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Argao, Balamban, Dalaguete given Seal of Good Education Governance

Three towns in Cebu are among the 24 local government units recognized for their outstanding efforts in delivering basic education to their constituents. The inaugural batch of recipients of the…

Three towns in Cebu are among the 24 local government units recognized for their outstanding efforts in delivering basic education to their constituents.

The inaugural batch of recipients of the Synergia Foundation’s Seal of Good Education Governance will get incentive packages from PLDT and Smart Communications worth up to P1.5 million each.

The winners from Cebu include Argao, Balamban, and Dalaguete.

The 24 local government units (LGUs) are, in alphabetical order:

  1. Alimodan, Iloilo
  2. Argao, Cebu
  3. Bacnotan, La Union
  4. Balamban, Cebu
  5. Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
  6. Cabatuan, Iloilo
  7. Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental
  8. Concepcion, Iloilo
  9. Dalaguete, Cebu
  10. Dao, Capiz
  11. Datu Paglas, Maguindanao
  12. Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya
  13. Diffun, Quirino
  14. Ivisan, Capiz
  15. Lambunao, Iloilo
  16. Miagao, Iloilo
  17. Mina, Iloilo
  18. North Upi, Maguindanao
  19. Santol, La Union
  20. Simunul, Tawi-Tawi
  21. Solano, Nueva Vizcaya
  22. Valenzuela, Metro Manila
  23. Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya
  24. Tuba, Benguet

Established in 2002, Synergeia is a coalition of individuals and organizations working closely with about 400 LGUs to improve the delivery of basic education to Filipino children. The foundation intends to award the Seal of Good Education Governance to deserving LGUs every year. It received 250 LGU nominations through its website this year.

Synergeia Awardees

AWARDEES. Synergia Foundation’s Seal of Good Education Governance awardees with PLDT and Smart executives.

 

Criteria for judging

Determining the list of seal recipients was a board of judges composed of representatives from Synergeia and the Department of Education. To receive the seal, LGUs must have broadened the membership and functions of their Local School Board. Most of their schools should have functional School Governing Councils.

As an indicator of performance, the average National Achievement Test score of elementary school children must be higher than the national average of 66%, or must have increased by at least two percentage points. Alternatively, the LGUs must have reduced the number of poor readers by at least 15%.

Moreover, their cohort survival rate (the percentage of first graders who go on to complete sixth grade) must be higher than the national average of 70%, or must have increased by at least two percentage points.

Education governance scorecard

Finally, the LGUs must have recorded a decrease in non-readers and frustrated readers by at least 15 percentage points.

“We put together an education governance scorecard to focus on the results of their work. While anecdotes and feel-good stories about education initiatives are helpful, the scorecard enables us to objectively evaluate the performance of LGUs,” said Synergeia chief executive officer Milwida Guevara.

“We are happy to recognize these outstanding LGUs, and hope that the Seal of Good Education Governance would inspire them to keep making children’s education a priority in their governance agenda,” she said.

Incentives for seal recipients

To boost the capability of seal recipients to improve education in their localities, PLDT and Smart will provide technology packages suited to the LGUs’ respective circumstances and needs. Among the incentives are the installation and maintenance of Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas, and the provision of InfoCast, a web-based solution that will allow the LGUs to broadcast announcements and receive feedback via text message.

LGUs in remote areas will get a satellite-based communication solution that provides voice and SMS services.

Another incentive for LGUs in far-flung areas is the Smart School-in-a-Bag, which contains a solar panel to serve schools without electricity, mobile devices, curriculum-based educational content, teacher training, monitoring, and evaluation.

Also included in the incentive package are personal development trainings for LGUs.

“We strongly support Synergeia’s efforts to encourage local governments to efficiently and effectively deliver basic education to Filipino children. Through the technology tools and digital educational content included in the incentive packages, these LGUs can further enhance learning among their young constituents,” said PLDT and Smart chief revenue officer Eric Alberto.

“The PLDT Group will continue to work hand-in-hand with organizations like Synergeia and local governments to achieve our goal of building a smart nation,” he added.

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Primary Homes holds 3rd Dragon Boat event, launches Terra Manna in Argao

A third installment Dragons in Argao by Primary Homes, Inc. is happening from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. this September 30, 2017 at Terra Manna-Argao in Barangay Suba of the…

A third installment Dragons in Argao by Primary Homes, Inc. is happening from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. this September 30, 2017 at Terra Manna-Argao in Barangay Suba of the historic town of Argao.

Terra Manna-Argao is a new Primary Homes venture geared towards travellers and backpackers, and it will serve as jump-off point for three exciting Dragon Boat race categories.

Terra Manna offers the comforts of a modern accommodation at affordable rates. Various activities are also in store for guests.

Dragon Boat race categories

The third Dragons in Argao includes two fun-filled events: the Argao inter-barangay Dragon Boat clinic and competition and the Dragon Boat competition.

The Dragon Boat competition has three categories: 300-meter Short Boat Open, 300-meter Short Boat Mixed, and the 300-meter Barangay category.

Registration fee is P400 per person and includes the official event jersey and lunch pack.

Dragons in Argao 3

DRAGONS IN ARGAO 3. Coach Nonnie Lopez (3rd from left), regional director of the Philippine Sports Commission, answers a question during the press conference for the Dragons in Argao 3 Dragon Boat Competition. With him are (from left) Rudney Alforque, sales manager of Terra Manna Argao; Roger Paller, executive assistant to Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero; and Randy Su, commissioner of the Cebu Sports Commission.

Acoustic Nights

From Sept. 21-30, 2017, Terra Manna-Argao will host Acoustic Nights. Food and drinks will be served and a socials night held on the last day as a tribute to the Dragons.

This event is part of the series of festivities leading up to annual fiesta of the Municipality of Argao.

This annual competition is presented by PrimaryHomes, Inc., Terra Manna-Argao, and Dragon Boat Cebu Central.

Registration details

For registration inquiries, you may call Randy at ‪0917-6262-621‬. For hotel bookings and other inquiries, you may contact Zhy at ‪0922-654-6375‬ or Trina at ‪0922-9060-804‬.

You may also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/PRIMARYHOMESofficial for real-time updates or visit our website at www.primaryhomes.com.

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Smart holds festival, rekindles love for local stories

Centuries ago, a girl named Maria lived in what is now known as Conalum, a mountainous area in the town of Argao which is about two hours away from Cebu…

Centuries ago, a girl named Maria lived in what is now known as Conalum, a mountainous area in the town of Argao which is about two hours away from Cebu City. People called her Maria Cacao, as she owned a cacao plantation from which they sourced the beans they used to create tablea. To this day, residents of Argao produce these chocolate tablets.

Town Mayor Stanley Caminero shared this legend with a rapt audience of children and adults at the culmination of the three-day “Istorya Mo, Nagpaabot Ako: Kwentuhang Batibot Caravan and Story Festival.” Organized by Smart Communications in cooperation with the local government, the caravan sought to rekindle people’s love for storytelling, especially the sharing of local tales.

Preservation of local heritage, culture

Caminero said the story of Maria Cacao could not be found in any book; it is a story that has been orally passed by Argao locals from generation to generation.

“If you think about it, the oldest heritage is stories,” he said, adding that storytelling is important not just for the preservation of local heritage and culture, but for the education of children as well.

Argao Storytelling

Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero shares the Legend of Maria Cacao with school children.

Aside from Caminero, the festival’s featured storytellers included Rey Bufi of The Storytelling Project, Argao college students and elementary pupils, a parent, a teacher, and Sun.Star Superbalita editors and writers.

The festival also included trainings on storytelling and story writing for Education students of the Cebu Technological University (CTU)-Argao campus.

Make lessons fun

CTU student Chariss Ampoon said that from the trainings given by Bufi and children’s book writer Michael Jude Tumamac, she picked up tips on how to manage a classroom and give life to tales.

Maria Elena Bajo, who teaches second grade in Argao’s Binlod Elementary School, said stories make lessons fun, and can be integrated in a lot of subjects, even Math.

Aside from holding storytelling festivals, Smart also promotes the Batibot app as a way to encourage love for stories among children. Created by Smart in partnership with the Community of Learners Foundation and developer OrangeFix, the app has a feature called “Kuwentong Batibot.”

The Batibot app is the first educational app in the Filipino language that is aligned with the kindergarten curriculum of the Department of Education. It can be downloaded for free on Android devices.

The Batibot app promotes love for storytelling among kids through its Kuwentong Batibot feature.

Modern tools

Through games in the app, such as the Batibot classic “Alin ang Naiba?”, children in their formative years can also learn basic concepts like matching, sorting, and grouping. They are shown how to identify shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, and letter sounds. The children can also practice tracing letters with the proper strokes.

Teacher Mira Vissa L. Padron of Argao Central Elementary School said the use of 21st century tools to promote the culture of storytelling would be a big help to them in the classroom. (Press Release)

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First Suroy-Suroy Sugbo of 2015 to visit southern Cebu attractions

This year’s first Suroy-Suroy Sugbo will head to Cebu attractions in the southern city of Carcar and towns of Barili, Moalboal, Alegria, Malabuyoc, Oslob, Boljoon, Dalaguete, and Argao. The Suroy-Suroy…

This year’s first Suroy-Suroy Sugbo will head to Cebu attractions in the southern city of Carcar and towns of Barili, Moalboal, Alegria, Malabuyoc, Oslob, Boljoon, Dalaguete, and Argao.

The Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Southern Getaway is a three-day, two-night trip that involves visits to heritage sites like ancestral homes and Spanish period structures as well as nature sites like hot springs and waterfalls.

Happening shortly after the Sinulog Festival 2015 celebration, the year’s first Suroy-Suroy Sugbo will run from January 21-23, 2015.

Badian Island Resort and Spa

Badian Island Resort and Spa is one of the accommodation options of the Suroy Suroy Sugbo Southern Getaway but only for guests paying the higher packages.

Suroy-Suroy Sugbo itinerary

The first stop of the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo itinerary is the historic city of Carcar where guests will be taken on a tour of Mancao’s ancestral house. They will then continue on to another sprawling early 20th century house in Barili before leaving for one of the town’s natural marvels.

Said to be the tallest in Cebu, the 98-meter high Mantayupan Falls will be the last stop in Barili before the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo group zooms off to a brief visit in Moalboal before departing for Alegria.

Other exciting things in store for Suroy-Suroy Sugbo guests:

Alegria – Visits to Alegria Heritage Park and demo farm
Malabuyoc – Swimming at Mainit Springs
Samboan – Swimming at Aguinid Falls and a tour of the church and Escala de Jacob
Oslob – Church and museum visit
Boljoon – Church and museum visit
Argao – Cabecera de Argao tour and Argao Nature Park visit

Sumilon Island. Guests paying the higher packages can stay in this island resort.

Sumilon Island. Guests paying the higher packages can stay in this island resort.

Southern Getaway rates

Suroy-Suroy Sugbo rates range from around P7,000 to P14,000 per person based on double occupancy or twin sharing room accommodations for the two nights of the trip.

Aside from resort rooms, the per person cost of the tour already includes meals and snacks as well as transportation all throughout the tour. The higher rates are for stays in luxury resorts like Badian Island Resort and Spa and Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort.

Other resorts tapped by organizers are Club Serena in Moalboal and Brumini Beds and Beach Resort in Oslob, Sole ‘E Mare in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, BCD’s Place in Tanawan, Oslob, Loves Beach Resort, Villagio Italia Inc., Noblesse Resort, Marcosas, Club Fort Med, HK Beach Resort, MB’s Resort.

The lowest rates are based on triple or quad sharing room accommodations.

For booking and inquiries, visit the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office at the 2nd level, west wing of the Provincial Capitol Building or call 253-5642 (tap on number to call on your phone), Cezar Almirante at 0933-4541432, Lino Belarmino at 0923-9344519.

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Cebu delicacies sold in one place during August

Craving any of Cebu delicacies like the Argao torta, Bogo pintos, or Carcar chicharon? For the whole month of August, you don’t need to travel two to three hours to…

Craving any of Cebu delicacies like the Argao torta, Bogo pintos, or Carcar chicharon?

For the whole month of August, you don’t need to travel two to three hours to buy Cebu specialty products as countryside cottage industries have come to sell these in the ongoing Agro-Trade Fair 2014 at the Capitol compound along Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City.

Just by walking a few short steps from stall to stall, you get access to many products from Cebu places that are several kilometers from each other.

Cebu delicacies

capitol agro-trade fair

These radishes are among the fresh produce being sold at the Capitol Agro-Trade Fair 2014 in Cebu City.

Get the cabcab from Tudela, budbud from Sogod, polvoron from San Fernando, dried dish from Bantayan, and ampao from Carcar in one spot. Tudela, a town in the island of Poro, sells food products made from cassava: cookies and cabcab. Cabcab is a thin and crisp wafer eaten paired with latik, a sweet syrup derived from coconut milk.

Rice crispies and durable shoes that are trademark goods of the southern town of Carcar are also on display as well as household furniture and home implements fashioned from wood and rattan.

bogo pintos

Pintos from Bogo

The main ingredient of the budbud is sticky rice. In one kind, the rice is ground and mixed with chocolate. Another is made with whole grains.

Fruits, vegetables

Fresh produce from farms in various towns like Moalboal, Cordova, Barili and even Busay and Sirao in City City occupy several of the makeshift kiosks. Vegetables like squash, radish, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, string beans as well as fruits like avocado, banana, coconut, and jackfruit are being sold at the fair.

busay plants

Flowering and decorative plants from Busay.

The barangays of Busay and Siraw also sell decorative and flowering plants at the agro-trade fair, one of the activities of Cebu’s 445th Founding Anniversary that falls on August 6, 2014.

It is being held behind the Cebu Provincial Capitol along Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City.

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Argao torta is best made using traditional methods

Argao torta is delicious but I have my favorites from among the town’s many bakers. If you want to know who makes the best torta de Argao, you need to…

Argao torta is delicious but I have my favorites from among the town’s many bakers.

If you want to know who makes the best torta de Argao, you need to find out what the bakers use when they create this Cebu delicacy that is a popular pasalubong or take-home gift of town visitors.

One of Argao’s torta makers, Jessie Magallones, said tortas are traditionally baked in the hurno (clay oven) and use tuba (coconut wine) as leavening.

The best-tasting ones are still those made using traditional methods, she added.

Torta recipe

Argao torta and sikwate

Argao torta is best paired with the town’s signature sikwate (hot choco).

Unfortunately, according to Magallones, several Argao torta bakers now utilize modern ovens and yeast for leavening.

Argao bakers use the same basic ingredients like flour, eggs, and sugar in a torta recipe. The varied taste of the torta is a result of the differences in the amount of ingredient used and baking method, she explained.

Magallones shared her secrets to baking delicious Argao torta in a previous post.

Trying the home-made torta is one of top to-do things in Argao. Even better is pairing the torta with sikwate, a local term for hot chocolate made using the bitter chocolate rounds created by drying, roasting, and then grinding cacao beans. Tableya and torta are two indigenous industries in Argao started way back during Spanish colonial times.

Torta makers

One of Argao’s homemade torta makers is Jessie Magallones. You can buy torta at her bakery located just beside her home in Barangay Canbanua. She can serve you torta and sikwate at an open native cottage beside her house in Barangay Canbanua.

To contact her, call (landline) 367-7455 or (mobile) 0947-6994027.

Other Argao torta makers in the town and their contact details:

Chitang’s Torta | 485-8095 or 09204046002
Oj’s Torta | 367-7572
Argao Bakeshop | 367-7253

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Coal Mountain Resort in Argao is retreat heaven

On our way to Coal Mountain Resort in Argao, Cebu, we missed a turn and ended up taking a much longer route. What should have been an hour’s drive through…

On our way to Coal Mountain Resort in Argao, Cebu, we missed a turn and ended up taking a much longer route. What should have been an hour’s drive through scenic (though narrow) mountain roads took the better of two hours.

The first thought that came to my mind when we arrived, wearied from our journey, was, ‘Is this it? Did I just through that harrowing and tiring ride for this?’

You realize later that what you first see when you arrive is only a small part of the whole Coal Mountain Resort.

Resort facilities

coal mountain resort

Coal Mountain Resort in Argao offers a wide view of the surrounding mountains. All three of the resort’s pools get water from a mountain spring.

Some of it is on an adjacent mountain side, accessible by a wooden walkway built along the treetops. Don’t worry, you won’t fall down. Although the canopy bridge sways with the wind, the side railing of the whole span is made of sturdy nets.

coal mountain resort hanging bridge

A hanging bridge built along the tree tops leads to Coal Mountain Resort’s 16-foot diving pool called Kawasan.

Over at this side is a 16-foot deep diving pool fed by water from a freshwater spring. It’s a big private rectangular pool surrounded by trees and with a view of the Argao mountains.

If you want to reach this pool much faster, go through the zipline or by cable car. Both activities are being offered at Coal Mountain Resort for a minimal fee of P100 per ride.

There’s a portion of Coal Mountain Resort that is underground and visitors can choose to explore it. This dark and damp tunnel is not used for mining but it simulates a mining environment.

Tunnel tour

Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero, whose family owns the mountain retreat, said no other resort provides an experience like Coal Mountain’s underground tour.

coal mountain resort tunnel

One of the activities at the resort is an exploration of its demo tunnel.

The cavern also serves another purpose: as venue for tunnel rescue training. Caminero said military personnel conduct their safety drills at the Coal Mountain Resort demo tunnel.

To explore this underground, you need boots and headlamps and a guide. The resort provides all three. If you want the whole works, including overalls, the charge is P80 per person.

tunnel entrance

In our boots and with lamps and a guide, we are ready to explore the Coal Mountain Resort demo tunnel.

Mini zoo

I have to admit that as we got to explore the main Coal Mountain Resort area — with its native huts, two pools, and a view of whole mountain sides, it grew on me. I realize that an overnight stay is not enough to enjoy this mountaintop site.

It wasn’t small as I first thought it was. Resort amenities are built on a slope so you have to go down stairways to access the dining, kitchen, washing, and even the zipline areas. They’re not immediately visible when you first arrive.

coal mountain zipline

A resort guest tries out the 220-meter zipline.

There’s a mini zoo on another downhill area with animals like monkeys, birds, monitor lizards (haw or bayawak in Cebuano), and snakes.

The altar to the Virgin Mary could have been built on another site, though, and not where it obstructed part of the mountain view from the two pools. By the way, the resort fee for unlimited use of the pools, including the third one some distance away, is P100 for adults and P50 for kids.

Resort food

You can bring food and cook this at the resort. If you don’t plan to bring any, you must inform the staff ahead so they can buy the ingredients for your orders. Remember, Coal Mountain Resort is a long way from supermarkets or convenience stores.

Native chicken tinola: the meat was a little hard but it was delicious.

Native chicken tinola: the meat was a little hard but it was delicious.

In our case, we brought raw meat and fish and did the cooking at the resort. We heard about the native chicken tinola (stew) and ordered some. Our buko juice was from young coconuts freshly picked from the trees. It was truly a feast.

There’s no modern stove so we did all the cooking at the dirty kitchen using firewood and coal. The kids, who have only ever seen a gas range or electric stove, chopped the wood, started the fire, and helped with the frying and grilling. It was an experience they’re not likely to forget.

Transport services

If you’re interested in going to Coal Mountain Resort on your own, be forewarned that the way there is confusing. The mountain roads branch left and right and there are no signs to tell you where you are.

We had to regularly stop and ask for directions. Even then, we got lost. Plus, I recommend that you use a four-wheel drive. A big part of the route is asphalted or concreted but there are portions that are heavily damaged and have big craters.

Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero (right), whose family owns Coal Mountain, regularly stays at the resort.

Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero (right), whose family owns Coal Mountain, regularly stays at the resort.

There are existing transport services from Cebu City or from the town center to Coal Mountain Resort. Transport fees depend on the number of people in your party.

For more information on accommodations and amenities and corresponding charges, check out this Coal Mountain Resort blog post I wrote before our visit. For everything Argao – from its historic cabecera to its indigenous industries of torta and tableya – check out our mobile guide to Argao or download our mobile web app.

Android app on Google Play

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Strong earthquake destroys, damages Bohol, Cebu heritage structures

A strong 7.2 earthquake hit Cebu and Bohol at 8:00 this morning and reports have been coming in of lives lost as well as damage and destruction to commercial buildings…

A strong 7.2 earthquake hit Cebu and Bohol at 8:00 this morning and reports have been coming in of lives lost as well as damage and destruction to commercial buildings and residential houses.

It’s heartbreaking.

I saw pictures of collapsed or damaged public markets in Pasil and Carbon in Cebu City, Mandaue City; commercial buildings like Ayala Center Cebu, SM City at the North Reclamation Area, Gaisano Country Mall, Budget Builders; important institutions like hospitals and schools such as Cebu Doctors’ University, Cebu Doctors’ Hospital, University of Cebu to name a few.

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Cebu-wide digital tourism project launched in Argao

When someone mentions torta, I usually and immediately think of Argao because I associate this popular Cebu delicacy with the town. I’m sure a lot of Cebuanos do the same….

When someone mentions torta, I usually and immediately think of Argao because I associate this popular Cebu delicacy with the town. I’m sure a lot of Cebuanos do the same.

Our frequent visits to Argao however have made me realize that its indigenous industries of torta and tableya, another specialty, are just one of the many facets that make up this southern town of Cebu.

From research and interviews, I’ve learned things about Argao that are not common knowledge and have come to better appreciate my visits. Beyond the torta, and it is delicious by the way, I’ve come to know Argao as a town steeped in history, rich in socio-cultural heritage, and with an abundance of natural resources.

Trips are truly more meaningful if you know what to look for in a place. The problem is, information about Cebu’s rich historical and socio-cultural heritage as it relates to towns like Argao is not easily accessible to the ordinary traveler.

argao guide

The unveiling of a quick response (QR) code marker marks the start in Argao of a province-wide implementation of a digital tourism program for Cebu. In the photo are: (from L) Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero, PLDT-Smart Public Affairs head Mon Isberto, Cebu Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide III, Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos, and InnoPub co-founder Max Limpag.

Take for example the San Miguel Arcangel Church, a late 18th century structure remaining of Spanish colonial times.

While it may seem at first glance to be like any other church built by the Spanish clergy, this structure in Argao differs in the artistic and elaborate ornamentation that can be found on the facade, pediment, retablo, pulpit, ceiling, and other interior portions.

A marker at the Argao Hall of Justice contains a short paragraph about the structure and  a quick response (QR) code that allows the download of more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet.

A marker at the Argao Hall of Justice contains a short paragraph about the structure and a quick response (QR) code that allows the download of more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet.

Its facade, according to Paul Gerschwiler in his historical outline of Argao, is divided into nine panels by two double cornices that intersect with four vertical paired half columns and only five of the more than 160 Augustinian churches used this style, all of them built in the southeastern coast of Cebu.

This and other relevant information related to the church in particular and travel to the town in general is being made available to travelers through a digital tourism program that is a collaboration among our new media start-up, InnoPub, our main partner Smart Communications, Inc., and the local governments of Cebu Province and Argao.

Our digital tourism project comes in three components. It involves a web-based guide to Argao, mobile application format, and markers placed on historical and heritage structures. The markers carry quick response codes which allows guests to download more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet. The guide, web-based an app versions, lists all places and activities of interest in the town.

The project was launched Friday at Argao’s historic “cabecera” or town center, with Cebu Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide, Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos, and PLDT-Smart public affairs head Mon Isberto in attendance.

If you ever find yourself going around the town, we have a quick guide accessible at argao.myguide.ph, mobile app for Android devices that can be downloaded at Google Play, and QR code markers placed on important structures within the “cabecera de Argao.”

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Around Argao in a day

Argao’s pueblo was patterned after Spain’s blueprint for its settlements in the colonies, which specified a church-rectory-municipal hall-plaza-complex and with the natives living nearby or “bajo el sonido de la campana (under the sound of the bell).”

One Friday, we found ourselves free from any pressing work or other commitments and decided to make our way to the town of Argao.

We were a motley crew of parents, teens, and children with a need for a break from home and work duties. Since the children had the Friday off from school, we decided to spend the day in a town 68 kilometers from Cebu City.

Our first stop was the “El Pueblo Hispano Antiguo de Argao” – which translates to old Spanish town center of Argao – or simply “cabecera de Argao (town center of Argao).”

Argao’s pueblo was patterned after Spain’s blueprint for its settlements in the colonies, which specified a church-rectory-municipal hall-plaza-complex and with the natives living nearby or “bajo el sonido de la campana (under the sound of the bell).”

argao church

San Miguel Arcangel Church in Argao, Cebu.

This means that if you were a Cebuano and you lived in those times, your residence must be within reach of the ringing of the church bells.

Argao founding

Existing church records say the town of Argao was founded in 1608 but it became a parish only in 1733, and this oversight was never fully explained in the history books, said the Cebu Archdiocese book Balaanong Bahandi.

The cabecera was once enclosed in a high and solid rectangular wall of cut coral stones, with entryways on each side of the perimeter. Only two massive gates remain of the wall constructed in the early 1800s as defense against Moro attacks.

Paul Gerschwiler wrote in his historical outline of Argao that the cabecera, as it stands today in Argao, and its fortification were rebuilt around the church by Fr. Mateo Perez during his tenure from 1803 to 1836.

Of the cabecera before Perez’s time, there has been no account of it in any church or history books.

Inside Casa Real in Argao. The door to the right used to lead to the old telecoms office.

Inside Casa Real in Argao. The door to the right used to lead to the old telecoms office.

Gerschwiler said we don’t know when it was raided by the Moros and the extent of the destruction, except that the defense structure put up by Fr. Perez came about as a consequence of these attacks.

San Miguel Arcangel Church

The existence of the present-day church — the central structure upon which the locations of other cabecera buildings were based — can be traced to as far back as 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi.

Although another church historian, Pedro Galende, attributed the current structure to Fr. Mateo Perez, which served as parish priest for 33 straight years from 1803 to 1806, the date “1788” engraved above the arch of the church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.

While the San Miguel Arcangel Church appears to look like any other built in Cebu by the Spanish clergy, this structure in Argao differs in the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry.

Take for example the division into nine panels of the church facade, formed by two horizontal double cornices intersecting with four vertical lines made up of paired half columns.

Gerschwiler said only five of the more than 160 Augustinian churches built in the Philippines used this style of division and all were built along the southeastern coast of Cebu.

Aside from the church, other buildings inside the cabecera that are worth a look or visit include the campanario (belfry) beside the church, museum in the rectory ground floor, paso or way of the cross wall, capilla mortuario or mortuary chapel, and Casa Real or municipal hall.

Argao Hall of Justice

The Argao Hall of Justice stands on the site of what used to be the cuartel de infanteria or infantry barracks during Spanish times.

Nature park

Seeing that our kids needed a break from history, we decided to go to a place that would allow them to expend their boundless energy.

We heard about the Argao Nature Park and went there after taking our lunch at Carmen’s Eatery located on the town highway. The park is just a short drive from the road across Carmen’s.

argao nature park

A boat ride is one of the activities at Argao Nature Park.

The entrance to the park, built by the Municipal Government on a property owned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is only P5 per person. It’s just a small park with plenty of trees and activities guaranteed to make any child happy. It offers a canopy walk or a walk on a hanging bridge built on the treetops, boating on a medium-sized pond, short zipline ride, and wall climbing.

It even has a mini-zoo and an outdoor chess set. The area is where the train used to make a stop in Argao, a staff at the Argao Tourism Commission told us.

Torta, tableya

Hungry after all that running around, we decided to make food our next stop. We ended up at Jessie’s Homemade Torta bakeshop and eatery.

The owner, Jessie Magallones, gave us a tour of her bakery, showed us the hurno (clay oven) where she bakes the torta, and talked about she got into the business of torta-making. Jessie’s contact details: 367-7455 and 0947-6994027.

Argao Torta and Sikwate

TORTA AND SIKWATE. Torta (native sponge cake) and sikwate (native chocolate) in Jessie’s Home made Torta in Argao. The town is known for these delicacies.

Afterwards, we had torta and sikwate (hot chocolate drink made from tableya) at Jessie’s and even bought some to take home. Jessie’s torta is baked using tuba (coconut wine) as leavening, which is the traditional way of doing it.

We just couldn’t go home without bringing Argao tableya (bitter chocolate rounds made from cacao beans) so we hied off to the main maker of the product, Nang Guilang, in Argao. This is the same tableya used by the Tablea Chocolate Cafe branches for its chocolate and choco drink products.

Interested in ordering tableya from Nang Guilang? Call her store at 0909-8226747.

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Centuries-old churches in southern Cebu

Centuries-old churches of various architectural influences that were built during the Spanish occupation of Cebu can be found along the entire stretch of the mainland and even in satellite islands….

Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church in Carcar. Construction of this structure started in 1860 and was finished in 1875.

Centuries-old churches of various architectural influences that were built during the Spanish occupation of Cebu can be found along the entire stretch of the mainland and even in satellite islands. A trip down Cebu’s southern part is a glimpse into the religious aspect of Spain’s influence on Cebuano heritage.

Spanish period churches in souther towns and cities:

1.
Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish Church in Talisay City

• Church construction started in 1836 and was completed in 1848, roof was replaced in 1877 after it was destroyed by a typhoon
• Located at the city center, near the old City Hall

The structure bears influences of Greek and Roman architectural styles in the use of Doric columns to support a second floor balcony that serves as an awning shielding the entrance and in the arches used on the massive domed-roof belfries flanking a recessed facade.

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