Mactan Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

Mactan Shrine.  On the left is the small building housing two plaques while on the right is the Magellan Monument

Part 4 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This shrine is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu (the Philippines’ first National Hero) and the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and was erected on the supposed spot where the Battle of Mactan (April 27, 1521) took place. The shrine has three prominent monuments

Lapu-Lapu Monument

The 20-ft. high Lapu-Lapu Monument, beside the shore, features a bronze statue, on a pedestal, of Datu Lapu-Lapu, sculpted with great realism, holding a kampilan (curved sword) on his right hand and a shield on the left.  The Magellan Marker, shaped like a large headstone, allegedly marks the spot where Magellan fell dead in the hands of Lapu-Lapu’s men.

Magellan Monument

A little farther away is the 30-ft. high Magellan Monument, on a base of several levels and surrounded by a low fence. It consists of plain, coralstone obelisk, on whose apex rests a sphere, mounted on a tall plinth that rests on a tripartite structure – an octagonal base, on which rests a tall quadrilateral structure, divided into a lower part, decorated with high relieves of vases, and an upper part pierced by narrow arches.

Relief of a vase

The monument is inscribed with texts. On one side is A Hernando de Magallanes, Ferdinand Magellan’s name written in the original Portuguese language.

Inscription with Magellan’s name

On a second side is the phrase Glorias Españolas (“Glory to Spain”),  on the third is the phrase Siendo Gobernaor Don Miguel Creus (the Spanish governor of the Philippines at the time) and on the fourth side is the phrase 1866 Reinando Ysabel II (the Spanish monarch at that time).

Inscription with Gov. Miguel Creus’s name

The monument was said to have been built in 1866 during the administration of Augustinian Fr. Simon Aguirre, who was cura (parish priest), from 1857 to 1871, of Opon (the old name of Lapu-Lapu City).

The plinth with two plaques

Between the Lapu-Lapu and Magellan monuments stands the Philippine flag.  East of the Magellan Monument is a small building housing a plinth flanked by plaques.

The Lapu-Lapu plaque

The plaque about Lapu-Lapu (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1951) reads:

Lapulapu

Here on 27 April 1521, Lapulapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan thus Lapu Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.

The plaque about Magellan’s death

The other plaque about Ferdinand Magellan (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1941) reads:

Ferdinand Magellan’s Death

On this spot Ferdinand Magellan died on April 27, 1521 wounded in an encounter with the soldiers of Lapu Lapu, Chief of Mactan Islands. One of Magellan’s ships, The Victoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, sailed from Cebu on May 1, 1521 and anchored at San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522 thus completing the first circumnavigation of the earth.

The huge mural painting

Behind the plinth is a huge mural painting depicting the battle. The Battle of Mactan is reenacted along the shores near the shrine during the 27 April Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival.

The Kadaugan sa Mactan re-enactment site

Mactan Shrine: Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

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.

Temple of Leah (Cebu City, Cebu)

Temple of Leah

Part 3 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

The grandiose Temple of Leah, Cebu City’s newest attraction, has been called the “Taj Mahal of Cebu.”  Perched on the hilltop of Busay, it was built by Teodorico Soriano Adarna, owner of the Queensland  chain of motels in Davao, Manila and Cebu, as a testament to his undying love and ceaseless devotion for Leah Villa Albino-Adarna, his wife of 54 years (Leah was 16 and Teodorico was 19 when they married), who died of lung cancer in 2012 at age of 69.

They had four children— the 56 year old Allan, 54 year old Arlene, Arthur (deceased) and the 39 year old Alex, plus 16 grandchildren, including 29 year old Filipina actress and model Ellen Adarna (eldest and only daughter of Allan). Teodorico has since remarried and now lives in Davao.

The author

This 7-storey, still unfinished temple became an instant domestic tourist attraction as it interestingly resembles the ancient Parthenon of Greece.  Started in 2013, this Philippine version of the Taj Mahal of India is due to be completed in 2020. The west balcony, surrounded by resplendent sculptures along the balustrade, has a panoramic view of the cities of Metro Cebu (Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu) and Cebu City’s highlands.

The gigantic lion statue overlooking the west balcony

A beautiful statue along the balustrade

Its fountain has statues of four seated horses at the base and three naked maidens (in my opinion, they are probably The Three Graces) standing on a basin on top that were inspired by the Adarnas’ trip to Europe.

The three statues of naked maidens on top of the fountain

The Classic Greek and Roman-inspired (rectangular design, raised podium for the shrine, a triangular pediment above the portico of fluted Doric columns and an altar of the cult goddess under the skylight) architecture of this huge edifice is meant to be admired from the outside, awing visitors with its imposing breadth. The engraved moldings on the vaulted ceiling were, on the other hand, inspired by the temples of India.

Inside are 24 chambers, built on opposite wings, including a museum, an art gallery and a library with all the favorite and personal belongings of Leah such as books, vases, Buddha heads and various figurines, ceramic statues and souvenirs gathered from the couple’s extensive travels.

Leah’s favorite personal belongings

The statues of gigantic seated lions, on each side of the grand staircase, guided us to the door step of another jaw-dropping view, at the middle of the temple, of a grand Y-shaped staircase, a pair of huge brass angels and the 9-ft. high, bronze statue (said to have cost PhP4,000,000) of a seated Leah Albino-Adarna on a marble pedestal, with crown and flower.

Trumpet blaring brass angel

Behind the statue is a semicircular arched stained glass window featuring various angels.  At the foot of the statue is this inscription:

 

BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER

Leah V. Albino-Adarna was chosen Matron Queen of her Alma Mater, the University of Southern Philippines. This nine-foot bronze statue portrays her composure and regal bearing when she was crowned. May the beholder discern her innate beauty, poise and genteelness.

(signed)

Teodorico Soriano Adarna

Born December 13, 1938

 

Seated statue of Leah

Distant view of the temple

Temple of Leah: Roosevelt St., Brgy. Busay Cebu City. Tel: (032) 233-5032.  Mobile number: (0906) 324-5687.  Open daily, 6 AM – 11 PM. Admission: PhP50 per pax. Professional photography for events: PhP2,500. Parking fee: PhP100 if inside the premises, free if outside (limited slots only).

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: From JY Square, ride a jeepney going to Busay (PhP10, one-way) and ask to be dropped off at the mountain view highway intersection. From there, you can walk towards the Temple of Leah.  From JY Square, you can also hire a habal-habal (motorcycle) going to the Temple of Leah. Fare is about PhP50-100. For a more convenient ride, you can just hail a cab.

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden (Cebu City, Cebu)

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden

Part 2 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden, opened last October 2016 (and relaunched February the next year), is the first botanical garden of its kind in Cebu and in the Philippines.

Petunias, one of 127 flower species in the garden

Marker with fascinating quote

It is home to 127 species of flowers (including the popular celosia flower) whose names, identified through markers etched with various fascinating quotes and poems which were personally selected by the owner Yuri Barrameda, were set up, and their scientific names identified, by members of the Botanical Society of the University of San Carlos (USC).

Entrance gate and driveway

Yuri bought the 2-hectare property in 2007. To be able to rekindle family ties by spending time with his three children (Andrea Carmela, Cheska  and Moses), he first created a rose farm, open only to friends and family. Later, having observed the lack of green spaces in Cebu, he decided to convert one hectare into a public garden by adding more flowers.

Canopied stairway

The author

Most of the local flowers, with butterflies and bees fluttering about from one petal to another, are meticulously arranged by the green-thumbed gardeners from Brgy. Malubog to form part of the hedges of 56 terraces following the natural contours of the hill’s slope. For the terracing, the gardeners used an ancient technique, which the upland farmers of Busay are familiar with, used in creating the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Flower terraces

The 1-m. thick riprap of interlocking stones, protecting the flowers used as ground cover, allows water to flow freely without eroding the topsoil.  This reduces the chances of a landslide during heavy rain. Others are planted on the ground while some snake up and down trellises or cover the arched roof of the canopied footpath.

Foot path

Initially, a father’s expression of love for his children, Terrazas de Flores, with its colorful flowers, chirping birds and cool mountain breeze, is now a charming but not too remote little hideaway up in the hills where visitors can relax, unwind and spend time with their special someone by sitting, beside the flowers in the garden, on outdoor benches, on comfortable sofas in one of the garden’s three cozy cabanas (again representing Andrea Carmela, Cheska and Moses) or at the viewing deck.

Two of the garden’s three cabanas

Or, they can go to Terrazas de Flores Café (owned by business partner Ms.Lenny Lyn Lapiña), in the middle of the property with a good picturesque view of the lush flower terraces and the mountains of Balamban town in the distance, and dine on cakes; pastries; sandwiches; cold cuts; cheese platters; rice meals (PhP100) which comes with beef, fish, pork, and chicken; plus hot and cold coffee, wine and other beverages, while listening to nice, popular love songs played softly, in the background, from speakers.

Terrazas de Flores Cafe

Waters flowing down the small man-made lake add to the serene, relaxing ambiance of the place. With another hectare to develop, there are plans to expand the garden to include a topiary, stargazing deck, hanging bridge, an art gallery and more cabins on the forest side of the hill.

Pond with mini waterfall

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden: Transcentral Highway, Brgy. Malubog, Busay, Cebu City. Mobile number: (0917) 653-4227.  Facebook:   facebook.com/terrazasdefloresofficial.  Open weekdays, 8 AM – 9 PM, and weekends, 8 AM to 12 MN. Admission: PhP100 for adults, PhP50 pesos for children 7 years old up to 12 and free for children 6 years old and below. They also give discounts to senior citizens and students upon presentation of identification.

The garden can also accommodate pre-nuptial photo shoots and birthday, anniversary and wedding parties, prices for which are available upon request. As exploring the garden requires a lot of walking, wear comfortable shoes. As the temperature at the garden is usually three degrees lower than mainland Cebu, the wind can sometimes get too chilly and it is advisable to bring a cardigan or light jacket. Extra charges may apply if visitors bring in food and beverages inside the cafe. It is explicably prohibited to pick flowers or step on the plants.

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: To get to Terrazas de Flores, you can take a cab from any part of Metro Cebu. It is a 20-min. drive from JY Square. There’s an available shuttle (PhP120 per pax for a round trip ride), at Dessert Factory, SSY Center, across Watsons/JY Square Mall, going to Temple of Leah, Tops Lookout and Lantaw.  From Ayala Cebu Terminal, you can also ride a V-hire or van going to Balamban.  Landmarks nearby are the Malubog Elementary School (its garden gate is just across) and La Tegola, an Italian restaurant in Busay which is 900 meters away from the garden. Parking spaces are available.

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.

Exploring Sumilon Island (Oslob, Cebu)

The Sumilon Island hiking trail

The Sumilon Island hiking trail

After our lunch at the Island Pavilion Restaurant, Lara, Joy, Jimbo, Rachelle, Risa, Leica (Pete’s daughter) and I decided to burn some calories by doing a hike, with a resort guide, around the 24-hectare island.  Liana and Kaycee opted to stay behind to rest.

View of the natural lagoon from the cliffside trail

View of the natural lagoon from the cliffside trail

The nicely laid out hiking trail (open from 6 AM – 4 PM) started as we descended the steps down from the restaurant and traversed the cliffside pathway, strewn with coral rock, overlooking the natural lagoon where we could see a number of guests kayaking.  Soon enough, we entered the lush forest.  Along the trail are colored pennants tied to trees that indicate the difficulty of the trail – yellow for beginners, blue for moderate and red for advanced.

Hiking along the coral rock-strewn trail

Hiking along the coral rock-strewn trail

Soon we reached a fork in the trail.  The trail on the left traverses the northern point of the island where panoramic views of white sand beaches along the northwestern and eastern shores of the island can be seen.  The trail on the right cuts through the spine of the island and leads up to the island’s highest point, 28 m. above sea level, where a lighthouse and a Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower) is located.  We chose to explore this route.

The concrete lighthouse

The concrete lighthouse

The concrete lighthouse on the top wasn’t much.  It didn’t have a hollow core with a spiral stairway leading to the top, a feature found in many lighthouses.  Instead, steel, U-shaped ladder rungs imbedded in the concrete exterior was used.

The Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower)

The Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower)

The quadrilateral, heavily overgrown but still relatively intact baluarte was more interesting.  It was part of a network of watchtower and fortlets, extending from Santander to Sibonga, built by Augustinian Fr. Julian Bermejo (pastor of Boljo-on from 1804-1836) to warn the townspeople of the approach of pirates.  Lara and Joy entered the watchtower through a small, square hole in one of its sides.

The marine sanctuary

The marine sanctuary

The abandoned marine station of Silliman University

The abandoned marine station of Silliman University

From this vantage point, we now made our way down the trail to the pristine blue waters of the western side of the island where part of Sumilon Island Marine Park is located.  Situated off Cebu’s southeastern coast, 5.5 kms. east northeast of Tanon Point, this marine sanctuary was formerly administered by Siliman University in Dumaguete City (Negros Oriental) as evidenced by a now abandoned hut of the marine station along this part of the trail.  Today, the sanctuary is managed by the resort.  Motorized water sports such as jetskiing and water skiing are not allowed to ensure that the sanctuary is not disturbed.

Aquamania Dive Shop

Aquamania Dive Shop

Equipment at Aquamania Dive Shop

However, fine snorkeling, over coral gardens, can be done along the western, northern and eastern sides of the island.  For scuba divers, it offers waters two to 5 m. deep and 200 m. wide and a drop-off about 100 m. off the southwest coast with spectacular underwater life including the big garoupa.  Large schools of jacks, manta rays, sharks, barracudas, sea snakes, turtles and even an occasional whale shark can be seen off the northern and southern tip.  Dive sites here include Coral Landscape, Garden Eel Plaza, Julie’s Rock and Nikki’s Wall.  Diving season is all year round.  Visibility reaches 30 m. and average depth is 20 m. with a maximum of 35 m..  Waters here are usually calm with strong currents to sometimes very rough, fierce and physically demanding currents.  The resort has a dive shop (Aquamania) with certified dive instructors and extensive diving facilities.

Flower-bedecked table set-up for two at the sandbar

Flower-bedecked table set-up for two at the sandbar

A marriage proposal etched on the sand

A marriage proposal etched on the sand

Further down the trail, we soon reached the island’s white sandbar, the only part of the island that is open to the public.  It shifts and changes its shape with the tides and the current.  Here, we can swim, snorkel or sunbathe.  It was also the setting for last night’s al fresco dinner.  When we passed by, it was already set up for a marriage proposal, with a table for two, surrounded by flower petals shaped into a heart,  set up along the beach.    Nearby, along the sand, were the words “Will you marry me?” etched with pieces of tree branches.

Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima

Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima

On our way back to our cottages, we passed by a grotto with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and, just past it, the short and seemingly man-made Yamashita’s Cave.  We entered the latter and were surprised by a Halloween set-up, meant to scare visitors, at its very end.  We were totally drained and drenched with sweat by the time we returned to our rooms.

Entrance to Yamashita Cave

Entrance to Yamashita Cave

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort: Brgy. Bancogon, Sumilon Island, Oslob, 6025 Cebu.  Tel: (032) 382-0008 and (032) 318-9098. Mobile numbers: (0917) 631-7514 and (0917) 631-7512.  Email: info.sumilon@bluewater.com.ph.

Cebu City booking office: CRM Bldg., Escario cor. Molave Sts., Lahug, 6000 Cebu City. Tel:  (032) 412-2436. Mobile numbers (0917) 631-7508 and (0998) 962-8263. E-mail: sales.sumilon@bluewater.co.ph.

Manila Office: Rm. 1120, Cityland/Herrera Towers, 98 Herrera cor. Valero St. Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348. Fax: (632) 893-5391.  E-mail: sumilon@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewatersumilon.com.ph.

Oslob Town Proper (Cebu)

From Tumalog Falls, we again boarded our airconditioned van for the short trip to the town proper of Oslob.  Within its Municipal Heritage Park are a number of Spanish-era structures and at the center of it all is the town’s massive Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Conception).

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

The church was designed by Bishop Santos Gomez de Marañon (the same prelate who built the kiosk of Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City) to replace the destroyed church at Daanglungsod (Boloc-Boloc).  It cornerstone was laid by Fr. Julian Bermejo on May 4, 1830. Townspeople from neighboring Tañon (now Santander) and Ivisan (now Nueva Caceres, Oslob) helped in its construction. The church was finished in 18 years and blessed by Bishop Romualdo Ximeno in 1847.

The church's historical plaque

The church’s historical plaque

The church's modern interior

The church’s modern interior

The bell tower on the church’s left was built by Fr. Apolinar Alvarez in 1858 and Fr. Gregorio de Santiago Vela installed 11 bells at the fifth storey in 1894.  The bells were transferred to the fourth storey when the fifth was destroyed during a strong typhoon.  The bell tower was later repaired by Fr. Mauricio Alvarez (who also built the cemetery, municipal tribunal and the municipal church and made known the medicinal uses of the sulfuric waters of Mainit springs).

The still unrestored, roofless convent

The still unrestored, roofless convent

The convent on the right was started by Fr. Julian Bermejo. The church was finished and reinforced with solid buttresses from 1848 to 1850 by Fr. Juan Jose Aragones, Oslob’s first parish priest (1848–1854 and 1859–1861) and later Bishop of Nueva Segovia.  It was renovated by Fr. Constantino Batoctoy in 1977. The roof, made of tejas sourced out and baked locally at a place now known as Lulukhan, were replaced with corrugated iron sheets by Fr. Pablo Alaxa in 1932.  The church was totally burned by Cebuano guerillas in 1942 and, later on, the vault and dome fell.  In 1954, the wooden flooring of the church was replaced with baldoza tiles.

The now 4-storey bell tower

The now 4-storey bell tower

Fire of unknown origin gutted the complex on November 7, 1955 leaving only the masonry walls of both buildings.  It was restored, with the cooperation of the townspeople, by Fr. Benedicto Zapra and completed in 1980 by Fr. Constantino Batoctoy in time for the sesquicentennial celebration of the original church’s construction (1830 to 1980).  A 2.5-hour (1:40-4 AM) fire again hit the church and adjacent convent on March 26, 2008 but spared the icon of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, which is inside a glass case, and the 73 other icons near the door to the bell tower.  The church was complete restored on December 10, 2010.

The church gate

The church gate

The church is 64 m. long, 15 m. wide, 9 m. high and has a simple, sober but attractive facade with a semicircular arched main entrance, rectangular widows, half-embedded pilasters and a triangular pediment.  The 4-storey, 30 m. high and octagonal bell tower has rectangular and semicircular arched windows alternating with blind ones. The dome is typically Neo-Classic.

A garita (guardhouse)

A garita (guardhouse)

In front of the church is a prayer room, also known as a waiting chapel, built in 1847.  It was used as an isolation chamber for leprosy-afflicted patients. It has a pediment decorated with a relief of a human skeleton.

Calle de Aragones

Calle de Aragones

Calle de Aragones historical plaque

Calle de Aragones historical plaque

On the left side of the church is Calle de Aragones, the town’s oldest street, built in 1879.  It was named after Fr. Juan Jose Aragones.  At the end of the street, at the intersection of Calle Aeternidad, is the unique, unfinished cuartel.

The unfinished coral stone cuartel

The unfinished coral stone cuartel

The cuartel's double row of arches

The cuartel’s double row of arches

The construction of this barracks for the Guardia Civil was started by el gran maestro Don Marcos Sabandal but was halted with the arrival of the Americans in 1899.  The coral stones used in its construction of its 19 cm. thick walls came from the remnants of the floor of the collapsed church bell tower.  Its façade features a double row of arches.

The interior of the cuartel

The interior of the cuartel

Historical plaque of cuartel

Historical plaque of cuartel

The thick coral stone walls and gates surrounding the church complex, called paril, are topped by a series of inverted, cone-shaped stones.  They were built in 1875 as a defense against raiding Muslim pirates.

The church walls and gates

The church walls and gates

Historical plaque of church walls and gates

Historical plaque of church walls and gates

Along Calle Eternidad, parallel to the coast, is a baluarte (a watchtower locally called lantawan), one of 7 built by the warrior-priest Fr. Julian Bermejo, parish priest of Boljo-on.  Hexagonal in plan and occupying an area of 48 sq. m., it has massive 7 m. high crenellated walls.  Only about a half of the watchtower remains. In 1813, this baluarte, as well as the other watchtowers, helped Fr. Bermejo and the townspeople of Oslob repel Moro slave raiders led by Sultan Goranding during a naval battle near the waters off Sumilon Island. Sultan Goranding was captured during the battle.

Baluarte (watchtower)

Baluarte (watchtower)

Historical plaque of baluarte

Historical plaque of baluarte

How to Get There: Oslob is located 117 kms. (a 3-hr. drive) south of Cebu City.

Tumalog Falls (Oslob, Cebu)

After our butanding (whale shark) interaction at Brgy. Tan-awan, we boarded our airconditioned van for the short 10-min. drive to Tumalog Falls, another great attraction of Oslob.   A visit here is usually combined with your swim with the butanding. The van can only bring us at the entrance since the paved road from there on is very steep.

Tumalog Falls

Tumalog Falls (photo: Liana Smith-Bautista)

From hereon, we could either make a 15-min. hike (a good hike and a warm up for your body) or go via a habal-habal, the local term for riding a motorcycle and ride at the back of the driver. We all chose the latter. The habal-habal ride along the rather steep, 50-degree inclined road going up the mountain is no joke and was an experience by itself.  Along the way, we could already behold the beauty of the postcard-pretty, imposing and multi-tiered falls hidden away in a forest.

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Photo: Liana Smith-Bautista

The falls was really awesome! For city people like us, a view like this was really a breathtaking experience. The beautiful mountainous scenery, with moss hanging off the mountainside and many fine areas of misty water spread out over a glistening green moss mat, was one of the most breathtaking nature scenery that I have ever seen, reminding me of Avatar movie forest scenes. The local government has installed concrete stepping stones, making it easier and safer for us to walk around.

Tumalog Falls (3)

I got a cool feel from the mist of the falls and savored the soothing and very calming sound of falling water as I tried to enter its waters to wash away the sea salt after swimming the ocean during my previous butanding interaction.  Bbbbrrrr, it’s really damn cold! However, I soon got used to the cold.

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The falls has a unique appearance very distinct from all the other waterfalls that I have seen. As the drizzle from the falls touched my face, the stress from my head, shoulders down to the tip of my fingers, all tired from arduous swimming and flipping at the butanding interaction, were all washed away. You cannot really swim here since the falls is not that deep, around 3.5 to 4 ft. (a nice and safe swim for kids), but the sight is exhilarating and refreshing.

Tumalog Falls (4)

The bracingly cold water was clean and the pools they flowed into were clean as well. People around us all seemed to be enjoying. There were families having picnics at some nearby open wooden huts; others were busy taking candid and dramatic photos at the fall’s nooks and crannies, all green with moss and wild growth; while others just bathe. There’s even a small pool, where the water from the falls overflows, where you can a fish spa experience, dipping your feet and letting small fish eat your dead skin off. Definitely a good place to chill and relax.

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Despite the many tourists that visit it, it was still a very well maintained area. For those who get local “guides,” they are experts at suggesting the best areas to take pictures. Aside from the very beautiful falls and the magnificent rock formations, there are also wonderful bamboo trees around, all perfect for photos. I even saw a slightly visible rainbow created by the lovely rays of sunlight hitting directly through the falling waters. I was only able to take shots of the falls from a distance but, luckily for me, Liana brought along her waterproof camera. After the heart pounding whale shark encounter in Oslob, seeing and savoring Tumalog Falls brought my blood pressure back to its normal level. I could have stayed there for the whole day.

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Photo: Liana Smith-Bautista

Such a breathtaking natural sight makes you realize that, yes, there is a God. It also felt mystical (I was half expecting fairies to show up). Truly, nature knows how to show off.  This has been one of the most surreal places I have ever been! Despite the booming tourism of Cebu, this place has been not touched by too much commercialism and this natural treasure needs to be kept in its natural form to retain the pristine beauty for all generations to see and experience.

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Photo: Liana Smith-Bautista

The falls does not have a closing time but it does not have lighting at night. Food is not available in the falls area so bring your own. There are no tables, no lockers, some benches, no vendors, no food stalls, no changing rooms and no lounge area. A rudimentary gender specific bathroom is available. Be careful in slippery parts and protect your camera gear since the falls exudes droplets of water. For those making a return hike, the store at the entrance, near the parking lot, offers refreshments such as young coconut, banana cue and soft drinks.

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Doing a U.P. Oblation pose (photo: Liana Smith-Bautista)

Tumalog Falls: Brgy. Tumalog, Oslob, 6025 Cebu. Admission: PhP20.  

Habal-habal at the entrance

Habal-habal at the entrance

How to Get There: From the Oslob whale watching station in Brgy. Tan-awan, you can hire a habal habal (140/pax) or a multi cab (600 for 5 pax), both round trip, to get to the entrance. They are parked and available at the entrance of the whale shark center, near the main road. From the highway, it is a 5-min. habal-habal ride to entrance. The habal-habal ride to the falls costs PhP30 (one-way) and PhP50 (round trip).

Whale Shark Watching (Oslob, Cebu)

After an early breakfast at Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort, we were in for whole morning of resort-sponsored tours over at Oslob – whale shark (butanding) interaction, Tumalog Falls and the Municipal Heritage Park.  At the resort wharf, we again boarded the Jeffrey (the same boat that brought us in) that would take us to Brgy. Tan-awan in the mainland ((10 kms. away from the center of the town), where whale sharks converge.  The boat trip took just 10 mins. and, near the shore, we transferred to a small outrigger boat that brought us to shore.

The gentle but majestic whale shark (photo: Liana Smith-Bautista)

The gentle but majestic whale shark (photo: Liana Smith-Bautista)

Before we could start our butanding interaction, we first had to go first to the briefing area where we registered ourselves and attended a short but straightforward 15-min. orientation on the do’s and dont’s. You can swim with the whale sharks but should be 4 m. away from it and not ride them (there is a fine of PhP2,000 or you can go to jail) and for those who would like to swim with it, they should wash off their sun block lotion as these have chemicals are harmful to the whale sharks. If you worry about getting burned in the sun while doing the activity, better wear rashguard. Pictures can be taken underwater by one of the divers assisting the activity but no flash photography is allowed as whale sharks are sensitive to light.

The briefing area

The briefing area

After this short briefing, we all returned to our boat and, just about 200 m. from the shore, the butandings were already visible.  We all donned our snorkel and masks and jumped into the water. Most of the time, the whale sharks just hang around in the water, tilting upwards at 45 degrees, with their mouths wide open as men on boats throw krill down their throats.

Our short orientation

Our short orientation

Facts about the whale shark

Facts about the whale shark

It was a bit scary at first, considering how big they were and how close they were to us, but we had nothing to fear.  A number of butanding came near me and one actually brushed under me. Any fear is eventually replaced with amazement after seeing how gentle these majestic creatures were.

The whole gang with a whale shark

The whole gang with a whale shark (photo: Ma. Joy C. Felizardo)

It was an unforgettable experience and words are not enough to describe how wonderful (and frightening for some) it is. The exhilarating and unique experience of having one of these truly amazing, gentle juvenile giants not only swim close by, but actually brush past me is one I’ll take with me to my grave.

The author's (upper right) close encounter with a whale shark (photo: Ma. Joy C. Felizardo)

The author’s (upper right) close encounter with a whale shark (photo: Ma. Joy C. Felizardo)

Oslobanons are happy and grateful to the whale sharks as they have given them an unexpected and better income. However, the idea of feeding the whale sharks on a daily basis can be disruptive for the sharks’ nature of searching for their food. Added to that, as too many people are around at any given time, you also have to be constantly on your guard as you have to dodge boats that can run over you. Their guidelines are also good in theory and are monitored by a marine biologist but they are almost impossible to police. The 4 m. required distance between man and shark is also impossible to keep as there are so many swimmers and sharks. For me, the jury is out on whether this is sustainable.

Fisherman feeding a whale shark

Fisherman feeding a whale shark

Oslob Whale Shark Watching: Brgy. Tan-awan, Oslob 6025, Cebu.  Mobile number (0925) 897-8687.  Open daily, 6:30 AM to 12 noon.

Rates: PhP500/30 mins. interaction (whale shark watching + snorkeling), PhP300 if you just want to stay in the boat (whale shark watching). An underwater camera can rent for PhP500 and the boatman can be your photographer as well. If you don’t have a memory card, they charge another PhP50 (the pictures were then transferred to our own memory card).

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort (Oslob, Cebu)

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort

I again got an invitation, from Mr. Pete Dacuycuy, to join a media familiarization tour of another Bluewater resort (the first one we visited was the Panglao Bluewater Resort in Bohol), this time to Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort.  Joining me was fellow Panglao visitor Ms. Ma. Joy Elaine C. Felizardo (www.gastronomybyjoy.com) and Ms. Lara Louise Gabrielle L. Antonio (Editorial assistant at Mabuhay Magazine) plus Mr. Jimbo Owen B. Gulle (Editor-in-chief of Powerplay Magazine); Ms. Ma. Katrina Camille Cabanos (ZALORA Philippines); Ms. Liana Kathleen Smith-Bautista (www.liveloveblog.com); and Ms. Risa Halaguena and Ms. Rachelle Elaine Mapa (Account Manager), both from Essential Philippines Magazine.

Sumilon Island

Sumilon Island

We all arrived at Sibulan Airport (Negros Oriental) by 3:30 PM via a PAL Express flight. Upon exiting the terminal, we were whisked, via two airconditioned vans, to Sibulan Port where a big 50-pax outrigger boat (Jeffrey) was waiting to bring us to the island.  Normally, to get to the island, visitors usually make a 20-min. land trip to Tampi port, then ride a fast craft going to Oslob on Cebu Island.

Sibulan Port

Sibulan Port

From Oslob (a 3-hour drive from Cebu City), they then make a 10-min. land trip to Bancogon Pavilion, where the private ferry port going to  Sumilon Bluewater Island is located. The free 2-way transfers between the the pavilion and Sumilon Island are scheduled at 1.5 hr. intervals with the first trip at 7 AM and the last at 4:30 PM. We were to forego this tedious land-sea transfer and, instead, directly get to the island via a 1-hr. boat trip.

Arrival at Sumilon Island Wharf

Arrival at Sumilon Island Wharf

We arrived at the island by 4:50 PM and were assigned our respective de luxe rooms in duplex villas.  Jimbo and I stayed at the newly renovated Villa 14-A. Our spacious, tastefully and comfortably decorated airconditioned room had a high ceiling and impressive interiors with 2 very comfortable queen-size beds with many fluffy pillows, a big private bathroom with hot/cold shower and a skylighted ceiling, cable TV with DVD player, a work desk, coffee/tea making facility, sitting area, minibar and a private veranda with lounge chairs.  Glasses of the most refreshing lemongrass-calamansi iced tea and a platter of assorted fruits welcomed us inside our room.

Villa 14-A

Villa 14-A

Sitting area and writing desk

Sitting area and writing desk

Wooden sliding louver doors leading to the bathroom

Wooden sliding louver doors leading to the bathroom

Wi-fi is available in our rooms and public areas (pavilion, the pools, some parts of the beach and the lounge areas along the coastline).  Lounge areas, with seats and hammocks, are located along the seaside and wooden stairs lead guests to a pocket beach. I’ve nothing but praises for the friendly, courteous and efficiently pro-active staff’s hospitality and their earnest desire to fulfill every request.

Al fresco dining at the sandbar

Al fresco dining at the sandbar (photo: Joy Elaine C. Felizardo)

The island's signature shifting sandbar

The island’s signature shifting sandbar

Dinner was prepared, al fresco, along the island’s signature shifting sandbar. After this refreshing repast, we made an ocular tour, using an electric tram, of the resort’s  1 and 2-bedroom villas.

The electric tram

The electric tram

These villas feature, aside from the aforementioned de luxe room amenities, a sitting area, a dipping pool and a free-standing bathtub (also a feature in Panglao Bluewater Resort) for the 2-bedroom villa.

2-Bedroom Villa

2-Bedroom Villa

Interior of 2-Bedroom Villa

Interior of 2-Bedroom Villa

Dipping pool at 1-Bedroom Villa

Dipping pool at 1-Bedroom Villa

Come morning, we had our buffet breakfast at its quiet and lovely, octagonal Island Pavilion restaurant.  It offers assorted breads with orange marmalade, strawberry jam and butter spreads; juice (orange or four seasons); fresh milk; hot chocolate, coffee, hash brown potatoes, crispy bacon, omelet, tocino, noodles, etc.

Pavilion Restaurant

Pavilion Restaurant

Beside the pavilion is an inviting outdoor infinity swimming pool, overlooking Oslob, with loungers and a breathtaking view of the beach.  Just nearby is the resort’s well-stocked bar.

Infinity swimming pool

Infinity swimming pool

Poolside bar

Poolside bar

Up ahead was a full day of resort-sponsored activities at Oslob, starting with a 10 min. boat ride to the mainland where we bonded with butanding (whale sharks) and  frolicked at Tumalog Waterfalls.

The author (left) bonding with a whale shark

The author (left) bonding with a butanding (photo: Ma. Joy C. Felizardo)

The author at Tumalog Falls

The author at Tumalog Falls

We also reminisced the town’s historical past at the poblacion where we visited  the Spanish-era Church of the Immaculate Conception, Cuartel (barracks), baluarte (watchtower), gates and walls.  We returned to the resort via a 15-min. boat ride from Bancogon Pavilion and Wharf.

Bancogon Pavilion

Bancogon Pavilion

Bancogon Wharf

Bancogon Wharf

In the afternoon, we all explored the island via a nicely laid out hiking trail, through lush forests, making stopovers at the lighthouse, a Spanish-era baluarte, Yamashita’s Cave and  Our Lady of Fatima grotto.  Come evening, to refresh their tired bodies, some of the ladies also tried out an outdoor massage at the resort’s Anuma Spa.

Hiking around the island

Hiking around the island

Anuma Spa

Anuma Spa

On our last day at the resort, Joy and I checked out their 3 glamping tents.  Glamping is short for “glamorous camping.” It basically means going camping while trying to make yourself feel that you’re not camping.  The tent has all the other features of a regular room such as 2 single beds, carpeted floor, cabinets, lamps, electric fans and a cooler filled with assorted drinks (beer, soda, juice) and chips, all for free.  The campsite is located near the beach and the natural lagoon and a bathroom and shower room is close by.

A furnished glamping tent

A furnished glamping tent

The natural lagoon

The natural lagoon

The resort also has a children’s playground, library, dive shop (Aquamania Dive Shop), game room and a souvenir shop.   They also offer, airport transfers, 24-hour room service, , kayaking, fish feeding and fishing at the lagoon, Hobie Cat sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle boating and scuba diving.  In the evening, you can join fishermen as they catch krill to feed the butanding the next day.

Aquamania Dive Shop

Aquamania Dive Shop

This highly recommendable resort, an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and the chaos and stresses of the mind and body, is truly a good place for reflection, prayer, rest, relaxation and romance.

The author at Sumilon Island

The author at Sumilon Island

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort: Brgy. Bancogon, Sumilon Island, Oslob, 6025 Cebu.  Tel: (032) 382-0008 and (032) 318-9098. Mobile numbers: (0917) 631-7514 and (0917) 631-7512.  Email: info.sumilon@bluewater.com.ph.

Cebu City booking office: CRM Bldg., Escario cor. Molave Sts., Lahug, 6000 Cebu City. Tel:  (032) 412-2436. Mobile numbers (0917) 631-7508 and (0998) 962-8263. E-mail: sales.sumilon@bluewater.co.ph.

Manila Office: Rm. 1120, Cityland/Herrera Towers, 98 Herrera cor. Valero St. Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348. Fax: (632) 893-5391.  E-mail: sumilon@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewatersumilon.com.ph.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi (Naga, Cebu)

The town’s coral and limestone church was built by Fr. Simon Aguirre in 1839 following plans prepared by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon.  Its bell tower was destroyed by the November 25, 1876 typhoon, repaired, destroyed again in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba. The convent was started in 1864 by Fr. Enrique Magaz, continued in 1882 by Fr. Gregorio Ros and finished in 1887 by Fr. Roman Gonzalez.  It was destroyed in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

The church has one main nave, a transept and measures 75 m.long, 15.4 m. wide and 10.6 m. wide.  Its interior remains unchanged since it was built over a century ago.  Angels and gargoyles guard its doors.

The unusual façade, suggestive of Mexican art that is skillfully integrated into the local Filipino religious architecture, has no distinct architectural style.  It has twin minaret-shaped buttresses with projecting domes and is divided into lower and upper rectangular panels.  The bare lower panel has a triangular arched recessed main entrance with molded door jambs flanked by six square columns while the overly-decorated upper panel has a miniature retablo (the cross with outgoing rays represent the expansion of the Christian faith) flanked by two sets of tiny columns and a frieze heavily-decorated with ornamental Roman-like acanthus leaf patterns and self-repeating designs divided into several rows.

The pediment has a centrally located niche flanked by two sets of tiny columns with the Biblical saying Predicate Evangelicum omni creaturae.  It is also decorated with winged cherubs, rosettes, dancette or zigzag moulding (below the raking cornice) and other embellishments. The symbols of the Cross, the Lamb of Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Monstrance are supported by ornamented columns resting on atlantes.

How To Get There: Naga is located 21.7 kms. south of Cebu City.