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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero, whose family owns the mountain retreat, said no other resort provides an experience like Coal Mountain’s underground tour.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
(This article was written by Mayette Tabada for the CJJ Media Gallery and is reprinted here with permission)
For generations, men slaved over heated metal for love of the printed word. Then the affair turned cold.
Before the advent of computer-aided publication, newspapers were printed using a Linotype machine. When it was introduced in 1886, Ottmar Mergenthaler’s invention was hailed by Thomas Edison as the “eighth wonder of the world.”
This spot is revered by Mactan Island residents more than any other place. A marker says it was on that site that a man who had sought dominion over the island in the name of the Spanish king had died in the hands of the brave warrior chieftain Lapu-Lapu 485 years ago.
Lapu-Lapu’s deed is fact but it spawned legends about the man–how he defeated the Spanish forces with their powerful artillery (guns, swords, cannons, cross-bows, body armor) and killed their leader Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan–and what became of him.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Nature never travels in a straight line and at Hale Manna, which is Hawaiian for House of Good Energy, great pains are taken to ensure that this natural order of things is followed.
The ground is uneven and rocky and trees are planted to match this terrain, steps are carved from rocks to serve as pathways around the 2.8-hectare property and to the seashore, and wild flowers are allowed to grow in abundance.
Walkways at the Hale Manna Beach Resort and Coastal Gardens in Moalboal, Cebu follow a winding course, and its owner Rebecca Pestano-Smith, a permaculture enthusiast, said this is in keeping with nature’s ways.
“A seawall is the sea’s natural enemy. A wave has a lot of energy and when it makes contact with the seawall, the surrounding environment will suffer from the force it brings,” she said, to explain the scouring of the sand in some areas where structures have been built so near the sea.
She explained that permaculture is a discipline that encourages ecological sustainability in human actions, and she brings it to her resort by building into the existing environment as well as through her rainwater catchment, herb and vegetable gardens, and composting methods.
Smith, whose work in coastal resource management with USAID brought her to live in Hawaii for several years, said she was impressed by how this US state took care of its lifeblood that is the sea and wanted to do something similar in her home province Cebu.
She bought the coastal property in Moalboal sometime in 1995 but only opened her resort in February this year.
Gift from heaven
The Hale Manna house is huge, sprawling, and open. Sunlight streams in and the breeze flows through. The seven rooms of various sizes are large and airy, and cool even without the air-conditioning turned on.
All the rooms have access to a common or private veranda with a view of the nearby gardens and, farther away, the sea’s blue vastness.
The wide receiving area at the ground floor is designed so that a guest can choose to read in solitude or be with others talking or playing board games.
Open cottages, hammocks, and seats are placed strategically near the sea, and the sound it makes as it breaks against the shore is all you hear.
Two cottages nearest the sea have beds and Smith said some guests choose to sleep there where there is no better lullaby than the sea’s strange song.
So that the resort will have access to the sea, Smith has carved steps from the rocks leading down to it in at least three parts of the property.
The main steps are wide and lead to the main beach while the two other stairways go down to private coves sheltered by trees. Smith’s favourite spot is a place near the farthest cove, where she sees only the sea and hears only the surf, and it is there where she is truly one with the world.
Smith said the two letters “n” in the word manna means gift and manna is from heaven and this place in faraway Moalboal is a gift from heaven, and it is easy to see why.
Because of its well-kept corals and wide variety of marine life, the Moalboal sea has gained a reputation as a scuba diver’s paradise but diving does have its stringent requirements.
The next best thing would be to snorkel there and Hale Manna makes this easy by providing its services and equipment for free when you check in at the resort.
Some 500 meters away from the shoreline is Hale Manna’s floating raft, which is anchored at the boundary where the sea’s eight feet-deep bottom gives way to the blue nothingness that divers call the wall because the descent is sudden and steep.
The raft is tied by rope to a huge concrete slab in the bottom of the shallows.
Hale Manna brings guests to this raft using its kayak and while they snorkel in the area, two experienced swimmers serve as lifeguards. The resort provides life vests and snorkelling equipment.
What guests can see underwater are corals in various forms as well as schools of fish in every conceivable color.
Out of the sea, Hale Manna also has a billiards table for those who wish a crack at the game.
Rooms, food rates
The months from December to June are peak season and rooms at Hale Manna range from P3,800 for the four superior rooms that can fit in up to four people and P4,800 for the largest family room that can accommodate up to seven guests.
The superior room is only P3,040 while the biggest family room is just P3,840 during non-peak months.
Buffet breakfast is priced at P180 to P250 per person while lunch and dinner cost from P250 to P385 per guest depending on the menu.
Smith said guests can book the entire resort for exclusive events. They will need to pay for all the rooms and there is a small charge for the garden.
Hale Manna is full on most weekends and can host wedding receptions or, in the case of divers Mitch Dumlao and Sarah Laigo, a venue for a proposal.
The resort has a regular staff of 10 people, who are all from Moalboal, and eight others who are on call, added Smith, who also owns Handuraw along Gorordo in Cebu City.
She said she plans to hold cultural activities in the resort and bring in local bands to play in events like full moon parties.
Publicity-wise, Smith said she is only relying on the resort website www.halemanna.com and online social networks like Facebook as well as through word of mouth.
This is probably why Hale Manna is not as well known as other resorts in the town, but in terms of facilities and amenities it certainly is among the best.
Cebu beaches are known for their fine white sand and clear waters. Being in the center of a long and narrow island that is 200 kilometers long and nowhere exceeding 40 kilometers in width, Cebu City is half an hour to a few hours away from white sand beaches, long coastlines, beautiful resorts, and paradise islands.
This is one of the reasons why the city is in every tourist’s list of top destinations. Another Cebu to do activity is take a heritage tour of centuries-old churches and Spanish period churches.
The island of Cebu is blessed with rich marine resources and fine beaches, and tourists, both local and foreign, make time to visit Cebu and explore its natural wonders.
A trip without a visit to world-class Cebu beaches with their beautiful sunsets and panoramic views is incomplete.
From Cebu City, the nearest white sand beaches are those in the smaller island of Mactan to the east. The airport is located in Mactan, under the territorial jurisdiction of Lapu-Lapu City.
Mactan Cebu beaches
Going to Mactan Island is easy as two bridges connect it to mainland Cebu — the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge and Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge. Mactan Island consists of Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova town.
From the city, Mactan is about 45 minutes to an hour drive. Most Mactan, Cebu beaches are just 15 to 30 minutes ride away from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
To get here, one option is to take a taxi. The flag down rate is P40.00 (temporarily set at P30, but you have to ask the driver to subtract P10 from your actual fare) and taxis are widely available anywhere in the city as well as in the island. Resorts usually offer shuttle transfers to their guests. You may arrange for airport pick-ups or drop-offs. There are also shuttle services going to and from the malls in Cebu City for a fee.
True to its tagline “Beyond the Expected,” guests here will surely get the relaxation they deserve. An Infinity Pool that is four feet deep immediately creates a calm mood. The Jacuzzi Pool is also hard to resist, especially for those who need to break free from their daily routine in office or at home. Situated on Punta Engaño Road, the resort has unique names for their accommodations — Be Cool, Be Chic, and Be Classy. If you do visit Be Resorts, make sure you try its boodle dining package: to know more about it, read our story: Be Resorts Mactan introduces Boodle on the Boat.
Contact: +63-32-2368888(tap on number to call on your phone) or email: [email protected](tap on email address to send a message)
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/beresorts.mactan
Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa
This resort located in Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City offers its guests a vacation in luxury. The garden view appeals to nature lovers and is an ideal place for travelers. Considered as a premier resort in Mactan island, Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa boasts of a large spa and various restaurants.
Plantation Bay Resort and Spa
Saltwater lagoons and freshwater pools distinguish Plantation Bay Resort and Spa from the others. With its colonial plantation architecture, guests will surely enjoy the amenities of the resort. Here, athletic tourists could not resist their wall climbing facility while health conscious guests would love their fitness center plus the spa at their Mogambo Springs. The resort lies in an 11.4-hectare lot in Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City.
Contact: +6332 505 9800 or email: [email protected]
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/plantationbayresortandspa
Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort
Other than being known for its bungalow type of accommodation, Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort has become a favorite venue for weddings. Couples who are fond of the beach often choose to hold the reception in its 1.1 hectare man-made island dubbed Alegrado Island. Kids also are attracted to visit the place and have an encounter with the mascot Dolpo, a dolphin. This 158-room resort is located in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City.
Contact: +6332-2345411 or +6332-4920100
Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark
If you talk about water fun, this resort is definitely the best place to go. Located on ML Quezon National Highway, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, it offers a one of a kind Waterpark and Slides. Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa features themed pools namely Amazon River Pool (with inflatable tubes), Wave Rider, Beach Pool, Captain Hook’s Pool, and the Toddler Pool.
Mactan Blue Reef Resort
Value for money is what best describes this resort in Tongo, Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City. For only an entrance fee of P50.00, one can get a nice dip in the beach. The resort is a perfect option for those who are looking for an affordable get together. You are allowed to bring in food and the cottages are for rent at reasonable costs.
Contact: +6332 4942644 or +6332 4942911 or email [email protected]
Other resorts and accommodations in Mactan Island:
Cebu Beach Club
Location: Pag-utlan, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City
Location: Suba Basbas, Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City
Farther away from Cebu City are unspoiled beaches with fine sand and cool waters, but they take travel time of two to three hours or more.
Southern Cebu beaches
Down south, you will discover hidden paradise in the towns of Boljoon, Santander, Alegria, and Moalboal.
Exploring southern Cebu is easy even for those who do not have cars. You may take buses at the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City to destinations in the south. There are also van-for-hires available at the Citilink, also on N. Bacalso Ave., and Ayala Terminal.
For years, this secluded public beach with its long stretch of fine white sand in Badian was deemed a secret among regulars loathed to share it with others lest the rush of crowd ruin its pristine state. Lambug offers one of the best and cleanest beaches in Cebu. It is a three-hour drive from Cebu City.
If you take public transport, you can ride a bus to the town of Badian and hire a tricycle or a motorcycle to get to the place. There are several resorts in Lambug where you can stay. You can also choose to rent or bring or your own tent and pitch on the beachfront. To know more about Lambug, read our article: Lambug Beach in Badian offers perfect, peaceful getaway
Cebu Club Fort Med
This resort in Boljoon is very accessible to tourists as it is located on the highway. From Cebu City, this town is about three hours away.
Coming here is not too expensive as you can either stay for a night or just spend the whole day there enjoying the beach. They have open cottages for rent both for day use and overnight stays. They also have a pool for those who wish not to take a splash in the beach.
With only 10 rooms, guests in this resort located in Liloan, Santander are assured of private leisure. The place is perfect for honeymooners and in fact is best described as couples’ retreat.
Guests here will surely love the sea view from the room. The resort has spacious and big rooms.
What is nice as well is they offer hassle-free package and room-only rates. If you wish to take a vacation without worrying too much about other details, their all-inclusive rate best suits you as it comes with meals and leisure activities already. Among the things to do here are ocean kayaking, mountain biking, motor cycling, snorkeling and many others.
From Cebu City, Santander is approximately a three-hour drive. Buses stationed at the South Bus Terminal will take you to this town.
As additional tip, you may board a fast craft or motorized banca from Santander going to Sibulan, Negros Oriental. Sibulan is about 15 to 20 minutes away from Dumaguete City.
Contact number: +6332-4809321
Costa de Leticia Resort and Spa
Once a quiet town in the south, Alegria is now becoming an option for tourists and honeymooners as this resort features an inviting 10 x 20 meters infinity pool.
Other than swimming, guests could take a waterfalls tour, go hiking and feel relaxed staying at their spacious accommodations. Also, busy professionals would not worry about their responsibilities even while in vacation as the resort has wifi connection.
True to its name that means House of Good Energy, the owner of this resort believes and put into practice permaculture — a way of producing food and energy without depleting the earth’s gift of nature.
Offering only seven rooms, this resort in Barangay Saavedra in Moalboal is perfect for family reunions, team buildings, and other intimate gatherings.
This one’s a favorite among beach campers and the Holy Week crowd. Basdako or the White Beach is located in Barangay Saavedra, Moalboal. It is a public beach with cheap lodgings and, further away, exclusive resorts. You can also rent tents for camping out on the beach. To read more about Basdako, go to our article: Camping out on Basdako beach in Moalboal.
Other resorts and accommodations in Southern Cebu:
Also in Danao, this resort is the best place to go for a great water fun. With an entrance fee of P150.00 per adult, P75.00 for kids age 7 to 11 years old, you would surely experience an adventurous day under the sun.
Not only they have the beach and the pool, they also have a waterpark that provides four inflatables for guests to enjoy. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the rate is an affordable P100.00 per person. The pool, on the other hand, is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This resort located in San Remigio is an answer to those who are looking for a good venue to hold reunions, birthdays, and weddings. Its Sea Pool Party Area is very spacious and perfect for luau parties.
One nice thing here is that it offers various packages for groups. Among these are Group Tour Package, Day Tour Package, Side Trip Package and many more.
For transportation, it has coaster and van service that is very convenient for groups. Other option is to take a bus that costs only P120.00 per person. From the city, the town of San Remigio is three hours travel time.
A retirement home open to tourists, this resort in the boundary of Toledo City and Pinamungajan town is true to its name that means serene, relaxing, and peaceful which are the translations for the Cebuano term “tawhay”.
A cottage-on-a-pond could accommodate more than 40 guests. It also offers air-conditioned rooms fit for families and barkadas. This would be a perfect venue as well for special occasions.
For guests coming from the airport, the resort provides shuttle service but for a minimum number of five passengers. From the city, the area is less than two hours drive.
Centuries-old churches of various architectural influences that were built during the Spanish occupation of Cebu can be found along the entire stretch of the mainland and even in satellite islands. A trip down Cebu’s southern part is a glimpse into the religious aspect of Spain’s influence on Cebuano heritage.
Spanish period churches in souther towns and cities:
1. Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish Church in Talisay City
• Church construction started in 1836 and was completed in 1848, roof was replaced in 1877 after it was destroyed by a typhoon
• Located at the city center, near the old City Hall
The structure bears influences of Greek and Roman architectural styles in the use of Doric columns to support a second floor balcony that serves as an awning shielding the entrance and in the arches used on the massive domed-roof belfries flanking a recessed facade.
A popular pilgrimage destination of Marian devotees in Cebu is Mary’s shrine in the village of Simala in Sibonga.
The shrine is located inside an imposing and huge 3-level concrete structure that Fra. Ma. Martin call as Sanctuary Castle of Mama Mary, which also houses the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist Church.
Fra. Ma. Martin, one of the Marian monk caretakers of the shrine, said they started their mission in Simala in 1996, but pilgrims started flocking in large numbers to Mary’s shrine beginning in 2005. This was mainly due to what has been reported as miraculous incidents involving the Virgin’s image that was said to have cried tears.
Mary’s shrine occupy a big portion of the castle. Pilgrims line up and wait for their turn to address their prayers and petitions to what they consider miraculous images of Mary in the shrine.
Inside Mary’s shrine are glass-covered cabinets that hold letters and keepsakes attesting to the miracles that the Virgin Mary has worked in the lives of the devotees. The letters thank the Virgin for healing grave illnesses and helping in work or school matters, among other things.
When people talk of diving in Cebu, they usually mention the small town of Moalboal in the province’s southwestern coast that is famous for the thousands of sardines that have come to populate its seas.
Italian Sergio Forti, who manages a dive resort named Sampaguita in Moalboal’s Panagsama Beach or what they call Bas Diot (Cebuano words that literally translate to “few sand”), said the sardines arrive in and leave Moalboal as part of their normal migration process but they’ve come to stay for good around three years ago.
“Sardines are always migrating but they’ve been in the town for some time. Biologists couldn’t explain why. They say that let’s enjoy them while they’re still around,” he added.