Mactan Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

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

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

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

Lapu-Lapu Monument

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

Magellan Monument

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

Relief of a vase

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

Inscription with Magellan’s name

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

Inscription with Gov. Miguel Creus’s name

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

The plinth with two plaques

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

The Lapu-Lapu plaque

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


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

The plaque about Magellan’s death

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

Ferdinand Magellan’s Death

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

The huge mural painting

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

The Kadaugan sa Mactan re-enactment site

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

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

Temple of Leah (Cebu City, Cebu)

Temple of Leah

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

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

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

The author

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

The gigantic lion statue overlooking the west balcony

A beautiful statue along the balustrade

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

The three statues of naked maidens on top of the fountain

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

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

Leah’s favorite personal belongings

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

Trumpet blaring brass angel

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



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


Teodorico Soriano Adarna

Born December 13, 1938


Seated statue of Leah

Distant view of the temple

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

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

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

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden (Cebu City, Cebu)

Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden

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

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

Petunias, one of 127 flower species in the garden

Marker with fascinating quote

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

Entrance gate and driveway

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

Canopied stairway

The author

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

Flower terraces

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

Foot path

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

Two of the garden’s three cabanas

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

Terrazas de Flores Cafe

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

Pond with mini waterfall

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

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

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

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

Sirao Garden (Cebu City, Cebu)

Sirao Garden (Little Amsterdam)

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

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

Multi-colored celosia

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


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

Statuary among tiers of flowers

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


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

Heart-shaped signage


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

Greek-inspired gazebo

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



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

Proposal Corner

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

Replica of a windmill


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

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

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

Shooting the Rapids at Pagsanjan Falls (Pagsanjan and Cavinti, Laguna)

Pagsanjan Falls (see video)

The next day, after breakfast at our apartel, Jessica, Desiree, Ann, Joy, Jandy and I, with our guide Mr. Ramon Cabelo (retired municipal tourism officer), made our way to boat landing at Casa Chiesa for our “shooting the rapids” boat trip to Pagsanjan Falls, the star attraction of Laguna province. The site is under the supervision of the Parks and Wildlife Office of the Bureau of Forest Development.

Waiting for our boat ride at Casa Chiesa. L-R: the author, son Jandy Layug, Ms. Jessica Bez, Ms. Joy Tenedero, Ms. Julie Ann Zafe and Ms. Desiree Benitez

The falls is actually located at the rugged highlands of Brgy. Anglas in Cavinti, 3 miles outside Pagsanjan town, where it is called Magdapio Falls.  However, the only passable route to it is the Bumbungan River of Pagsanjan. Pagsanjan Falls drops water from Cavinti River which is crossed by the overflow spillway on the road going to Lumot.  Facing upstream, the left bank of the river belongs to Lumban and the right bank belongs to Cavinti.

The legend of Pagsanjan Falls:

According to legend, there was only the river and no falls.  There were two brothers, Balubad and Magadapio, who lived by the river.  One day, the river dried up, the land dried up and plants and trees died.  Balubad, the weaker of the two brothers, eventually died.  He was buried near the mouth of the lake at the foot of the mountain (now called Balubad).  In his thirst, Magdapio went up the gorge with his bamboo stick to survey the area.  Finding it dry, he cried out in anger, hurling the stick at the rocks.  Water soon gushed from where the stick struck the ground and soon flowed in a torrent forming the falls. Magdapio fell on his knees and thanked the Lord.  He drank the cool waters and regained his strength.

The first written account of a trip to the falls was written by American trader Joseph E. Stevens from Boston who made the trip on March 22, 1894, Holy Thursday.

The boat landing

We decided to “shoot the rapids” early morning to avoid the rush of excursionists from Manila. The boat ride fee comes up PhP1,250 per passenger (includes personal injury insurance, hospitalization insurance, expenses for the helmet, life jacket, seat cushion, and a Cavinti entrance fee of P250 which entails a bamboo raft ride), with a maximum of three passengers per boat.

All suited up and raring to go

We were all required to wear life vests and a sports helmet or hard hat as the boat sometimes moves close to big rocks which your head might hit.  Also, falling objects, such as small stones, may fall down from atop the gorge.  Our boats were provided with seat cushions for our seating comfort. The boat had no outrigger so getting into our boat required balance.

On our way ……

Joy, Jessica and Ann rode on the first boat, with bankeros (boatmen) Russel Abary and Jeffrey Leron, while Jandy, Desiree and I rode the second with Antolin Penaloza and Roderick Equiz.  The four were among 1,974 registered bankeros in the town.  To be certified, every boatman must undergo rigorous training of at least one month. Our boatman already had 20 years experience behind him.

Picnic huts along the riverbank near first rapids

Our rather slow river journey upstream to the falls started from Brgy. Pinagsanjan, near Magdapio Bridge. Our long fiberglass bancas were initially towed by a motorized banca to the first set of rapids.

The rapids of the Bumbungan River

Our journey upstream was to last more than an hour. Our two boatmen had to paddle against the current to push the boat or use their feet to kick the rocks and propel the boat.  We were constantly reminded to keep you hands inside the boat as you could easily lose a finger here.

Negotiating the rapids (see video)

At places where the rocks were too many and the water too shallow, our boat slid over steel pipes placed at proper intervals.  Along the way, we made a stopover at Talahib Falls in Sitio Talahib, Brgy. Caliraya (Lumban), about 900 m. downstream of Pagsanjan Falls, to admire its natural beauty.

Our journey made easier by steel pipes

Talahib Falls is also called First Falls while the Pagsanjan Falls is called Main Falls. Before reaching the gorge and Pagsanjan Falls, our boatmen had to to negotiate the extremely deep waters of a broad bend or curve of a river locally called Kawa-Kawa.

The legend of Kawa-Kawa:

According to legend, the muddy bottom of Kawa-Kawa contains a giant bell whose thunderous peals frightened little children and pregnant women many years ago.

Talahib Falls

The author and son Jandy

The deep, magnificent gorge, hemmed by rocky cliffs 300 foot high, has lush tropical vegetation of vines, wild orchids and ferns. Its huge, natural swimming pool is clean, deep and very cold.  The impressive 91-m. high falls is actually a series of five falls, one after the other in magnificent gradation.  Two of them are close to each other and the last of the quintet is at the base.

On board our bamboo raft at Pagsanjan Falls

Behind the falls is the dark and mysterious Devil’s Cave or “Cave of the Demons” (so named because of the opening’s devil-like face profile).  To get behind the falls, we all boarded a bamboo raft were raftsmen pulled on a series of ropes laid across the lagoon. Once at the far end, we had a glimpse of another cascade on top of the Main Falls. Another rope guided the raft behind and underneath the falls to the Devil’s Cave.

Inside Devil’s Cave

The 5-km./2-hour “shooting the rapids,” the climax of the visit, is the actually the thrilling downstream return trip.  Our boat wound through boulders as we passe the 14 relatively safe but roaring rapids of the Bumbungan River.

The bankeros skillfully maneuvered our boats between rocks, alternately using their paddle or their feet. After the last set of rapids, our bancas  now joined a convoy towed by a motorized banca back to the Casa Chiesa boat landing.