Church of Our Lady of the Pillar (Sibonga, Cebu)

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar

Part 6 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This southern Cebu town’s present stone and brick church was started by Fr. Juan Alonso (parish priest from 1868 to 1881) and finished by Fr. Enrique Magaz in 1881. Fr. Emiliano Diez was applying the finishing touches when the revolution broke out in 1898.

The simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic facade

In 1907, the church was restored and blessed by Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty, Archbishop of Manila, American Bishop Thomas Hendrick and 17 other priests.

NHCP Plaque

On December 2, 2010, a cast-iron national historical marker was unveiled at the church’s facade by National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Ambeth R. Ocampo along with Sibonga’s parish priest Fr. Leo Cabahug and the Sibonga Ecclesiastical Heritage Commission’s president Dr. Noel Ponce.

The convent

The solid and beautiful convent was built by Fr. Prospero Puerto (parish priest from 1833 to 1868) following the plans of Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon. The oldest bell, dedicated to Santa Filomena, was installed in 1863. The bell tower was destroyed during the typhoon of November 25, 1877.

The church’s beautiful interior

The altar

The church’s simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic façade, divided into three sections by shallow pilasters, has a flame-like arched main entrance flanked by massive twin bell towers with pyramidal roofs and flame-like arched windows. The Gothic-style triangular pediment has a rose window sporting the Augustinian seal in wrought iron.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

The one-nave interior, clearly influenced by Carcar City’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, has a wooden colonnade and a mesmerizing series of  ceiling murals at the nave.



Holy Communion



Holy Orders

Extreme Unction


Painted in amber and brownish tones by famed Cebuano artist Raymundo Francia (popularly called the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”) in 1924, they feature the  Seven Sacraments (“Baptism,” “Confirmation,” “Extreme Unction,” “Penance,” “Matrimony,” “Holy Communion” and “Holy Orders”).

Christians Defending Their Faith

Christ Purging the Temple

At the entrance vestibule are the ceiling frescoes  “Christians Defending Their Faith” and “Christ Purging the Temple.” The “Creation of the World,” the mural above the altar, shows the Biblical scene of the seven days of creation (Genesis). The ceiling of the side aisles was expertly painted to create an optical illusion of a coffered ceiling woodwork. 

The Creation of the World

Optical illusion of coffered woodwork at ceiling

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar: National Highway, Poblacion, 6020 Sibonga. Tel: (032) 486-9390. Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar: October 12.

How To Get There: Sibonga is located 60.7 kms. south of Cebu City.

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.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Carcar City, Cebu)

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

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

Carcar City is noted for its striking examples of preserved colonial architecture, both from the Spanish and American eras. The most notable structure is the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Around 1622, the town’s first convent and church was burned when Muslims sacked the town.

The church’s Graeco-Tuscan facade

The present masonry church, probably the second or third church, was built on a hill for greater security. It was started by Fr. Antonio Manglano in 1860, continued by Fr. Gabriel Gonzalez in 1865 and completed (including the interior painting) by Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio in 1875. Its roof was blown away during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

An array of statues of some of the 12 Apostles at the church patio

Statue of Judas Iscariot, now painted white

Its lovely and massive Graeco-Tuscan façade, with its strong Muslim influence, has a double recessed arched main entrance (similar to an iwan of a Middle Eastern mosque), a blind wheel rose window below the upper recessed arch (above it is a carved Augustinian symbol), spandrels with geometric flora and a Baroque pediment on a high entablature, which crowns the middle segment.

The church’s interior

The lower story is flanked by a one-story structure corresponding to the aisles flanking the 68-m. long, 22-m. wide and 12-m. high-main nave. Neo-Classical altars, a coffered ceiling and carved cherub heads located along the arcade separating the nave from the aisle embellish the church’s interior.

The church patio, surrounded by a low fence of coral stone and wrought iron, has statues of the 12 Apostles, all painted white.  The statue of Judas Iscariot, standing all alone on a pedestal in front of the convent, used to be painted black but is now in white.

The Neo-Clasical main altar

The twin Muslim-like bell towers have solid geometric pylons which act as buttresses, and have no openings except at the third storey where ogee arches are used for the bells. This level ends up in onion-shaped domes reminiscent of minarets. One of its bells bears the date 1810, suggesting that a church was already in place by the early 19th century.

The church pulpit

Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio also built the masonry and wood convent, established on May 23, 1559, under the advocacy of the Visitation of the Virgin. An independent structure separated from the church by a road, it measures 33 m. in front and 22 m. at the side.  The convent sank during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

The choir loft

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria: Tel: (032) 257-3272. Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandra: November 25.

How to Get There: Carcar City is located 42 kms. (a 1-hour drive) south of Cebu City.

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.

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (San Fernando, Cebu)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

Part 5 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

The town’s first church was constructed at Brgy. Pitalo but, after repeated repairs, it was decided that a new and much better church was be constructed on a land donated by Doña Clara Najarro at Taboan Market, not far from the town’s present cemetery.

The Neo-Gothic facade

The present masonry church was started by Fr. Miguel del Burgo on December 1870, following the plans of Spanish architect and engineer Don Domingo Esconrillas, and continued by Fr. Emiliano Diez on March 11, 1876. During the November 25, 1877 typhoon, half of the church’s roof, the sacristy and convent fell.  It was finished and solemnly blessed on October 25, 1886.

The pointed recessed arch main entrance

During World War II, the church was spared from war damage. In 1945, the separate, two storey, coral stone convent was turned into a school. From 1968-76, Fr. Constantino Boctoy renovated the church.

The right side of the church

Its Neo-Gothic facade has a flamboyant pointed, recessed arch main entrance flanked by two small pointed arch windows.  The main doorway is topped, above the cornice line, by a large, elaborately carved rose window.  Flat pilasters, mounted on high rectangular pedestals, rise up to the pediment line.  They end up in pinnacles and divide the facade into three vertical sections.

One of two bell towers

The upper level, integrated with the gable, is crowned at the apex by a cross and has a small, centrally located carved Augustinian emblem.  Traceries line eaves of the pediment. The church interior has been heavily renovated.

The church interior

A strong typhoon cut the tops of the twin Gothic-style square bell towers and they were never rebuilt to its original height. The present twin belfries, seemingly incongruous with the overall coral stone structure, were actually built in concrete later in the 20th century. They have one wheel window on the lower level, flame-like windows on the upper and both taper into spires topped by pinnacles at the corners of the painted dome.

The church altar

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer:  Natalio B. Bacalso South National Highway, Brgy. Poblacion South. Tel: (032) 488-9314. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How To Get There: San Fernando is located 29.3 kms. south of Cebu City. Buses to San Fernando park at the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Ave. in Cebu City.  The church is just across the municipal hall.

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.

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi (Naga City, Cebu)

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi

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

The town’s coral and limestone church was built by Fr. Simon Aguirre in 1839 following plans prepared by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon.  Its bell tower was destroyed by the November 25, 1876 typhoon, repaired, destroyed again in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba. On October 3, 2007, the church was upgraded as an archdiocesan shrine.

The unusual Baroque facade that suggests Mexican art

The convent was started in 1864 by Fr. Enrique Magaz, continued in 1882 by Fr. Gregorio Ros and finished in 1887 by Fr. Roman Gonzalez.  It was destroyed in 1942 and rebuilt in 1974 by Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba. During World War II, the original bell tower was destroyed and portions of the church were damaged. A new separate bell tower was built in 1979.

The side of the church

The church has one main nave, a transept and measures 75 m. long, 15.4 m. wide and 10.6 m. wide.  Angels and gargoyles guard its doors. It’s simple interior, relatively unchanged since it was built over a century ago, features a dropped ceiling bearing geometric patterns and a gilded retablo and cornices adorning the Corinthian pillars and side walls.  A huge statue of St. Francis of Assisi adorns the patio adjacent to the church.

The church interior

The unusual Baroque-style façade, suggestive of Mexican art that is skillfully integrated into the local Filipino religious architecture, has no distinct architectural style.  It has twin minaret-shaped buttresses with projecting domes and is divided into lower and upper rectangular panels.

The main and two side retablos

The bare lower panel has a triangular arched recessed main entrance with molded door jambs flanked by six square columns while the overly-decorated upper panel has a miniature retablo (the cross with outgoing rays represent the expansion of the Christian faith) flanked by two sets of tiny columns and a frieze heavily-decorated with ornamental Roman-like acanthus leaf patterns and self-repeating designs divided into several rows.


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

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi: Cebu South Rd. Tel: (032) 489-9799  and (032) 272-2123. Feast of St. Francis of Assisi: October 10.

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

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.

Archdiocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Minglanilla, Cebu)

Archdiocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

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

The town’s first church was a temporary structure built in 1856 on orders of Gov.-Gen. Manuel Crespo. The first permanent structure was built by Augustinian Fr. Miguel del Burgo in 1878. The present structure was started in 1880 by Fr. Nicolas Lopez with harigues and mortar and completed in 1886 by Fr. Juan Alonso. On August 23, 2007, the church was declared as a archdiocesan shrine by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal.

The Early Gothic and High Renaissance facade

This hilltop church, one of five structures built by the Augustinians in Cebu that have hints of Gothic architecture, is 18 m. long, 13 m. wide, 15 m. high and has a beautiful transept. Its facade has Early Gothic and High Renaissance features.  The pointed aisle roof and flame-like arches are typical of the Gothic style while the semicircular arched main entrance and windows are Baroque features.

A circa 1930s photo of the church. Note that the top storeys of the bell towers, the entrance porch and the left and right wings are not yet around.  The structure on the right seems to be the convent.

Based on a circa 1930s photo, it seems that the church’s exterior has been heavily renovated.  The entrance porch, the top storey of the twin bell towers and the lower structures on the left and right side of the church (built to accommodate additional parishioners) are recent additions. In August 2005, the church was repainted from pink to blue and white.  The trefoil arches (where the new left and right wings are now) suggest possible Muslim influences.

The bell tower on the right

The flanking, pointed roofed bell towers have pinnacles on the four corners of the lower roof. Its oldest bell was installed in 1863 by Fr. Fernando Magaz. The other one was installed in 1881. All that remains of its masonry and wood convent, built by Frs. Miguel del Burgo (1877) and Juan Alonso (1878 to 1886), is the part which housed the kitchen.

The church interior showing the new left wing.  Trefoil arches separate this wing from the nave.

The church interior showing the new right wing

Archdiocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Poblacion, Ward 3 Tel: (032) 490-9635 and (032) 490-8021 and (032) 272-5807. Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: August 22.

How to Get There: Minglanilla is located 16.4 kms. south of Cebu City.

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.

San Pedro Calungsod Chapel (Cebu City, Cebu)

San Pedro Calungsod Chapel

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

The mesmerizing, contemporary and airy San Pedro Calungsod Chapel, designed by US-based architect Carlos Arnaiz, was donated by Henry Sy, Sr. and Felicidad Sy to the Archdiocese of Cebu. It is dedicated to the second Filipino saint who, incidentally, is a Cebuano (born 1655 probably in Ginatilan).

Some of the rectangular panels

The chapel is located on an elevated, 5,001 sq. m. lot within the SM Seaside City Complex (allegedly touted as SM’s biggest mall). The first structure built on the complex, it reflects a practice, during the Spanish era, of towns around the archipelago being built around a church.

The chapel’s Minimalist interior

Pedro Calungsod,  martyred in Guam in 1672, died defending Spanish priest Fr. San Vitores and his Catholic faith. A spear hit his chest, then his head was struck with a machete. Later, he was thrown out to sea, with rocks tied on his feet. He was beautified on March 5, 2000 by Blessed Pope John Paul II. On October 21, 2012 San Pedro Calungsod was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.

The chapel article

On November 29, 2012, when it was dedicated, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma along with Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal celebrated the consecration Mass of the chapel. Prior to the mass, a motorcade, from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, brought the pilgrim image of the first Visayan saint to the chapel. The Archdiocese of Cebu assigned Msgr. Vicente Tupas to act as the rector of the chapel.

The special quiet room for children

Also called the Church of 100 Walls, the one distinctive feature of the chapel is its 100 unique and inviting, avant-garde walls.  Of great importance to the sparse, Minimalist architecture, each rectangular, white and cream panel is of a different height and width. Seemingly almost like people, no wall is the same and yet they are all connected as they exist together as a cluster, coming together to form a kind of congregation.

Adoration Chapel

The entire 100 walls are all elevated and facing in one direction, making the structure appear solid in one side and, when viewed from a different angle, have a totally opaque or transparent appearance. These two states represent the dark and light side of life.

One of 14 Stations of the Cross

This sanctuary of sand, stone and glass, big enough to accommodate 803 people at the same time, has an adoration chapel (to the right of the altar), the sacristy, a baptistery, prayer niches, the 14 Stations of the Cross and a special quiet room for children where your child can be kept at peace when you are praying your heart out. A multi-purpose area, for church functions, is located below. 

SM Seaside City

San Pedro Calungsod Chapel: Chapel Ave., SM Seaside City Complex. Tel: (032) 255-2170. Mobile number: (0917) 770-6021. Open daily, 10 AM – 5 PM (until 7:30 PM during Mass days). Holy Mass Schedule: 6 PM – 7 PM, Mondays to Saturdays (anticipated mass), and 9 AM – 10 AM  and 6 PM – 7 PM on Sundays.

How to Get There: take the My Bus from SM City Cebu to SM Seaside City. The chapel can be easily seen from the mall.

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.

Church of St. Monica (Botolan, Zambales)

Church of St. Monica

This impressive coral limestone church was built in 1700 and finished at about the last quarter of 19th century.

The one-level Baroque facade

The moss-covered, one-storey Baroque façade has semicircular arch main entrance, flanked by two semicircular arch statued niches (with the statues of St. Augustine and St. Monica).

Statue of St. Augustine

Statue of St. Monica

Both main entrance and statued niches are flanked by flat pilasters and topped by curved arches and small, centrally located occoli.  

The left side of the church

The right sie of the church

Above the triangular pediment is a bell tower with semicircular arch openings and three bells arranged in a row.

The modern interior

The altar and retablo

Church of St. Monica: Olongapo-Bugallon Road, Brgy. Danacbunga, Botolan, Zambales. Tel: (047) 810-1207. Feast of St. Monica: May 4.

How to Get There: Botolan is located 192.3 kms. (a 4-hour drive) from Manila, 7.9 kms. (a 12-min. drive) and 71.6 kms. (a 1.5-hour drive) north of Olongapo City. Coordinates: 15°17’19.68″N 120°1’30.72″E.

Potipot Island (Candelaria, Zambales)

Potipot Island (Isla de Potipot))

After a lengthy 7.5-hour drive (we left Manila at 3:30 AM and made stopovers at Jollibee Subic or breakfast, and at the Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo in Iba), we arrived at Brgy. Uacon at the town of Candelaria and parked my Toyota Revo at the residence of Mr. Joel Gonzales (mobile numbers 0977-2044869 and 0947-3218687), a friend of Bryan.

 Check out “Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo

Car parking at Uacon

As it was already lunchtime, Bryan prepared a lunch of pork tocino, hot dogs and fried fish with steamed rice.  This done with, Joel loaded our gear on his tricycle, with Cheska and Kyle on board, for the short drive to the beach where our motorized outrigger boat to Potipot Island (or Isla de Potipot) awaited us.  Jandy, Bryan and I just walked the short distance.

Overcast skies at Uacon Beach

Boardng our 6-pax motorized outrigger boat along Uacon Beach

The closest island from mainland Zambales (about a kilometer away), we can actually see how near Potipot Island is from the beach of Uacon. The boat trip (PhP400/two-way) getting to the eastern side of the island (with its huge and colorful “Isla de Potipot” sign) just took a little over 10 minutes.

On our way to Potipot Island

It was already overcast when we arrived at the island. From the shore, it was just a short walk to the reception center. Visitors to the 7.5-hectare, privately owned Potipot Island are charged PhP100 per head for a day trip and PhP300 for overnight.

The huge and colorful Isla de Potipot sign along the beach

Boat docking area

There are no hotels or inns available on Potipot Island. As it was a long weekend (August 19-21), the island was brimming with tourists (it easily gets fully booked during weekends), many camped in tents near where the boats dock.  Tent rentals are also available but it is not a regular service on the island. 

Reception pavilion

Campers can eat their meals at a pavilion with tables, without having to pay an additional fee.

Picnic tables

There is also a grilling area where they can grill their own food but they’ll have to bring everything, including the charcoal.

A 10-20-pax nipa cottage

An array of nipa and bamboo cottages

Others stayed in nipa cottages (PhP1,500, for 10-20-pax, and PhP2,000 for 5-10-pax) and more modern cottages on stilts (PhP2,500, 5-8-pax).

Tent city

Cheska and Bryan start setting up the tent with Kyle looking on

We opted to stay in the latter with our tent set up beside it for Kyle to experience his first camping. Jandy and I stayed at the very spartan, treetop height cottage on stilts which had a double bed with mosquito net.  We also had a table with 4 chairs (all are available for free around the island on a first come, first serve basis).

A modern, tree-height cottage on concrete stilts

The cottage interior

For cooking, we brought our own butane gas stove (we have to be careful not to burn any tree as we could be fined). Nearby is a citadel-like tree house said to belong to the island’s owner.

The citadel-like treehouse cottage

Normally, at day’s end, visitors are treated to a stunning sunset along the beach but, as a low pressure area was in the day’s forecast, it was already starting to rain.

Dusk at Potipot Island

This small but pristine and breathtaking beach bumming paradise, also known as the Little Boracay of the North, has shores surrounded by creamy white sand (the island’s name is derived from the native words puti po meaning “it’s white”), and turquoise blue water and offshore coral.

Potipot’s white sand beach

A good beach camping destination, it also has a lush array of trees to provide much-needed shade.  The different kinds of trees found here include mahogany, talisay, coconut, kamachile, guava, mango, duhat, suha, kamias, etc.

Grassy area at the center of the island

The center of the island is a grassy plain with another huge “Isla de Potipot” sign and a children’s playground.

Second Isla de Potipot sign

Children’s playground

There’s no potable water source in Potipot so we bought our water supply at the jump-off. The island has a number of clean and decent public shower rooms and toilets (one conveniently located just across from our cottage) so freshening up wasn’t much of a problem.

Public toilet

However, the water supply can lose pressure if a lot of people are taking a bath at the same time. Lighting on the island is provided by a generator so it is not totally dark at night. They also offer charging services, via solar panels, for any electronic gadget.

Early morning breakfast.  L-R: Cheska, Bryan, Jandy and the author

Kyle sleeping in a hammock we brought and slung between the concrete stilts of our cottage

The stay-in caretakers were friendly and more than willing to help you if you ever need anything. For a minimal fee, we could also ask them to cook our food.

“Leave No Trace Only Footprint” sign

They’re strict about cleaning up and bringing your trash with you when you leave (“Leave No Traces Only Footprints signs are everywhere). Segregated (plastic, leftovers and other waste) waste bins can also be found.

Segregated waste bins

Also nearby is a small sari-sari (convenience) store where we can buy bread, soft drinks, coffee, noodles, bottled water, snacks, canned goods, etc. as well as souvenirs, goggle and other knickknacks. Some vendors also sell foodstuff.  However, to avoid inconvenience, it is still advisable to bring your own food and water when you go there. Liquor or alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Convenience store

It was sunny the next day (I missed out on the beautiful sunrise) and, after breakfast, we were supposed to hop over to Hermana Menor Island, a 2-hour boat ride away.  However, heavy waves made this impossible.  Instead, Jandy, Bryan, Cheska and Kyle went swimming along the nearby shoreline.

Kyle, Bryan and Cheska savoring the warm, crystal clear waters of the island

Though calm, the crystal clear, warm waters here can get, within a few steps, from knee deep to neck deep.  At the back part of the island (the part not facing the main shore of Zambales), you also have to be careful with sea urchins. Later, Cheska, Bryan and Kyle went kayaking around the island (PhP300/hour).

An array of tandem kayaks for rent

Bryan, Cheska and Kyle try out kayaking

Or my part, I decided to circle the island and my leisurely walk took about 30 mins. On the opposite side of the island, facing the West Philippine Sea, is another campsite for those who want peace and quiet. The sand seems to be finer here and the waters clearer.

Pre-nuptial photo shoot atop a sea wall

A photo booth for couples

Along the way I passed a couple having a pre-nuptial photo shoot. There are also rock formations on the other side of the island (where the sun sets). The famous, iconic driftwood, located in a slightly rocky portion of the beach on the southwestern part, is the site of an obligatory photo shoot for tourists. At the northern side, sea grass are clearly visible underneath the clear waters.

The iconic driftwood, a site for obligatory photo shoots

The feel and ultimate charm of this relatively unknown and undiscovered little gem of an island was like Boracay during its pre-development years. Here, every now and then, you can bathe in its turquoise waters and stroll under its arboreal ceiling without bumping into boisterous tourists.

Hermana Menor Island as seen from Potipot Island

We left the island by noontime, again boarding Joel’s boat for the return trip back to the mainland.  After a late lunch, gain prepared by Bryan, at Joel’s place, we left Uacon by 2:30 PM and proceeded on our return trip back to Manila, making stopovers at the Church of St. Monica in Botolan, a viewpoint in Subic and dinner at a Pancake House outlet along NLEX.  We were back in Manila by 10:30 PM.

Check out “Church of St. Monica

Isla de Potipot: Brgy. Uacon, Candelaria, Zambales. Mobile numbers: (0905) 456-7243 (Globe) and (0920) 499-9134 (Smart).  Look for Arjay, Jamie or Flor. E-mail: Instagram: Facebook:

How to Get There: To get to Brgy. Uacon, Candelaria by car (a 5-6-hour drive), take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) all the way to the Dau/Mabalacat Exit. For speed and ease of travel, travel the length of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to the Tipo Exit (the shorter route, through San Fenando – Lubao in Pampanga, passes through narrower roads and congested town centers).  Upon exiting, pass through the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), on to Subic town and then take the national road all the way to Candelaria, passing the towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe, Cabangan, Botolan, Iba, Palauig and Masinloc before Candelaria. 

Sta. Cruz-bound Victory Liner buses also pass by Candelaria, the town just before Sta. Cruz). Get off at the Uacon Barangay Hall and, from there, take a tricycle (or even walk) to the nearest resort or the beach where you can get a boat to Potipot Island.

Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo (Iba, Zambales)

Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo

This coral and limestone church was built in the 1700s by the Augustinian Recollects.  On August 28, 1901, the 2nd Philippines Commission, headed by William Howard Taft, convened at the cathedral and declared the establishment of Zambales Province.

The four-storey, Baroque facade

The four-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arch main entrance flanked by statued niches and four pairs of superpositioned coupled Doric columns on pedestals, each set apart from the others and rising symmetrically up to the pediment (unifying the section of the façade into one dramatic composition).  The two central pairs of columns end up in flame-like finials. The seal of the Augustinian Recollect Order is at the arch of the main entrance and lateral doors.

Buttresses on the left side of the church

The top of the undulating pediment is designed like a small temple with three semicircular arched niches, a triangular pediment and a pair of superpositioned columns. Below, at the central niche, is the statue of St. Augustine of Hippo.

The right side of the church

The sides of the church are supported by buttresses.  The five-storey octagonal bell tower, on a square base on the church’s right, has semicircular arch windows and a domed roof.

The four-storey bell tower

The retablo (altar backdrop) has three niches – the Crucifix in the middle, the image of Ina Poon Bato (Patroness of Zambales) on the left and the image of St. Augustine of Hippo on the right

The church interior

Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo: Brgy. Zone V, 2201 Iba, Zambales. Tel: (047) 811-1563. GPS geo-coordinates: lat: 15.3260, lon: 119.9799.  Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo: August 28.

How to Get There: Iba is located 210.2 kms. (a 2.5-hour drive) from Manila and 82.2 kms. north of Olongapo City. The cathedral is located adjacent to the Provincial Capitol Bldg..

Alegria Beach (Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte)

Alegria Beach (photo: Mr. Donald C. Tapan)

On our third day, we were supposed to leave on the early morning Skyjet Airlines flight back to Manila but heavy rains due to a low pressure area caused a cancellation of our flight for the next day. Thus, we had another extra day for exploring the island.  We first waited for the rains to subside and, after lunch, we again all boarded the van Del Carmen Mayor Alfreo “Coors” Coro II provided for our use.

Photo: Mr. Donald C. Tapan

Again, with Ms. Roxan Gesta as our guide, we were to circumnavigate the island by driving along the island’s 162-km. circumferential road.  Along the way, we passed quiet coastal villages and admired some of the picturesque coastal scenery.  We made our only stopover at the remote, 5-km. long white-sand Alegria Beach in Sta. Monica town, inside a reef-fringed lagoon in Siargao Island’s northeast. Despite the inclement weather, the water here was turquoise green and calm.

PDI’s Amadis Ma. Guerrero taking a breather (photo: Mr. Donald C. Tapan)

Probably due to its isolated location, there were no foreigners in sight, a good sign that tourists have not flocked here yet, leaving the beach unspoiled and preserving its local flavor.  There were no buildings or hotels around, just a lot o coconut trees, a few picnic huts and a hammock slung between two trees.

The beach is quite long so you don’t have to worry even if you find some tourists when you get there. Perfect for those who want to relax for a while with nobody else around. For the more adventurous, there is a surf spot here but this normally only works during the surf season, around September.

The sand abruptly slopes to around 30 degrees and swimming here can be tricky as it gets deep just a few feet from the shore and there are many corals. Walking along the not so firm sand can also be a great challenge as your feet easily sinks. Still, Alegria Beach, an alternative to the otherwise surfing dominated beaches of the island, is another jewel in the crown of the island. Getting there by motorbike is also an adventure by itself.


The author

Alegria Beach: Brgy. Alegria, Sta. Monica 8422, Surigao del Norte.

Siargao Tourism Office: Paseo De Cabuntog, Brgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Mobile number: (0921) 718-2268 (Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella – Siargao Tourism Coordinator)

How to Get There: Skyjet Airlines has daily, 100-min. direct flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Siargao (Sayak Airport). ETD Manila at 6 AM (M8-421), ETA Siargao at 7:40 AM. Return flights: ET Siargao at 8:10 AM (M8-422), ETD Manila at 9:50 AM.

Skyjet Airlines: Manila Domestic Airport, Parking A, Terminal 4, NAIA Complex, Brgy. 191, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 863-1333 and (02) 823-3366. E-mail: Website: