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.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.