Sirao Garden (Cebu City, Cebu)

Sirao Garden (Little Amsterdam)

Part 1 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

Sirao Garden, also known as the Little Amsterdam or the Mini Holland of Cebu, is an 8,000 sq. m. piece of uphill land privately owned by spouses Alfredo and Elena Sy-Chua. For a long time, the couple raised flame-like celosia (from the Greek word keleos meaning “burning,” it is locally known as burlas as it is suggestive of a tassel) flowers which are harvested in time for the All Souls’ Day and Sinulog Festival.

Multi-colored celosia

Said to last for eight to 10 weeks, these flowers come in yellow and red, colors closely associated with the colors of the Sto. Nino of Cebu.  Considered to be a genus of edible and ornamental plants of the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), they also yield pink, purple, orange, gold or bi-color blossoms.

Cockscomb

To ensure the safety of guests in this hilly type of land, concrete footsteps have been placed in going down the garden. Aside from celosia, the garden also has a variety of other plants, planted in variegated tiers along both sides, that accentuate the place with their vibrant colors.

Statuary among tiers of flowers

They include dahlia, solemn-white chrysanthemums, Mickey Mouse (Ochna serrulata), cockscomb (Celosia cristata, actually of the same family as celosia, the brain celosia is locally called tapay as it is suggestive of a rooster’s comb), deep-hued daisies (Bellis perrenis), gerbera, the playful China aster (Callistephus), everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) sunflowers (Hellianthus), yellow bell (Allamanda), baby’s breath (Gypsophila), roses, Guernsey lily and petunia.

Sunflowers

All flowers supposedly bloom all year round but their peak period is the “ber” months of October and November when the rows are filled with vibrant shades of fuschia, yellow, red, magenta and orange.

Heart-shaped signage

Benches

Gaps, in between tiers, protect the plants from being stepped on and provide guests with space to do their Instagram-worthy selfies or groufies.

Greek-inspired gazebo

In some parts of the garden are benches where one can rest. Heart-shaped stand-up props, stationed in different corners of the flower farm, says “We love Sirao” while the back of the heart says “Thank you for your visit.”

Carriage

Bicycle

Added attractions within the garden include a bicycle, a cute replica of a windmill, a fountain, big wooden shoes, a carriage, a Greek-inspired gazebo, a Belen (Nativity) set, and a“proposal corner,” (specially designed for gentlemen who plan on proposing to their girlfriends on Valentine’s Day).

Proposal Corner

Outside the farm and across the road are little makeshift stores selling fruits, food (including sweet corn), drinks and bottled water.

Replica of a windmill

Fountain

Sirao Garden: Sitio Tawagan, Brgy. Sirao, Busay, Cebu City 6000, Cebu. Mobile number: (0946)) 183 1320. Admission: PhP50 (adults), PhP25 (senior citizens) and free for children below 7 years old. If you’ll be having a pre-nuptial photo shoot, you’ll need to pay an additional PhP1,000 and PhP for birthdays/debuts. Open daily, 7 AM to 6 PM.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

How to Get There: Sirao Garden is located 17 kms. from the city proper. Starting point is from JY Square at the end of Salinas drive in Lahug, Cebu City.  The habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) drivers can drive you there. Negotiate the fare (usually PhP150-160 per person, one way). Travel time is 30-45 mins. For those bringing cars, you have to pay PhP20 for parking at the limited space available.

Sheridan Organic Farm (Puerto Princesa City, Palawan)

Sheridan Organic Farm

Sheridan Organic Farm

Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa Media Tour

After snorkeling and merienda at Isla Rita, Charmie, Joy, Lester, PJ and I, together with Mr. Pete Dacuycuy, again boarded our motorized outrigger boat for the 20-min. boat ride back to the mainland.  Upon landing, we all boarded the Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa’s Toyota Grandia van for the short drive to the resort’s signature Organic Farm.

The plant nursery

The plant nursery

Sprouts at the Nursery

“Babies” at the Nursery

Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa holds the distinction of being the only luxury resort in Palawan to own and manage an organic farm. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by staff member Ms. Genevieve Celino who toured us around the farm.  We all crossed over a wooden foot bridge, past rice paddies, and started our tour.

Reception area

Reception area

Started four years ago in the fertile terrain of Brgy. Cabayugan, the Sheridan Organic Farm now supplies 80% of the fresh produce served at the resort’s beachfront South Sea Restaurant. Organic farming is a process which involves strict adherence to practices and painstaking trial and error. In this part of the country, organic farming is very challenging as the island of Palawan is not as ideal as other Philippine  islands as it is mostly made of limestone. Since Palawan is also more of a tropical rainforest than farmland, climate is also an issue.

A wooden footbridge

A wooden footbridge

For this the reason, the organic farm only produces certain varieties of vegetables and fruits. However, the fresh and diverse harvest still includes the more common tomatoes, papaya, sweet corn, arugula, cucumber, water melon, lettuce, broccoli, bananas, eggplant, cabbage, pechay, mint and basil as well as the more difficult to grow (in this climate) coriander, parsley, fennel, radish and cauliflower. Fruit trees and ornamental plants are also cultivated.

Ornamental plants

Ornamental plants

The farm is particularly proud of their black rice production with 15% of the 70-hectare the land area dedicated to black rice farming. Of all the pigmented rice, black rice (considered one of the healthiest food types around) has the highest fiber content. Common black rice varieties are usually planted in upland areas but the farm has a variety that can grow in irrigated lowland areas.

Organic Farm (6)

Served at the resort, guests oftentimes end up buying and bringing home bags of the rare black rice. Even after the black rice has been harvested, everything in it is put to good use, with parts used as fertilizer, fuel for the farm’s mechanical dryer and as food for the livestock.

A variety of greens

A variety of greens

The farm is organic as it gets. From the nursery stage to the soil, all the vegetables, herbs, ornamental plants and black rice are cultivated using natural organic farming methods. No synthetic chemical pesticides are used.

Kasuy tree

Kasuy tree

Pesticides and fertilizers, as well as the feeds for the livestock, are all organic and made by the local farmhands themselves using indigenous byproducts and material. Animal waste compost is used as fertilizer. The farm also uses solar and wind energy sources.

A bunch of papayas

A bunch of papayas

The staff also raises livestock such as chickens, pigs, ostriches, ducks, geese, cows, horses, turkey and guinea fowl. The farm is also a source of employment for the Sabang community with at least one person per household in Sabang employed in the farm.

The author at the pathway leading to the gazebo

The author at the pathway leading to the gazebo

Comfortable rattan loungers at the gazebo

Comfortable rattan loungers at the gazebo

After our tour of the farm, we all walked up a hill to a gazebo. For a while here, we lay on some very inviting rattan loungers while enjoying the cool clean breeze and a panoramic view of the farm.  Later, we gathered around a long table for a boodle fight for lunch.

Our boodle fight

Our boodle fight

Spread carefully over banana leaves were several dishes such as barbecue chicken, scrambled eggs, fresh vegetable salad, sweet corn and steamed black rice plus a dessert of sliced pineapples, papaya and watermelon. These we all washed down with bottles of mineral water or hot tea made from a mix of herbs.

Barbecue chicken and sliced papayas

Barbecue chicken and sliced papayas

Black rice and fresh vegetable salad

Black rice and fresh vegetable salad

Sheridan Organic Farm: Brgy. Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.  The resort offers 4-hour (Mondays to Saturdays, 9 AM and 1 PM) farm tour to its guests who want a first-hand account of country life and a taste for naturally grown fruits and vegetables. While touring the farm, tourists are sometimes dared to pick these pesticide-free vegetables and eat them raw.

A pair of chickens

A pair of chickens

A parade of geese

A parade of geese

Guinea fowl

Guinea fowl

The resident ostrich

The resident ostrich

One of two resident horses

One of two resident horses

Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa: Sabang Beach, Sitio Sabang, Brgy. Cabayugan. Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Palawan Sales Office: Jeco Bldg., Rizal Ave. Extn., Puerto Princesa City.  Tel (+63 48) 434 1448 to 49 and 723 7278. Mobile Numbers (+63 917) 308-3245 and (+ 63 917) 308-3245. Cebu Sales Office: Sheridan Bldg., Ouano Ave., NRA, Mandaue City.  Tel: (+63 32) 236-1001. Fax: (+63 32) 345-1000. Mobile number: (+63 917) 306-6984. Manila Sales Office: tel: (+63 2) 939-8888. Mobile number: (+63 917) 726-5224. E-mail: reservations@sheridanbeachresort.com.  Website:www.sheridanbeachresort.com.
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