Oct 7, 2017
Exploring the Cafe Scene of Tagbilaran
Location: Tagbilaran (city), Bohol (province), Philippines
As a cafe denizen in search of the perfect brew, I'm always drawn to a coffee shop with character - themed, trendy, chique, elegant, muted, subdued, tastefully loud or even garishly kitsch. Sorry, I'm not including the cookie-cutter templates of the big chains (Starbucks, Bo's, Gloria Jeans, etc.) - just the independents. Here in Tagbilaran, there is a healthy sprinkling of fashionable cafes that sprung-up only in the last 2 or so years. Cafe denizens here would mostly rather spend time in conversation with friends than belt it out in a karaoke bar or be glued to their hand-helds.
Fred's Book Cafe
Fred's Book Cafe is themed on a library...a small one, where guests can browse into the limited selection and read up or even borrow a book. Owner and friend, Nizah, is on a literacy crusade, so the library/bookstore theme came about with full intention. An unpretentious cafe, it offers an accessible price-point entry to those who want good coffee, laid-back ambience and decent wifi (like me). Yes, I get all that for a reasonable P60 cuppa - bang for the buck! Their halo-halo has the finest ice shavings. This cafe has been my favorite since my early days in Tagbilaran - long before I met Nizah.
- brewed coffee - P60
- wifi - free wifi for one hour with every purchase
- plus - decent wifi connection, great value for the money
- specialty - spicy tuna carbonara pasta P80
- best seller - halo-halo P65
Mosia is a little out of the way. It's a small intimate cafe in a garden setting. I kept hearing about this place from the Plastic Free Bohol community when I participated at the cleanup in Libaong Beach. Staff are pleasant and helpful. This cafe feels inviting for more chillout visits.
- Cafe Americano - P75
- wifi - comes with the order, no restriction, speed at 5.52 Mbps
- plus - plastic-free and environmentally-friendly cafe, coffee table doubles as a garden plot, cozy and intimate ambience
- specialty - cakes
- best seller - cakes
"Gecko Cafe" would have been more comprehensible to passing foreigners, but this quaint cafe along Celestino Gallares is both charming and disarming with a budget-friendly brewed coffee at P65/cup. Quite a manageable size to feel cozy with, add eclectic appointments to feel hipster-ish for a young crowd. Compelling touch is a glass wall with wooden frame matrix acting as narrow shelves for la-artsy decor. Great value cafe for the reasonable coffee price-point with free wifi.
- Cafe Americano - P65
- wifi - free wifi with an order
- food specialty - vegetable lasagna
- best seller - creamy Bolognese pasta P220
- healthy vegetable options
- plus - decent coffee, good air-conditioning, decent wifi connection, good energy
Caffeine is an easy-to-miss cafe if you're not alert. Like most proper cafes in Tagbilaran, it is quaint with tasteful touches - not drab and nothing loud. Pop background music is subdued to make way for conversation. This is a conducive meeting place for friends who like conversation.
- Cafe Americano - P80
- wifi - P200 minimum for wifi privilege. fiber Connection speed? no idea...my order didn't make the P200 threshold. Wifi used to be free, but people stayed the whole day doing online tutoring or holding pyramid networking meet-ups.
- plus - tablea availability P70, good air-conditioning, indoor/outdoor seating
- specialty - carbonara, blt sandwich
- best seller - halo-halo P80, flavored ice, consistent texture from start to finish
Tamper Cafe ranks high up in the plush cafe category - high ceiling, glass wall, unified white theme, classy appointments, garden lighting for evening drama and urban-hip ambience. Its picture-friendly appointments give you bragging rights for a selfie. Cafe Americano at P75/cup - not bad for what you get. I've seen lesser cafes charge for more. This should give Starbucks a run for its money.
- Cafe Americano - P75
Country Cafe is a tucked-in neighborhood secret that even locals of Tagbilaran are oblivious about. It hides inside Wregent Plaza Hotel. What makes it great? P40 brewed coffee price-entry point, decent wifi, a/c and outdoor seating and it's right in the heart of town!
- brewed coffee - P40
- wifi - comes with the order, no restriction, speed at 8.88 Mbps (speedtest.net)
- plus - full length bangus on the Filipino breakfast, serves sikwate (P50), Ethan Allen-ish decor, not crowded, not noisy
- specialty - Babyback Ribs P190 (big serving, meaty)
- best seller - American and Filipino breakfast, P140
29th M. Street Cafe
29th M. Street Cafe started out as a milk tea joint after owner Junel got fascinated with the milk tea rave in Cebu. Now, it has become iconic with students doing their school work and meet-ups. As for Junel, it's simply a chillout place for friends who hang and spend the wee hours over food and drinks.
- Cafe Americano - P70
- wifi - comes with the order, no restriction
- plus - student vibe
- specialty - Pork Ribs P85
- best seller - milk tea P55 small
I didn't really find time to go to all the cafes and to the ones I'd been to, didn't have ample time to write about it. But these are other noteworthy cafes:
- Cake Garden Cafe - P40 regular brewed coffee, P30/brownie slice (regular cake was a little too sweet), a/c (a little too warm in the evening), wifi (a little sluggish), chill music (not too loud...just right) and pleasant owners
- Crescencia Cafe - the only noteworthy cafe in Baclayon near the church, heritage house ambience, a/c, wifi
- Tablea de Maria Clara - newly opened right in front of University of Bohol, serving sikwate P80, a/c, wifi
I wish I could check out all the cafes and write about it. But the bill can add up and I don't really want to have sleepless nights over caffeine overload.
Considering that the cafe scene in Tagbilaran emerged only in the last 2 years, the proliferation is very encouraging. I've seen this trend happening not just in the Philippines but also in Penang and major capitals of Southeast Asia like Singapore. The cafes of Tagbilaran are inviting and engaging - from unpretentious value-priced cafe to those where it's fashionable to see-and-be-seen. I didn't come across a renegade cafe or one that stood out for its uniqueness - it would be a mold-breaker to have one here. Like the Boholano culture that doesn't call attention to itself, so are the cafes - they all seem to have this muted grace. For now, they are gathering places for friends but I could imagine, a few years further down and cafes could be about radical self-expression the way it has been elevated in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). With Tagbilaran's cafe trend in pursuit of coffee perfection, it wouldn't be surprising to see a Third Wave cafe here, sooner rather than later.
Reader Comments:Tony Ancheta
(Oct 8, 2017) You havent visited for awhile...visit me some time soon...and I hope my cafe passes your review
"I hope my cafe passes your review" -- TONY ANCHETA
(Oct 8, 2017) flattering....but Greg & Sally Tree Garden Cafe has long passed the reviews of far more established national publications and prime time tv shows including Kris Aquino's and other household celebrities' :) But sure, I'd enjoy a coldie with you and the rest of the crew at your cafe next time I visit Manila. It'd be good to catch up.
Next stop: Breakfast Talk with Tagbilaran's Finest
Related Bohol Coffee/Cacao Links:
- Cacao Drum Roasting Jan 27, 2018
- Making Sikwate: from cacao fruit to a hot dark chocolate drink Jan 25, 2018
- Exploring the Cafe Scene of Tagbilaran Oct 7, 2017
- Chocolate Overload at Dalareich Chocolate House Oct 2, 2017
- Cafescape of Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam Jan 6-24, 2019
- Rediscovering the Cafe Tradition of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
- Exploring The Cafe Scene Of Tagbilaran Oct 7, 2017
- Discovering the Neighborhood Cafes of Singapore Aug. 8-22, 2016
- Discovering Saigon's Cafe Culture Nov 9 - Dec 17, 2014
- The Perfect Coffee Brew Feb 13, 2008
- Exploring the Emergent Cafe Culture of Penang Jun 18, 2016
- Coffee Review: Himalayan Java Coffee Dec. 18, 2013
- Homemade Bread Breakfast Aug 1, 2006
- Alamid Coffee Jul 9, 2006
- Communal Forest with a Newbie May 4, 2006
- Mount Cristobal Mar 11, 2006
- The Afternoon Coffee Ritual Dec 12, 2002
Bohol FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Alona Beach area
- the tourist attractions in Bohol are far apart and spread-out. It would be difficult to visit them all using public mass transit. Better hire a van (P3500/day) if in a big group, or rent a motorcycle (P400/day + gas)
- Bohol relies on its tourism for revenue. As expected, everything they can capitalize on from tourism is extensively used and developed
Tagbilaran Port to PanglaoYou can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
- don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
- in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)
Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
- Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
- Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
+63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
- SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
+63 32 233 7000
Things to do, Places to go in Bohol
- Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
- Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
- Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
- Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.
Carlos P. Garcia Island
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