Sunday, July 29, 2007


like dalaguete, the municipality of argao was also named after a tree called sali-argaw, which was found in the area. argao is an hour and a half away from cebu city. there is much to see and explore in this town. sadly, we did not have enough time to see everything, so we just focused on the church and other heritage structures.

san miguel arcangel parish. this church is the second oldest church on the island. experts say that the church is perhaps the second construction, because an inscription on its facade indicates 1783 as its original construction, probably handled by fr. francisco espina. according to church records, though, the church was founded in 1733, so details about the construction are sketchy. from outside, you will see that the church is one of the many structures in quite a large complex, which is enclosed in remnants of a stone wall.

the interior of the church boasts of paintings by canuto avila and reynaldo francia, two of the best church muralists at the time. avila painted a mural that tells of biblical manifestations of angels, which francia was responsible for the painting of st. michael triumphing over lucifer.

a controversial part of this church (which formed part of why i wanted to see it), is the painting of the saints in the retablo in gold. it's been said that this was the reason why the church of argao was dropped from the list of world heritage sites - baroque churches of the philippines. what a shame, huh? i wanted to see the monstrosity for myself, and it was indeed... ugly. thank god the rest of the church was still fascinating.

behind the church was a courtyard, and off to a corner was a sculpture of san lorenzo ruiz hanging upside down. i found it quite disturbing.

casa real. another part of the complex is casa real, which is the oldest town hall in the island of cebu that's still standing. it now functions as the hall of justice. it's a low, two-story building that boasts of stone masonry on the ground level, and timber construction on the top level. it's a great example of the balay na tisa architecture that is so popular in cebu.

puerta real. this is another structure that i found interesting. the puerta now does not hold a place of great importance, yet it is still imposing because of its size. it is now part of a residential area close to the sea. it's also quite close to three cannons placed on the ground, which were probably used to defend the town from attacks.

there were other places that i really wanted to see, but i swear to go back to cebu and check them out. argao boasts of its very own rice terraces, falls, and caves. it also has a castle up in jumgao, and you can also watch weavers at work.

to see more argao photos, click here.

to know what other sights you can see in argao, check out the argao tourism website.

Friday, July 13, 2007


the next town in our agenda was dalaguete, which is 85.1 km from the city of cebu. that's about an hour and a half drive away (if you're not driving at 60mph, that is). a barrio in dalaguete called mantalongon is hailed as cebu's vegetable basket, as abundant veggies grow there. it's also known as cebu's version of baguio.

the town is named after dalakit, which is cebuano for balete, the tree that used to grow abundantly in this part of cebu.

our main purpose for visiting dalaguete is to see the san guillermo el hermitano parish church. construction of the church started in 1711, the year dalaguete was recognized as an independent parish. fr. juan chacel was in charge of construction. he finished the structure in 1825, and died later in the same year. years later,in 1850, fr. juan alonso had the belfry constructed.

the construction of this church is worthy of note, because it involved very little financial assistance. instead, the church was built by the townsfolk, who contributed free labor just to finish their parish church.

the san guillermo el hermitano church is described as pseudo-baroque. like all the churches we visited on this route, the floor had black and white tiles. inside, the ceiling is painted with various images, but is in need of some restoration, as some of the paint is already peeling or fading.

the chandeliers that hung from the ceiling still came from spanish galleons long ago. outside the church, you will see its three-tiered belfy, which is octagonal in shape. the shape seems to be a significant one in this part of town, because the watchtower near the shore was also rendered in the same shape. today, that watchtower has become a gazebo or store of some sort where people come to drink and have fun.

a few feet from the watchtower stands a wooden cross called sta. cruz, which was left by the spanish long ago to signify that the town has been christianized. i was really amazed to find the church still in perfect condition.

our stop in dalaguete was a brief one, but i enjoyed it. the more of this part of cebu i saw, the more interesting it got. i find it fascinating how things from hundreds of years ago still exist today, and are still in pretty good condition.

more photos of dalaguete may be found here.

for more information about dalaguete, visit its website.

alcoy: lunch and a pleasant surprise

we were feeling pretty hungry when we left boljoon, so we asked our driver, kuya celso, if he can recommend a good place to eat in. we weren't expecting anything fancy, but kuya celso surprised us by driving up to this restaurant in the small town of alcoy called triple b. the steep incline to triple b gives you no indication of what's to come.

when you get to the top, you'll be greeted with a clean, charming restaurant-slash-sports bar that mixes native and modern in its design. when we walked through the door, there was a decent bar to the right, and a pool table and a foosball table on the left. further down is the outdoor dining area, which offers a great view of the ocean and the highway beneath.

susie couldn't help marveling at how well the structure was built. the lines of the wooden planks that make up the floor of the terrace were all straight, the cuts clean. the accents were simple and classy. everything was obviously well thought-of, and there were no stray wires or other unsightly things jutting out of anywhere.

we were handed our menus and found that the place was a german restaurant. i decided to go for their italien sausage, while susie opted for the salmon. because the place was so laidback, we also ordered a pitcher of draft beer to celebrate our "discovery" of this niiiiiiice place. our meals were satisfactory. if not for the spice i felt in every bite, i would have pronounced my italien garlic sausage perfect. susie enjoyed his salmon, and we both didn't want to leave the place.

we found out that the place was also a resort, after much exploration. our table had a view of their fan rooms, which also had a balcony that looked out to the ocean. near these bamboo rooms is the pool. since we still didn't have a place to stay in for the night, we inquired about the rates, and found them pretty reasonable. P1,600 for an airconditioned room, and P1349 for a fan room. we asked to see the rooms, and we were accommodated by their friendly staff.

for its price, the fan room is a steal. it has a double bed and a twin bed, a very clean bathroom, and a view of the ocean. if memory serves me right, it also had a television and a safety deposit box. plus, all the fan rooms are closer to the pool.

the airconditioned room is priced fairly. it was built like the fan room, except it only has a queen bed. it's also equipped with a refrigerator full of different drinks. bathroom is similar to the one in the fan room.

all guests are supplied with towels and toiletries. bathrooms have hot and cold showers. televisions aren't powered by cable, though. the bamboo structure on which the tv rests doubles as an open closet and place to put your suitcase and things on. decor was minimal, but appropriate.

we didn't have any complaints about our stay. if we were to go exploring on this side of cebu, we will definitely stay here again. besides, there is much about the town that we still haven't explored. alcoy is known for having the biggest dolomite quarry in the country. it also boasts of stretches of white beach, with tingko beach being one of the most popular.

view more photos of triple b here.

contact information:
triple b (bodo's bamboo bar) hotel and restaurant
location: pasol, alcoy, 6023 cebu you can reach it by riding an oslob-bound bus from the south terminal in cebu city. tel. no.: (032) 4839119 fax no.: (032) 4835522

for more information about the town of alcoy, visit this site.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

next stop, historic boljoon

after about half an hour of exploring oslob, we were back in the car, and on the road. this time, we're headed back up to boljoon, which was quite a historic town.

there is much to see in boljoon, and it's a paradise for those who love to have a glimpse of how life was before. like most of the towns this side of cebu, boljoon is teeming with old houses that are still up and being lived in. aside from that, outdoor lovers will find it an adventure to climb the mystical eli rock.

our destination was the church complex of patrocinio de maria. the church, nuestra senora de patrocinio, was built by augustinian friars in the 18th century. other structures within this complex are the block house, which functioned as a watchtower back in the day, escuela catolica, and the 18th century cemetery, which we weren't able to see. let's discuss them one by one, shall we?

the church. like the church in oslob, the nuestra senora de patrocinio parish was located near the ocean, which explains why it's also made of corals. the church can be easily seen from the road, as it's in a large complex, and guarded by an arch with three angels. the church was one of the many fortress churches, to protect the people from muslim attacks. because of these attacks, boljoon was never densely populated. experts in these structures pronounce the church peculiar, because it actually looks islamic at first glance.

an attack destroyed the structure in 1782, and rebuilding began the next year. it took three different priests to finally finish the job. the convento that stands beside the church is said to have been built in 1915. beside the church stands its bell tower, which is a quadrilateral edifice that consists of three stories.

i was pleased to see that the church was being restored when we entered it. the paintings on the ceilings were still highly visible, and quite colorful, but the place really needed a lot of work done. it was declared for restoration in 1998, which is great because it would really be a shame if this structure crumbled into historic pieces. it was declared a national historical landmark in december 1999, because it is the oldest original stone church in the island of cebu that is still standing to this day.

the block house. it was father julian who decided to create a defense system to thwart attackers. he managed to create about three dozen watchtowers along the coast of southeastern cebu. the system works much like the lighting of the beacons scene in the lord of the rings: the return of the king.

boljoon played a central role in this system, because there was a hill close to it, where he built the highest watchtower. you can see a faint trace of this watchtower from the church, with the cross being prominent (if the sky is really blue). this watchtower used to have red, white, and black flags to signal the other churches in the system if there is an impending attack.

part of boljoon's defense system is the 120x80-meter block house, where cannons were mounted to thwart unfriendly groups. today, those cannons have been replaced by bells, as there is no more fear of an attack. it would also be interesting to note that its walls are a meter thick.

the block house looks pretty dull from the outside, because it just looks like a sturdy but gray box. it doesn't look especially charming when you see escuela catolica and the church behind it. but when i thought about it, its role in all this was vital, as it defended the town from the muslims. and i find it fascinating that the holes on the second story of the structure used to have cannons mounted on them. from deadly cannons to harmless clanging bells. what a change, huh?

escuela catolica. now we have come to my favorite structure of the entire trip. i was greatly creeped out by this building when i first saw its photo online. seeing it up close still sent chills up my spine, but my fear was also mixed with awe. i don't quite understand my fascination; i just found myself gaping at the structure as i was getting out of the car.

as it says on its facade, the school was built in the 1940. from the photo, it may look frail, but the twin staircases are actually made of tough concrete. its roof boasts of wood relief ornamentation, which is a great part of its eerie charm. the escuela is the only structure in the complex to have american characteristics.

the escuela served as a dormitory for children, because back then, they were required to stay at the escuela the night before their first holy communion. when it's not functioning as a dormitory, the structure would be the venue for religious teachings. at one point, it also served as a primary school. today, it is where parish meetings are held. i don't know how they can muster up the courage to enter the building, but kudos to them.

more photos of the boljoon complex may be found here.

for more information about boljoon, do visit their website.

first stop: oslob, cebu

our first day consisted of the flight from manila to cebu, dinner in the metro, then driving to argao, where we stayed for the night. we weren't quite satisfied with the digs, so the next morning, we packed our bags and loaded them into the trunk of the opel, vowing to look for satisfactory accommodations as we drive along.

we decided to go to the farthest point first: oslob. from argao, it took us about two hours to find the church, mainly because we couldn't spot in from the road. as it turns out, the inmaculada concepcion parish is tucked away in a nice corner of town, at the corner of aragones and eternidad streets. i couldn't wait to finally see a church made of corals!

the inmaculada concepcion parish was built in 1848, four years after the town of oslob was established. this massive structure was part of the four fortress churches in cebu which served as the various towns' line of defense in the event of muslim attacks. this is evident in the nearby watchtower ruins and the tall bell tower, which was really meant to be a four-storey structure. however, the construction had to be stopped because of an earthquake and a storm. imagine how the tower would have looked if the plans pushed through!

the church interior was not as impressive as its facade, nor its history. there were no paintings on the ceilings, just simple decor and plain colors. what i found quaint, though, was that they used a shell and inserted it into the wall by the door to serve as the container for holy water.

beside the church stand ruins of an old spanish cuartel. even with the broken walls, i found the structure highly interesting. it's mostly inhabited by local goats and a horse, though.

for divers and beach bums, sumilon island will be paradise. from the road, you will see a sign where you can take the short, ten-minute banca ride to nearby sumilon.

another "historical" and natural wonder is their centuries-old nigad tree. you can also ask around for mainit springs, which is believed to be mystical and possess healing powers.

you can take a look at more oslob photos here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

a convenient way to travel

when ivan wrote about southeastern cebu's heritage trail, he took the bus and wrote down the fares. susie and i were ready to do the same thing, as we haven't had to go on such an adventure before. being a big fan of public transportation, the idea of bus-ing it to the various provinces was thrilling.

that was until we found cebu trip, a car rental service in cebu. the website is pretty informative and encouraging, and the rates, though not the cheapest, are pretty reasonable.

we booked a car for our first three days in cebu, to pick us up from the airport, drive us to argao, and go with us to oslob, boljoon, alcoy, dalaguete, argao, and carcar.

mr. emmanuel barretto, the manager, was open to suggestions from us regarding the arrangements for the rental and the driver. he gave us a rate of P3,500 per day excluding gas.

it was my first time to try out a car rental service, and i am happy to say that i am pretty satisfied. we were chauffered around inside a blue opel astra, by a friendly and knowledgeable driver named celso. he seemed to know the ins and outs of cebu, even the towns and the provinces that we visited. it was also pretty convenient to have a cebuano traveling with you, to ask people for directions or other interesting sights to cover.

our only beef was the speed. now, i'm not familiar with speed limits in the province, but i believe going over 60 is not a deadly sin. i kept fidgeting in my seat, sending signals to the driver that i can handle a faster speed, but he didn't seem to get it. we crawled along at 60kph most of the time. i really think we could have gotten to the other places faster if he'd just gone at 80 at least.

still, i am recommending cebu trip to anyone who'd like to see cebu with high emphasis on convenience. having a local show you around saves you lots of time trying to figure out where to go here and how to get there. you also get to leave your stuff in the car and not have to lug everything around with you. you even get commentaries and insider stuff about cebu that you wouldn't get from anyone.

contact information:
name: cebu trip
contact person: emmanuel barretto
address: 11 Forest Hills, Banawa, Cebu City, Philippines, 6000
telefax: +63 (32) 419-6740
mobile: 09228855511; 09173205688

off to a confusing start

this trip had a lot of mishaps attached to it. even from the beginning, cebu pacific had already made the entire thing difficult.

for starters, when i was booking the tickets during the piso fare promo a few months back, a tiny delay caused me to lose an earlier flight by about a second, so we got stuck with the 415pm flight. the time surely gave us a hard time, because we had less time to travel, and the entire saturday was basically wasted, since we'll be arriving at 515pm already.

thankfully, we were able to plan the trip around the inconvenient flight schedule. but we just had to encounter another hassle.

on the morning of our trip, i received an SMS message from cebu pacific, informing me that our 415pm flight was changed to 650pm instead. i immediately called their 24-hour hotline to find out what happened, and to try to see if i can get us on an earlier flight.

mc, the customer service rep, informed me that there was an "aircraft situation," and weather conditions also had them moving flights. i inquired if there was an earlier flight that we could get into, but he informed me that due to weather conditions, all flights before 650pm were cancelled.

i didn't believe him, so i called again. they told me the same thing. since that was around 6am, i decided to sleep on it. after waking up at around 12nn, i called them up to see if anything had changed. the female customer service rep this time told me that there was an earlier flight, which was the 545pm flight. she also informed me that it was open. she told me that we will have to go to the ticketing office directly if i want to be booked on that flight.

again, i had to make sure they were feeding us correct information. i called again. i was told that there was indeed a 545pm flight, but it was full. i asked if it was possible to try it out as a chance passenger, and she said our chances were pretty slim.

to be on the safe side, susie and i decided to just go to the airport at 3pm, just to see if there's any way we could get on an earlier flight. unfortunately, the lady at the ticketing office beside the domestic airport told us that the 545pm flight was already full, but that we are definitely booked for 650pm. she even printed out the ticket, crossed out 415pm, and rewrote 650pm with her blue pen.

defeated, susie and i decided to see if we could check-in early for the 650pm flight, so we wouldn't have to lug our suitcases around in case we want to kill time outside the airport. as we were lining up, i saw a sign by the check-in counter and curious me couldn't help but check it out.

the notice stated that the 415pm flight was moved to 515pm due to aircraft situation. i was confused. i thought the 415pm was moved to 650pm? so i took out my ticket and asked the nice lady at the check-in counter. she conferred with another cebu pacific check-in counter lady and told me that we were booked for the 515pm. it's as though the 650pm flight was imaginary, the way they were acting.

astounded but happy at this turn of events, i went back in line and told susie about it. we were checked in for the 515pm, leaving us less time to kill in the crowded waiting area of the domestic airport.

445pm rolled around, our supposed boarding time, and nothing happened. no announcements that the flight was delayed, no one putting up a "cebu" sign by the door, signaling us to board. as it happens, the flight was moved to 545pm, the flight that everybody else kept telling us was already booked.

in the end, we got to cebu safely, but that's not really all that matters. sure, getting there safely is a big thing, but the entire confusion could have been avoided if cebu pacific handled information better. imagine, the lady at the ticketing office, which was a very short walk from the entrance of the domestic airport, gave us the wrong information about our flight. we found out about the correct time five minutes later when we checked in.

we were lucky that we were for vacation, and we weren't really in a hurry. but what of people who had booked on the 415pm flight, hoping to get there before 6pm? and what about the other people who were told that the 415pm flight was moved to 650pm? they'd be at the airport at 450pm or 5pm, and might not even be allowed to check in.

i love cebu pacific for giving us really low fares, but if low fares mean bad service, i'd rather save up a little more and have on-time flights and correct information. whatever happened to their old tagline of 95% on-time?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

just a teaser

before i fill this page with a deluge of posts, let me try to summarize the trip.

to start off, it was exhausting. even though the entire stretch from cebu city to oslob was only a three-hour drive, having to explore so many towns can be pretty tiring. but it was worth it, as i got to see some pretty impressive structures.

one of them is pictured on the right. that there is escuela catolica, an old school that stands beside boljoon church, one of the oldest churches in the country. the image just creeps the hell out of me, but i find the whole thing so fascinating. and it has weathered through the times. isn't that amazing?

other great discoveries on this trip include a great car rental place that provides cars with drivers that know their cebu. :D we also got to stay in a superb resort without having to shell out so much. cebu city got us slugging down beer after beer at a newly opened spanish restaurant.

as many places as we've explored, i still don't feel fulfilled. we decided to put off exploring argao for another time, because there was just so much to see, it would be best to just dedicate an entire trip to it. argao boasts of both heritage and nature sights. i had really wanted to check out their rice terraces, but we couldn't squeeze it in the afternoon.

what this means, though, is that next time i'm in cebu, i won't automatically think "gateway to bohol," or "beaches of bantayan!" i now have an alternative travel option, and that's to see a side of cebu that many don't get to tour.

Friday, July 6, 2007

gone for four days

will be taking a few days off from work to explore the heritage trail of southeastern cebu. thanks to ivan for giving us the idea. :)

we've decided to rent a car for the first few days so we can enjoy the coastal drive and have time to get off the car and take photos whenever we feel like it. having a local drive us around will get us privy to little-known nooks of each town.

argao will be our headquarters, and we'll be driving down to oslob on our second day to see the church made of coral blocks, then make our way up to boljoon to see its well-known church and also check out escuela catolica, among other things. alcoy is next on our list, which boasts of fine white sand beaches. dalaguete follows soon after, which is considered cebu's vegetable kingdom. if we have time in the afternoon, we'll drive back up to argao and try to peek at the town's very own rice terraces.

our third day will be dedicated to various attractions in argao and carcar, which have their fair share of old churches, old houses, and other interesting structures.

i'm pretty excited about the trip, because the trail hasn't been toured as much, and i'd love to give all of you more information about each town. my niftycam (casio exilim ex-s600) and i are very happy about this trip!

so stay tuned for the much-awaited cebu tour! :) susie planned it pretty well, and we're crossing our fingers for better weather over there!

i've provided a map on the right so you can track down our route. just click on the map to enlarge. (map taken from here.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

this is outrageous

taking advantage of the last piso fare promo of cebu pacific, susie and i decided to book a couple of tickets to cebu for our upcoming anniversary. we originally thought we could go off to bantayan to enjoy the beach, but our sordid flight schedules made it inconvenient for us.

thankfully, ivan provided us a great alternative, because he once went through southern cebu's heritage trail. we researched the destinations, and decided to do the heritage route as well.

unfortunately, since the trail is not a popular tour-type thing in cebu, there aren't as much information that we can find. and since we'll be landing in cebu quite late, we want to know the bus schedules from the city to the southern towns.

i've been scouring the internet for the contact information of ceres bus liner, one of the biggest bus lines in the south, but i cannot find any. i decided to finally call up the philippine tourism authority in cebu. i assumed they would have a bunch of numbers handy for a lost tourist like myself, after all, they are the tourism authority. the conversation went like this:

me: hi, good afternoon, is this the tourism authority?
PTA person: yes.
me: i was wondering if you would have the number of ceres bus liner in cebu?
PTA person: no, i don't have it, ma'am.

i hung up the phone, dumbfounded for a number of reasons: 1. they DIDN'T have the number of a large bus liner. and they're the tourism AUTHORITY. 2. the woman who answered didn't even TRY to help me out. she didn't even make any effort to find out the number, or offer any help at all. she didn't even ask me where i'd be going, when i'd be going, or whatever.

it's all a sham, these tourism authorities. imagine if a harried foreign tourist called up to ask for help. they would have left the poor man dejected and helpless. it's really shocking to find that an office that is supposed to handle tourism concerns won't even take the time out to help a tourist.

this is all so outrageous and sad.