapu, dapa, eels, etc. were all fresh and enticing in the seafood section.

As a kid, I used to watch my parents in semi-horror as they boh4dipped boiled ripe pili nuts into a murky side dish of guinamos or fermented fish. A brownish grey mush that is definitely an acquired taste, it can either leave the impression of decayed old fish (think fear factor challenge) or turn into a salty, pungent condiment that one finds distinctively good. I eventually figured out how to eat it though it isn’t one of my favorites, but in one area of the market I spied a vendor with at least 8 different kinds of guinamos! In varying degrees of fermentation, the guinamos was stored in covered plastic garbage pails for people to buy by the cup. I wasn’t thrilled with the whole hygiene factor but I was thrilled to see so much variety on offer. Somehow bottling it and seeing it on a grocery shelf makes the visuals better.

The vegetable section of the market was another several alleys of revelation. boh5I have been to Bohol at least a dozen times and I was always under the impression that there was a dearth of vegetables on the island, following in the view that Cebuanos and Boholanos never eat anything green except malunggay. Not true. There was a huge selection of everything local you can think off… eggplants, onions, squashes, ginger, greens, beans, etc. Oddly, they even had cauliflower, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes – or crops you would normally associate with a relatively small island.

The fruit section was a little smaller than I would have expected boh6but it may have been a function of the time that I visited the market. There was an annoyingly large representation of foreign second rate fruit such as mushy apples, oranges, pears(!), etc. But they also had locally grown bananas by the millions, watermelons, and other local fruits. Best of all, there seemed to be an endless supply of “Pure Mambajao Lanzones” from nearby Camiguin Island. Frankly, these were the sweetest and most delicious Lanzones I have ever tasted! And at PHP36 a kilo, the bargain of the day! If I wasn’t afraid of stomach complications, I would have eaten a kilo or more in one sitting. Apparently the annual Lanzones festival was just two weeks away so it was nearing the peak of the Lanzones season. I now understand my mom’s love for this fruit. If she grew up in bohol eating the Camiguin variety it would have been as memorable as my first Hershey’s kiss.

Finally, there was also a dry goods section to the boh7market (didn’t end up there), a feeds and grains section (some of the varieties of rice grown in Bohol are excellent), and a cooked food section for all of the market-goers and vendors to get a snack or meal. One of the vendors was churning out maruya or fried battered bananas like there was no tomorrow. At PHP 10 for 3 pieces these were a bargain as well. Overall, I must say I was quite impressed with the Tagbilaran market!


21 Responses

  1. I can close my eyes and smell the market already! Nice photos and descriptions!

    To continue the provincial thread, can you share any knowledge you might have re claypot (palayok) cooking? Am curious to know the difference if any in flavor and texture with Filipino and other dishes cooked this way. I know Casa Armas’ famous Iberian chicken is cooked in a claypot that has been pre soaked in water, hence the moistness of even its white meat.

  2. MES, how weird you should ask about palayoks. I was debating the purchase of one or more palayoks in Tagbilaran but the reality of checking it in with extensive luggage (work papers, computer), a box of dried fish, shells for my daughter confiscated as contraband, egads!), tons of broas and snacks, and then pottery was just too daunting, so I passed. Shucks, gotta get them the next time. Yes, there is a difference when cooking with clay… will have to do some research!

  3. In Batangas, the sinaing na tulingan is cooked in claypots with holes on the side. I’m not really sure why. Maybe MM, you can check it when you go back to Nasugbu. Thanks for this post on the Tagbilaran Market.

  4. I have re-read this entry the “morning after” and have amused even myself. Note the first sentence or two where I write “shoot into town for a two hour break” – from the beach??? Can you imagine I would rather be in the market than on the beach? Hmmm, maybe not. It’s just that I had been taking care of business for the better part of a week in Cebu and Bohol so a market break was truly mentally soothing…

  5. Wow…octupus! Marinating them in Maggi Sweet Chili sauce, salt and pepper and then off to the grill or barbie. Serve topped with some chopped coriander leaves and lemon wedges on the side.Quick and easy.

  6. Hchie that sounds good. How do you prepare octopus for cooking? How long do you grill them? I have only ever tried octopus in sushi or as tako sashimi and yes as baby octopi appetizers in an upscale Chinese restaurant. The ones I have had as sushi or sashimi were seriously tough so much so that I have developed a fear of choking to death on them.

  7. I try to get the smallest ones available (the baby ones are usually imported)and if they’re bigger than my clenched fist I half them or if bigger yet, quarter them. I then take out the “tooth?” under its head and slit the eyes out (how gruesome!)and give it a good wash and drain. Marinate for an hour or so, then grill over REALLY HOT coals. I cook them for just a few minutes till it looks moist in the center but curly and a bit charred at the outer edges. Squid is great cooked this way too.

  8. I love browsing the markets, too, like you MM. It’s always interesting looking at fresh produce and discovering unfamiliar things in local markets even fascinates me. You are right MM, it is mentally soothing!

  9. I’ve been to Bohol many times although it has been quite a while. i’d forgotten what a nice market Tagbilaran has – aactually the whole town is quite pleasant. And did you notice all the beautiful gardens in front of the well-kept houses along the roads!

    The is a nice cafe, Garden Café, in Tagbilaran City that has been around for some time that funds a wonderful Bohol-based NGO/school for the deaf called International Deaf Education Association. IDEA now supports 272 deaf schoolchildren in the Philippines and employs 100 deaf workers in occupations ranging from cabinet-making to landscape maintenance. The cafe is also staffed by the deaf community. Its an impressive operation and Dennis Drake, who runs it, is a great guy!
    I just happened upon an recent article abou the cafe, and how they now have an OLD-WEST/Montana THEME! I think that is fantastic!
    Definately would be worth checking out/revieweing if your business brings you to Bohol again!

    Here is a link to an article about the cafe:


  10. Skunkeye, I have heard of the cafe but have not had a chance to visit it yet. And yes, I agree about the gardens… Bohol is one of those provinces with a clear pride of place… everyone takes care of their surroundings and some of the home gardens are simply spectacular. My mother used to go around all the best ones and ask for clippings of plants she didn’t have. I thought it was a weird thing to do when I was a kid but I now see why she did it. With a huge international airport planned for Panglao island… it remains to be seen if Bohol can be developed into a world class tourist destination. Between the beaches, churches, delicacies, chocolate hills, tarsiers, rice terraces inland, nice people, it has the potential…

  11. Ay, your Bohol posts are making me feel quite nostalgic.
    It would be a boon to the region if tourism is developed thoughtfully and properly – I’d hate to se its natural beauty exploited. I guess everytime we stayed there, it was at the middling Bohol Beach club – that was all there was except for a few dive shops – and we had to stay there because of security for my dad.
    But I always enjoyed Tagbilaran City immensely. And relished driving around, visiting the Chocolate hills, and the wondeful churches there. Garden Cafe was fantastic in its previous incarnation and I hope that the Montana theme will bring more business. The IDEA school is on the periphery of TC and is impressive and well worth checking out.
    Please let your philanthropic-mided friends know that IDEA is one of the best-run NGOs I’ve seen and could use any support actually my family still supports it in our small way after all these years – and in fact I have a “little sister” there and we hope that someday she will be joining us in DC to attend Gaulludet, the respected university for the deaf here.
    Haha, I’ve turned into your mother as well – give me chance to revisit Boholi and i would be clipping gardens everywhere!
    You know i still wear my ragged Bohol T-shirts around town on weekends!

  12. Hi MM, this is your close relative from Tagbilaran – the one who also loves to cook and eat… Read your piece about the Dao Market. My wife and I are at that market at least three days a week, and yes, it is excellent – I go to the supermarket at the mall here maybe twice a week and always snicker to myself when I see foreigners and local “sosyals” buying their seafood and veggies there. How anyone who lives in bohol can pass on the wetmarket in lieu of refrigerated, wilted, smelly, stuff harvested/caught god-knows-when? Btw, there are two other wetmarkets that are part of my weekly rounds – Cogon Market in northern Tagbilaran, on any given day, early in the morning, Cogon Market is the best place to get super-fresh, live wild prawns – which taste so much better than the pond-grown tiger prawns, and also live shrimp, squid, and octopus. Manga market, at the northernmost fringe of the city, is great in the late afternoon as the catch of the day is usually to be found there. Again, super-dooper fresh. Maybe now you understand why, when I visit you in Manila, I almost never eat seafood there. Living here for 20 years, I’ve learned never to buy a squid unless it’s colors are still changing. A dead shrimp is useless. And a lapulapu still quivering at the gills is the only way to buy lapulapu. I’m spoiled. But then again, I have dreams of blood-rare, melt-in-the-mouth slices of roast beef!!! Hahaha, can’t have everything. Oh, finally, re: the “montana” place… IMHO, forget it.

  13. Hi! can you give me a certain details about the facilities and services they offer in the market? by the way you have nice descriptions of market and the pictures are very atractive.

  14. Jas, sorry, I was just a tourist at the market so I don’t much about it (re: services and facilities) other than the wide aisles, tiled counters, less than attractive bathrooms and ample parking areas. However, the market office was right up front at the market and I suppose you could ask them about it…

  15. Im from Bohol and i really miss the place. I heard about how its becoming the number one tourist destination in the Philippinesnowadays… I just hope that businesses will not start building tall buildings and condominiums there in Panglao Island, because i think it will take away the natural beauty of the island…they should put the buildings in Tagbilaran City proper. Untouched nature is primarily one of the main reason why Bohol is becoming a magnet for adventurers and tourist alike.

  16. Hi i’m from Bohol and i really like our delicacies, specially the most tasty peanut kisses, if you can taste this delicacy you really love it.We have also our calamey many tourist like this delicacy.The food of the Boholanos are so great and very much delicious.If you just can taste all our specialy, you really love it..So hurry up the visit our beloved BOHOL…

  17. jhulie, you must be new to the site. If you bothered to check the archives, you would know that my mother’s family hails from Bohol and that I have featured several posts on the Bohol markets, calamay, broas, bee farms, beaches, etc. Please review some of the 1000+ posts on this website so you will be aware of the Bohol related entries.

  18. This site has been very useful as I am going to Tagbilaran in december this year with my mum.
    The dry goods food looks really nice!

  19. I am in Tagbilaran, Bohol now and I went online to scout for good places to eat.

    Thanks for the post. I will be looking for the Garden Cafe since I am staying at MetroCenter Hotel.


  20. hi! my husband and i, together with my mom and a company, will be going to Bohol this 27th, til the 30th. I heard it’ll be so much fun, not to mention there will be lots of food since it falls on the same day of the town’s (Tagbilaran) Fiesta, which i believe will be on Sunday! Reading your posts left me with so much eagerness to explore Bohol! I just feel we would love the place. I will remember to post every details after the much awaited trip!! Ciao!

  21. my friend went back home in Bohol and he brought a (kulon)palayok when he come back (Canada) We use his kulon to cook rise during our camping, I put banana leaf (I buy banana leaf in Chinese store)before the rice and cook it in wood fire its really yummy.



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