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Journeying Through Abatan River in Bohol

A new, amazing attraction now brings tourists to Bohol on board a native boat called Bandong to a winding river that snakes through four coastal towns within three hours of river cruise-welcome to the Abatan River Tour.

by Jhaypee Guia on July 28, 2012
Journeying Through Abatan River in Bohol

Abatan River near Balilihan

Tourists who want to reconnect with nature will surely find Bohol a perfect haven for natural escapades. From the grandeur of Chocolate Hills, the awfully cute Philippine Tarsier, to the enigmatic Loboc River, this island province in Central Visayas has been blessed with the richness of natural wonders. But there is more to the usual nature destinations in Bohol. A new, amazing attraction now brings tourists on board a native boat called Bandong to a winding river that snakes through four coastal towns within three hours of river cruise-welcome to the Abatan River Tour.


The amazing three-hour Abatan River Tour starts right at the designated Ecotourism Village Center in Cortes town, where the river’s languid tempo and lazy rhythm effortlessly lulls the passengers into a tranquil daze complemented by the soft breeze and the slow rhythmic dance of palms.

The tour, however, is not just about the river. It also exhibits the colourful history of the towns embracing the river, including Cortes, in each of the five- town pit stops. At Cortes, tourists are welcomed with theatrical ritual rites dubbed “Passage to the Abatan River”, where the legendary Princess Wadji, warrior and guardian of the river, gives her blessings to the sailing tourists.

When the ritual, played by local actors, is done the journey then begins, allowing one to admire the lush landscapes alongside one of the province’s main waterways, once a key transport route for natives traveling to the hinterlands centuries ago.


Passing through thick, lush green mangroves plantation onboard the 27-seater local boat, the tour then halts to a stop in the town of Maribojoc, the first pit stop of the amazing journey. In Maribojoc, the Cultural Collective, a community based cultural association organized in each of the component local government units, treats guest to a 10-minute traditional lei giving presentation with musical accompaniment.

The top also includes a demonstration of the town’s livelihood activity, providing tourist tourists with a quick view of the locals way of life, followed by a dance highlighting fishing implements, fishing being the town’s main source of livelihood.

Maribojoc holds one of the biggest mangroves areas in the entire Bohol, with more than 27 species of mangroves lining up the river beds, providing shelter to various flora and fauna, including tiny crabs, endangered birds, and monkeys.


Next stop is the wonderful town of Antequera where guests are given a quick view of the story of the Sunken Bell through the dramatic presentation of local actors and actresses. Local folks claimed the story of the Sunken Bell, locally known as “Lingganay nga Ugis”, dates back to the 1600s during the time of the local leader Tamblot. The bell was prized-possession of the town as pirates and intruders tried to get their hands on the bell for its unique ability to produce sounds that can be heard to as far as the Island of Siquijor. Locals said the bell was then offered to the fairies of the river.

Light refreshments are served during the pit stop as the Antequera Cultural Collective also showcases the town’s high-grade basketry industry, which makes the town as basket capital of the province, in colorful song and dance performances.

The town of Antequera Bohol boasts of several tourist spots. One major attraction, not only in the town but in the whole province of Bohol, is the Mag-aso Falls. Another attraction is the Inambacan Falls which is near the often featured Inambacan Cave.


The third stop in this wonderful river journey that offers spectacular sceneries and unrivaled tranquillity is the enigmatic town of Balilihan, home of several wonderful waterfalls and other tourists attractions. After a 10-minute cultural presentation depicting the lifestyle of the locals, tourist would have to disembark from the Bandong for a journey towards the Kawasan Falls.

The falls is accentuated by a green backdrop of tropical plants and rugged cliffs and cascades into a natural pool. The falls sits at the center of a network of hiking trails that poses a great challenge to trekkers.

Lovers of culture will also be surely amazed at the century old Balilihan Church and watch tower. The church, built in 1829, has an interior design embellished with paintings by Ray Francia, and has altars that combine Corinthian columns, neogothic spires and crockets, Baroque volutes and Art Deco open work.

The watchtower, located about 20 kilometers upstream of the Abatan River, was built in 1820 on a hill beside the church to alert locals of the arrivals of pirates and intruders.


The final pit stop of the river tour is the town of Catigbian, where guests are given the chance to try riding carts that are pulled by carabaos, an exciting idyllic respite for tourists escaping the hubhub of city life. Local musicians serenade tourists as carabaos showcase their skills at pulling carts boarded by newcomers.

A village tour and a presentation of ritual to the Kingdom of Ga-am performed by the Cultural Collective also add up to the festive mood in this pit stop. A trek to the Dagook Falls or to the hanging bridge that swings and move at every step, winds up the amazing Abatan Tour-a journey that features nature at its finest, lush nipa and mangrove forests, pristine river that snakes through different towns, rich cultures of the locals, and wonderful memories that will surely last a lifetime.

Getting There

Tourists who want to join the Abatan River Tour converge at the main village center located in the National Highway of Salvador, Cortes, Bohol. It is about 10 kilometers or 10-15 minutes travel from Tagbilaran City seaport and airport and approximately 45 kilometers or 30-40 minutes from Tubigon seaport. Taxis, van for hire, motor taxi, tricycle, and public utility jeepneys and buses ply from Tagbilaran City to Cortes.

How to get there (Bohol)

By Air

The main entry point to Bohol is Tagbilaran City (Tagbilaran City Airport) which is only a one hour-and-15 minute flight from Manila and 20 minutes from Cebu.

By Sea

The most convenient way to get to Bohol from the neighboring islands is by fast ferry. Fast ferries offer a high speed passenger service. These have a cruising speed of about 50 kilometers per hour.

Getting Around in Bohol

Once you arrive in Bohol, there are various ways to get around the island. You can find plenty of tricycles and some taxis waiting to bring you to most locations within Tagbilaran and neighbouring towns. If you need to go to one of the other towns on the island, you have a choice of jeepneys, busses, V-hires, or even habal-habal.

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