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Visayan Odyssey

I’ve written so many articles about the various tourist attractions in our country and the rest of the world, but in this one, my first column for the year, I want to pay special attention to domestic destinations, which happen to be closest to my heart.  

Proud to be Cebuano, let me start my list with my home city. Every tourist to the “Queen City of the South” never fails to visit Magellan’s Cross and the adjoining Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, which is ran by the Augustinian Fathers.  The original cross, planted by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, is encased in the present-day Tindalo cross.  This spot is Ground Zero for Christianity in the Philippines.  

The next-door Basilica is just as interesting, as it houses the original statue of the Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus), a gift given by Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his wife, when he landed on the island.  Devotees flock in droves, any day of the year, to pay homage to the miraculous statue, which is also the patron saint of the city, venerated during the highly popular Sinulog Festival.  Of course, aside from these historical sites, Cebu also has beautiful white sand beaches, playful and friendly whale sharks, great food, and caring, smiling people that complete the ingredients for a memorable visit.

This Tindalo cross serves as a sheath for the original wooden cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan on the same spot in Cebu in 1521
Another Visayan destination close to my heart is Ormoc, my mother’s home city.  As a child, I would go on almost-monthly visits with the family, enjoying the peaceful unpolluted ambience and fresh produce of our farm.  These days, visitors go on day trips to nearby guitar-shaped Lake Danao, for its peaceful and cool environs; Alto Peak, the highest in Eastern Visayas; and the Philippine Japan Peace Memorial Park, which overlooks Ormoc Bay.

These are just a few of the many attractions that lure the continuously increasing volume of visitors to Ormoc, which prompted a number of accommodations and resorts to open in this bustling city.  My favorite is Sabin Resort Hotel, a world-class resort by the bay, five minutes away from the city center.  It boasts of an expansive, well-manicured garden, facing Ormoc Bay squarely, thus making good use of the refreshing breeze blowing from all directions. 

Tagbilaran, capital city of Bohol, is only an hour and 40 minutes away by ferry from Cebu, so when I was still Cebu-based, on my first job with an international airline, I would make frequent day trips which, unfortunately, never gave me the chance to see what the province had to offer, as those were business trips.  It was only recently that I had the opportunity to marvel at its tourist gems.

The world-famous Chocolate Hills of Carmen, Bohol is one of the natural wonders in Visayas
I stayed at a world-class resort in the famous Panglao Beach and took a tour to the Blood Compact Shrine in the city, on to Baclayon Church, one of the oldest stone churches in the country, ending in the town of Carmen, to be awed by the world-famous Chocolate Hills.  On my way back, I passed through the Man-Made Forest in Bilar, to see the cute Tarsiers, known to be the smallest primate in existence, and the mammal with the biggest eyes.  I capped the day with a magical experience, a Dinner River Cruise to watch the glittering fireflies blanketing the Pagatpat trees on the riverbanks.

Known to be the bastion of the old rich families in the country, Iloilo City is popularly known for the delicious treats of Panaderia de Molo, owned by the family of a close friend, and the super-energizing La Paz Batchoy.  So, when I visited the city, I made sure I experience everything it has been known for, mainly, gorging on these delicious treats.

Aside from the Baroque Miag-ao Church, which is an hour-and-a-half away from the city, the other iconic structure popular with tourists to Iloilo is the Lopez Heritage House, more popularly known as Nelly’s Gardens.  The 4-hectare sprawling property is the best representation of the province’s aristocratic past, and was built by an Ilonggo statesman, Don Vicente Lopez and his wife Doña Elena Hofilena. Named after their eldest daughter, the beaux-arts mansion’s ornate interiors and luxurious furniture, including a priceless crystal chandelier hanging over the hexagonal dining table, represent the extravagant lifestyle of the Iloilo’s richest families during the American period.

Boracay’s powdery white sand beach is what attracts hordes of tourists to the island
And, of course, my list wouldn’t be complete if I don’t include the multi-awarded, internationally acclaimed island of Boracay.  However, nothing I will say here will add to what you already know of this very popular beach destination in our country.  So, I will leave you to reminisce on your own beautiful memories of this island.  As for me, I’m happy and content with the realization that the Visayan Region is not only steep in historical sites but also teeming with attractions for fun-loving visitors, so in Cebuano I say: Dali na, du-aw na mo! (Hurry, all of you, go visit!)

For feedback, I’m at 

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YOUR SATURDAY CHUCKLE

Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married.  The ceremony wasn’t much, but the reception was excellent.

Topics: Visayan Odyssey , “Queen City of the South” , Magellan’s Cross , Basilica Minore del Santo Niño , Tindalo cross , Chocolate Hills , Boracay , Bohol , Cebu
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