When my fun group of retired travel industry professionals decided to visit Cebu, I volunteered to be their tour guide, but of course. To be sure that there won’t be any unexpected hitches during their visit, I flew to Cebu earlier than the group so that I could personally attend to the details needed for them to have an enjoyable stay.
Since most of them have been to Cebu before, I crafted an itinerary that would take us to new attractions, most of which I, myself, haven’t been to. I became a tourist in my own hometown.
With two de luxe vans in tow, I met the group’s early morning arrival at Mactan International Airport and, after a quick breakfast, immediately made available to them their favorite pastime—shopping. They wanted fashion accessories and, based on my research before their arrival, there is a factory near the airport selling those, as export surplus items.
Naturally, they were in seventh heaven as their favorite bangles and beads were being sold for not more than P200 each.
After the shopping spree, we took the longer route to Cebu City’s South Road Properties (SRP) by driving around Mactan island so that we could use the newly inaugurated Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) to get to our destination.
This beautiful, 8.9-kilometer-long, ultra-modern bridge is now the longest in the country. When we reached the SRParea, we immediately proceeded to the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod, which was donated by the late Henry Sy, Sr. and his wife, Felicidad, to the Archdiocese of Cebu. Of course, it is located right next to the humongous SM Seaside Mall.
After a quick lunch at the mall, I brought the group to Cebu’s main attraction – the Magellan’s Cross and the adjacent Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu. Everybody in the group lit votive candles as homage to the Sr. Sto. Nino and requested the women on the church premises to offer a Sinulog Prayer for their respective personal intentions. We then proceeded inside the Basilica to venerate the miraculous statue of the Sto. Nino, which is encased on the altar.
It was time for them to check in at their hotel and freshen up a bit before we went to another attraction in the city. This time, it is up in the hills of Busay, a little over an hour from the city center. The Lakeview Le Jardin is approximately a hectare-wide botanical garden with a view of the lake through the mountains. It is owned by a Cebuana who is married to a Frenchman who, I learned, personally designed the garden himself. It showcases thousands of flowers and colorful plant varieties that certainly make the place Instagram-worthy.
Since we were already in the area, we decided to have dinner at the Top of Cebu, a popular Filipino restaurant with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Not only is the food very good, the prices are also very easy on the pocket. I had a big chunk of Norwegian Salmon for only P390. Where else can you find a dinner price like that? But, then again, Cebu has always been paradise for diners because you can easily have a very good meal for a pittance.
The following day had another full schedule for the visitors. They went to the famous Simala Shrine in the town of Sibonga, approximately a two-hour drive from the city. Known as one of the most beautiful churches in Cebu, the Miraculous Mother Mary Church is visited by hundreds of pilgrims every day after the statue of the Blessed Mother housed inside the shrine was seen crying and many miracles have been attributed to it.
Since I have been to the Simala Shrine before, I decided not to go with them but, instead, proceed directly to Carcar City, as I had promised to host lunch for them, to make them taste the very famous Carcar Lechon. This delicious, one-of-a-kind culinary specialty is eaten best right after the roast is completed. Since this is sold in the city’s Public Market, I had to make arrangements for a private area on the second floor of the market for the group to immediately feast on the famous lechon, away from crowds or other diners.
Aside from the other Cebuano delicacies which I ordered to complement the sumptuous Lechon, I also made sure my visitors tasted another Cebuano specialty, the Puso’ or Hanging Rice. It is rice wrapped and boiled inside a diamond-shaped pocket of woven coconut leaves, and hung in bunches in the vendor’s food stall. The leafy container gives the rice its unique flavor. I’m happy that they all enjoyed the typical Cebuano lunch spread out for them, and am even happier that they were game enough to have feasted on it inside the public market. Of course, the facility is new, very clean, no flies at all, and is something first-time visitors would enjoy themselves.
After the hearty lunch, we did a little tour, visiting a couple of Heritage Houses that the city is known for. The 163-year-old Balay Na Tisa is one of the oldest in the country and is the only ancestral structure in town that has retained its original terra cotta roof tiles. The house, with its beautiful interiors showcasing expensive antiques, is still being used by the owner for family reunions and gatherings, especially during Holy Week, as the family owns a beautiful Santo Intierro used for the Good Friday procession.
We also visited the Mancao Ancestral House, an American-era home with an elegant interior— wooden walls and floors, and a high ceiling. It has large windows to easily let air in and freely circulate. What I like most about the house is its majestic wooden staircase leading to the second floor and its beautiful circular driveway that blends perfectly well with the impeccably designed front garden.
After making a short stop at the Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria, for us to be able to go through its Holy Door, we proceeded to the Archbishop Teofilo Camomot Shrine. Msgr. Camomot, lived all his 74 years serving and loving the poor, the sick, the homeless, and the suffering. He was the parish priest of Carcar and the shrine houses some of his personal belongings, most especially his bed which is reported to be miraculous. I learned that, before the miracles were widely known, pilgrims who were sick would lie down on his bed and would get cured of their ailments. Now, the nuns of the Daughters of St. Theresa have cordoned off the bed. Msgr. Camomot was killed in a vehicular accident and the shrine is also where he is buried. Pope Francis recently declared him as Venerable, a step closer to sainthood.
After the tour, my visitors proceeded to Toledo City, to be hosted by Ingrid Baltao, another member of our group, whose family runs a business empire in that city. Since I’ve already been to that city before, I decided to drive to the beach, instead, and spend time with my own family.
It was fun being a tourist in my own hometown and I felt proud sharing with my friends the “gems” that it offers. Cebu is not just the birthplace of our country’s Christianity…it is also the birthplace of beautiful moments.
YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE
What did the left eye whisper to the right eye? “Between you and me, something smells!”
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