We were on the road for about two hours. The typical countryside scene—coconut trees, some houses by the highway, green rice paddies–almost didn’t change…until we reached the town of Jagna.
At the municipal hall, Gina, the town’s Tourism Officer, and her staff Sweet, welcomed us. Then, after a short hi-hello, I signaled we were ready to visit their production site for calamay and try out cooking the delicacy.
To our surprise, Gina wanted us to experience more than calamay making. She wanted us to see their almost 400-year old church, a shrine for Pedro Calungsod, and some hill that offers a breathtaking view of Mindanao Sea and the whole town. And then she said there’s cliff diving, snorkeling, caves, waterfalls, and beaches.
Right there and then, I realized my mistake. I was wrong thinking that Jagna is all about the sweet and sticky calamay. Actually, it’s an underrated destination with plenty of attractions waiting to be shown to the world.
Anyway, we tried calamay-making and promised Gina we’ll be back soon to see the rest of Jagna. Here’s what we discovered about this town.
At 1oo meters long, the Jagna Church is the longest church in Bohol. Its façade may look modern due to multiple renovations, but the interior is a well preserved masterpiece from the 1800s. This church showcases intricate frescoes by Ray Francia, a popular Cebuano painter whose murals are found in the churches Bohol and Cebu.
How to get there: The church is right across the town plaza, a short walk from the municipal hall and the public market.
This public beach is popular for its smooth white and grey pebbles. Without paying any entrance fees (unless you rent a cottage), you can enjoy the 400-meter beach while listening to the big waves slapping the cliffs and shores. It has beautiful sunsets, too. When the sky is clear, you can see the island of Camiguin, which is about three hours away by ferry.
How to get there: From Tagbilaran, drop you off the highway close to this beach. From downtown Jagna, you can take a 5-minute tricycle ride at standard minimum fare.
Note: Lite Shipping has trips to Camiguin every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In summer, during the peak season, there are daily trips direct to Camiguin.
This cold spring in the highlands of Lonoy is a popular destination during the warm months. Sheltered under big trees, the clear freshwater pool is best for that much-needed ice-cold dip in summer.
How to get there: Take a habal-habal to Lonoy. Travel time is 30 minutes maximum. Fare is P30 per person, one way.
About five kilometers away from downtown Jagna is the most-visited waterfalls in the village of Cabungaan. Kinahugan Falls is a unique showdown of three beautiful waterfalls flowing into a bluish pool of freshwater. It is best visited in the rainy months when water in the falls form white cascades about 50 feet high.
How to get there: Take a habal-habal up to the drop off point, and then trek down to the waterfalls. Fare is P30 per person, one way.
WORD OF MOUTH
Jagna is known for calamay and other cottage industries. The town is also blessed with natural attractions that can equal, if not surpass, those of other places. Jagna has numerous springs ideal for bathing, and caves and caverns most of which remain unexplored. The church of Jagna, a tourist landmark, was constructed during the Spanish era. If you take a closer look at its walls, you will notice crushed egg shells and other native materials used to fortify the walls. Our town fiesta is celebrated in September highlighted by a cultural presentation which depicts the fight between good and evil, as inspired by our patron saint.
The highest peak in Bohol is found in Mayana, 17 kilometers from downtown. The village of Mayana is blessed with a good climate, making it home to a number of vegetable and flower farms. Getting to the peak means conquering a steep trail that rises up to 820 meters above sea level, 400 meters higher that the Chocolate Hills. At the top, you get a view of Jagna’s rice paddies and the mountains in the neighboring towns of Garcia, Duero, and Candijay.
How to get there: There are jeepneys from downtown Jagna to Mayana, but trips are limited. Better flag a habal-habal to take you to the drop off point. Fare is P100 per person, one way. The hike can take at least 45 minutes. Read Geezelle’s blog for more details on Mayana Peak.
Another picturesque location to enjoy the view of Bohol’s mountain range is Cantuyoc Hill, which is a short 10-minute habal-habal ride from downtown. If you have more time for adventure also check the Cantuyoc Cave which is considered as one of the deepest caves in the Philippines. The hills at Buyog and Ilihan are also worth visiting.
Having been explored just recently, this cave is a new addition to the many cave destinations in Bohol. The Calabacita Cave boasts of untouched mineral formations, stalactites, and stalagmites. Other popular caves of Jagna are in Cantuyoc, Balili, and Odiong.
How to get there: Take a habal-habal or a Dory Transit bus going to Calabacita. The cave is near Calabacita Elementary School. For safety, it’s best to coordinate with the Tourism Office for a visit.
Jagna also boasts of pristine dive sites in the towns of Larapan, Cantagay, Naatang, and Tubod Mar. These areas are best for diving and snorkeling. Explore the rich marine life of the Mindanao Sea and witness the spectacle of colorful topical fishes and coral reefs. There’s a dive shop at Paseo Del Mar where you can rent your gear. Visit their website for the rates.
WORD OF MOUTH
Jagna has everything you need for a perfect getaway—beach, food, natural wonders, and adventure. It has a unique pebble beach where, instead of white sand, you got black and white marble and polished corrals. Enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving in the wide marine sanctuary of Cantagay, Larapan, and Tubod Mar, where black corals are abundant. Don’t miss the hill-shaped tableja, the delicious homemade cookies, and the colorful pansit yaning. In Mayana, you can climb the highest peak in Bohol and see rice terraces. Tip: Jagna is Bohol’s portal to Mindanao. There’s a daily boat schedule in to Camiguin in summer, so why not hit two islands in one trip?
TSOKOLATE DE BINSOY
If Hershey’s has the world-famous Kisses, Jagna has its own tsokolate de binsoy or tableja. Seeds of locally grown cacao are meticulously prepared to give a high grade of dark chocolate. Using a knife-like tool called binsoy, the chocolate is refined on a slab of stone called metate, and then with skilled hands, as if playing fencing, the mixture is shaped on a spatula until it’s ready to be molded and cooled as bite-sized chocolate drops. (Note: The process wasn’t as easy as it looked to me. I tried, but I failed.)
You can buy tsokolate de binsoy at the public market or the Department of Agriculture Office.
Of course, Jagna and calamay are inseparable. Making this delicacy has been a way of life in this town even as early as the 1800s. The process involves nonstop stirring of a sweet mixture of milled glutinous rice, coconut milk, and sugar. This is done for at least two hours, in big woks, until the mixture achieves a sticky consistency, ready for packing in midget-sized coconut shells called bagol.
The process of making calamay has been popularized by their town’s parish priest. Story has it that the calamaderas or calamay makers sealed the coconut shells with a red ribbon symbolic of the red belt of the priest, until everyone else used a red ribbon.
Now, Jagna has more than 100 calamaderas or calamay makers to support the thriving business. Although the cottage industry has already seen innovations—stirring is now left to the machines, new flavors have been made, and ribbons of other colors are used—the old charm that made this delicacy famous has not been lost.
Where to try making calamay? Jagna celebrates Calamay Festival every April. There’s also a cottage industry tour for those interested to experience the process of making calamay. Arrange your visit to the production site of Calamaderas in Canupao through the Tourism Office.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Tagbilaran, take a bus at the Dao Terminal. Travel time can be as long as two hours, and the fare is about P60. There are also vans for hire that charge between P80 and P100.
From Loboc, you can get to Loay and then wait for a bus or a van at the highway. For convenience, we recommend renting Mike’s tricycle. He can be reached at 0921-698-6678.
WHERE TO STAY
These are some of the popular accommodation options in Jagna. We only had a day tour during our visit, so we have no idea about their services.
Cliff Haven Resort—posh accommodation in Larapan; has a pool; rate starts at P3000
Idea Pension House and Garden Café—close to downtown; rate starts at P1150
Bohol Beach House—best for big groups; rate starts at P8000; book through Airbnb
Paseo Del Mar—offers various types of accommodation, from dorm to seaside bungalows; a dorm bed costs as low as P300
Jagna Tourism Office
Telephone: (038) 531-8001
The pebble beach of Can-uba is also a popular cliff diving site among the locals of Jagna, Bohol. This beautiful shot was captured by Zoren Ampong.
Note: All photos that appeared in this collaborative post have been used with permission. D’YAN LANG would like to thank the contributors–Gee, Patricia, Rey, Debb, Emily, Zaldy, Giovie, and Zoren–for helping promote the town of Jagna.