A CHARMING flower garden called “Buwakan ni Alejandra,” poised about 32 kilometers away from Cebu City, awaits visitors to witness the beauty of more than 200 species of local blooms.
This colorful 700-square-meter tourist attraction, perched at the side of a mountain in Sitio Bunga, Barangay Gaas, Balamban, Cebu is only a P120 V-Hire (van-for-hire) ride from the city.
Barangay Councilman Eleuterio Gentapa, 37, chairperson of the committee on tourism and husband of the owner of the land where the “Buwakan ni Alejandra” sits, was the landscaper of the picturesque garden.
“When I go around the sitio and see a flower I like, I have it planted in the garden. We test it out and try to preserve it. That’s why little by little we get a bigger variety in our garden. When I see a garden, I just get ideas and modify it—to keep originality. It’s a whole different design—even the trails are different. There is enough space for people to walk around comfortably,” he said.
The garden was launched in May this year, but plans had started in July last year.
“We planned to promote the local flowers so that people can really view them—because they are usually overshadowed by imported flowers that get here,” said Gentapa.
Such plan resulted in a project with the barangay and community to invest in a tourist spot to promote the village.
“We called it Buwakan ni Alejandra, because you can really see flowers (buwak) in the garden. Alejandra is my mother-in-law. When I first went to her house back in 1991, I noticed she had so many flowers in her garden and had a penchant for collecting them,” said Gentapa, who shared the story that his mother-in-law had told them about an incident that happened during the Japanese occupation.
Love your plants
Instead of killing the people in the village, the Japanese soldiers were distracted and turned their focus to the flowers that the villagers had planted, Gentapa narrated.
“If you love your plants, they will grow fast,” said Gentapa.
He believes that it is best for owners to manage the garden—so that it can be properly taken cared of—which is why his family helps in the upkeep of the garden.
He said that people in the community also help them and earn money at the same time by serving as tour guides for the guests.
“With this, we want to promote ecotourism so that we can provide a sustainable livelihood for the people in our community,” he said.
The village official said that more developments will be added in the garden. These include putting tags on the different species of flora, building a gazebo, as well as the expansion of the garden.
A bigger parking lot will also be set up inside the property.
“After our official launch, we plan on having a van or more that can bring people to our area,” He said.
According to Gentapa, tourists visit Gaas to experience the cool temperature of the mountainside and the fog that creeps in at certain times of day.
Gentapa said that garden is one of the places that advocates the preservation of flowers.
Some rules have to be observed before entering the garden, such as attending an orientation; smoking and picking of flowers are prohibited; visitors must only follow the designated trails and are not allowed to step into the areas where flowers are planted.
The flowers are also not for sale.
“There may be quite a few of them but as long as they are properly arranged and the people pass the trail properly, that would really help. 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.”
Buwakan ni Alejandra is open all days of the week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except when there is a storm and they close it to protect the garden), with an entrance fee of P50 for adults and P20 for children.
“Since most people expect that there are more people during the weekends, they come on weekdays, so there ends up being more people during the weekdays,” said Gentapa.