Re/Discovering Cebu, one story at a time

Author: engkanta

Jessie shares secrets to delicious Argao torta

Baking the perfect Argao torta requires a confluence of several things, revealed one of the town’s top makers Jessie Magallones. The tuba (coconut wine) must be fresh and fermented just…

Baking the perfect Argao torta requires a confluence of several things, revealed one of the town’s top makers Jessie Magallones.

The tuba (coconut wine) must be fresh and fermented just right so it is neither too sweet or sour. A clay oven or what Cebuanos call the “hurno” gives the best Argao torta results. Cooking temperature should be kept at moderate levels all throughout the baking process.

She said these were the things she learned as she grew her Argao torta business. Magallones, who runs the popular Jessie’s Homemade Torta in Argao, said she remains true to the traditional methods of torta making.

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Sinulog 2014 mobile web guide now available

It’s less than three months to the Sinulog 2014 celebration in Cebu and accommodations along and near the procession and parade routes are fast filling up. (Update: We now have…

It’s less than three months to the Sinulog 2014 celebration in Cebu and accommodations along and near the procession and parade routes are fast filling up. (Update: We now have an Android app version)

Have you made your reservations?

Some Cebu hotels and pension houses require two-night, three-night, or four-night stays during the Sinulog Festival 2014 weekend when the Solemn Procession and Grand Parade will be held, which is every third Saturday and Sunday of January.

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Blue Bell Ice Cream launches in Cebu

First, I had some of the homemade vanilla because this was cited as the bestseller of the Blue Bell Ice Cream flavors by Andrew Evans in an article that came…

First, I had some of the homemade vanilla because this was cited as the bestseller of the Blue Bell Ice Cream flavors by Andrew Evans in an article that came out on the Digital Nomad section of National Geographic.

Since I’m not a fan of vanilla flavored ice cream products, or at least the ones I’ve previously tasted and that included local and imported brands, I had been prepared to dislike Blue Bell Ice Cream’s version as well.

Surprisingly, I like, no, love Blue Bell’s homemade vanilla ice cream.

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Blue Bell Ice Cream introduces products in Cebu

One thing I’m looking forward to this week is Saturday’s Discover Blue Bell Ice Cream event that will serve to introduce the brand in Cebu. The Blue Bell Ice Cream…

One thing I’m looking forward to this week is Saturday’s Discover Blue Bell Ice Cream event that will serve to introduce the brand in Cebu.

The Blue Bell Ice Cream is exclusively distributed in the Visayas by Visfood Corporation and it has organized a country fair-themed ice cream-tasting party at the Ayala Center Cebu Activity Center. There will be free ice cream, of course.

Plus, there will be games where guests get the chance to win extra scoops of ice cream. Although the Saturday event is by invitation only, the Blue Bell ice cream is available at several stores in Cebu.

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Golden Cowrie opens newest Hukad branch at Parkmall in Mandaue

Sisig tofu and other dishes for the health conscious as well as new variations on old recipes make up the menu at the newest and seventh restaurant branch of Golden…

Sisig tofu and other dishes for the health conscious as well as new variations on old recipes make up the menu at the newest and seventh restaurant branch of Golden Cowrie at Parkmall in Mandaue City.

Aside from the usual Filipino fare of crispy pata, pinakbet, ginataang langka, sinigang na hipon, diners can also order sisig squid, escabeching tanguige, and naked chicken pandan at the Hukad sa Golden Cowrie in Parkmall.

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Coal Mountain Resort opens in Argao

There is a relatively new nature site in Argao called Coal Mountain Resort and it is offering an underground tunnel tour to both day visitors and overnight guests. (Update: We…

There is a relatively new nature site in Argao called Coal Mountain Resort and it is offering an underground tunnel tour to both day visitors and overnight guests. (Update: We wrote about experience in the resort here: Coal Mountain Resort in Argao is retreat heaven.)

Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero, whose family owns the mountain retreat, said it is in the mountainous barangay of Linut-od, which is an hour away from the main town center.

We asked for more information about the underground exploration, and he told us that it happens in a demo tunnel used by miners for their safety training.

Underground tunnel

This demo tunnel is 70 feet below the ground and 475 feet in total length, according to a Coal Mountain Resort brochure.

coal mountain resort

One of the interesting activities at Coal Mountain Resort is a walk on the hanging bridge built on the forest canopy. (Photo taken from Coal Mountain Resort Facebook page.

Visitors have the option of going down in complete mining gear and paying P80 or doing without for P30.

Coal Mountain Resort appears to be very interesting the way the vice mayor described it, and we’re already planning our visit.

The vice mayor said there has been a lot of interest in overnight stays and rooms, which can accommodate a maximum of 50 persons, are usually full. To ensure that you can be accommodated, the safest option would be to book a room a week in advance, he added.

Coal Mountain Resort

Coal Mountain Resort amenities and activities include:

* Spring-fed pools: 7 feet deep for adults and 4 feet deep with slides for kids; diving pool (16 feet diving bottom, 7 feet general depth)
* Restobar with videoke (P5 fee for two songs)
* Conference/Dining Hall
* Multi-purpose Covered Court
* Cable Car (220 meters) P100 one way
* Zipline (220 meters) P100 to P120
* Demo tunnel (70 feet below the ground, 475 feet total length)
* Canopy Walk on hanging bridge

Accommodations

Accommodations come in three kinds: rooms with twin beds that can accommodate four persons for P1,000 a night, rooms with common shared bed good for six persons at P1,200 a night, bahay kubo good for four persons at P1,000 a night.

Coal Mountain Resort is located 468 meters above sea level and used to be a grazing ground for carabaos owned by the Caminero family.

In the 1950s, farmers discovered and started mining coal in the area and neighboring sites. Underneath the resort, a network of tunnels still exists which is why the family decided to call it Coal Mountain.

Transport services

Coal Mountain Resort offers transport services, either from Cebu City or Argao town center, with the following fees.

coal mountain transport fees

For more information, check out InnoPub Media’s mobile web guide to Argao or download the Android app Argao guide. The guides contain a listing of places and activities of interest in the town as well as important contact numbers.

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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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Dong Juan offers great food at affordable price

Entrepreneur couple Aubrey and Barney Borja were on a mission when they started Dong Juan and that was to provide fine food at affordable prices to the average Pinoy. Six…

Entrepreneur couple Aubrey and Barney Borja were on a mission when they started Dong Juan and that was to provide fine food at affordable prices to the average Pinoy.

Six years on, Dong Juan continues to serve dishes made with only the choicest ingredients and finest herbs and spices.

Take, for example, its best-selling burgers. Aubrey said that outside of high-end restos, Dong Juan was the very first to offer a quarter of a pound USDA beef for burger patties.

At Dong Juan, the olive oil used is a Spanish brand considered to be the number one in the world, spices are imported from Europe, and food is served in special paper liners that preserve its flavor.

Aubrey and Barney Borja of Dong Juan

Couple Aubrey and Barney Borja have grown Dong Juan into 17 mostly franchised branches across the country. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

“We have not found anyone here who can make paper of a similar quality and had to bring it in from Germany. We’ve tried to absorb most of the cost of the dishes to give Cebuanos something special,” Aubrey explained.

Specialties, dishes

From the original burger and pizza, Dong Juan now serves such dishes as sisig, crispy pata, deep fried chicken wings, and calamares.

Aubrey said she experiments with spices to give popular food a new twist. To achieve the Dong Juan crispy pata, pork leg is stewed for seven hours to tenderize it and flavored with seven spices and condiments giving it a definite Chinese taste.

Dong Juan herbs and spices

FINEST HERBS AND SPICES. Dong Juan, according to its owners, serves dishes made with only the choicest ingredients and finest herbs and spices. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

Dong Juan french fries are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill. Aside from other spices, it is flavored with imported sweet paprika that gives it an extraordinary twist.

Its chicken wings are coated with chili paste but balanced out with grapeseed oil and sesame seeds. What makes Dong Juan pizza different is its crust which is from a recipe of Aubrey’s grandmother. She calls it biscuit pizza.

She added that they plan to add three things to the menu this year: kimchi burger, pesto pasta, and cashew-encrusted chicken fillet.

Dong Juan name

The name Dong Juan combines the common endearment for the young male Cebuano “Dodong” and the wealthy libertine Don Juan to mean fine dining for every Dodong or regular Joe.

True enough, Dong Juan food, while foreign inspired, is quite wallet-friendly.

Since the opening of their first modest 10-table burger and pizza hub in Guadalupe in 2007, Aubrey and Barney have grown Dong Juan to 17 mostly franchised branches across the country.

Dong Juan Cebu branches have grown to four: at the Calyx Building in IT Park, Persimmon in Mabolo, and Guadalupe in Cebu City and a fourth one at Gaisano Island Mall in Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City.

Barney said they are studying franchise applications in three areas in Luzon, including Baguio City, and an inquiry for a possible outlet in Korea. At Dong Juan, he added, great things happen year after year as more dishes are added to the menu and new branches are further opened.

Dong Juan french fries

WITH A TWIST. Dong Juan french fries are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill. Aside from other spices, it is flavored with imported sweet paprika that gives it an extraordinary twist. (Photo by Max Limpag)

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Alegre Beach Resort and Spa offers private beach escapade

Sogod is a Cebuano word that means beginning and locals say it is aptly named because coastlines made up of fine white sand like that in Alegre Beach Resort and…

Sogod is a Cebuano word that means beginning and locals say it is aptly named because coastlines made up of fine white sand like that in Alegre Beach Resort and Spa start here in northern Cebu.

The town hosts the first class resort of Alegre which also serves as jump-off point to the uninhabited island of Kalanggaman in Leyte with its long stretch of powder fine white sand beach.

While accommodations at Alegre Beach Resort and Spa are a little pricey, the cottages are big and comfortable. Built on the cliff top, Alegre Beach Resort and Spa rooms offer breathtaking views of the sea from the lanai.

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa's fine white sand beachfront, where aqua sports equipment are available.

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa’s fine white sand beachfront, where aqua sports equipment are available.

Private beaches

Guests can choose to swim or sunbathe at the private beaches formed by the irregular rock formation in the area.

On one of the beachfronts is The Cliff Seafood BBQ and Bar. Alegre Beach Resort and Spa guests can choose to have their lunch, snacks or dinner served at the al fresco tables set up close to the sea.

We had snacks at The Cliff as the sun was setting and the sky turned orange and then red before dusk finally set in.

When we returned for dinner, our table for eight was set up on the beach and lighted with candles. Alegre’s head chef cooked our dinner and explained the menu to us.

Fresh tuna served with herbs and spices and the chef's special sauce. This dish is exceptional. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

Fresh tuna served with herbs and spices and the chef’s special sauce. This dish is exceptional. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

For starters, we had fresh tuna served with herbs and spices and the chef’s special sauce. The combination of flavors was exceptional.

We proceeded with tomato soup, roasted beef for the main course, and cheesecake for dessert. The dishes were quite good.

Massage by the sea

Within this beachfront is a gazebo with beds for those who want to relax or have their massage done near the sea.

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa has another restaurant up on the cliff top called the Pavilion. Buffet breakfast is served here. Outside tables have breathtaking views of lush plants and the distant sea.

The Pavilion is located close to the pool, making it accessible for after breakfast swims.

Alegre’s AquaSports shop takes care of diving and island hopping activities. In our case, we opted for the trip to Kalanggaman.

Accommodation rates

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa cabana rates range from P8,000 to P19,000 plus for deluxe rooms for a range of packages like room only or with one, two, or full-board meals.

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa cabana rates range from P8,000 to P19,000 plus for deluxe rooms for a range of packages like room only or with one, two, or full-board meals.

Alegre Beach Resort and Spa cabana rates range from P8,000 to P19,000 plus for deluxe rooms for a range of packages like room only or with one, two, or full-board meals. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

Rooms with ocean views are from P11,000 to P16,000 plus for various packages.

Ocean view rooms with a garden package, which is inclusive of breakfast, massage, scuba, and round trip transport start at P19,000 plus for an overnight stay. Garden packages longer than an overnight stay can include a trip to Kalanggaman with lunch in that island.

These rates are valid up to June 2013.

The resort charges P1,500 more during peak season which include holidays like the Chinese New Year, Holy Week, Japan Golden Week, Japan Obon Week, and Christmas.

The resort's pavilion.

The resort’s pavilion.

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Alegre Beach Resort and Spa location map

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Kalanggaman Island boasts of powder fine sand, clean sea

Around 400 foreign tourists in a cruise ship that stopped by Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte were so blown away they stayed for 12 hours. Powder fine white beach. Clean…

Kalanggaman has a long stretch of powder fine white sand.

Kalanggaman has a long stretch of powder fine white sand.

Around 400 foreign tourists in a cruise ship that stopped by Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte were so blown away they stayed for 12 hours.

Powder fine white beach. Clean sea. Long, long sandbar. This in a nutshell is Kalanggaman, an uninhabited island between the northern Cebu mainland and Leyte.

Locals call it paradise and they’re not far off the mark.

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La Vie Parisienne is newest Cebu French bakery, deli, wine store

Our visit to La Vie Parisienne was quick and unplanned but checked out we did this new Cebu French bakery, deli, and wine library. La Vie Parisienne, which translates to…

Our visit to La Vie Parisienne was quick and unplanned but checked out we did this new Cebu French bakery, deli, and wine library.

La Vie Parisienne, which translates to Parisian Life, sits along the right side of Gorordo Avenue if you’re going towards JY Square and near where the temple of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

It’s within the same compound as the La Maison Rose restaurant.

We arrived just when the croissants were almost done so we had some of those and they were the best we’ve tasted.

Aside from croissants, other baked goodies on display at the new Cebu French bakery La Vie Parisienne include bread like faluche, platine, and baguette.

Aside from croissants, other baked goodies on display at the new Cebu French bakery La Vie Parisienne include bread like faluche, platine, and baguette.

Cebu French bakery

They were flaky on the outside and melt-in-your mouth soft on the inside. I don’t like bread in general but I devoured two of those croissants that this Cebu French bakery sells for 25 pesos each.

Croissants fresh from the oven at La Vie Parisienne along Gorordo Avenue in Lahug, Cebu City.

Croissants fresh from the oven at La Vie Parisienne along Gorordo Avenue in Lahug, Cebu City.

A glass display of different kinds of French and other cheese, among them bleu d'auvergene, gouda, bre lafontane, rondin great, comte badoz.

A glass display of different kinds of French and other cheese, among them bleu d’auvergene, gouda, bre lafontane, rondin great, comte badoz.

At the left side of the door is an oven where you can watch the staff cook the bread. It was croissants when we were there. Other baked goodies on display include bread like faluche, platine, and baguette as well as macaroons.

There was a glass display filled with different kinds of French and other cheese, among them bleu d’auvergene, gouda, bre lafontane, rondin great, comte badoz, that sell from P100 to P200 per 100 grams.

Shelves of fruit preserves and spreads adorn a side of the wall. There is a small enclosure within La Vie Parisienne – about a fourth of the store’s area – that is chilled and filled to the rafters literally with wine.

Wine library

La Vie Parisienne's wine library.

La Vie Parisienne’s wine library.

I guess it’s an easy enough assumption to make that this is the wine library. I wanted to check out the bottles but we were pressed for time.

What I couldn’t miss are wines under the Michel Lhuillier label. That’s not surprising, of course, since the Lhuillier family owns the place. This is according to the store staff I talked to who also told us that La Vie Parisienne just opened on the fourth of this month, May.

The space is a bit small so it gets really cramped when there are 10 or more people inside.

However, the back door opens to a spacious garden where tables have been set up but they were already filled up when we were there.

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Camping out on Basdako beach in Moalboal

Sand is not the most comfortable of beds but our weekend camp-out on White Beach or Basdako in Moalboal, Cebu had its benefits. It was cheap as a tent cost…

Sand is not the most comfortable of beds but our weekend camp-out on White Beach or Basdako in Moalboal, Cebu had its benefits.

It was cheap as a tent cost only P500 to rent, afforded us a front seat to a spectacular view of the night sky, and gave us first crack at the morning sea.

What’s even better was that all of us, kids in our party included, had a lot of fun.

Moalboal White Beach

Moalboal’s Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious.

In our previous trips to Basdako in Barangay Saavedra, Moalboal, Cebu, we stayed in resorts like Hale Manna and Barefoot so it was our first camp-out experience on the beach.

CAMPING ON THE BEACH. You can rent tents for P500 a night and camp out in Basdako or White Beach in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

CAMPING ON THE BEACH. You can rent tents for P500 a night and camp out in Basdako or White Beach in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Since our party of seven adults, four teenagers, and eight children travelled on a weekend to Moalboal with no prior reservation for a room, we went directly to White Beach to find somewhere to stay for the night.

Moalboal town center

The 100-kilometer drive to the Cebu town from Lapu-Lapu City took us close to three hours, including a short time spent at Molave Milk Station in Barili to stretch our legs.

From the Moalboal town center, we proceeded another six kilometers to Basdako. Along the way, we stopped by a barangay outpost to pay a P5 charge for each person in our party, small kids included.

Upon arriving at a public area of White Beach, where the cottages are located, the adults in our party had to pay P10 each and a parking fee of P60 for both vehicles.

Austere accomodation

We were able to get a cottage for only P1,200 but it was austere at most. It had one medium-sized bed, a fan, and a comfort room but it was not clean. You had to buy water for your toilet and shower needs at P25 per container.

What we did was use the common toilets and shower rooms for a fee per use.

Since we couldn’t fit in the room, some us decided to rent tents. We saw some group with their tents already up and thought it would be a great idea to sleep out under the stars.

WHITE BEACH. Basdako in Moalboal is one of the best white sand beach coastlines in Cebu. This one's at the public beach area. (Photo by Max Limpag)

WHITE BEACH. Basdako in Moalboal is one of the best white sand beach coastlines in Cebu. This one’s at the public beach area. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Camping out on the beach

My husband and I and our two kids decided a tent would be fun so camped out we did. All the sleeping bags were taken so we made do with oversized beach scarves and towels.

Down on the sand with only the tent and thin piece of cloth between you is not the most comfortable of arrangements but we still managed to get a good night’s sleep after a wonderful swim in the warm sea.

We had a lot of company on the beach in the huge number of tents put up. Others lay down on mats in the open.

Starry sky

While we were grilling our dinner on the beachfront, there was a power outage. Locals say the outages are common but they only last an hour or so.

It happened while we were cooking so there were exclamations of exasperation.

One of the children silenced us by saying ‘look’ and pointing at the sky. Up there, with the electricity out, is a black sky twinkling with a million stars and it was the most beautiful sight we’ve seen in a long time.

Getting there

You can choose to drive or commute by bus to Moalboal. Buses leave for the southwestern town of Cebu several times daily from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City.

Bus fare is a little over a hundred pesos. Passengers pay a fee of five pesos each at the terminal.

If you have time, take a side trip to Barangay Matutinao in Badian. It is one town farther away and home of the popular Kawasan Falls.

Moalboal's Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious.

Moalboal’s Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious. (Photo by Max Limpag)

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Marco Polo Plaza Cebu offers culinary treats at Cafe Marco

When they served my buko shake in its original green shell, I knew I would enjoy my lunch at Cafe Marco in Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Anyone who spends extra…

When they served my buko shake in its original green shell, I knew I would enjoy my lunch at Cafe Marco in Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Anyone who spends extra effort on such details as presentation would pay even more attention to taste as well. I was right.

I’m not that into food so it would have to be exceptional fare to tempt me to a hearty feast. I haven’t remembered a time when I’ve eaten so much for lunch like I did at Cafe Marco.

Marco Polo Culinary Journeys

CAFE MARCO has been named one of the top 5 restaurants in the Philippines by Miele Guide, a guide to Asia's best eateries. (Photo by Max Limpag)

CAFE MARCO has been named one of the top 5 restaurants in the Philippines by Miele Guide, a guide to Asia’s best eateries. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Every three months or so, Marco Polo goes on a culinary journey and our lunch at Cafe Marco happened during “The Great Media Cookout” from April 12-21, 2013.

Media personalities brought out family recipes and transformed them into five-star dish with the help of Marco Polo consultant Jessica Avila and chefs.

We were told diners had lined up for the jade green prawns of The Freeman’s Dr. Nestor Alonso II so we tried some of that. We understood why it had become a hit.

JADE GREEN PRAWNS of The Freeman food writer Dr. Nestor Alonso II. (Photo by Max Limpag)

JADE GREEN PRAWNS of The Freeman food writer Dr. Nestor Alonso II.

I like crispy pata and kare-kare so I had to have some of the dish that combined both. It was from the recipe of the blogger brothers – Doyzkie, Reymond and Edd Buenaviaje – behind iluvcebu.com. The crispy pata with kare-kare sauce was an unusual but not bad combination.

Other dishes by media personalities: Alexis Yap’s (RCTV) Kinilaw and Mango Float, Tonee Despojo’s (Cebu Daily News) Grilled Boneless Bangus and Steamed Lapulapu with Sunflower Oil, Noel Villaflor’s (Sun.Star) Sisig with Kesong Puti, Ann Marie Tan’s (GMA Cebu) Chicken Binakol and Humba with Egg, Honey Jarque Loop’s (The Philippine Star) pollo ala chilindron and Lapulapu al horno, and Alonso’s second recipe named Crispy Squid Rolls and Beef in Perpetual Sauce.

KINILAW. Alexis Yap of RCTV contributed Kini ang Kinilaw in The Great Media Cookout. (Photo by Max Limpag)

KINILAW. Alexis Yap of RCTV contributed Kini ang Kinilaw in The Great Media Cookout.

We had some of the kinilaw, sisig, grilled boneless bangus and, for dessert, mango float.

Cafe Marco buffet

Dishes featured during The Great Media Cookout are on top of the usual Asian, Japanese, and Western buffet spread at Cafe Marco, said Marco Polo Plaza Cebu e-marketing manager Yumny Mariot .

Net buffet prices during The Great Media Cookout were the Cafe Marco regular rates of P1,099 for lunch and P1,299 for dinner. The rates exclude drinks but come with free hot tea or coffee.

SISIG by Sun.Star Cebu Weekend editor Noel Villaflor.

SISIG by Sun.Star Cebu Weekend editor Noel Villaflor.

Yumny explained the buffet rates remain the same even if they are offering new dishes, local or international, that come out only on culinary journeys.

On the choice of getting media personalities to cook, Yumny said they thought of giving time and attention to people who come to Cafe Marco during culinary journeys.

“They take pictures and write about the food. We thought of giving them a break in the kitchen. We asked them if they have recipes,” she added.

1 of top 5 restaurants

According to Yumny, an exciting development for Cafe Marco was getting picked by the Miele Guide, a guide to Asia’s best eateries, as one of the top five restaurants in the Philippines.

Since there are customers who prefer to eat salad or have dessert only at Cafe Marco, the restaurant offers these selections as well at lunchtime. Net rates are P350 for sweets only and P852.51 for a selection of Japanese, greens, and soup and fruits of the day. Dessert only offering starts at 2 p.m.

Cafe Marco is open seven days a week. Buffet hours: lunch is from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner is from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Call (63 32) 253-1111 for inquiries and reservations.

CULINARY EVENT. Every three months or so, Marco Polo goes on a culinary journey and our lunch at Cafe Marco happened during "The Great Media Cookout" from April 12-21, 2013.

CULINARY EVENT. Every three months or so, Marco Polo goes on a culinary journey and our lunch at Cafe Marco happened during “The Great Media Cookout” from April 12-21, 2013.

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Kawasan Falls perfect balm to summer heat

If you’ve ever been caught in a cloudburst, when huge drops of rain suddenly fall on you, multiply that feeling a thousand times and you know what it’s like to…

If you’ve ever been caught in a cloudburst, when huge drops of rain suddenly fall on you, multiply that feeling a thousand times and you know what it’s like to stand under Kawasan Falls in Cebu, Philippines.

The tallest of the seven Kawasan Falls is just the right height and has just enough volume to allow visitors to stand under the falling water without it being too painful.

Enterprising locals rent out sturdy rafts made of bamboo for only P300 and ferry groups to cruise under two waterfalls that flow down beside each other.

Rising temperatures drive people to nature sites like Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu.

Rising temperatures drive people to nature sites like Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu.

They tell you that the P300 is for your whole group and for as many times as you want. They probably know from experience that groups only want to go under the water once and only a few ever choose to take a second turn.

Kawasan Falls shower

Local guides brought maneuvered our raft to the smaller of the two waterfalls, probably to get us used to the pounding water.

You think you know how it would feel but nothing prepares you for that great rush of water falling on you. It’s like something solid and heavy has fallen on you, only it does not bounce away but continues down.

It forces your head down. The water is so thick as it falls you must hold your breath or take in water. You stagger to get away but take it from me, you’ll soon get used to it. You will even get to like it.

Our raft travels behind the tallest of the Kawasan Falls so we can take a shower underneath.

Our raft travels behind the tallest of the Kawasan Falls so we can take a shower underneath.

The good thing about the raft is it’s big so you get to step away. We had children with us and soon they were shouting their enjoyment, standing again and again under the water. My 10-year-old son Lennon likened the waterfall shower to as many as 500 water bullets falling down on you at once.

From the small waterfall, we proceeded on to the bigger one. Our raft approached from behind the waterfall and the only way out was to go through it.

Water massage

This second waterfall is much bigger and stronger and the pounding water really hurts when it hits you. So when the raft goes through it to get to the other side, it will hit all of you. There’s no stepping away this time.

If there are children in your group, the guides can shield them from much of the water.

The cool and refreshing water from Kawasan Falls is a perfect balm to the summer heat.

The cool and refreshing water from Kawasan Falls is a perfect balm to the summer heat.

Their advise is for all of you to lie face down on the raft when it goes through the falls. That way, the water does not hit your face and falls evenly all over like a massage. A very hard one, though.

Children or people in your group who can’t swim must wear life vests. It’s easy to fall from the raft into the water which is deep at the foot of the falls. Vests are being rented out for P50 each.

The two tallest Kawasan Falls are part of seven formed by the Matutinao river system in the town of Badian in Cebu as it makes its way to the sea.

Getting there

From the main road, the first two falls are 1.3 kilometers away. If you’re bringing a vehicle, you will have to leave it at a parking area in front of the barangay church. Parking fee is P100.

If you’re just visiting for the day, entrance fee to the falls is P10 for each person, from seven years up. At the waterfall area, you can rent a table for the whole day at only P300.

Staying overnight is possible since there are air-conditioned and fan rooms that can accommodate from two to 15 people and cost 1,000 to 3,500 pesos. Kawasan Falls room rates and contact numbers listed here.

If you don’t want to bring a vehicle, commuting to Kawasan Falls in Badian, which is about 100 kilometers from Cebu City, is easy. Buses regularly leave for the town daily from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City.

The journey on an air-conditioned Ceres bus is comfortable. Passengers are charged 5 pesos each as terminal fee.

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Kadaugan features Battle of Mactan reenactment

We arrived as the fight raged on. Although it was only a reenactment of the Battle of Mactan, it combined just the right amount of history and flair to make…

We arrived as the fight raged on. Although it was only a reenactment of the Battle of Mactan, it combined just the right amount of history and flair to make it enjoyable.

When we got there, soldiers dressed in Spanish armor were making their way to shore in boatloads. Others had reached land and clashed with village men under the leadership of Mactan chieftain Lapu-Lapu.

While women and children ran around in a frenzy, loud blasts rent the air. Makeshift huts built in the shallows caught fire.

I don’t know if it was because of a lack of expectation on my part or that special pass that allowed me a front seat view of the action, but I found myself quite impressed.

Battle of Mactan reenactment at Liberty Shrine in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.

Battle of Mactan reenactment at Liberty Shrine in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.

A lot of preparation and forethought had obviously gone into the reenactment of that battle between Spanish forces led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and native chieftain Lapu-Lapu and his band of village warriors on April 27, 1521.

The Battle of Mactan reenactment happened on the coast of Barangay Mactan, which is now a park named Liberty Shrine in memory of the event that transpired there 492 years ago.

For purposes of this year’s commemoration of what Opon residents call the Kadaugan sa Mactan (Victory in Mactan), the beach was transformed into a scene straight out of a movie set. It had its share of actors, most of them native Oponganons. A few others though were popular celebrities: Lapu-Lapu was played by Polo Ravales, Reyna Bulakna by Yam Concepcion, and Magellan by Troy Montero.

I used to wonder why they go to all that trouble of flying in celebrities to portray the leading roles but I realize it’s part of the event’s draw.

At that time on the battlefield when Lapu-Lapu clashed with Magellan, the spectators were screaming their support, egging on Polo Ravales to finish off Troy Montero. Even the children got in on the act. They certainly know their celebrities.

If there’s one thing this reenactment has achieved successfully, it is that this part of history – where untrained island natives represented by Lapu-Lapu repelled a much superior invading force – will continue to live on.

Village warriors of what was then Maktan meet Spanish soldiers in the shallows on April 27, 1521, reenacted here by local actors.

Village warriors of what was then Maktan meet Spanish soldiers in the shallows on April 27, 1521, reenacted here by local actors.

During a press conference shortly after the Battle of Mactan reenactment, the actor who played Lapu-Lapu, Polo Ravales, said the important lesson here is if you want something badly enough, you must fight for it.

Troy Montero, on the other hand, said it is important that we know ofour past and reliving history through events like the Kadaugan sa Mactan or historical movies help us remember.

This year’s Kadaugan sa Mactan is the 13th edition of the celebration. And it does not stop with the reenactment. The whole thing is a week-long event that features food, music, street parties, and a whole lot of fun.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz C. Radaza said they are finding ways to make the celebration better every year. Crowd control, I think, could do with some improvements.

Here with the actors who played Lapu-Lapu (Polo Ravales), and his lady love, Reyna Bulakna (Yam Concepcion). Photo on the left is courtesy of Maria Armie Sheila Garde.

Here with the actors who played Lapu-Lapu (Polo Ravales), and his lady love, Reyna Bulakna (Yam Concepcion). Photo on the left is courtesy of Maria Armie Sheila Garde.

In this year’s Kadaugan sa Mactan battle, several people had come down from the bleachers and crowded around on that small stretch of beach where the event that led to Magellan’s death was being played out.

Nevertheless, since my first experience of the Kadaugan sa Mactan came with 13 years worth of lessons, the Battle of Mactan reenactment could only get better in 2014.

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Cebuano musical heritage comes alive at Halad Museum

(Information for this article was provided by Halad Museum curator Audrey Tomada) Halad means “tribute” or “offering” in Cebuano and the Halad Museum of Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas in downtown…

(Information for this article was provided by Halad Museum curator Audrey Tomada)

Halad means “tribute” or “offering” in Cebuano and the Halad Museum of Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas in downtown Cebu City serves to immortalize Cebu’s musical heritage.

The museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu’s musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments.

Standing at a corner, a piano used by no less than Ben Zubiri, that popular ’50s-’60s Visayan entertainer and radio personality behind the timeless piece “Matud Nila.” On a glass case is an original music sheet of Maning Velez’s “Sa Kabukiran,” popularized also by his daughter, the actress Lilian Velez. Then there’s a guitar, not just anyone’s but Minggoy Lopez’s, the artist behind the folk song Rosas Pandan that has become a favorite choral contest piece even in international competitions.

MUSICAL HERITAGE. The Halad Museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu's musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments. It is located in the old The Freeman building on Manalili St. in downtown Cebu City. Click on image to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

MUSICAL HERITAGE. The Halad Museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu's musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments. It is located in the old The Freeman building on V. Gullas St. in downtown Cebu City. Click on image to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

These are just some of the wide ranging and enduring legacies of Cebuano cultural heritage expressed through music and available for everyone to see at the museum. There are also old photographs, musical scores, lyric sheets, vinyl records, awards, and personal items from gowns to gadgets of Visayan musicians.

Behind this laudable undertaking is Jose Gullas through his Tipiganan sa mga Handumanan (Treasury of Memories) Foundation. The idea came to him in 2007 when he started a series of concerts that were to serve as tributes to Filipino composers.

Treasuring Cebuano songs

Gullas explained he created the museum as a way of preserving and treasuring beautiful Cebuano songs that would otherwise have been lost or forgotten and honoring the memory of his parents Vicente and Inday Pining.

The museum has something for the younger crowd, too, with its video screens and sound stations where Cebuano classics can be played in its various interpretations — whether by Pilita Corrales, Susan Fuentes, or Dulce.

Indigenous musical instruments of Mindanao tribes like the Manobo, T’boli, Yakan, Subanon, Talaandig, and Kulmanon are new acquisitions.

In contrast, a high-tech phonograph from Europe is also on display.

Aside from the Halad Music Gallery, the museum also hosts other exhibits including the:

Kinaiyang Sugbuanon Gallery

A walkthrough is a rediscovery of Cebuano traditions from the distant to near past. Every image tells its story, and the photo collection depicts Cebuano life cycles, popular practices, and religious expressions.

Jose R. Gullas Memorabilia Gallery

The life of the man behind the museum. A section that traces his story, lineage,and passion.

Permanent Exhibitions

Cebuano songs played on old-school phonographs and digital music stations. Imagine a time in old Cebu when serenades were common and expected. See a vast collection of LP records and journey back to a time when life was and afternoons were spent listening to music. Touch and play instruments like no one’s watching. Explore displays that will bring you to a magical musical journey.

Changing Exhibitions

Thematic exhibitions aimed at capturing the spirit of prevailing events. These change year round and promises something for everyone.

How to get there

The Halad Museum is located on the corner of V. Gullas and D. Jakosalem Streets in Cebu City. The site is the old offices of The Freeman, Cebu’s oldest newspaper, and taxicab drivers know where it is. It is less than 30 minutes away from Cebu City’s big shopping malls.

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Mövenpick offers free sunset cruise for overnight guests

An overnight stay at the Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts-Cebu in Lapu-Lapu City comes with a free sunset cruise for local tourists. The promo is good up to the end of May,…

An overnight stay at the Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts-Cebu in Lapu-Lapu City comes with a free sunset cruise for local tourists.

The promo is good up to the end of May, said Mövenpick Assistant Director of Communications Joanna Cuenco.

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Bigger, more colorful Gabii sa Kabilin this May 25

One event that should not be missed in Cebu this May is the annual Gabii sa Kabilin, which is bigger this year since it will involve 21 heritage sites and…

One event that should not be missed in Cebu this May is the annual Gabii sa Kabilin, which is bigger this year since it will involve 21 heritage sites and include children’s activities as well as an exhibit of Cebuano delicacies.

Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, said they are aiming to attract 10,000 people to the May 25 event that will start at 6 p.m. and end at midnight.

Tickets cost P150 and allow participants access to the 21 sites where cultural performances, exhibits, art fairs, food markets, and interactive demonstrations will be held.

TOUR THEMES. Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, says this year's Gabii Sa Kabilin offers different tour themes. Click on photo to enlarge. At right is Cebu City Police Office Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe, who assured participants of their safety. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY RAMON ABOITIZ FOUNDATION INC.)

TOUR THEMES. Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, says this year's Gabii Sa Kabilin offers different tour themes. Click on photo to enlarge. At right is Cebu City Police Office Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe, who assured participants of their safety. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY RAMON ABOITIZ FOUNDATION INC.)

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Cebu heritage walk showcases island’s history

What tourists should include in their Cebu to do list is go on a heritage walk. Cebu City’s downtown area is a heritage belt of old churches, houses, and other…

Cebu to do list is a tour of heritage structures such as Fort San Pedro, oldest and smallest triangular bastion fort in the Philippines.

Fort San Pedro in Cebu is the oldest and smallest triangular bastion fort in the Philippines.

What tourists should include in their Cebu to do list is go on a heritage walk. Cebu City’s downtown area is a heritage belt of old churches, houses, and other structures that date back to its colonial Spanish past spanning no less than 300 years.

These places are of walking distance from each other and have given rise to guided visits that include stopovers in some or all of these sites. Whether you hire a licensed guide or do the tour on your own, this is one walk you can’t afford to miss.

Cebu to do activities

Longer tour

1. Start at Fort San Pedro, oldest in the country. It was constructed on May 8, 1565 or 11 days after Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu. According to a report from Restoration USA (Source: http://www.restorationusa.com/fort-lauderdale/), its restoration in 1972 called for the replacement of 20,000 pieces of coral stones in the main building. /A. Pigafetta St./ 256-2284, 416-7080/Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Entry fees: regular, P30; senior citizens, P24; students/children, P20
Parking fees: car, P15; coaster/bus, P30

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