PICTURES and posts of “Buwakan ni Alejandra” have been circulating online lately, but—before you visit the breath-taking flower garden planted on a mountainside in (Sitio Bunga, Barangay Gaas) Balamban, Cebu—here are a few do’s and don’ts to take note of.
Do properly plan how to get there. Even though “Buwakan ni Alejandra” is only an estimated 32 kilometers away from the city, transportation arrangements are still required—whether by car or motorcycle. Those who plan to commute may take a V-Hire from the city which can cost up to P120. Eleuterio Gentapa, the Barangay Chairman of the Committee of Tourism, said that they would eventually like to offer transportation services to and from the venue.
Don't leave the city for “Buwakan” really late in the afternoon. The venue opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. daily. Leaving the city at 4 p.m. onward will not give you enough time to fully see and enjoy the garden—that is, if you even get to catch it before closing time. Of course, all this is relative to how far you are from the Balamban or Busay area.
Do fully charge your phone and camera. As a picturesque place with beautiful scenes for photo-ops, visitors will surely be grabbing every opportunity they can to take “Insta-worthy” and “pang-profile-pic” pictures. You won’t be able to resist! It is best to make sure that all your cameras and gizmos for documentation are fully juiced up and ready to go—especially because you’ll be in a mountain province. You know, outlets for charging don’t grow on trees.
Do bring an umbrella. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable. It may rain a little or be extremely sunny. A small umbrella is one of the best things you can bring to help you stay dry or beat the heat.
Do dab on some sunblock. It gets extra hot—and sometimes you won’t even feel it because you're high up in the mountain. But the elevation also brings you closer to the sun (thus, susceptible to sunburn). “Buwakan ni Alejandra” has tons of attractive and colorful flowers that will distract you from feeling the direct hit of the sun’s rays, and does not have much shade since it is mostly a flower garden. A little sunblock goes a long way—and, boy, have we learned this the hard way.
Do pay the entrance fee. The garden has an entrance fee of P50 for adults and P20 for children which will help contribute to the maintenance of the tourist spot and eventually help support the livelihood of the community. “With this, we want to promote ecotourism so that we can provide a sustainable livelihood for the people in our community,” said Gentapa.
Do stroll around every inch of the garden. Currently being only 700 square meters, the garden is completely walkable. The charmingly peaceful scenery provides tourists with a way to de-stress and forget the hustle and bustle of everyday work—even if it is just for a few minutes.
Don't stray out of designated trails. While landscaping the garden, Councilor Gentapa said that trails were specially designed for the harmonious and aesthetic co-existence of the visitors (tourists) and the residents (plants). “There may be a few of them but as long as they are properly arranged and the people pass the trail properly, that would really help preserve the garden’s flora,” explained Gentapa. He also said that stepping out of designated trails and into the area of the flowers—especially just to take pictures—is prohibited.
Do take lots of pictures. Like what was said, “Buwakan ni Alejandra” has many spots in itself that provide perfect photo opportunities in so many different angles. They are all so beautiful up close, but the bird’s eye view is one of the best ways to fully appreciate the bigger picture. (Tip: It would be great, and much easier, to do this with a drone—though any camera will do.)
Don't pick the flowers. With over 200 species of local blooms, “Buwakan ni Alejandra” is still in the beginning of its prime. To keep it this way, visitors must always observe proper conduct and respect the policies of a certain place—especially those that advocate the preservation of nature. For this destination, one of the biggest rules is not to pick the flowers. If this particular rule is disobeyed, there will eventually be nothing to go to “Buwakan ni Alejandra” for.
During our visit to “Buwakan ni Alejandra,” we got to interview the designer, caretaker and manager of the place—Eleuterio Gentapa—who told us that the garden opened in May of this year and has had more visitors on weekdays than weekends.
“Maybe most of them expect it to be full on weekends, so most people come on weekdays. But, you know, there have been patients who have come here from chemotherapy to just look around—and it lifts their spirits,” said Gentapa. “Flowers are good for the heart, so we must take care of them.”
With this, we are urged to always bear in mind one of the golden rules that keeps both us and the environment safe: “Look, but don’t touch.”
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2017.
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