Re/Discovering Cebu, one story at a time

Author: engkanta

Free Sinulog guide app from InnoPub, Smart now out

Sinulog Guide can be downloaded to Android phones and tablets from the Google Play Store and to Windows Phone devices from the Windows Phone Store for free. Those using other…

InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag conducts a demo of the Sinulog Guide app to a small group of Cebu media and bloggers.

InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag conducts a demo of the Sinulog Guide app to a small group of Cebu media and bloggers.

Sinulog Guide can be downloaded to Android phones and tablets from the Google Play Store and to Windows Phone devices from the Windows Phone Store for free.

Those using other devices can access the mobile web version of the guide at http://sinulog.myguide.ph. Standard mobile data browsing charges apply when using the app.

The Sinulog Guide is a comprehensive resource on the festival, said InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag during a demo today, Monday, for a small group of Cebu media and bloggers at Smart’s Jump Center in SM City Cebu.

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Tuburan named Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014 secondary division champion

What does it mean to be a Tuburanon or native of Tuburan town in Cebu? The Tuburan National High School showed the audience in its Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014 performance…

What does it mean to be a Tuburanon or native of Tuburan town in Cebu?

The Tuburan National High School showed the audience in its Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014 performance and won the top prize in the secondary division of the competition.

Raul Dura, who received the trophy for Tuburan’s win, said they wanted to portray Tuburan in the dance and this is why their props included mountains and coconut trees.

Many residents of Tuburan, he said, rely on the coconut tree for their livelihood.

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Talisay wins Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan elementary division

Student dancers of Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014 elementary division champion Talisay City Central School wore violet to portray sorrow over the tragedies that have befallen Cebu. But beyond recent calamities…

Student dancers of Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014 elementary division champion Talisay City Central School wore violet to portray sorrow over the tragedies that have befallen Cebu.

But beyond recent calamities like super typhoon Yolanda, the earthquake and fire incidents, the Talisay school’s performance is also about the Cebu community “rising up” from all its troubles with the help of the Señor Sto. Niño, said choreographer Marvi Caño.

“Despite these tragedies, Cebu remains to be the Queen City of the South because of the Señor,” explained Caño.

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City Hall reroutes traffic for Sinulog sa Kabataan-Lalawigan 2014

It’s the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan Saturday, January 11, and school contingents will go on a parade from Capitol to the Cebu City Sports Center using Osmeña Boulevard at…

It’s the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Lalawigan Saturday, January 11, and school contingents will go on a parade from Capitol to the Cebu City Sports Center using Osmeña Boulevard at 1 p.m.

As a result, Citom and the traffic patrol group of the Cebu City Police Office will reroute vehicular traffic on the affected streets beginning at noon up to the end of the activity tomorrow.

(To get a comprehensive guide to the Sinulog, visit our mobile Sinulog Guide on your phone or download the Sinulog Guide Android app.)

Here’s the list of jeepneys and the streets they will be using during the rerouting.

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Balik Cebu starts campaign to build houses for Pilar, Camotes community

This year’s Balik Cebu program that is among Sinulog 2014 activities will serve as the launching pad for a Balik Balay campaign that aims to help one of Yolanda-devastated communities…

This year’s Balik Cebu program that is among Sinulog 2014 activities will serve as the launching pad for a Balik Balay campaign that aims to help one of Yolanda-devastated communities in Pilar, Camotes.

Balik Cebu committee members led by group chair, Tetta Baad, said their objective is to build 50 dwellings in the style of the bahay kubo in Sitio Esperanza in Pilar as soon as possible.

The Balik Balay campaign will be officially launched during the Balik Cebu welcome party on January 16, 2014 which has served to welcome balikbayans during the Sinulog celebration for the last 12 years.

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GT Cosmetics supports Miss Cebu 2014

Cebu beauty product manufacturer GT Cosmetics is sponsoring the Miss Cebu 2014 pageant that will be held as one of Sinulog Festival activities this January. Engr. Leonora B. Salvane, company…

Cebu beauty product manufacturer GT Cosmetics is sponsoring the Miss Cebu 2014 pageant that will be held as one of Sinulog Festival activities this January.

Engr. Leonora B. Salvane, company chief operating officer, said they will also be picking a Miss GT from among the Miss Cebu 2014 finalists on pageant night slated this January 15 at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City.

The selected candidate will get a cash prize and a year-long supply of GT Cosmetics products, she added. The selection mechanics will be announced later in various publications.

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Cebu, Bohol among foreign cruise destinations in 2014, 2015

Cebu and Bohol will be among the ports of call of international cruise ships in 2014 and 2015, a statement from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas said….

Cebu and Bohol will be among the ports of call of international cruise ships in 2014 and 2015, a statement from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas said.

Despite the natural disasters and calamities faced by the Philippines in 2013, the most recent being the earthquake originating from Sagbayan, Bohol and super typhoon Yolanda, more foreign tourists are still expected to visit next year and in 2015, many through international cruise ships, the DOT added.

Bohol will be among the Philippine destinations of 23 cruise lines in 2014, the statement cites Assistant Secretary Benito C. Bengzon, head of the DOT market development group, as saying. The ships will be bringing in over 23,000 tourists to different areas of the Philippines.

Their number is more than the 17 cruise ships that stopped by various points in the country in 2013, including Malapascua Island, Cebu City, and Bohol.

cruise ships philippines

More cruise ships are expected to stop by the Philippines in 2014 and 2015. Creative Commons photo by Robert Wallace.

Visiting Bohol in January and March, 2014, will be the Hapag-Lloyd operated cruise liner MS Europa II. The ship is slated to make port in Tagbilaran City.

DOT Central Visayas Regional Rowena Lu Y. Montecillo said there couldn’t be more welcome news.

“It is heartening to know that in spite of the calamities we have faced this year, tourists are still coming in to visit our islands, most especially Bohol. After the October 15 earthquake, Bohol tourism struggled to to find its pace as fears of aftershocks still reverberates,” she cited.

According to her, MS Europa’s visit to Bohol would restore tourist confidence in the province.

The DOT said it has identified cruise tourism as one of the country’s strategic products under the National Tourism Development Plan. It will extend welcome reception and farewell activities for all cruise ships arriving in the country to make their visit unique, fun, and memorable.

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With Bantayan, Malapascua still rebuilding, Capitol promotes Southern Cebu attractions

While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions. Cebu provincial tourism officer Mary Grace K….

While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions.

Cebu provincial tourism officer Mary Grace K. Paulino said heritage structures in southern Cebu such as Spanish period churches and buildings are intact.

“Our southern tour is very popular right now especially because the old churches and other heritage sites of Bohol had been destroyed or damaged during the earthquake,” she added.

Since Yolanda did not directly hit the towns or cities in the southern part of Cebu, nature sites like beach and mountain resorts and the dive spots of Moalboal were either spared or sustained only slight damages, according to Paulino.

“We suggest to tourists that they visit other Cebu destinations because we have plenty. The good thing that we’ve noticed is that our tourism industry is going back to normal,” she added.

MOALBOAL BEACH. While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions like the beaches in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

MOALBOAL BEACH. While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions like the beaches in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

In the case of Bantayan, she revealed, around 80 to 90 percent of resorts were damaged and couldn’t accommodate guests. There are almost 30 accommodation facilities in the Bantayan town of Sta. Fe alone, she added.

Only 3 or 4 resorts in Bantayan are currently operational, Paulino cited, adding the situation would have a huge impact on the local economy of the island which is being driven by tourism.

Right now, Paulino said the Provincial Government is helping in clean-up activities in affected Cebu areas, especially in Malapascua.

They’ve also met with affected establishments to determine how the province can help them get back on their feet.

According to her, one program they’ve identified is to provide livelihood to local employees of the resorts who currently do not have work.

Before the typhoon, the Provincial Government had been conducting trainings on community-based tourism programs. The goal, Paulino added, is to teach the local people to conduct tours for tourists as a way of providing them jobs.

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AirAsia Zest starts Cebu-Kuala Lumpur flights

AirAsia Zest opened its international route from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur with an inaugural flight that left the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) at 6 a.m. today, December 1, 2013….

AirAsia Zest opened its international route from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur with an inaugural flight that left the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) at 6 a.m. today, December 1, 2013.

Company and airport executives, at the same time, welcomed the passengers of the first AirAsia Zest flight from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu that arrived at close to 3 p.m. on Sunday with over a hundred passengers.

AirAsia Zest chief operating officer Joy Caneba said the Cebu-Kuala Lumpur route opened today is just the beginning of exciting new international air services they will be offering from Cebu.

The company’s goal is to build a truly great value airline that serves the needs of passengers and at the same time invigorate tourism in the Philippines, she added.

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Many Philippine destinations open to tourists after Yolanda

Trips to the Cebu destinations of Bantayan and Malapascua are now available albeit with some limitations, an advisory from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas said. DOT 7…

Trips to the Cebu destinations of Bantayan and Malapascua are now available albeit with some limitations, an advisory from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas said.

DOT 7 Regional Director Rowena Lu Y. Montecillo said ferry operations in Bantayan have returned to normal a few days after super typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan) wrecked havoc in the Philippines.

Tourists may avail of special trips to Malapascua, Montecillo added in the advisory.

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Filinvest starts work on Il Corso in Cebu

Imagine a strip of land dotted with retail shops, boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants. Shaded walkways and landscaped gardens allow people to walk along the 11 connected buildings that can…

Imagine a strip of land dotted with retail shops, boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants. Shaded walkways and landscaped gardens allow people to walk along the 11 connected buildings that can be found all throughout its length.

The whole stretch has a view of the sea on one side. At the far end is built a marina for boating and aqua-sports activities. Some distance out to sea but connected to the mainland is a functional lighthouse that will serve to aid sea vessels going by the area.

This is how Filinvest Land, Inc. (FLI) envisions its commercial and lifestyle strip at South Road Properties (SRP) called Il Corso when it opens by the last quarter of 2015.

According to FLI senior vice president for commercial center and retail management Joy Polloso, Il Corso will be the ultimate shopping and lifestyle destination in Cebu.

il corso cebu

An artist’s rendition of Filinvest Land’s commercial and lifestyle strip Il Corso that it plans to open by late 2015.

Il Corso – which is Italian for “the way” – will be a convergence area for family, friends, shoppers, business people, and fitness enthusiasts, she added.

The eight-hectare development, which is part of Filinvest Land’s 50-hectare master-planned community in SRP called Citta de Mare, will set aside spaces for jogging and biking. Across the road from Il Corso will rise FLI’s resort-themed residential town anchored by the Piazza, an Italian-inspired common amenity area.

Filinvest held its first concrete pouring last week to mark the start of construction work on Il Corso. A ceremonial unveiling of the Il Corso lighthouse logo also happened on the same day.

il corso cebu unveiling

Filinvest Group president and CEO Josephine Yap (2nd from R) leads the Il Corso ceremonial unveiling at SRP in Cebu City. (Photo courtesy of Humility Igaña)

A short presentation on Filinvest’s first foray into retail development showed that located in the middle of its Il Corso strip will be a central plaza with a fountain and a vantage view of the sea that can be used for big productions or intimate events.

A major feature, it added, will be a 1,000-seater amphitheater.

“Filinvest is committed to enhancing the development of the Cebu community and enhancing the lifestyle of the Cebuanos” through Il Corso, said Polloso.

Il Corso, according to her, totals 70,000 square meters in floor area but only 36,000 square meters will serve as gross leasable area. The complex will be able to accommodate around 300 establishments that will provide a dynamic array of brands in retail, dining, as well as health and wellness.

Polloso said Filinvest is spending P3 billion for the whole Il Corso development.

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Rich symbolism in Argao’s St. Michael the Archangel Church

Like other Augustinian structures built in the late 18th century in the Philippines, the San Miguel Arcangel or St. Michael the Archangel Church of Argao is an edifice of impressive…

Like other Augustinian structures built in the late 18th century in the Philippines, the San Miguel Arcangel or St. Michael the Archangel Church of Argao is an edifice of impressive dimensions.

This structure set in stone is 72 meters long, 16 meters wide, and 10 meters high.

It is adjacent to the Argao town plaza and other Argao heritage structures like the Casa Real, Capilla Mortuario, Paso or Way of the Cross wall, and Hall of Justice building.

With its vaulted wooden ceiling that covers a simple nave and a transept that gives it a cruciform shape, the Argao church is typical of other Spanish colonial churches in the Philippines.

Paul Gerschwiler, who wrote about Argao history, described the construction as massive, with its “12 strong supporting buttresses reinforcing the walls and enhancing stability.”

argao church and belfry

The Saint Michael the Archangel Church and its belfry, in this photo taken from the Argao church’s courtyard.

The completion of this present-day Argao church can traced back to 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi, citing Archdiocesan Records.

Although another 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 Argao church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.

Argao was one of eight vicarages established in 1599 and, while it became a town or mission pueblo as early as 1608, it was only set up as a parish over a hundred years later or in 1733, said the Balaanong Bahandi, adding the reason for this oversight was never adequately explained.

Argao church features

Originally, the San Miguel Arcangel Church had the typical Spanish clay tiles for its roof but this collapsed during the typhoon of November 25-26, 1876, wrote Gerschwiler. He said Argao native Msgr. Pablo Alcarez narrated that the tiles were replaced with galvanized iron in 1924 due to fear of earthquakes.

The church facade is a horizontal rectangle topped by a triangular pediment and divided into nine panels, a style that can be found only in five of over 160 documented Augustinian churches and all of them built along the southeastern coast of Cebu, according to Gerschwiler.

What distinguishes the San Miguel Arcangel Church, he added, is the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry, although Augustinian records had failed to identify many of the master carver-artists behind the structure’s artistic ornamentation.

It is clear from their work they were masters of their crafts, itinerant Chinese and Chinese-mestizos who were familiar with Christian themes and motifs as well as early Christian symbolism, according to Gerschwiler.

An example of such one-of-a-kind feature, he noted, is the four pairs of half columns that run up to the pediment and divide the facade into three panels.

“On the first level the paired columns stand on rectangular pedestals. The two outer pedestals depict lions sitting on their hind legs, holding a ball in each of their paws; a very typical Chinese motif,” wrote Gerschwiler in his historical outline.

The two pedestals flanking the main door each depict a bird, with its head down and wings spread out protectively, nursing three of its young that cling to their mother’s breast, he added in his description.

Rich ornamentation

Rich and elaborate ornamentation can be seen in the way the double cornices that horizontally divide the facade create an entablature when it intersects with Corinthian capitals richly decorated with floral motifs; atlante-angel carvings carry the paired half-columns running up to the pediment; a stylized peacock sits atop an orb; sequence of carvings of angels, fruits of the ivy, and a little snake run down the columns.

An example of the bas reliefs of angels and other Christian symbols that adorn the Argao church's facade.

An example of the bas reliefs of angels and other Christian symbols that adorn the Argao church’s facade.

“In a cascade if motifs, the artist carved his message…(he) thought this particular message to be so important and essential that he repeated it with slight variations on all half-columns of the first level, no less than eight times,” Gerschwiler said.

Four of the nine panels in the front face are particularly prominent, including the central panel of the pediment where St. Michael the Archangel, armed with spear and shield, and flanked by two angels – one carrying his standard as light bearer and the other holding the Tuba Christi of the Last Judgement – is depicted.

Its massive front and side doors made of vertically joined hardwood planks are integrated with smaller semicircular doors and decorated evenly with bronze rosettes embedded on the wood.

The church, according to the Balaanong Bahandi, has been the recipient of Baroque and semi-Rococo embellishments like its wooden pulpit and its pipe organ in the choir loft.

A wooden retablo of majestic proportions dominates the altar section but this has unfortunately been unnecessarily gilded, including even the centuries-old life-size estofado statues of saints enthroned in its niches, added the book.

Interior details

There are five altars or retablos inside the Argao church. The main one, which a priest decided to paint gold, has neo-baroque influences, said Gerschwiler. This altar has four niches: the lower level contains statues of the archangels St. Michael (center), St. Gabriel (right), and St. Raphael (left) while the center enshrines a sculpted image Center of the Virgin Mary.

Gerschwiler said the church’s pipe organ is one of three that remains in Cebu. It was believed installed in the second half of the 19th century and, although Mexican in design, used local materials so it was probably built locally, he wrote.

Argao church’s pipe organ has a total of 700 pipes and provided the organist with 22 different timbres, he added.

According to him, only the murals on the apse and transept of the vaulted ceiling can be attributed to famous 20th century Cebuano painter Raymundo Francia.

The four scenes span the whole width of the nave and transept at their crossing point and depict the battle between the fallen angels of Lucifer and the good angels of St. Michael, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the fall of man. One scene can’t anymore be discerned.

There are two other altars with four semicircular statue niches with round arches bearing ornamentation of Chinese influences and Moorish arabesques.

He described the pulpit as made up of rectangular recessed planes angled against each other and on them are painted wooden reliefs of (in clockwise direction) evangelist St. Luke, the evangelist St. Mark, the Virgin Mary, the evangelist St. John, and the evangelist St. Matthew.

Church historian Galende describes the three-level campanario or belfry erected in 1830 as “one of the best in the Philippines.” It rests on a solid and thick wall base and has small rectangular openings. It used to house nine bells and the earliest one brought there, Santa Barbara, was founded in 1875.

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Top Bohol destinations included in Travel Village day tour

It took longer to reach some of Bohol’s popular tourist spots and attractions because of the damage to some roads and bridges but they are open and welcoming visitors again….

It took longer to reach some of Bohol’s popular tourist spots and attractions because of the damage to some roads and bridges but they are open and welcoming visitors again.

The drive to the famous Bohol destination named Chocolate Hills took two hours because of road diversions and the viewing deck built atop one of the 1,268 mounds was destroyed by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake on October 15, 2013.

Fortunately, another observatory had been constructed in Carmen before the quake.

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Bohol attractions reopen after 7.2-magnitude quake

There’s no better proof that quake-stricken Bohol is slowly getting back on its feet than moves showing it is back to welcoming tourists to its many attractions. Although the viewing…

There’s no better proof that quake-stricken Bohol is slowly getting back on its feet than moves showing it is back to welcoming tourists to its many attractions.

Although the viewing deck on top of one of the Chocolate Hills was destroyed, a recently opened tourist site provides a vantage view of the famous Bohol landmark, an assessment of SuperCat ferry operator 2GO showed.

This new site that has recently joined the list of Bohol attractions is called the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park.

It is a nature park with a coffee shop and a serpentarium.

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Just Wine Cebu serves affordable, quality wines

It goes by Just Wine but don’t let the seeming simplicity of the name deceive you. Cebu’s newest wine and tapas bar is cozy and comfortable and provides the perfect…

It goes by Just Wine but don’t let the seeming simplicity of the name deceive you.

Cebu’s newest wine and tapas bar is cozy and comfortable and provides the perfect place for Cebuanos to hang out and bond with friends over a glass (or glasses) of red or white.

Just Wine sells a bottle of wine starting from a very affordable price of around P300, said one of the owners, Joseph Gandionco of Julie’s Bakeshop. He added that Just Wine also carries pricier labels at P2,000 per bottle.

just wine

Just Wine is the perfect place to chill out with friends over a bottle of red or white wine.

“Generally, wine is not the choice of alcohol for Cebuanos. We’ve noticed though that wine is getting popular among the young people. A lot of younger Cebuanos are coming here to drink wine,” he shared.

Just Wine offerings

Celebrations demand the bubbly kind and Just Wine has exactly the right bottles for such times. It offers Champagne for around P7,000 per bottle or its alternatives, such as Spanish sparkling wines bottled under Cava for only P800.

jose meneses

Titania Wine Cellar, Inc. owner Jose Meneses says the finer the bubbles, the better the sparkling wine.

According to Gandionco, the wine bar charges a 10 percent service fee for bottles consumed there.

Just Wine sells wines imported from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, the US, and Chile through Philippine importer Titania Wine Cellar, Inc.

just wine cebu entrance

Just Wine in Cebu is cozy, comfortable and serves affordable and quality wines.


The wine and tapas bar along Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road, Cebu City is a partnership between Gandionco and Jose Meneses of Titania.

Wine and tapas

Gandionco said he used to be a distributor of Titania in Cebu and knew that it was looking for a place to retail its wines here.

“This place was vacant and I thought it was perfect for what we had in mind,” he citing, adding that Just Wine opened in April this year.

tapas

Cold appetizers like mixed olives and cheese known as tapas in Spanish cuisine serve as the perfect wine pair.

As perfect foil for its red and white wines, it serves a wide variety of hot and cold appetizers or snacks called tapas in Spanish cuisine.

Its offerings include anchovy caviar, calamares, chorizo, chicken bites, callos, cheese, nuts and bread.

Just Wine recently started selling Spanish wines produced under the Palacio de la Vega, Musso, and Casa Rojo labels. Available are red and white wines manufactured in Palacio de la Vega, the oldest winery in the Spanish region of Navarra or Navarre.

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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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State of Cebu, Bohol churches after the earthquake

Checked out the newest earthquake update and saw a long list of Bohol churches, chapels, and convent that were destroyed or have sustained varying degrees of damage. I counted 22…

Checked out the newest earthquake update and saw a long list of Bohol churches, chapels, and convent that were destroyed or have sustained varying degrees of damage.

I counted 22 churches, seven chapels, and a convent. I’m not sure, though, which of these structures are heritage ones.

It has been reported often enough that the San Pedro Church in Loboc collapsed while the churches in Maribojoc, Loon, Baclayon were destroyed as well when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Sagbayan, Bohol occurred on October 15.

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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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Cardinal Vidal recounts many roles as Cebu archbishop

He hadn’t wanted the task of overseeing the Catholic Church in Cebu but has come to love the Cebuanos. When Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of…

He hadn’t wanted the task of overseeing the Catholic Church in Cebu but has come to love the Cebuanos.

When Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cebu in the 1980s, he begged off from the job.

He hailed from Luzon and did not speak a single word of Bisaya and foresaw a problem communicating with his parishioners.

But from 1981, when he first came here as parish priest of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, to his formal appointment as Archbishop at 54 years old and all throughout his tenure, he led and grew the Church during some of Cebu’s most turbulent times.

Peacemaker

Cardinal Vidal

Cardinal Vidal, Cebu archbishop emeritus, says Cebuanos are a special people.

He took on the role of peacemaker, negotiating with labor protesters and rebel soldiers, advising presidents, and taking on roles that some might view as outside of the purview of the Church.

“In my second year as Archbishop, there was a massive transport strike that ran for days,” he recalled, narrating it got so bad he had to bring five spare tires when he visited the parishes because of the spikes placed by protesters on the road.

Cardinal Vidal, who retired in 2006, said the Cebuanos were suffering so he had to do something, he told us during an interview at his retirement house in a quiet suburban village in Cebu City.

He said he called all parties to a meeting that went on from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., listened to what they had to say, and presented his solution.

Mactan standoff

Unknown to many, he played a big role in ending the weeklong impasse that occurred when rebel troops seized the Mactan Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City in December of 1989 as part of an abortive attempt to overthrow President Corazon Aquino’s government.

During the negotiations with the mutineers that took around a week, Cardinal Vidal said the rebel leader at Mactan, Brig. Gen. Jose Commendador, would only talk to him.

“No one could cross the bridge, only me, and I had to prominently display the Vatican flag on my vehicle,” he said, referring to the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge that connects Mandaue to Lapu-Lapu City, site of the Mactan Air Base.

This went on for four to five days, according to Vidal.

In a last ditch attempt to convince Commendador to surrender, Vidal said he told the rebel leader: “General, look at your eyes. They’re red and your face is pale. This means you’re not sleeping. You will
drop dead from the way you’re going soon.”

Rebel surrender

He said Commendador agreed to end the siege the day after this conversation. The time and venue: 9 a.m. at the top of the bridge.

The Cardinal said the general’s decision made him very happy but he couldn’t help thinking at the time that Commendador certainly had a flair for the dramatic, noting his choice of site for the surrender.

At 20 minutes to noon, Vidal said he and the governor, some mayors, and military officials walked up the bridge to meet Commendador.

There were pictures taken but Cardinal Vidal opted not to join any. Why? He said the church and state should be separate but on equal footing. When the state is down, he cited, it is the duty of the
church to bring it back up to the same level.

“The Lord has given me this job,” he said, in reference to his role as Cebu’s peacemaker.

Aquino encounter

His first encounter with the late President Aquino was when she called him and asked him to come to Manila.

A newspaper column written by the late Louie Beltran had accused the President of hiding under the bed during a 1987 coup attempt against her administration.

Aquino asked for his help in setting things straight and showed him that the style of her bed allowed for no crawling space in the bottom so there was no way she could hide under it.

“I saw the the bed. How could she hide?” he told us in the course of an interview for our digital tourism project.

Estrada ouster

In the days leading to the removal of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada from office, Cardinal Vidal said a helicopter came looking for him while he was saying mass in Toledo City and caught up with his
group at the Transcentral Highway.

He was told to proceed directly to the tarmac and board a plane for Manila sans any preparation. His task this time was to convince Estrada to step down.

Many people had talked to Estrada but he adamantly refused to leave Malacañang. What he remembered of that meeting with Estrada was the ousted president asking him, “Why are you here?”

Cardinal Vidal said his reply was a plea for peace: “For the sake of the Filipino people, to avoid bloodshed, I urge you to leave Malacañang.”

He visited Estrada a few times after that, upon the request of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at his detention cell in Fort Santo Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, especially to ask about his living
conditions.

Mother Teresa

He recalled quite clearly, too, when Mother Teresa came to Cebu in 1987 for the inauguration of the Gasa sa Gugma-Home for the Dying Destitute, which is being run by the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.

Cardinal Vidal narrated how he showed her around the home and failed her standards on leading a life of simplicity.

“She saw the cabinets and want to know what they’re for. I told her they are for the sisters’ clothes and she told me to give these to the poor and replace them with cardboard boxes,” he recalled.

Mother Teresa also told him to donate the serving dishes and have the sisters use plastic ones. The sisters should also fetch water using a pail rather than have a reservoir pipe in the supply to the home.

Rich patrons of the Church who were present tried to donate money to the Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa founded, but she refused it.

Cardinal Vidal laughingly shared how he went after the patrons and asked for their donations as he would like to give the money to the church-based foundation Caritas.

Cardinal Vidal

When it’s for the good of Cebu Archdiocese, the Cardinal is not one to back down.

He said the National Historical Commission in 1990 warned him he could go to jail if he would proceed with his plan to expand the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral but went ahead anyway. Cardinal Vidal explained that he saw that his parishioners were growing and needed a bigger church.

In 1981, the structure was only the middle part and a small baptistry connected to its right side had destroyed its symmetry. It was upon his orders that the two sides were added in preparation for Cebu’s
400th anniversary celebration as a diocese in 1995.

Aside from the new exterior paint, other changes he introduced include the construction of another level as a meeting place of the clergy, addition of a pipe organ from Holland costing only P3 million, and improvement of the plaza in front of the church.

“Nobody could tell me that I didn’t do anything here to meet the growing needs of the diocese,” he stressed. One thing’s for sure, no one can certainly accuse Cebu’s longest serving Archbishop of that.

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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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