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.

Plaque

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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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.

Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente (Cebu City, Cebu)

Pungko Pungko sa Fuente

Upon checking in our rooms in Bluewater Maribago Resort and resting a bit, we were scheduled to experience the Old Cebu Walks of Mr.  Balbino “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr., the curator of the Cebu City Museum.  Ka Bino’s tour draws inspiration from the popular Manila tours such as Ivan Man Dy’s Binondo Food Tour and Carlos Celdran’s “Walk This Way” tour of Intramuros. It was raining on the afternoon of our first day so Ka Bino brought us to Fuente area for a unique dining experience called pungko pungko.

Check out “Walk This Way With Carlos Celdran

A tray filled with fried street food

Not your normal, everyday fine-dining experience, this literally is what I call “street food.” Taken from the Cebuano word pungko, which means “to squat” in English, it is a term used to describe a manner of dining or can also refer to small self-service eateries along the road selling these all time-favorite fried foods.

Mr. Balbino Pada “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr.

Among the cheap but fairly, gastronomically satisfying Cebuano pungko-pungko favorites are ginabot or chicharon bulaklak (crispy, deep-fried pork innards), lumpiang ngohiong (long or short spring rolls), bola-bola (fried meat balls), hotdogs, hard-boiled eggs, longganisa, taugi (munggo bean sprouts), fried chicken, pork chops, crab meat, fried brains, fried fat, fried spleen, okoy (shrimp cake), buwad nokso (dried fish)  and  chorizo.

Puso (hanging rice)

We sat on small, low benches that can occupy about 2 to 3 people, with a container or several trays containing a wide array of dishes displayed on tables in front of us. According to Ka Bino, for less than PhP50, customers can just pick at least 2 viands they like to eat, a soft drink and 3 to 4 pieces of puso (hanging rice), paired with a to die for vinegar mix with chili and sliced onions, without waiting for the vendors to serve them.

Members of media listening to Ka BIno

In the past, their customers were taxi and jeepney drivers, construction workers and students. Now, they include call center agents in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and bank employees.  They also cater to hospitals and even families. Pungko-pungko vendors mostly depend on their customers to tell them what they ate and some are not honest enough to count their orders correctly.

So, if you want to get a quick meal in Cebu City, you don’t have to go far! Eat the pungko-pungko way! It might not be the healthiest among recommended Cebuano dishes but they are everywhere and they cater to anyone.

The dining area

Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente: 52-A J. Llorente St., Cebu City 6000. Mobile number: (0922) 699-6888

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:

Lapulapu

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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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:

 

BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER

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.

(signed)

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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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:   facebook.com/terrazasdefloresofficial.  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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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.

Cockscomb

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.

Sunflowers

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

Benches

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.”

Carriage

Bicycle

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

Fountain

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: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  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.

Visit of the MV Logos Hope (Cebu City, Cebu)

From Fort San Pedro, Grace, Jandy, Cheska and I walked over to the Malacañang sa Sugbo berth in Pier 1 where the MV Logos Hope, the world’s largest floating library, was docked.  This world-traveling vessel, operated by the non-profit German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships e.V (Gute Bücher für Alle, English: Good Books for All) and captained by Tom Dyer, arrived in Cebu City last April 28 and was to remain there until May 29.

MV Logos Hope

Here, we checked out its library, occupying one air-conditioned deck of the ship.  It carries some 500,000 educational and Christian books of different titles, covering a range of subjects including fiction, economics, science, sports, hobbies, cookery, arts, medicine, languages, general reference and philosophy, for sale “at a fraction” of the books’ retail price.  Price ranged from PhP100-200 for the cheaper books, while the more expensive ones cost around PhP400-1,000.

The newly created Logos Hope Experience, situated on a deck that was installed into the original ferry’s car area, holds up to 800 visitors at any time, with capacity to host an additional 500 in the Hope Theatre and Logos Lounge. This publicly accessible deck offers visitors an introduction to the vessel and the organization. There’s also the “Journey of Life,” a visual presentation which is based on the story of the “Prodigal Son,” and the International Cafe.

The vessel’s 400 all volunteer (they live on board for two years) crew and staff, headed by Managing Director Seelan Govender, come from 45 countries, many of them humanitarian activists and people interested in social service who took part in the journey to sell books as well as to perform charity activities. Knowledge, Hope and Help is the aim of the vessel and wherever the ship goes, the needy and the destitute get sighs of happiness and hope. The revenue from the book fair is used for building orphanages, providing computer training, for awareness and educational programs for people with HIV, offering free health checkups and for donating to charity funds.

The fourth ship in the Logos line up, after the MV Logos (its wrecked hulk now sits on a rock shelf on the Chilean coast), the MV Logos II (retired in the fall of 2008) and the MV Doulos (sold in 2009 to a company in Singapore) and twice bigger than its predecessors, it is better than other ships operated by the organization when it comes to providing comfort, convenience and a quality cruise to visitors, guests as well as the crew of the ship. The MV Logos Hope was built in 1973 as the ferry MV Gustav Vasa for car ferry service between Malmö (Sweden) and Travemünde (Germany), a route she ran for 10 years.  In April 1983, she was sold to Smyril Line, a Faroese ferry company, and renamed MV Norröna, providing a ferry service to the Faroe Islands. Each summer, she sailed from Tórshavn, the Faroese capital, to Lerwick (Shetland Islands), Bergen (Norway), Hanstholm (Denmark) and Seyðisfjörður (Iceland).

In winter, she was often chartered to cover other operators’ overhaul schedules. When Smyril Line delivered a new Norröna in 2003, the old vessel became MV Norröna I and was put up for sale. In March 2004, after much deliberation, inspection and prayer, GBA purchased the vessel.

Completely refitted over a period of 5 years, it was launched into active service in February 2009 and has visited more than 150 countries in Northern Europe, the Caribbean, West Africa, the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and most recently south Asia, docking in a port for approximately 2 weeks.  A total of 44 million book lovers have checked out its store. It last visited the Philippines in 2013.

MV Logos Hope: open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10 AM to 9:30PM, and Sundays, 1 to 9:30 PM.  Admission:  PhP20 per person. Children under 13 years old and senior citizens may enter for free.

Exploring Sumilon Island (Oslob, Cebu)

The Sumilon Island hiking trail

The Sumilon Island hiking trail

After our lunch at the Island Pavilion Restaurant, Lara, Joy, Jimbo, Rachelle, Risa, Leica (Pete’s daughter) and I decided to burn some calories by doing a hike, with a resort guide, around the 24-hectare island.  Liana and Kaycee opted to stay behind to rest.

View of the natural lagoon from the cliffside trail

View of the natural lagoon from the cliffside trail

The nicely laid out hiking trail (open from 6 AM – 4 PM) started as we descended the steps down from the restaurant and traversed the cliffside pathway, strewn with coral rock, overlooking the natural lagoon where we could see a number of guests kayaking.  Soon enough, we entered the lush forest.  Along the trail are colored pennants tied to trees that indicate the difficulty of the trail – yellow for beginners, blue for moderate and red for advanced.

Hiking along the coral rock-strewn trail

Hiking along the coral rock-strewn trail

Soon we reached a fork in the trail.  The trail on the left traverses the northern point of the island where panoramic views of white sand beaches along the northwestern and eastern shores of the island can be seen.  The trail on the right cuts through the spine of the island and leads up to the island’s highest point, 28 m. above sea level, where a lighthouse and a Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower) is located.  We chose to explore this route.

The concrete lighthouse

The concrete lighthouse

The concrete lighthouse on the top wasn’t much.  It didn’t have a hollow core with a spiral stairway leading to the top, a feature found in many lighthouses.  Instead, steel, U-shaped ladder rungs imbedded in the concrete exterior was used.

The Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower)

The Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower)

The quadrilateral, heavily overgrown but still relatively intact baluarte was more interesting.  It was part of a network of watchtower and fortlets, extending from Santander to Sibonga, built by Augustinian Fr. Julian Bermejo (pastor of Boljo-on from 1804-1836) to warn the townspeople of the approach of pirates.  Lara and Joy entered the watchtower through a small, square hole in one of its sides.

The marine sanctuary

The marine sanctuary

The abandoned marine station of Silliman University

The abandoned marine station of Silliman University

From this vantage point, we now made our way down the trail to the pristine blue waters of the western side of the island where part of Sumilon Island Marine Park is located.  Situated off Cebu’s southeastern coast, 5.5 kms. east northeast of Tanon Point, this marine sanctuary was formerly administered by Siliman University in Dumaguete City (Negros Oriental) as evidenced by a now abandoned hut of the marine station along this part of the trail.  Today, the sanctuary is managed by the resort.  Motorized water sports such as jetskiing and water skiing are not allowed to ensure that the sanctuary is not disturbed.

Aquamania Dive Shop

Aquamania Dive Shop

Equipment at Aquamania Dive Shop

However, fine snorkeling, over coral gardens, can be done along the western, northern and eastern sides of the island.  For scuba divers, it offers waters two to 5 m. deep and 200 m. wide and a drop-off about 100 m. off the southwest coast with spectacular underwater life including the big garoupa.  Large schools of jacks, manta rays, sharks, barracudas, sea snakes, turtles and even an occasional whale shark can be seen off the northern and southern tip.  Dive sites here include Coral Landscape, Garden Eel Plaza, Julie’s Rock and Nikki’s Wall.  Diving season is all year round.  Visibility reaches 30 m. and average depth is 20 m. with a maximum of 35 m..  Waters here are usually calm with strong currents to sometimes very rough, fierce and physically demanding currents.  The resort has a dive shop (Aquamania) with certified dive instructors and extensive diving facilities.

Flower-bedecked table set-up for two at the sandbar

Flower-bedecked table set-up for two at the sandbar

A marriage proposal etched on the sand

A marriage proposal etched on the sand

Further down the trail, we soon reached the island’s white sandbar, the only part of the island that is open to the public.  It shifts and changes its shape with the tides and the current.  Here, we can swim, snorkel or sunbathe.  It was also the setting for last night’s al fresco dinner.  When we passed by, it was already set up for a marriage proposal, with a table for two, surrounded by flower petals shaped into a heart,  set up along the beach.    Nearby, along the sand, were the words “Will you marry me?” etched with pieces of tree branches.

Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima

Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima

On our way back to our cottages, we passed by a grotto with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and, just past it, the short and seemingly man-made Yamashita’s Cave.  We entered the latter and were surprised by a Halloween set-up, meant to scare visitors, at its very end.  We were totally drained and drenched with sweat by the time we returned to our rooms.

Entrance to Yamashita Cave

Entrance to Yamashita Cave

Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort: Brgy. Bancogon, Sumilon Island, Oslob, 6025 Cebu.  Tel: (032) 382-0008 and (032) 318-9098. Mobile numbers: (0917) 631-7514 and (0917) 631-7512.  Email: info.sumilon@bluewater.com.ph.

Cebu City booking office: CRM Bldg., Escario cor. Molave Sts., Lahug, 6000 Cebu City. Tel:  (032) 412-2436. Mobile numbers (0917) 631-7508 and (0998) 962-8263. E-mail: sales.sumilon@bluewater.co.ph.

Manila Office: Rm. 1120, Cityland/Herrera Towers, 98 Herrera cor. Valero St. Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348. Fax: (632) 893-5391.  E-mail: sumilon@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewatersumilon.com.ph.