ILI Rock, the mountain rock of Boljoon town that inspired protests when it was carved to stop falling rocks during landslides, is now a favorite spot that invites visitors who want a good view of the sea, the surrounding islands, the mountains and the town of Boljoon.
“Gisugdan ni wa pay election, karon nindot na, hasta ang nagreklamo sa una nag-selfie na diha (This was started before the election. Now it looks better, even those who complained before are doing selfies there),” Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama said pointing to the carved rock mountain.
The limestone rock is a carved slope bench that looks like huge terraces with concrete stairs with 136 steps up the mountain. The top is still flat, but may soon see development.
For extreme adventurers, there is a rappelling board on top that was installed in October last year. It is 50 meters from the curved highway below.
“Ang nakanindot sa amo diri, pwede ka mag-rappelling sa taas, pwede sad ka mag-jet ski sa ubos (What is nice here is that you can do rapelling up there, and do jet ski below),” the mayor said.
From the top, one sees the islands of Bohol and Siquijor, and the town poblacion.
Though there is no entrance fee to the mountain, the town’s Sangguniang Bayan passed a resolution stating that Ili Rock is open to the public from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. only, Derama said.
There are plans to build a coffeeshop and a souvenir shop on the first level going up, Derama said.
They also plan to set up lampposts along the concrete stairs to help visitors and senior citizens who climb the stairs as early as 5 a.m. for their exercise.
There are also plans to build a Virgin Mary shrine and a lighthouse on top of Ili Rock, Derama said.
“Ang parola sa taas maka anig sa mga mananagat aron di pud sila mawala, kay mao gyud na ang problema nila diha og tua sila sa lawod, mao ilang gi-request sa amo (The lighthouse will help guide our fishermen, since that’s what they need when they are out in the ocean),” the mayor said.
They will build a view deck, with a telescope on the side facing the sea, for those who wish to view Siquijor, Bohol and smaller islands around.
Derama said they also wish to build a 200-meter zipline from the mountain top down to the park, beside the town
“Wa gyud gasto ang LGU ani (The LGU won’t have to spend anything),” the mayor said, since all development will be shouldered by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Even if you only see stairs and flat earth on top, people are already flocking to the mountain rock, especially on weekends, said Derama.
“Dako kaayo namo ning garbo ug kalipay kay adtong niaging pista, ug matag biyernes padung dominggo pwerteng pagkataoha gyud (This is our pride and joy during the feast, and people go there from Friday to Sunday),” Derama said.
Before the feast of their Patron Saint Nuestra Sra. Patrocinio de Maria last Nov. 12, Ili Rock was filled with viewers from neighboring towns.
Boljoon tourism officer Ronald Villanueva recalled that Boljoon once vied to be declared a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) because of its church structure, its Baroque design, landscape and seascape, and the people’s lifestyle.
But the town failed to earn this international recognition as some groups complained about the carving of Ili Rock.
DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo issued a memorandum suspending the slope benching of Ili Rock on November 2014.
One of those who opposed the carving of Ili Rock, Edmund Villanueva, in his letter to 4th District Engineer James Dellosa, noted that the slope benching was limited only to critical sections of the rock.
Villanueva complained in his letter that the excavation caused severe alteration of Ili Rock’s features and caused pollution problem on neighboring seas.
Boljoon tourism officer Ronald Villanueva recalled that development of the mountain rock started after a meeting at Club Fort Med last March 16, 2016.
The meeting was attended by DPWH officials, QM Builders, the private contractor, town officials and residents critical to the project.
Dellosa explained during the meeting that they will stop the “carving” of the mountain “considering that the rock at the top of Ili Rock is already very stable.
It was agreed that a concrete stairway and a drainage system will be built.
Dellosa also explained to the group that plants and trees will be placed in the area as part of beautification and development.
All those present in the meeting agreed with Dellosa’s proposal.
Towards the end, Dellosa requested for a Sangguniang Bayan resolution requesting all these development and beautification projects on Ili Rock.
Eventually, his requests were granted and thus the development of the mountain rock continued, said Villanueva.