A southern experience

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014


AND so my “year of wandering” begins with the Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo 2014, the great southern experience.

I have been around Southern Cebu numerous times, but never as an “ incentivized” trip, or as a group tour. The last time I was able to go around Southern Cebu was during my childhood years, so I had quite a few good memories of the South as a child would see it.

The first leg of our journey was Carcar city, located approximately 40 kilometers south of Cebu city. We were brought to the Carcar City Plaza, where we were greeted by street dancing. We then went inside the Carcar Dispensary, constructed during the year 1929 by Mayor Mariano Mercado, a perfect example of American Colonial architecture. This landmark was considered to be the symbol of the town’s progress during that era.

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While in Carcar, I could not help but feel overwhelmed by just looking at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, which was actually finished by my great great grandfather, Fray Manuel Rubio Fernandez, an Augustinian friar, the father of my great grandfather, Don Jose Avila.

After looking at the sights, we had a feast for breakfast--- the famous Carcar tapa, chicharon and puso paired with town delicacies like ampao, peanut brittle and bucarillo. We were also given a bag each of Carcar chicharon and banana chips to take with us on the long journey ahead.

Then we were off to the town of Barili, 61 kilometers southwest of Cebu city, to rest and take a breather from the long bus ride. We all had fresh homemade ice cream and milk at the Molave Milk Station. We visited 200-foot-high Mantayupan Falls. Upon seeing it, I could not help but think about God’s majestic gift to mankind, it was simply breathtaking. The feel of the mist as you go near the waterfall was priceless, no Evian facial spray could beat that. We had snacks at AC fishpond, where we had fresh coconut juice, pintos, grilled tilapia, tamarindo, boiled peanuts, boiled bananas and sweet potatoes, jackfruit, native puto and bibingka, to name a few goodies. Seriously, they should name this trip “suroy suroy ug kaon kaon sa sugbo.”

After Barili, we went straight to the town of Alcantara ,where we had lunch and visited the town’s mangrove farm. Lunch consisted of dishes like gisadong bakasi, pasayan tinap-anan, crabs and lechon. After filling our bellies with the sumptuous feast, we drove to Badian for swimming and snacks at the famous Kawasan Falls. As a child, I remember swimming in its ice-cold waters. Definitely a refreshing dip, it will rejuvenate one’s tired body from the long bus ride. Dinner was in the town of Moalboal, were we enjoyed grand fireworks at their heritage park.

On day two, we went straight to the town of Samboan. Built on a plateau, this small town is home to one of the oldest Spanish-built churches of Cebu, St. Michael the Archangel church, with its facade made of coral stones. Beside the church is the Watchtower, another Spanish structure, also made up of blocks of coral stones. It was built on the side of the hill to watch the Moro invaders.

Another attraction is the Escala De Jacobe. It is as a flight of stone stairs with 147 steps built in 1878. It leads up to the old Watchtower that sits 65 meters (213 feet) above the town. From here, one can get a view of the Tañon Strait.

We were then off to Oslob, where we took a 15-minute boat ride to the luxurious Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort. The resort sits on a 24-hectare coral island. For me, it was the highlight of the trip, swimming around crystal clear blue waters and walking along the sandbar was simply heaven. We then headed to the Oslob museum and cuartel.  The cuartel is an unfinished structure made of coral blocks resembling a Spanish-era barracks intended for use by the guardia civil. The Oslob museum is home to various heritage items from different antique owners in Oslob. Among the items it houses are an 18th century mourning gown, Maria Clara gowns, jars from the 20th century called tibod, a radio phonograph from the 1950s, a grandfather clock, and some farm equipment. We ended our second day at Sanayon, Santander with dinner and fireworks.

Our Last day started at the beautiful Boljoon Church. The church is the oldest remaining original stone church in Cebu. In 1999, the National Historical Institute declared it a National Historical Landmark. The following year, the National Museum declared it as a National Cultural Treasure. Three intact pieces of Japanese ceramics were discovered at the front lawn of the church. Personally, the museum is a must see. It is amazing to see how Boljoanons preserve not only their beautiful church, but also old vestments of friars, old paintings, church bells, relics of saints made of ivory and candelabras, to name a few.

After Oslob, we went to Dalaguete, also known as the “Summer Capital” and “little Baguio” of Cebu because of its cold temperature ranging between 18-25 degrees Celsius in the month of November to the middle of January. Due to its cold temperatures, the main livelihood of the people in Mantalongon is farming, growing different kinds of vegetables. This place is definitely a haven for mountaineering and trekking aficionados, where they can explore Osmeña Peak. It is also called the Vegetable Basket of Cebu, because it is one of the major vegetable suppliers to the other towns of Cebu province. Everyday, tons of vegetables are delivered to Carbon Market.

We then proceeded to the town of Argao, where we had lunch at the Casa Real (Municipal Hall) and sampled the famous torta de Argao.

Casa Real is the oldest existing town hall in the province of Cebu. Beside the Casa Real is the Argao Hall of Justice, which used to be a cuartel during World War II. A few meters from Casa Real is the Puerta Marina, a watchtower made of coral stones used during the Moro raids. Beside the Puerta Marina is the Capilla de Mortuario, used as a chapel during funerals in the past. Across the Capilla de Mortuario is the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. The Church has a mural of St. Michael defeating Lucifer and his followers, done also by my great great grandfather Ray Francia, the father of my mother’s grandmother.

In the town of Sibonga, we visited the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, commonly known to Cebuanos as Birhen sa Simala. The Monastery of the Holy Eucharist is famous for the miracles made by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Cebuanos’ strong faith and belief are all presented as testimonials on the walls of the Birhen sa Simala.

Last leg of our trip was in Talisay city, where we were treated to a feast of the famous Talisay lechon, puso and dinuguan for dinner. During dinner, dances were performed by Talisay’s festival queen, and we ended the night with a grand fireworks display at the Talisay City Hall grounds.

Whew! That was quite a trip. Personally, the Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo has given me the opportunity to admire and respect our Filipino culture and heritage. The trip will make you appreciate the different delicacies and local food prepared by the different towns visited. The excursion has taught me to love my country more, made me realize that the Philippines is beautiful, it is heaven and paradise. It’s undoubtedly more fun in the Philippines. “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling Bayan.” (Katrina Charmaine Avila)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 27, 2014.

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