When Cebu City is mentioned in a conversation, the first things that come to my mind are the Santo Nino, Magellan’s Cross, the Cebu-Cordova bridge, Fort San Pedro, the Sinulog, and its amazing cityscape. I love the city because it fuses the rustic rural vibe and city rush perfectly. It is like I am in the city but not in the city kind-of-feel.
Most of its visitors enjoy being part of its cityscape but little is known on the mountains that serves as its backdrop. From the usual attractions of Tops, Temple of Leah, and Taoist Temple, the mountains of the city remain untouched by most tourists. It is safe to say that a large part of its mountains have become the locals sweet and quick escape from hustle of the city, without the usual tourist fanfare. Let’s explore the mountains of Sugbo in a day.
Celestial Garden / Starbuks
Let’s start the day early with a quick hike along a trail that has become popular among locals - the Celestial Garden Trails. The trail starts at Paseo Arcenas where hikers walk along the paved main road passing through the villages and subdivisions. The trail would eventually lead into a dirt trail that snakes through the mountain side where the controversial Monterrazas de Cebu will soon be located. The view of the city landscape gets better as you get higher. I recommend that you start very early so you can catch a great view of the sunrise with the urban landscape of the city in the foreground.
The Celestial Garden is located along this trail. This memorial garden stands out for the statues and “amphitheater” that were installed in the vast open area along the hills giving it a cool and unique vibe. It does not send off an eerie vibe that is usually associated with cemeteries. It actually seems more of a park with an amazing view of Cebu City. The sprawling open space and the amazing views of the city makes it a perfect spot to relax and catch your breath before continuing your hike.
The views of the urban landscape become more commandingly beautiful as you get higher through the trail. The trail becomes narrower and steeper but the 180-degree view of the city of Cebu and the fresh air blowing from the sea is enough reward for the hike. At the top of the trail is a series of small coffee shops that imitate branded coffee shops - Starbucks and Kofi Ben.
This early morning hike was a great way to start a day of exploring the mountains in Cebu. It was a good way to exercise that gave a rewarding view of the city that you can only see from this side of the Queen City. This was a side that only locals know and it was great to experience it first hand.
Sirao Flower Farm
Our next destinations would be along the usual tourist trail along the mountains of this city. We hopped on a habal-habal to explore the usual tourist spots. Let's start with the Sirao Flower Farm is one of the popular spots on this side of the city. Tucked along the hillside of Sirao, this barangay is popular for its flower production so it was not a surprise that flower gardens have become one its tourist draws. The Sirao Flower Farm is probably the most famous attraction as it gives you a localized version of Amsterdam.
The garden is picturesque from any angle. The flower plots are neatly arranged to surround and impress its guests. It gives you that mood uplift while being surrounded by different variety of flowers. It is a visual sensory overload of colors. Structures were built in different spots of the garden to give the garden a more IG-worthy feel. The aesthetics of the garden complements the amazing mountain views that surround the garden.
The beauty of the Sirao Flower Farm has made it to the list as one of the attractions to visit on this side of Cebu. It has managed to create an attraction from nature’s bounty and infuse a shot of creativity. Its appeal transcends across all ages.
Temple of Leah
Commissioned by Teodorico Adarna, this “temple” was built in honor of his late wife - Leah Albino-Adarna. The “temple” symbolized his undying love and devotion to his wife. It was a declaration of 5 decades of fruitful marriage.
The structure started its construction in 2012. It was designed in Greek architecture and has 24 chambers. The chambers were designed to house an art gallery, a library, and a museum but these chambers remain inaccessible to the public still. You can take a peek from windows on how these rooms look like. A 10-foot statue of “Queen Leah” stand as the centerpiece of the temple’s receiving hall. The queenly image has been an attraction among its guests.
The attraction sits along the hillside of Busay and gives a panoramic view of Cebu City and the Mactan Island. I personally think that the panoramic view of the metro is the biggest pull of this attraction. I enjoyed getting lucky with the view of a plane landing in Mactan with the Metro Cebu in the foreground.
Cebu Taoist Temple
Located inside a posh village in the city, the Cebu Taoist Temple is an attraction that has become part of its city mountain tours. This attraction is popular for its peaceful and serene vibe within the urban setting of Cebu. Beyond being a place of worship, the temple is more than just an attraction but a symbolic structure of Chinese influence in the Cebu.
The Cebu Taoist Temple proudly displays Chinese architecture as you climb up the stairs to its main temple. The lawns are perfectly manicured that complements the serene mood of the temple. There are smaller chapels where you can light up incense and offer a short prayer. There are wishing pools where you can toss a coin to make a wish. The main temple is a beautiful centerpiece of the Cebu Taoist Temple. Please respect that taking pictures of the interiors of the temple and chapels are not allowed.
The temple does offer a quick refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city while giving you a mild taste of China. You get to enjoy a panoramic view of Cebu City while enjoying the serenity of the place. I think that the best time to visit it is in the late afternoon to get that different glow of the city with the late afternoon sun. Just be mindful of the noise and those who are there to offer their prayers because, at the end of the day, the place remains to be a temple. A perfect spot to end the day with gratitude for a great time of safely exploring the mountains of Sugbo.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The mountains of Cebu is one of the less travelled destinations in Cebu City. Apart from the usual tourist routes, there are still a lot of off-beat attractions that remain hidden from tourists but enjoyed by the locals. I have heard that there are hiking trails that allow you to traverse through the mountain side of Cebu that gives you access to amazing city views and waterfalls. This is going to be my future travel endeavor - exploring the mountains of Sugbo!
Locals are known to offer information on great spots in their community that are not along the popular tourist trail. More often than not, these are enjoyed by locals because it does not have the usual crowd and remains untouched by commercialization. I enjoy these spots because you get to see how locals see it before it hits mainstream tourist. I guess that is a badge that I would like to wear for most of my travels.
***This Cebu City blog series is a personal project that will have me getting around and re-discovering the Queen City of the South. Walking while exploring Cebu City is a great way to sweat it out just before the holiday celebrations.
Talking about sweating it out… Anytime Fitness is set to open its next club right at the heart of Cebu City - Anytime Fitness Robinsons Fuente. Pre-sales is set to start on September 15, 2023! Check out their social media pages for more information and to get the best pre-sales membership offers:
Getting there: Major airlines and ferries have regular trips to Mactan International Airport, Cebu City’s gateway. You can take a cab to Paseo Arenas, the jump off point to the trail to Celestial Garden and Starbuks. For the more popular mountain attractions in Cebu, you can take a habal-habal from Robinsons Fuente or at JY Square Mall for a half-day trip.
The start of the Philippines as a nation started when one voyager unintentionally landed his fleet in the one of the islands in Samar. The series of “island hops” eventually led to the conversion of locals to Christianity which gave birth to one of the grandest Philippine celebrations - the Sinulog. This trip will walk us through how the evolution of the Philippines as a nation from its humble beginnings in Cebu City
Sugbu or Sugbo was the ancient name of the Queen City of the South. It was a major trading port long before the arrival of Magellan. It is believed that its present name “Cebu” was derived from the old Cebuano word “sibo” which roughly translates to “trade”. But, it was the arrival of Magellan in 1521 that placed the city in the map of colonizers and it took decades before another expedition was able to establish a colony. This colony, established in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, would be called “Villa de San Miguel de Cebu”.
Raja Humabon Monument
Let’s start our history walk by honoring Raja Humabon - the first Filipino leader who embraced Christianity. His warm reception of Magellan’s fleet led to his baptism, together with his wife and 800 locals. This marked the start of colonization of the Philippines through religion. He was given the Christian name Carlos while his wife was named Juana. As a symbol of their conversion, an image of the Child Jesus was presented to them as a gift and this marked the start of the Sinulog story of the Cebuanos.
A small park tucked between the road fork of P. Burgos Street in Cebu’s downtown honors this Cebuano leader. A monument depicting the strong leader and a NHI historical marker is its main draw. A smaller pylon monument honoring the leader stands at one end of the park. As mentioned, two of Cebu’s icons served as the pact of friendship between Humabon and Magellan - the Sto. Nino de Cebu and the Magellan’s Cross.
Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebu
At the heart of the Cebuano’s Catholic faith is the Holy Child of Cebu. The whole province dances in celebration every 3rd Sunday to celebrate their faith to the Senor Santo Nino. The image was a gift to the wife of Raja Humabon, baptized as Juana, as a symbol of their conversion to Christianity. It has become an iconic symbol of the city.
The Senor Santo Nino is housed in the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebu. It is located two blocks away from the Raja Humabon Monument (not the church adjacent to it) and is one of the three original churches in the downtown or parian area. The present stone church was completed in 1740 and was built on the spot where the image of the Sto. Nino was found after colonizers, headed by Legazpi, burned down the village. The church is nearly 500 years old and it is the center of the celebration every 3rd Sunday of January.
The church and convent stand majestically with its simple facade made from coral stones. An image of the Santo Nino was carved atop its arched doors. Its belfry stands adjacent to the church. An iron-cast bell with the inscription “Santo Nino del Zebu” is on display at the base of the belfry.
The basilica’s gold altar is one of the grandest that I have ever seen. The four-tier retablo looked magnificent with the saints lined up on the upper tiers. The image of the Santo Nino and the Crucified Christ stands as its centerpiece. A smaller altar adjacent to the main altar bears the original image of the Senor Santo Nino. Pilgrims and visitors can get an upclose look at the image. Most pilgrims pray their petitions to the image. Interestingly, devotees of the Santo Nino wave at the image, like a child waving, as a form of respect to the revered image.
The church complex houses the convent, a pilgrimage center, a museum, and a library. It is one of the most visited church in the province for its history and for its faith expression. The Senor Santo Nino is symbolic in both history and religion as it signaled the start of the country’s nation building and the spread of the Christian faith in the Philippines.
Just a stone-throw away from the Minor Basilica is another symbol of faith and colonization - Magellan’s Cross. The story of Magellan’s voyage more than 500 years ago is a common story in our history classes. The wooden cross was planted by Magellan along the shores of Cebu during the mass where Raja Humabon was converted to Christianity. The cross is a symbol of Christianity’s beginnings in the Philippines.
Magellan’s Cross is housed in a small chapel just a few steps from one of the gates of the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebu. The location is the exact area where Magellan planted the wooden cross. The Tindalo wooden cross that we see today encloses the original cross. The paintings on the ceilings of the small chapel outlines the story of what happened during that fateful day. Devotees and tourists flock to this tourist attraction that has become one of the icons of this city.
Fort San Pedro and Plaza Independencia
The arrival of Magellan was the first recorded contact of “Filipinos” with colonizers from the west. However, it was 4 decades after Magellan’s death that the Spanish colonizers was able to establish a colony in the Philippines. It was Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established the colony and was called Villa de San Miguel de Cebu. This marked the start of the development of the oldest city in the Philippines - Cebu City.
Unlike Magellan’s voyage, Legazpi and his crew were met with hostilities among the locals. This was the reason behind the construction of one of the oldest forts in the country, Fort San Pedro. This small triangular fort was intended to protect the colonizers from night-time attacks coming from the sea. This is the reason why two sides of the fort face the sea while one side faces land. We don’t get to see that beach side of the fort nowadays because of the reclamations done in the area.
The fort is the smallest Spanish fortress in the country. It was built using stone mortars and has 3 bastions - La Concepcion, Ignacio de Loyola, and San Miguel. The entrance to the fort stands on the side that faces the city. The fortress was the nucleus of the first Spanish colony in the Philippines.
Fort San Pedro and Plaza Independencia is now a sprawling park in the city. The fort has its own museum and a courtyard that can be used for events. Plaza Independencia is a Spanish-period public space that has been developed and also recognized for its historical value. The plaza also has a monument honoring the Spanish Navigator and the first Governor-General of the Philippines - Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
National Museum - Cebu
The recently inaugurated National Museum Cebu Component makes its home in the historic structure of the Old Custom House of the Cebu Port Authority. It was under the leadership of Former President Rodrigo Duterte that the heritage structure, designed by William Parsons and constructed in 1910, got the support for its re-use to showcase Visayan history and culture.
The first floor of the National Museum has three galleries. The first gallery showcases the natural resources and wonders of Cebu and the Visayas. The second gallery walks you through the early days of Cebu City, giving you a preview of its rich pre-colonial past. The third gallery features the existing culture and way of life in the region. The three galleries give you a deeper understanding of the rich history and heritage of Cebu and the Visayas.
The second floor is a gallery of creativity. You get to marvel at contemporary art pieces, from 2D to 3D, by local artists in the region. The gallery opens with a huge painting of the “Battle of Mactan”. On exhibit are art works that would test your own brand of creativity.
The component museum is a good start to know about the history, culture, and creativity of Cebuanos and the Visayans. The move to create this learning institution in the city, where our story as a nation began, was a good one as it brings both locals and tourists into the heart of the action. It makes us understand the stories behind the sights and sounds of the city’s attraction.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Cebu is my happy place. It has a unique and homey vibe that fuses urban and provincial life in a perfect blend. It is a city that I would never get tired visiting over and over again. With the opportunity to revisit the city’s rich culture and history again, it gives me more time to discover something new and appreciate the uniqueness of the city that has long charmed its way to my heart. This is just the start.
History is a good way to start understanding our present. Understanding how it started gives us a clearer picture of the whys. In the same way, we need to go back and see how we started as a nation. How it all began. Knowing the past can give us a deeper learning on how we can be better Filipinos.
Next up… Cebu City’s Parian District.
***This Cebu City blog series is a personal project that will have me getting around and re-discovering the Queen City of the South. Walking while exploring Cebu City is a great way to sweat it out just before the holiday celebrations.
Talking about sweating it out… Anytime Fitness is set to open its next club right at the heart of Cebu City - Anytime Fitness Robinsons Fuente. Pre-sales is set to start on September 15, 2023! Check out their social media pages for more information and to get the best pre-sales membership offers:
Getting there: Major local and international airlines have direct flights to Cebu.
When you have got a free day in Cebu, where do you go? You can choose to go around the city or choose to explore the nearby destinations to enjoy the sights and sounds of the province. In my case, I decided to head south to explore a town that has become a tourism icon for its animal interaction. Only this time, I am exploring the town for a quick shower, walk through its history, and a quick saltwater swim. This is Oslob!
Just a 4-hour bus ride away from the Queen City of the South, Oslob is a small coastal municipality facing the Bohol Sea. This destination is known as the home of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and for its collection of historical structures. However, it was the controversial “taming” of the whale sharks that eventually paved the way for this small town to become a tourism icon of Cebu. This blog will not feature “tamed” sea creatures but it is about going back to what Oslob has long been known for.
Tucked along the mountains of Oslob is one of the most beautiful waterfalls that I have ever visited and seen - Tumalog Falls. Getting there is quite easy as you can hire a “habal-habal” to get to the jump-off point from the main highway. At the jump-off point, you can go for a 15-minute downhill leisure walk or ride another “habal-habal” to get to the entrance of the park. We chose to go for the faster and more thrilling ride downhill.
The nature park has basic facilities like a restroom and picnic huts for its guests. A Php50 entrance fee is charged by the LGU at the gate. Dirt trails lead up to the base of the falls. There are a lot of good vantage points to see the full beauty of Tumalog. Of course, there’s the popular view spot that you have seen on socmed but you need to line up (a really long one) and give a tip for that human drone shot. In my case, I chose to own my view point rather than go for the usual, giving me more time to enjoy the view and the waters.
Two things that will immediately catch your attention when you come face-to-face with Tumalog Falls are the shower-like cascade and its turquoise waters. What makes Tumalog unique is its shower cascade unlike others that have a strong single cascade. You can literally stand at the base and enjoy a very cold shower as its spring waters cascade along its umbrella-like rock formations. It is like taking a quick shower under a strong rain. It shocks your body with very cold water while giving you a hard and soothing shoulder and back massage.
The waters of Tumalog Falls cascade from a height of about 80 meters into a small and shallow basin. One can swim and enjoy the waist-deep turquoise waters of the falls while enjoying the views of its surrounding forests. Word of caution, though, because of Oslob’s popularity, this nature destination can draw a crowd on a weekend so make sure that you bring a lot of patience when visiting Tumalog Falls during the peak days.
Habal-Habal Rate: Php150 per head roundtrip from main highway to Tumalog Falls Jump-off to Cangcua-ay Private Beach Resort. Make sure to arrange the time you want to be picked up at the jump-off.
Tumalog Jump off Habal-Habal Rate: Php50 per head roundtrip.
Tumalog Falls Entrance Fee: Php50 per head. You can rent out a cabana at Php300 if you plan to stay longer than usual.
Beach Spot: Cangcua-ay Private Beach
With the exception of Sumilon Island’s white sandbar, Oslob’s coastline is composed of a mix of rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. It does not have a a long beach strip where beach bums like me can just relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea. The beach strip that they have does not allow swimming as its “tamed” whale sharks are just a few meters away from the shore. In fact, my habal-habal driver cannot recommend any beach spots when I asked him where we can swim and enjoy beach bumming. BUT… the beach person in me wouldn’t go home without getting tanned and salty so, from a suggestion of a traveler friend, we discovered and explored the Cangcua-ay Private Beach in Barangay Tan-awan.
Expect to walk down the 254 steps from the entrance to the private beach enclave. You get to enjoy the views of the Bohol Sea, Sumilon Island, and Siquijor as you traverse down the steep steps to the beach. Cancua-ay is a perfect spot to beach chill. We got to enjoy the waters of Oslob without the crowd even if it was a Sunday. It was rocky cove with portions of white sand shores that gave me a much-needed beach break. You can enjoy lazing around on the hammock while immersed in saltwater, go for a quick swim, or challenge your fear of heights by jumping off the platform.
The entrance fee of Php150 allows you a day trip access to the beach where you can us the cabanas without extra charge. You just have to make sure that you have everything with you when you go down as you don’t want to tire yourself up traversing the steps. I must agree Cancau-ay is a perfect spot for beacb day trip to disconnect and recharge your mind and body.
Entrance fee: Php150 per head for a day trip
Daanglungsod Baluarte Ruins
Baranggay Daanglungsod holds a historical treasure that is often overlooked by visitors of Oslob. Reading through the town’s history, the present-day location of the town center was not the first location. In fact, it was at Daanglungsod where the first community was established hence the name of the barangay that roughly translates to “old town/city”. This location stands about a kilometer south of the present-day town center.
Just like any old Spanish town, watch towers or “baluartes” were built to protect and warn the town and its people from attacks of Moro pirates. The ruins of a huge baluarte stands as the only mute witness to the original community of Oslob. It hides conspicuously behind trees, vegetations, and modern structures along the highway. If you are not aware of its existence, you would probably miss out on it. I just hope that the LGU would also give ample attention to its preservation for its historical value.
Church of the Immaculate Conception
Completed in 1847, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, or more popularly known as Oslob Church, is one of the heritage structures around the towns historical core. The church is made coral stones and reinforced by lime cement. A 30-meter bell tower stands adjacent to the church that was built in 1858 under Father Apolinar Alvarez. Natural and man-made disasters have damaged the church but the faith of the locals of Oslob would always rise above to rebuild and restore their beloved church.
The Oslob Church is a dominant structure in town. The simple and yet imposing facade exude a vibe of protection over the town of Oslob. The interior of the church exudes the same simplicity with only the image of the Immaculate Conception as the centerpiece of its altar. The church is simple and elegant as if telling us that faith need not be complicated. All it takes is for us to simply believe.
The church complex is home to a number of historical structures. The church wall and gates are being re-constructed to complement the church. The walls served as the church’s protection from pirates. A small coral chapel stands just right across church while an old Spanish well can also be found within the church grounds.
Trike fare from Cancua-ay Beach: Php50 per head
Running along the left side of the church is the oldest street in Oslob - Calle Aragones. The street served as the main processional route of the church. A historical marker was mounted by the LGU that recognizes the historical value of the street.
It still serves as a vital link of the main highway to the adjacent streets and the businesses in the area. This is where you would find the Oslob Municipal Hall and its community center. It still serves as the main access to the town’s historical attractions from the national highway.
The Cuartel Ruins stands at the end of Calle Aragones. The construction of the cuartel or barracks started in the 1860s and were suppose to be the residence of Spanish troops. However, the arrival of the Americans halted the construction of the cuartel leaving it at its current state.
The cuartel is made up of thick coral stones from the ruins of the bell tower. The foundations were built strong that it has withstood time and natural calamities. It is the most photographed historical structure in Oslob. The structure is dramatic and walking along the corridors of the Spanish ruins challenges your creativity as you try to capture the drama the unfinished Spanish structure in your photos.
Cuartel Beach and Baluarte Ruins
Cuartel Beach is the “baywalk” area of the town. Located at the back of the Cuartel Ruins, this reclaimed area was converted into a sprawling open park that gives one a calm view of the Bohol Sea. What makes this bay park really unique is the clear and clean waters of its beach which makes it quite tempting to jump into. You can even enjoy watching schools of fish lounge around its breakwaters.
You can also find the ruins of a Baluarte or watch tower on one end of the park. The Baluarte is one of the 12 watch towers built in Oslob to protect the town from pirates. A monument honors Father Julian Bermejo who spearheaded the construction of these baluartes which totaled to 40 and ran the length from Carcar to Santander. His biggest contribution was the construction of the Oslob Church which he completed in 1847.
The park is a perfect way to slow you down after a day of exploring nature and history in Oslob. You can take a seat in one of the benches and just breathe in the view of the sea and enjoy the breeze. I seldom get this kind of views in metro so I really took it in. It was calming and recharging. Oslob was perfect in its simple state.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
My day trip to Oslob was definitely a much needed pause and recharge for me. It gave me a cold freshwater shower and a quick saltwater dip. It gave me the opportunity to commune with nature while appreciating history. It was like getting the best of two worlds at the same time. It was refreshing and recharging. Oslob, at its basic, is OsLove!
Exploring a place, for what it is, is an exciting adventure. You get to see the real beauty of the destination and not what it is trying to adopt. It makes you fall in love for what it truly is. Destinations need not re-invent its wheel to gain tourism traction. All it needs to do is to look within and uncover what they have to offer that they can truly say is uniquely their own.
Getting there: Major local and international airlines have direct flights to Cebu. You can take a cab from the airport to the Cebu South Bus Terminal where you can take a bus to Bato via Oslob. You just tell the ticket seller and the bus conductor to drop you off at the stop going to Tumalog Falls or at the Oslob town proper.
Mention the word “Elyu” and the first thing that comes into people’s mind are the swells of San Juan. After all, it is the hippiest and the hottest place to be, on this side of Luzon with its waves, food, and festive nightlife. It is the province’s tourism draw at this time after having stayed in the sidelines for quite a while. But beyond the beers and cheers, we discovered a more subdued nature spot tucked along the hills of Pugo - Balay Mamboo.
Nestled along the slopes of the hills on the more rugged side of Elyu, Balay Mamboo is a homey enclave that is perfect for those looking for a tranquil spot to relax. It is about 3 hours away from Manila and about an hour away from San Juan or Baguio. This quaint resort can accommodate a maximum of 15 persons and has complete amenities - bedrooms, veranda, kitchen, a bonfire place, and a dipping pool for kids and adults. It is a great place where you can enjoy a slow weekend with good company.
Urban Detox Spot
Balay Mamboo is in the quaint town of Pugo so you can expect to enjoy a provincial kind of living. Apart from your internet connectivity, it is very far from the usual humdrum of the city. There is nothing much to do so you get to enjoy your me time or sharing stories with your family and/or friends. You get to watch the whole day pass and you get to choose what you want to do and when you want to do it.
You can go for a walk around town and enjoy the hustle of their market. You can choose to walk around and explore the area around Balay Mamboo. You can also choose to just take the time off and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place. Bottomline, Balay Mamboo and Pugo slows you down. It gives you that needed break from the “noise”. You learn to appreciate a more laidback kind of living that you won’t get in the city.
Balay Mamboo was designed as a modern nipa hut. The second floor is a large living room/bedroom area that is open so air freely flows through the structure. The first floor is where you would find the kitchen and dining area. Adjacent to it are the veranda, the dipping pools, and the bonfire area. The best part of it is that the place is surrounded by lush greens which gives the place a tranquil vibe.
The place gives you the opportunity to commune and get re-energized by nature. You get to be serenaded to sleep by the nature’s evening sounds and you wake up to the lively chirping of birds. The fresh air and spring water pool gives you a refreshing break from the
usual chlorinated water and musky air of the city. You get to enjoy the sun with nature surrounding you. You get to feel, see, hear, and breathe in nature’s beauty and bounty at Balay Mamboo.
Balay Mamboo gives off a homey vibe. The design of the house opens opportunities to interact with your family and friends. You get to cook together, share meals, and even sleep together. You get to spend time chilling with your companions in a comfortable and relaxed ambiance.
You can also enjoy sharing stories while toasting marshmallows or enjoy a quick dip at the pool under the canopies. Since the place is tucked along the hills, you can enjoy laughing your hearts out or singing to your favorite songs from sundown to sun-up. You can share drinks while enjoying a round of games. Balay Mamboo is a great venue to make relationships stronger in a fun and relaxed vibe.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Social media has been pivotal in bringing forward destinations that are interesting and worth exploring. This has been my case when I first came across Balay Mamboo in Pugo. It was a simple a tiktok post that I turned into a venue of a birthday celebration. It was a perfect spot that describes me in general - exploring, nature lover, chill, and loves to have fun.
Let me be clear, this is not a paid partnership. It is an honest review and part of my advocacy to promote destinations and spots that deserve to be highlighted. As a local traveler, it is not just about locations. It is also about small businesses that leave a smile on our faces. This was the first time that I celebrated my birthday out of the usual and Balay Mamboo gave me exactly what I was looking for - a fun and tranquil enclave away from home.
Getting there: You can contact Balay Mamboo through their Facebook page: Balay-Mamboo. The enclave is located along the national highway in Pugo La Union. You can go down at Brgy, Ambangonan at the road leading to the Ambangonan Elementary School where you can walk to Balay Mamboo. Alternatively, you can go down at the junction in Pugo and take a trike to Balay Mamboo. If you are bringing a car, you can use Waze for the direction.
With a few more provinces to explore to complete my #GOTPH81 project, it got me thinking on what PH destinations I would love to re-visit. The Philippines has a thousand reasons to make you fall in love with it but there will be destinations that will live an imprint on you. This are not the usual destinations that you frequently visit but these spots have charmed their way enough that makes you want to return and explore it again and/or discover more. In short, you got captivated and you want to see more.
In my case, eto yung mga lugar na tumatak sa akin as I went around getting lost around the Philippines. I have only been on these destinations once but I was captivated that I want to visit and explore it again, even if it has been years since I visited these spots. A common denominator among these PH destinations is having me fall in love with its laidback and rustic vibe, far from my usual day. These spots slowed me down and gave me a different understanding of the phrase “the best things in life are free”.
Sagada is totally a different world. It is rustic and ethereal where its culture and natural beauty perfectly blends homogeneously. Tucked in the rugged mountains of the Cordillera, Sagada got its reputation as a destination for those who are soul searching. The place is laidback where time seem to standstill. You get to be surrounded by the beauty of nature while getting immersed in their culture. Sagada slows you down and gets you grounded on yourself and nature.
What I loved about Sagada was its laidback community vibe. Visitors are treated like family and adjusts to the ways of the community. Locals were able to preserve their way of life and imbibes the same respect to its visitors towards their way of life. Its natural attractions are simply breathtaking. Whether you are an outdoor kind of guy or a food geek, there is always a corner for you in Sagada.
Sagada is developing and there are more attractions catching the attention of travelers. I would like to catch the sunrise at Kiltepan Point and then marvel at the beauty of its blue soil. I would like to delve my hand on Sagada culture. I would try my hand on pottery and then find my own corner in Sagada to enjoy the peace and quiet on this side of the Philippines.
You can read about my Sagada travel here: #GOT81MountainProvince: Sagada In Its True Form
Marinduque is the geographical heart of the Philippines. With that said, it is also interesting to note that the island is also shaped like a heart. It is an island province that was made popular by its Moriones Festival - a Holy Week celebration where locals go around town in their Morion outfit as part of their “panata” or faith promise. Part of the celebration includes the re-enactment of the suffering of Jesus Christ. But beyond this popular festival is an island that is proud of its history and natural beauty.
Exploring the eastern side of Marinduque on two separate occasions have given me a glimpse of its natural beauty, from its white sand beaches to a sandbar to an amazing rock formation. There is no doubt that it is a beautiful island that nature blessed and its laidback vibe complements its natural beauty. I guess it is safe to say that it is an island where you can choose to chill down in its beach spots as you enjoy a drink while watching the sunset.
There is more to this island that I want to experience. I would like to explore Boac and its collection of old houses. I would like to enjoy the beaches and the islands on the west side of the island. I would like to go face-to-face with one of its Morions and join in with the colorful celebrations of Marinduque.
You can read about my Marinduque travel here: The Unexpected Twist, Roadblock, and Detour of Marinduque and Natanaw Din Ang Summer Sa Catanauan
This group of islands is more than just its renowned marbles. From the high peaks of Guiting-Guiting to the clean spring waters of Catingas to the white sands of Cresta de Gallo, Romblon has something to offer to any type of traveler. This is destination where you get to enjoy the old town vibe as you immerse in its history and natural beauty.
Romblon is a no frills destination. It is a place where you get to enjoy the small town community vibe where everyone knows each other and everyone knows you are a “dayo” or visitor. You get to explore the town like a local and you get to eat like a local. If you feel like hitting the beach, you can just take a quick trike ride to Bonbon Beach. If you are up for a history and a view, you can go check out Fort San Andres that offers a panoramic view of the town and its waters. Don’t forget to swing by Cresta de Gallo where the island defines how getting marooned on an island can be fun.
I would like to see the different facets of Romblon. I want to explore their own version of Boracay and take the plunge by its cliff. I would like to enjoy a no frills trip where I get to experience the simple town life where you get to interact comfortably with locals. One where you can enjoy a really quiet evening. I would like to also to head back to Cresta de Gallo and once again enjoy the sunset on one side and the sunrise on the other side of the island.
You can read about my Romblon travel here: #LaBoRomblon
Among all the PH destinations that I have been to, Guiuan is turning out to be my favorite. This Eastern Samar destination perfectly blends my love for history, nature, and adventure. I think it is a place that I can always enjoy chilling down. It is a no-frills destination with a lot of beach spots to visit - from crashing waves to still waters.
Guiuan is an unassuming destination with a lot of activities that you can enjoy. You can choose a tame adventure of beach and/or historical church hopping to a more adrenaline-pumping activity like jumping off a bridge or sliding under it. These activities are just within reach from its laidback town center. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these activities seem to be a normal day-to-day life of locals.
I would like to visit Homonhon Island one day and immerse in its history. I would like to see what Magellan saw. It would also be nice to try riding the waves on this side of the Philippines. I would like to stay here for at least a week and enjoy living like a local and enjoying the place like a local. Guiuan locked me in its charm with its laidback and rustic vibe. This is the kind of place where you get to chill and enjoy the best and simple things in life for free.
You can read about my Guiuan travel here: #GOT65EasternSamar: Guiuan And Only and #GOT65EasternSamar: Guiuan And Only Pa Din or you can check out my YT travel channel here: #ByahengOffTheGrid Guiuan
This island is on fire! Siquijor exudes a different kind of appeal with its charm and its mysticism. Blessed with the beauty of nature, it is this same nature that fueled the fire of its local folklore - the mambabarangs. This destination was once feared but was weirdly interesting for me because of these beliefs and stories.
My visit to Siquijor was a quick one. You can enjoy the island in a day by tricycle or motorbike where you get to see the island’s highlights. I enjoyed swinging into Cambugahay Falls but conked out in Salagdoong cliff jump. I loved the history of Lazi Church and the mystery that surrounds the church in Maria. I love its chill beach vibe while swinging on a makeshift swing made from a used rubber tire. Siquijor is a real beauty shrouded in “mystery”.
Dark tourism is something that really interests me. This is the reason why Siquijor has indulged my curiosity. I would like to visit this island again and come face-to-face with a mambabarang, not to ask for charms or potions but to get an understanding of this unique island culture and belief. I mean, Siquijor is an island that is really beautiful and the mysticism that surround it makes it more appealing.
You can read about my Siquijor travel here: De-mystifying Siquijor
Siargao was a birthday treat and the trip did turn out to be a treat. Located on the eastern side of the country, this teardrop-shaped island initially gained popularity as a surfing destination. But beyond its rolling waves is a collection of natural attractions that will sweep you off your feet. It did not come as a surprise that, once these photos and videos hit social media, Siargao will be on almost everyone’s bucket list.
One thing that I loved about Siargao is being a one-stop shop for its guests. It is an all-in-one destination for adventure, nature, party, and food. Yet, it still manages to keep everything “under the sheet” to maintain its rustic and laidback vibe. This is a place where you can walk barefoot along the road to your favorite restaurant or party the night away, in hidden in plain sight. You can face your fear of heights at Sugba Lagoon or enjoy a nice dip with the jelly fish. You can watch surfers catch the waves or be one of those catching the wave. Better yet, you can choose your own solitary spot to just enjoy the laidback vibe.
More than just a treat, Siargao is a place that teaches you that there is a proper time for everything. There is a time for work, for your family or friends, and for yourself. It is a place where you can stay within your comfort zone or get out of it. It also teaches you to be nice to others because you would need the others to find out where tonight’s party will be.
You can read about my Siargao travel here:
#SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso (Part 1)
#SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapngPuso (Part 2)
or you can check out my YT travel channel here:
#ByahengOffTheGrid Siargao (Part 1)
#ByahengOffTheGrid Siargao (Part 2)
My trip to Hinatuan would always be well-remembered as this was where I received the news of the country’s COVID19 lockdown. The announcement cut short a trip that was suppose to take me across the eastern side of Mindanao. Hinatuan was the last destination that I visited pre-pandemic lockdown. I vividly remember having to stay out at a 711 store at 8pm as I toned down on the news. Why 711? It was the only store open at that time. That’s how provincial the vibe was of the place.
The “entities” of Hinatuan must have blessed the place so much that its natural beauty continues to enchant its visitors. Its river, where fresh water meets sea waters, amazes you with its blue hues as you enjoy a quick dip in its cold waters. Further out to the sea, you can also enjoy interacting with stingrays at the Sibadan Fish Cage. You can also choose to just enjoy a day by the beach in one of the islands that dot the Hinatuan Bay.
Although my trip was cut short, it gave me a glimpse of the rustic town of Hinatuan and its surrounding areas. There’s much to see and enjoy in this place. It would be good to one day go beyond the usual and enjoy the lesser known attractions in the area.
You can read about my Guiuan travel here: Suri-WOW-ed or you can check out my YT travel channel here: #ByahengOffTheGrid CARAGA
POST TRAVEL NOTES
These are 7 destinations that gives you a glimpse of why I #LoveThePhilippines and the destinations of my preference. These places are just 0.09% of the total spots that you can explore in the Philippines. Our country has cities and provinces that cater to any kind of traveler, whether local or foreigners. You just need an eye for appreciation and a sense of Filipino pride.
You can find your own reason to #LoveThePhilippines and you can always start in your home city or provinces. Do not be afraid to go out and explore the areas around you. Travel should start from your “home” because that is where you get to appreciate spots that on a regular day looks just the usual.
My first encounter with this destination was a grueling 13-hour run, walk, and hike around the island. The race around the island had me surprised and amazed of its raw natural beauty. I vowed to visit it again. Who would have thought that on my fourth visit to this island, I would be doing my own version of race that got my guys lost in the island of Tingloy.
Roughly 3 hours away from Manila, Tingloy is an island-municipality along the Batangas Bay composed of the islands of Marikaban and Caban and smaller islets in the area. It is a beach destination that has caught the attention of local travelers because of its raw beauty and proximity to the metro. It is a perfect escape from the huff and puff of the city that could easily quench your thirst for sun, sand, and sea. We were lucky to have enjoyed all three as we took a quick beach break from our usual day inside our workspace.
The Port of Tingloy is the first to welcome you to the island. There are regular fast craft ferries that ply the route to the island from Anilao or Talaga Port. Chaos ensues as passengers disembark with officials giving instructions and trike drivers offering their services to its visitors. The one thing that will strike you the most is the peaceful and simple vibe as soon as you set foot on the island. The warm smiles and hospitality of its locals is easily felt as you explore the poblacion.
The Poblacion area is a simple community by the shore facing Mabini in the mainland. The vibe is very homey and welcoming as each person that you would meet would always flash their warm smiles. It is the center of commerce, religion, and education of the municipality as this is where you would see the main church, the schools, and most of the businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, and homestays. Interestingly, it also has a couple of well-preserved ancestral houses that date back to American period. The Rosales Ancestral House is one of these houses that date back to 1922.
The warm hospitality of the locals has not changed from the time that I first set foot on Tingloy to my fourth visit. It was something that does stick out every time and that I always carry home with me. The quaint town vibe gives you that relaxed feel that lingers days after you have left the island.
Coastal Hot Spring (Barangay Papaya)
About 15 minutes by trike from the port, Barangay Papaya is an unassuming community on the other side of the island that faces Mindoro. Life here is relaxing and simple. It is a close-knit community along a rugged coast where time slips by very slowly and you get to enjoy the chill beach vibe. It has a small damaged port where you can enjoy the perfect view of its coast against the backdrop of the sun setting behind a hill.
The rugged beauty of its coast are revealed when the tides draw out to sea. Its rocky features give its shoreline a melo-dramatic landscape, especially with the sun setting or the silhouette of Mindoro in the background. But beyond its rocky features, the low tide reveals a secret - a hot spring by its rocky shores. The rock formations on the coast will amaze you especially on the section where a straight line perfectly halves the formation. As you explore the rock pools, you would notice hot water bubbling to the surface. The water temperature ranges from comfortable to almost boiling hot. Locals say that hot mist can be observed in the early morning around the area when the tides are low. It made me wonder where the hot spring is coming from… perhaps an underwater volcano?
Tingloy is an island destination and the waters surrounding it are teeming with underwater life. It has white sand beach spots that has gained popularity through the years. A great way to explore the island’s spots is to hire a small boat and enjoy the sun, sea, and sand. We were lucky to have the sun on our side when we visited Tingloy that gave our team a well-deserved last minute summer escape. Our first stop… Sombrero Island.
The island got its name because its shaped like a hat or a “sombrero” jutting out from the sea. It is located off the western coast of Marikaban and is a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. We donned our life vests and masks to enjoy its underwater beauty. I marveled at the life under its waters teeming with schools of fish with the livery of its rich coral reefs as its backdrop. I enjoyed the tranquility of just paddling out and enjoying the underwater views of Sombrero Island.
Sepoc Beach and Kweba ni Dugong
Among all the spots when I first “explored” Tingloy, it was Sepoc Beach that REALLY made a mark on me. I still can still vividly recall the view that opened up to us after we came out of the lush vegetation covers protecting this beach spot. It was a perfect unspoiled white sand cove that you only see on movies. I had to stop and just breathe in its beauty. Unfortunately that side of Sepoc is already privately owned and guests are no longer allowed to visit.
The adjacent side of Sepoc Beach is the one that is accessible to the public. This beach cove is surrounded and protected by rocky cliffs and has a mix of stone and sand shoreline. The round stones of different shapes and sizes are found along its shores that, when our banca docked on shore, some of my guys started collecting stones as “panghilod”. Talk about bringing home a unique pasalubong from Tingloy.
The rock cliffs that separate the private and public beach strips of Sepoc have cave spots. Aptly dubbed as “Kweba ni Dugong”, the three caves sits along the rocky coastline of the beach. Getting to the caves is tricky as one would have to traverse the sharp rocks along its cliff walls and swim across the mouth of the first cave while the waves crash you onto the rocks. There is a huge chance that you would end up with minor cuts and bruises.
Two of caves are single opening caves and the third having 2 entry or exit points. The first cave was a challenge to explore because of the depth of the water and the waves continually pushing you inwards. The two other caves had a more chill vibe as it had sandy spots where you can sit down, rest, and relax before going for a return traverse. Despite the challenge, cuts, and scratches, our team enjoyed the whole experience of finding dugong.
A rock formation by the coast with two turquoise-colored pools and a panoramic view of the sea is a great spot to chill down in Tingloy. The twin pools are surrounded by rock formations that create a still sandy pool where one can enjoy a quick dip. You get to enjoy its waters with the shade from its cliff and a full view of its blue waters.
The rock formations also provide a good backdrop for those IG-worthy beach photos. The rugged landscape provide a good contrast to smooth background of the sea. If you just want to chill down, you can find your spot and enjoy the breathtaking views as the sea breeze cools you down.
Masasa Beach is the main tourist draw of Tingloy. With its white sand shore and relaxing beach view, it is THE most popular beach spot in the island. It has maintained its beauty despite the influx of tourists and commerce in the area. It was good though that the LGU have placed policies to maintain its upkeep.
This beach cove facing the Mindoro area boasts of white sandy shores and still waters so you really get to enjoy wading in its waters. Commerce have been regulated so you don’t have much structures around except for a couple of beach huts, rock covers, and tree covers. You get to enjoy the beach in its almost unspoiled beauty. On one side of the beach is a rock formation that you can climb up to capture a panoramic view of Masasa Beach.
The biggest discovery on my fourth visit in Masasa was that beauty above its waters run parallel to the beauty underneath its waters. A snorkeling activity where we were dragged by our bangka along the deeper parts of Masasa Beach revealed the colorful underwater life beneath its waters. It was teeming with beautiful corals and sea creatures. If you are lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea turtle grazing along its sandy shores.
Masasa Beach was a real surprise for me on this trip. It revealed its beauty beyond what I already knew. Not only was it able to preserve its old charm, it was also able to share another facet of its beauty. It gives you more reason to explore Tingloy again and again.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Tingloy have kept its old charm and has given me another facet of its beauty. I never thought that I would discover something new on my fourth visit to the island - a hot spring and rich coral life right at the doorstep of Masasa River. I discovered its beauty when I first got lost in Tingloy and getting my guys lost this time revealed more sights to enjoy. I guess getting #LostInTingloy is not a bad idea after all.
Re-discovering a destination is not a bad idea. It gives us the opportunity to overturn stones that previously stood on to reveal something new about the place. We get to see the place from a different lens that makes us appreciate the place more. Kung bibigyan ka ng pagkakataon, anong lugar sa Pinas ang gusto mong balikan? Share mo naman sa comment ykung saan.
Getting there: You can take a bus to Batangas Grand Terminal from Metro Manila (Quezon City, Makati, and Paranaque). You can then take a jeep from Batangas Grand Terminal to either Anilao Port or Talaga Port (Prevailing weather or season determines which port will be used as jump off points to Tingloy). Jeepney drtivers would know which port would be in use. Fastcraft vessels are available at the port to take you to Tingloy. Tricycle is the mode in the transportation within the island.
There are a lot of homestays on the island. If you want a laidback vibe, you can stay at Waterfront Beach House in Barangay Papaya. For an easy, complete, and organized trip to Tingloy, you can check out Masasa Beach Transient House on their Facebook page or you may contact Edric Cepillo at (0909) 1998174.
Stories of hauntings in its abandoned military hospital piqued my interest to this destination. I have read its history, how it molded the landscape on this side of Pampanga, and how the huffing of Mount Pinatubo puffed out the lights of this former US military base. It also shares a story of rising up from the volcanic ashes to become a prime destination for business and pleasure. This is progressive township of Clark in Pampanga!
Clark Field was originally established as Fort Stotsenberg in 1903 under the US Army. A portion of the camp was used as a landing field and was called Clark Field, in honor of Harold Clark - a military aviator who resided in Manila from 1904 to 1910. It was one of the largest airfields during World War 2 and served as a major operations center of the Japanese Imperial Army. It remained as a major stronghold of the US and Philippine military forces after the war until the departure of the Americans in 1991, following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
Clark has long risen from the ashes spewed by Mount Pinatubo. From a military base to a bustling tourism and economic hub, this destination serves as the gateway to the north with a long list of places to discover and explore. My recent visit had me walking around the historical core of Clark. The place where it all started.
The best way to start exploring the historical core of Clark is a quick visit to the Clark Museum. Located at one end of the parade grounds, the interactive museum walks you through the history of Pampanga and Clark. It also showcases the faith and culture of the Kapampangans. The museum also has a 4D Theater that will walk you through the early beginning and development of the township of Clark in a movie.
The Clark Museum has 4 galleries to enjoy. Gallery 1 walks you through the geology and geography of Pampanga. The province is a flat land sandwiched by two volcanoes - Pinatubo and Arayat. Both volcanoes played a huge role in the geography of the province. It has been the home of the Aetas and has a unique biodiversity. The uniqueness of Pampanga transcends to its colorful culture and this is featured in Gallery 2 of the museum. It walks you through its religious celebrations, Kapampangan culture, and creativity.
Gallery 3 and 4 focuses on the early beginnings of Clark as a military base to its development as an economic hub in Central Luzon. Gallery 3 gives you a brief on its historical core with its collection of artifacts from the past. It walks you through the humble beginnings of Fort Stotsenberg until the evacuation of the Clark in the wake of Mount Pinatubo’s eruption. The history leads guests to the present-day Clark with its industries, development, activities, and attractions. It also gives you a preview of the future of its township.
Unfortunately, I was not able to check out the 4D Theater because I was not able to catch the scheduled showing time. The museum and the theater have separate entrance fees of Php100 each. Both the museum and theater are great ways to start your exploration of Clark because it gives you a better overview of the destinations to visit.
Fort Stotsenberg Historical Marker / Clark Parade Grounds
Just right in front of the museum is the Clark Parade Grounds - a sprawling open oval field at the heart of Clark’s historical core. Barn Houses, that now serves as offices and restaurants, are lined up along the sides of the field. The grounds give you a landscape view of the area at any point of the oval. It kind of reminded me of the UP Oval, the only difference is that you get to see the other side of the oval from where you are standing.
The parade ground is a popular spot for activities with family and friends. The wide expanse allows you to choose your spot to enjoy an afternoon picnic or to simply enjoy the views and the activities happening around you. As I walked along the jogging trail, I enjoyed watching a soccer game, kids playing by the grass, families spending time with each other, and friends doing their jogging rounds while sharing stories and laughter. This is a perfect spot in Clark to wind down at the end of the day.
The Clark Parade Grounds was a mute witness of the place’s early beginnings. The Fort Stotsenberg Historical Marker stands alongside the pillars of the gates of the original camp along the oval. It outlines the history of the field as an Aeta community before becoming a militart camp and eventually as an economic center in Pampanga. A monument was built that flanks the pillars to emphasize the military history of the place.
The grounds is also a perfect place to catch the sunset. I realized this as I enjoyed an afternoon stroll around the grounds. You can choose a spot where you get to enjoy the warmth of the sun as it sinks down behind the mountain ranges along the Mount Pinatubo area.
Barn Houses / Historical Structures
The Clark Museum has a display that mapped out Clark Airbase. Interestingly, these buildings were assigned a number for reference. Most of these structures are still in use today, either as an office or for business, and most are clustered along the historical core of Clark. Some now stand in ruins that serve as a memory of Clark’s heydays.
This is the map of Clark Airbase on display at the Clark Museum.
Lined up on one side of the parade grounds are the Barn Houses. These large houses date back to 1903 when Fort Stotsenburg was established as a military camp. It was interesting to find how these structures give you that American-community feel, the kind that you watch on US shows. I guess living or working in these barn houses give you that refreshing and quaint provincial vibe overall.
There are a couple of historical structures that you can find along the perimeters of the parade grounds. Building 2122 was once a bowling alley that later on became the office of the Post Commander and now the Office of the CEO of the Clark Development Corporation. Building 2425 was built in 1914 and served as a post office. It now serves as a the tourism office of Clark. As you walk around the oval, historical briefs are given for each building that holds significance to Clark.
There are other structures that you find around the area. A walk around Air Force City will bring you to the Ruins of the Old Kelly Theater and Building 5788 - the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, I was not able to take pictures as it is prohibited inside the camp. Building 5396 is stationed off a little further and serves as another chapel of the camp.
Clark Philippine Flag Pole and President Manuel Roxas Death Place Historical Marker
Located at one end of the oval stands the Clark Philippine Flag Pole. The flagpole has been on that location since the early beginnings of the military camp. It was erected in 1906 with a cost of USD220. It now stands proudly as a symbol of independence and resilience.
At the base of the flagpole stands a historical marker of Clark being the death place of former President Manuel Roxas. He was the 5th President of the Philippines and died after delivering a speech at the Kelly Theater. His term was the shortest for a Philippine President at 22 months and 18 days. Two other memorials stand adjacent to his NHI memorial honoring the men and women who fought and died during World War 2.
Clark Abandoned Hospital
If there was one destination that really made Clark interesting to me from the start, it is the Clark Abandoned Hospital. My interest in dark tourism placed Clark on my map because of the creepy stories of this hospital. It was featured as one of the scariest place on earth. This time around I made sure to make a quick visit.
Completed in December 1964, the Clark Hospital was built at a cost of USD6 million and was considered as one of the most advanced medical facility in Asia during its heydays. It had a capacity of 200 beds and was a mute witness to the casualties of the Vietnam War. It ceased operations in 1991 after the Americans pulled out of Clark and the hospital was buried with a 12-inch deep volcanic ash. Looters and nature took over the structure leaving only its empty shell.
The stories of its hauntings were shared by locals and was even featured in international news. It is probably because of its bloody history that gave life to these haunting stories. From shrill screams to apparitions to objects being thrown, the stories have made rounds that either scared people away or attracted them to visit out of curiosity. They say that the morgue of the hospital was the most haunted.
Did I feel anything when I went to explore it? It made me feel uneasy when I was there. There were times when I could sense that a lot of eyes were looking at me that gave me the creepy feeling. I could sense a young boy who was curious of my presence. The chill ran down my spine a couple of times but I was not scared. More than the scare, I was interested with the stories inside the walls of the abandoned hospital. I am looking forward to walking its halls soon, after the National Museum turns it into a provincial branch of the museum where the living and dead can share its stories side by side.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Clark was like a phoenix that rose from the ashes of Mount Pinatubo. It continues to grow and change the landscape of the region from the time that it was established as a military camp to its current status as an economic center. It has seen the ravages of war and a volcanic eruption and yet it continues on picking up the pieces and rebuilding better from what was lost. A true symbol of the Pinoy’s strength and resiliency.
Every Philippine destination has a humble story on how it all began. Behind its development, you can find remnants and memories of the past that brought tears and smiles to its residents. It shares with you the ups and the downs of the past that paved the way to a stronger community. We need to value the past for us to see the best for our future.
Getting there: Major airlines have direct flights to Clark from major airports in the country and in some international airports. If you are coming from Manila, you can take a P2P bus to SM City Clark from Trinoma. You can take a taxi or Grab to the Clark Museum. You can explore Clark’s historical core by foot from the Clark Museum.
There is always an opportunity to explore when I travel. It is all a matter of planning, the right timing, and an adventurous spirit. With a few hours to spare before heading back to Manila, I decided to hop on a bus and explore a city that has always captured my attention but I never really got to experience. I guess it was the right time to discover Carcar - the city famous for the bits of its history and lechon!
Just an hour away from the Queen City of the South, Carcar is a well-preserved heritage town in the province of Cebu. Its collection of heritage and ancestral houses are mute witnesses to its colorful history since it was established in 1599. It is one of the oldest towns in the province. But beyond its colorful history is a gastronomic experience that has placed Cebu in the culinary tourism trail. Let me take you to a quick tour of the city’s history bits and eats.
Carcar City Rotunda
Apart from the heritage houses that dot the highway, the city rotunda is a striking architecture that will catch the attention of anyone passing through Carcar. The design stands out as it showcases a colonial design that you would often see in a town plaza. But make no mistake as this is just a crossroad for those traveling to the south or the west side of the province.
The rotunda was built in the 1920s. A bandstand sits right in the middle of the rotunda with four other sculpture standing on the directions of the north, south, east, and west. These artworks were done by a local artist, Dr. Ramon Abellana, based from the sketches of painter and his brother, Martino Abellana. The sculpture of the teo women on the bandstand showcases American colonial influence as it depicts the US leading the Philippines to prosperity. The rotunda has since become an attraction and an icon for Carcar City.
The Carcar Plaza is a around a 5-minute walk from the Carcar Rotunda. Situated atop a small hill, the location has a commanding view of its surrounding areas. It is the best place to continue your walking tour of the city as the area alone holds a lot of historical bits and heritage structures. Similar to old Spanish town designs, the center for religion, governance, and education surround the plaza with the center of commerce just a stone throw away.
The Pantaleon Villegas Monument sits at the road that leads to the plaza. This local hero, also known as Leon Kilat (“Lightning Lion” in Cebuano), is a known Katipunero who was tasked to expand the grips of the revolution in the region. He led the Battle of Tres de Abril in 1898 and was initially successful in tying down the hands of the Spaniards. It was during their retreat that he was betrayed and killed by his allies on the grounds of endangering the town of Carcar. The town now honors him for planting the seeds of revolution in Cebu.
The plaza is a typical old town plaza with a monument honoring Gat Jose Rizal at the center. The Carcar Church Complex sits at the background of the Rizal monument while the old town/city hall is on the left side of the plaza. There are two educational institutions in the area and both has bits of history to share. The Upland Elementary School was a school established in 1905 and its main building is part of the city’s heritage collection. The same goes for the P. del Corro Building of the St. Catherine College which was built in 1921.
Carcar Church and Convent
A dominant structure in the town plaza is the Carcar Church, also known as the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Founded in 1599, the stone structure started construction in 1860 and was completed in 1875. Its architecture features a simple facade of Greco-Tuscan design highlighted by a timepiece atop of the facade. Two belfries flank the church with its unique Moorish onion-shaped top. In front of the church is the image of the Christ the King Statue sculpted by Italian sculptor, Dante Guidetti, who resided in Cebu in the 1930s.
The church interior’s elaborate and extensive design is a real beauty from its painted ceilings to its tiled floors. The main altar features a number of saint images with its patron saint, St. Catherine, as its centerpiece. The ceiling atop the altar features a painting of the Holy Family and God the Father with both paintings blending with the altar. The pillars of the nave are lined with angels that closely resembles the same design of the Molo Church in Iloilo.
The convent sits adjacent to the church and was also completed in the same year as the church. The convent, with a typical bahay-na-bato design, remains well-preserved and functional. It houses the offices of the Carcar Church.
The most striking heritage structure in the Carcar town plaza is the Carcar Museum. The structure was completed in 1937 and now stands as a beautiful example of American-colonial architecture. The construction was funded by the Americans under the leadership of the Mayor Mariano Mercado, whose monument now stands alongside the heritage structure. It originally opened as a country club with a swimming pool, the first of its kind on this part of Cebu. It was later converted as the Carcar Puericulture Center and Dispensary - a 2-storey health facility for women and children.
The structure does not look like a hospital. In fact, it looked like an elegant house where big and lavish parties are held, probably because its original use was that of a social gathering place. Its intricate and elegant wood works, wood railings, mahogany stairs, black and white floor tiles, and stained-glass windows give it that grand elegant vibe to its visitors. The veranda and the 2nd floor windows allow the breeze to flow through the structure. The veranda is the perfect place to spend an afternoon just enjoying the view of the plaza. The second floor window by the hall gives you a great view of the mountain range of the province.
The complex has its own swimming pool, the first in the area, but it is no longer in use. Around it are small rooms which served as “changing rooms” and small cabanas. The deepest part of the pool is probably around 10 feet. One can imagine how rich Carcar residents enjoyed these luxuries during the hot summer days but the pool also has its own horror stories to share. It was said that a number of Filipinos died in the pool during the Japanese occupation. Our guide shared with us that the changing rooms were used as torture chambers. After the victims were tortured, they were tied up, stabbed, and thrown into the pool to drown. These stories paved the way of stories that claim that the pool and the house is haunted.
The Dispensary was restored into its former glory and is the first museum installed by an LGU in Southern Cebu. You can learn a great deal on the history of Carcar and the museum from the historical timeline mounted on its walls. They also have a collection of historical and cultural artifacts, including the table where Pantaleon Villegas was assassinated, that give you a preview of the town’s colorful past. It is a repository of Carcar’s history where you can learn how the city came to be.
Both the museum coordinator and me agreed the need to bridge our past to our present. Local government units, despite the limited funding, should invest in the restoration and adaptive re-use of its heritage sites. The Carcar Museum is a great example of such LGU projects. It was a challenge but it can be done.
Carcar Heritage Houses (Sta. Catalina Street)
Similar to Vigan, Taal, and Silay, Carcar City has its own collection of heritage houses. There the area are about 50 houses that can be counted as part of its collection with a couple of these houses duly recognized as a heritage house by the National Historical Institute. The museum guide mentioned that the LGU have already passed an ordinance stating that houses that were 50 years old and up need clearance from the city office before it can be demolished. They are also working on having a section of the city as a heritage zone.
Most of these houses are lined along Sta. Catalina Street and the main highway. It is not hard to notice the houses along the highway as these mansions sit alongside each other. The Sato House is the first to catch your attention as you enter the town center, although, it looks like it needs to be given a fresher look. The house is also the assassination site of Pantaleon Villegas. The Silva House (1898) and Mercado House (1906), both recognized as a heritage house by the NHI, stand face-to-face along the intersection of Sta. Catalina St. and the main highway. The Yap House (1905), just a little further down the highway, looks classy in its blue and white hues. This house once has a replica in the old Nayong Pilipino Park in Paranaque.
As you walk further down Sta. Catalina Street, you will be treated with old family houses built in different colonial years. Dakong Balay (1873) is another NHI recognized heritage house in Carcar. Unfortunately, it needs to be restored in its beauty. Other beautiful houses along the street are the Marfori-Cui House, Mateo Noel House, and the Juario-Villarosa House. At the end of the street stands the oldest house in the city - the Sarmiento-Osmena House, also known as Bahay na Tisa. Built in 1859, it was able to preserve the original tisa or clay tile roof of the house. It is also an NHI-recognized heritage house.
It was a bliss to see all these beautiful houses lined up for an old soul like me. I can’t help but imagine the beauty and elegance of these houses during its prime. I really hope that the LGU and the owners of these houses could work together to give these homes the needed restoration to give it a fresh nostalgic look. This would also give them that needed push for this part of the city to be declared a heritage zone.
The mention of Cebu will always give me the trigger to crave for lechon or roasted pig. In my travels, I have only two places where I have had the best tasting lechon - Calbayog City and Cebu! I did hear that the best lechon in the province is actually in Carcar. I knew that I always enjoyed their Carcar chicharon. It is one of my favorites but lechon… well, I got to taste it.
Unfortunately, the old Carcar Market was destroyed by a super typhoon so I had to find my way to the new public market of the city. A section of the market is designated for their lechon vendors and I was overwhelmed as soon as I stepped in. Everyone was just offering me lechon. I was offered a free “balat” or lechon skin taste and it was really good. I got myself a good kilo to try out and enjoy.
My verdict… it is the best. The museum curator was right in saying that I should try out their lechon. It is best enjoyed with pu-so (rice) and no sauce needed. If you (or I) have the extra time in Cebu, I would be swinging by Carcar for their lechon. It is worth all the travel!!!
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The city of Carcar have always intrigued me. I have passed by the city a couple of times and I always said to myself that I should swing by this town. I finally did. Although it was quick, I really enjoyed its simple rural vibe, its history bits, and its eats. It is a great destination where you can enjoy stories over a meal. I would probably stay a little longer next time and explore more of its stories while munching lechon by its beach.
There are destinations that we often pass by but never really took the time to explore it. As travelers, we sometimes get focused on the destination we are heading to that we fail to appreciate the journey to the destination. This is your signal to slow down and enjoy the ride. My biggest take away from this trip is to take trips longer and enjoy the journey and the destination. Every trip should be a collection of stories from start to finish.
Getting there: Major airlines have direct flights to Cebu City from major airports in the country and in some international airports. From the airport, you can take a cab to the South Bus Terminal where you can take a Ceres bus headed for Moalboal or Oslob. These buses pass through the town of Carcar. The trip takes about an hour from the bus terminal.
The Philippines is sizzling. This comes after Manila had two days of rainy/cloudy weather in the middle of “Pinoy summer” a few weeks back. This happened the week after swarms of Filipinos flocked to different beach destinations across the country during the Holy Week break. The Philippines being a tropical and archipelagic country has a long list of beach spots to discover and explore. It is safe to say that we will never run out of beach spots to quench the sizzling heat at this time of the year.
However, the Philippines is more than just sea and sand. We also have great destinations that is beyond the usual. These spots are good vacation alternatives if you are not a beach person or if you simply want to avoid the crowd at this time of the year. Here are 7 destinations where you can enjoy the “heat” that ain’t the beach.
Batanes is the northernmost province of the country and is probably on the travel bucket list of most Filipinos. The dramatic landscape and the thriving Batan culture is the reason why this destination is a hot pick among local and international travelers. Visiting the islands of the province is like being transported to a different world that will make you want to stay and live surrounded by its natural beauty.
The province is surrounded by often times rough waters of the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine sea. It has beach spots however its main pull are the rugged terrains meeting the blue waters of its channels. The high winds blowing into the island refreshes and cools you down as you enjoy the views rugged land forms jutting out from the sea with its famous lighthouses in the foreground. This gives Batanes an out of this world beauty that is best appreciated from the vantage point of its rolling hills.
Batanes is a great summer destination because you get to enjoy the sea breeze as it blows over the islands. You get to be grounded to a unique culture of simple living, resilience, and integrity. This is a destination where you really get to immerse in their way of life and makes you appreciate simple living surrounded by natural beauty. On this summer spot, you get to enjoy the sea from a view like a picture handpainted by God.
You can read about my Batanes adventures here: Batanes (Part 1) / Batanes (Part 2) / Batanes (Part 3)
The City of Pines is a staple of the Philippines’ dry season, after all, it is the highest city when we speak about elevation in the country. Its location along the ridges of the Cordilleras give it a more cooler temperature. History has been a mute witness on how the city has become a summer escape since the American occupation. Even to this day, it is THE preferred summer spot in Luzon that ain’t a beach.
The city is a UNESCO Creative City so you get to enjoy the many creative expressions in the city - art pieces, street performers, visual artists, and local handicrafts. Session Road has gone from a popular city street to a Sunday flea market and a center for creative expression. Foodies will also get a fill of the different gastronomic experiences in the city - from value meals to fine dining. The city has something to offer for any kind of traveler who want a “cooler” travel experience to beat the heat.
The city has undergone a lot of development over the years. From a city with pine and parks, the city continuous to re-invent itself, always offering something new to its guests. You get to enjoy the outdoors while breathing in its cold air. You can go and paddle a boat, hike the woods, explore its gardens, or simply shop for pasalubong without breaking a sweat. Baguio is a city that lets you breath.
You can read about my Baguio adventures here: Baguio City
Lake Mapanuepe, Zambales
Lake Mapanuepe is a good destination to detach and unwind. This beauty was born from the devastation of Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the 90’s. Lahar flow inundated communities and villages that resulted to loss of life and properties. In the case of Lake Mapanuepe, lahar blocked the flow of the river, trapping water like a reservoir, and submerged communities. The event altered the landscape of Zambales and created the beauty of Lake Mapanuepe.
The lake is a popular weekend camping destination. It is a no frills back-to-basic spot where you get to enjoy the sight and smell of nature minus the technology. The lake gives you the opportunity to detach and enjoy the company of your family and friends as you explore the place, enjoy the views, and chill down. Swimming in the lake is not yet allowed as its depth still needs to be mapped. With nothing much to do, Lake Mapanuepe makes sure that you get to enjoy the company you are with surrounded by nature’s tranquility.
Lake Mapanuepe is proof of nature’s birth - destruction cycle. Its wrath gives birth a to a new beauty. The birth of the lake gave us an alternative summer spot where you get to enjoy the basics of life. The best things in life are free.
You can read about my Lake Mapanuepe adventures here: Lake Mapanuepe
Tibiao is a bucolic and relaxing destination. The mountainside is a great spot to detach from modern day living and reconnect with nature. Similar to Lake Mapanuepe, you wake up to a simple rural life of morning sounds of nature and going to sleep with the evening songs of nature. This is my best version, so far, of living the provincial life. I enjoyed that the resorts are the no-frills kind with nature cradling you in its arms.
You can go on an early morning hike to the three-tiered cascade of Bugtong Bato Falls and enjoy the view of the farmlands along the trail. Get refreshed by dipping your feet into cold spring waters at the base of the falls and then follow it up with an adrenaline-pumping river tubing run at Tibiao River. This will make your summer a wet and wild adventure, leaving you with a smile on your face.
A visit to Tibiao will not be complete without enjoying their kawa bath experience. This relaxing bath experience originated from here where large pots, locally called “kawa”, are filled with water and warmed by fire underneath the kawa. Herbs, leaves, and flowers are added to give you that aromatic smell as the warm waters soothe and relax your muscles. This is how you cap off an activity-filled day in Tibiao.
You can read about my Tibiao adventures here: Tibiao, Antique
Kawasan Falls, Cebu
Cebu is a province that has a wide range of activities and attractions to enjoy. From the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea, it has something to offer to any kind of traveler. It is a province where you get to enjoy the urban vibe with the rustic attractions with a few hours of land travel.
Kawasan Falls is a sure-fire destination that will get your adrenaline pumping as you enjoy the beauty of its rugged mountainside. It makes you excitingly uncomfortable as you face your fear of heights and water as you trek through the riverbank trails of the Kawasan gorge. You get to jump in and tumble in the raging waters of Kawasan River. You get to enjoy the views of its forest covers. What will captivate you the most is the aquamarine colors of the river’s water.
The whole river traverse takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The final jump and the view of Kawasan Falls marks the end of the trail. Make sure to get a picture with the falls as a souvenir for your successful Kawasan adventure. The activity may be tiring but the memories you bring home is worth the jumps and splashes.
You can read about my Kawasan Falls adventures here: Kawasan Falls
Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring, Cagayan de Oro
The development of Cagayan de Oro has lead to the discovery of new natural attractions in the outskirts of the city. The Cagayan de Oro River is pivotal in its history and as an attraction. It was the river that secured the city’s spot in the list of adrenaline-pumping tourist activities in the country.
Sinulom Falls is an addition to the list. Located along the boundary of Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, this natural attraction features 28 waterfalls cascading into the mighty Cagayan de Oro River. From the vantage point in Tignapoloaon, it would seem that the mountainside of Talakag is shedding tears into the river. One can choose to go on a day trip or spend a night to enjoy the calming sights and sounds of Sinulom Falls.
Further upstream is the Bolao Cold Spring. This spring resort is a series of rock pools that collect the cold mountain spring waters into furbished basins where one can enjoy a nice cold dip. The place is also surrounded by picnic huts making it a great place to spend time with family and friends. Bolao Cold Spring is a perfect way to escape the heat of the dry season.
You can read about my Sinulom Falls adventures here: Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring
Lake S’bu, South Cotabato
Lake S’bu is a laidback destination in Mindanao that gives you that rustic provincial vibe. It is a destination that is rich in natural beauty and culture. It is a perfect destination for those looking to get a closer look at the colorful traditions of one of the ethnolinguistic groups in Mindanao - the T’bolis.
The main tourism draw of Lake S’bu is the blooming of the lotus on its lake. Part of the lake glows in a sea of pink flowers as the morning sun breaks in. This creates that mystical vibe on the lake as the morning mist drifts above the placid lake as it glows in pink. You need to catch the view only during the mornings. You can also add a little more drama with your pictures by wearing the traditional attire of the T’boli but please you need to wear it with pride and respect.
This South Cotabato destination is also a gem for how it merges their cultural beliefs and its natural attractions. Apart from the lake, you can also enjoy exploring its natural beauty. You can view it from the top or you can also check it up close and personal or both. The great thing about Lake S’bu is how they can weave their stories and how they live in harmony with their surroundings on their popular fabric - the T’nalak. It is a destination that fuses nature, traditions, and beauty in one elegant story.
You can read about my Lake S’bu adventures here: Lake S'bu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
When the Philippines heats up during the dry season, it is not all about the sun, sand, or sea. There are a lot of destinations that you can explore that offers the same excitement and thrill, and it ain’t a beach. The Philippines is a multi-faceted destination that has a lot to offer for any kind of traveler and mood. Each spot has something unique to offer with the same serving of Filipino hospitality.
Pinoy summer is not just about the beach. It really depends on your taste and preference on what activities to do. Although most people would choose the sea under the blue skies, there are those who would want to explore beyond the usual. This doesn’t mean that such choice is less than the other destinations. It does tell us that you get to #DefineYourSummer!
One of the biggest challenges of visiting an old destination, especially if it is a popular one, is finding a different story to share. Trying to explore what’s new and interesting while giving a different facet to an old attraction needs an ounce of research and curiosity. This was a challenge that I had to face as a travel content creator when I visited my birthplace after how many years. The biggest question was how do I find another “gold” in the old city of Cagayan de Oro?
Cagayan de Oro has developed both vertically and horizontally. The once quaint and rustic city, where Divisoria was a focal point of activities and commerce, has now grown to become a metro with different pockets of development in and around the city. The “expansion” paved the way for new attractions to be discovered while keeping the old charm of the city. I had the chance to walk around the city and reminisce at the spending my summers in the old days of the city.
Museo de Oro (Xavier University)
Located inside the Ateneo de Cagayan campus, the Museo de Oro is dubbed as a folkloric museum that showcases the traditions and folklores of Mindanao. The museum was founded in 1967 by Father Francisco Demetrio SJ to house historical and archeological artifacts from Mindanao. What started out as a collection of Fr. Demetrio, from his personal and study travels, is now an exhibit of 3 galleries that walks you through the rich history and culture of Mindanao and the country.
The first gallery walks you through the ethnohistory of Northern Mindanao, from its pre-Hispanic era to the modern times. Archaeological finds in the city’s outskirts show that early inhabitants of the area lived along the banks of the Cagayan de Oro River. The museum has a wide collection of fossilized bones, burial jars, and artifacts that give guests a glimpse of Cagayan de Oro’s pre-colonial past. It gives you a preview on how the locals lived, their practices, and even how they interacted with other settlements.
The visual exhibits and collections of period pieces outlines the development of the city and its surrounding provinces from the arrival of the Spaniards to the modern-day Cagayan de Oro. These pieces includes religious images, furniture pieces, paintings, and old photographs of the city. It also highlights the Kagay-anon local heroes who stood up against colonial rule - from the local heroine, Salud, to the Filipino forces victory in Macahambus to freedom fighters against Japanese forces. The last gives you the background on where the street names in downtown were named after.
The second gallery was focused on the culture and traditions of Mindanao’s indigenous groups. It introduces you to these groups via a visual presentation of each group’s creation stories. A map of Mindanao also outlines where these “lumads” are rooted giving you an overview of its diverse culture. It then walks you through their colorful lifestyles from music, day-to-day materials that they use, their ornaments, warfare and hunting gears, and clothing. It gives you a better understanding of their way of life. It makes you appreciate the similarities and diversity of each group and how it blends to our understanding on being a Filipino.
The third gallery has two sections - the first is an exhibit of Father Demetrio’s collection and the second is an art exhibition area. The gallery of the founder of Museo de Oro gives you a brief on the life and works of Father Demetrio. Recognitions and some personal effects of Fr. Demetrio are on display, including a collection of currencies and an exhibit on a local cult. A “gold nugget” find in the museum is the original menu card of the Malolos Congress. If I understood it right, it is the only copy that we have at present.
The last of the exhibit was an art exhibition of local artists. The artworks on exhibit, at the time, were in 2D and 3D form that mirrored current events. The artworks teased my creativity that allowed me “interact” with the some of the exhibits to create visual stories of my own. The good thing about the whole experience was that I had the whole place for myself so I was in no hurry to capture my ideas.
It was my first time to check out Museo de Oro and I really enjoyed walking through the history of Cagayan de Oro and Mindanao. If you are planning to visit, just make sure that you contact them first at (088) 8539800 local 9270 to book an appointment. The museum is a great way to start off your walking tour to the city’s downtown.
From Xavier University, I started to reminisce the days of the old and rustic CDO starting with Divisoria. The area was once the business center of the city where you can find almost everything here. This strip was also once the venue of the city’s weekend night cafe. It also serves as an activity center for community and city activities.
Beyond its being a business center, the Divisoria Plaza has been a mute witness to the history and development of the city. The strip was created as a “fire wall” after a fire in 1901 engulfed most of the town structures. The strip was later developed into a linear park where memorials and activity areas were installed. Monuments honoring Dr. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, former President Magsaysay, and former City Mayor Borja. Interestingly, the Andres Bonifacio Monument also serves as a memorial to the fallen Kagay-anons who died during the Battle of Agusan Hill.
From a simple fire deterrent to a bustling town center, Plaza Divisoria is a city landmark. The development of the city may have drawn out some businesses towards more favorable locations but it has kept the old charm of the city. It is not just a plaza or a business center but a reminder of the city’s glorious past.
Gaston Park and Cagayan de Oro City Museum
Just a few meters from Plaza Divisoria is Gaston Park. The public park had a historical marker for its significance but the marker was no longer in its location during my recent visit. The park served as a public plaza of Cagayan de Misamis during the Spanish period. It also serves as the training grounds of local patriots and was the site of the Battle of Misamis de Cagayan in April 1900. The park is a favorite afternoon spot of locals where they also get to enjoy a fountain light show in the evening.
The old water tank of the city was now converted into the City Museum. The tower was completed in 1922 and provided potable water to the 3000 residents of the Poblacion. It survived World War 2 and was still in use in the 1970s. It was re-purposed to house a three-level city museum in 2008 and now serves as a repository of the city’s archives and historical artifacts.
The museum exhibit runs parallel to that of Museo de Oro however its collection is not as extensive as that of Museo’s. The exhibit focuses more on the history of the city from its humble beginnings to the present. It is sequenced chronologically and in narrative format from the Spanish occupation to the Japanese Occupation. The topmost level is where you will find the film archives office and a display of the city mayors of CDO through the years.
St. Agustine Metropolitan Cathedral
The present Neo-Gothic style of the Cagayan de Oro Cathedral was built in the 1950s after it was destroyed in World War 2. The present location is believed to be the original site of the first church built from light materials when locals, who were initially settled in Huluga, were convinced by Father San Pedro to relocate to this site. The establishment of the church and the community marked the birth of Cagayan de Misamis. The first stone church was completed in 1851 but it was bombed in 1942 that left it in rubbles, with only a wooden cross surviving the blast.
The church stands as a mute witness to the faith of the Kagay-anons. I find it a unique church with its pulpit design that is void of the usual retablos that you see from old churches. What you have is an image of the crucified Christ with a podium of images of saints line up as a backdrop. At the center of the podium is the image of St Agustine, the patron saint of the city. One can get near these images to offer their prayers.
The cathedral stands along the banks of the Cagayan de Oro River. The cathedral’s structure with its side windows and openings allow fresh air to circulate inside the church giving it a “fresh and breathable” interior. It gives the church that homey and safe vibe for a faith sanctuary.
Cagayan de Oro River
At the center of the city’s history is the mighty Cagayan de Oro River. The humble beginnings of the city takes its roots on its banks. It was and still remains an integral part of the city’s development through the years and has brought smiles and tears to both locals and those who dare challenge its raging waters.
The upstream of the river is the main tourist attraction with its whitewater rafting activities. But there is more natural attraction to discover as you head further upstream - like Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring in Tignapoloaon. Sinulom Waterfalls is a collection of 28 waterfalls cascading on a mountain side into the Cagayan de Oro River. Further upstream is the Bolao Cold Spring that is a series of cold water spring pools where one can enjoy a cold dip to beat the summer heat. You can check out my separate blog on Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring.
With the development of the CDO, there are now a number of new bridges that span across the Cagayan de Oro River but the oldest bridge, Carmen Bridge, ellicits the more nostalgic vibe among all. It is the oldest bridge in the city that was inaugurated in 1931 connecting Carmen to the Poblacion. It is the bridge that I fondly remember that welcomes and bids us goodbye whenever we visit CDO. It has recently received an art installation that even made it more romantic for the locals.
The Cagayan de Oro City Hall compound sits adjacent to the Carmen Bridge. The site is where the Casa Real of Cagayan de Misamis once stood. This was where the tri-color Philippine flag was raised to declare independence under the Aguinaldo administration. It was the first declaration of independence in Mindanao. The event would be known as the “La Fiesta Nacional”.
It was nice to walk around the “poblacion” of Cagayan de Oro. It was nice reminiscing where we had lunches and snacks with my grandparents. Where a school supplies store once stood where I bought notebooks. Feeling nostalgic with the smell from the fruit stand in Plaza Divisoria. It was nice that the city has kept its “golden charm” and I hope they get to keep it that way despite the development in and around the city.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Who would have thought that the unexpected rains and communication mishap for a Marawi visit ended up with a leisure historical walk, intertwined with my own memories, around Cagayan de Oro downtown. It was good revisiting stories that left a gold mark in the hearts of its locals and visitors. The city remains a charmer as it fuses the old and the new to create new stories and experiences.
Re-discovering old destinations is a great way to see and gauge how urban development changes the vibe of the city. It gives you an insight on the direction of its development and how it affects the historical landmarks of the city. Does it innovate to fuse the past and the present or does the present bury the past? Keeping the charm of the past is important in urban development. As the old Filipino saying goes - hindi makakarating sa paroroonan ang hindi marunong tumingin sa pinanggalingan.
Getting there: All major airline in the Philippines have flights to Laguindingan Airport from major cities of the country. You can take an airport van from the airport to the city proper of Cagayan de Oro. You can take a taxi, jeep, or motorela when going around the city.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.