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Cordova's best-kept secret |

Travel and Tourism

Cordova's best-kept secret

- Julie Cabatit-Alegre -

MANILA, Philippines - It is the lesser known of only two local government units on Mactan Island. If you came in by air, you’d have landed in Lapu-Lapu City where the Cebu International Airport, the second busiest airport in the country, is located. Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island is known for its high-end international hotels and world-class beach resorts. 

On the southeastern tip of the island is the other local government unit, the municipality of Cordova, seven kilometers away from Lapu-Lapu City and nine kilometers from Cebu City. It is bounded by Camotes Sea in the east and Bohol Strait in the south. The channels of Cordova are touted to be one of the best diving havens in the country. The Gilutungan and Nalusuan Marine Sanctuary is also found here.

Like most old towns in the country established by the Spaniards, the municipality of Cordova has its municipio near a Catholic church, the Señor San Roque Church, which stands just across the street from the plaza. Nearby is the Cordova Central School.

First built by the Augustinian missionaries in the late 1800s, the San Roque Church features pointed arches. Four Corinthian columns divide the façade into three sections. It appears well-maintained with a new coat of paint in light blue and cream with touches of light pink.

Another built heritage, the old municipal hall, is a wooden structure that appears well preserved. In the hallway on the second floor where the offices are located are displayed 50- to 100-year-old jars and household implements as well as antique coins and religious objects.

The apparent effort to preserve and beautify the surroundings suggests a quiet sense and pride of place among the townspeople.

The Dinagat Festival, a movable feast in August, honors the townspeople’s main livelihood, fishing. The festival features street dancing and an interpretative dance competition based on the fishing rituals and culture of the people of Cordova.

 “Cordova used to be a fish port,” Ricardo Escabas, Jr., F&B manager at the Cordova Reef Village Resort, recalls. The coastal waters yield a variety of fishes. Small, 10-inch saltwater eels called bakasi are plentiful and are considered a delicacy. It can be prepared in different ways, Ricardo says, “Ihaw, laga, or nilarang, which involves sautéing with garlic, onion and ginger, black beans, soy sauce, salt and pepper.”

Another delicacy is the swaki or sea urchins. Its yellow orange meat is particularly big during a full moon and is eaten raw or kinilaw. Its black eggs or uni are exported to Japan. No, these delicacies are not on the resort’s menu, but they can prepare bakasi upon request, Ricardo says.

What you’ll find listed on the menu are the coco prawns with chili garlic sauce, king prawns, tuna and tangigue steak, lapu-lapu fillet and stuffed squid, just to mention a few. Ocean lobsters and crabs may also be had upon request. For meat lovers, there’s beef tenderloin and US rib-eye, as well as burger and beef steaks, among others.

Guests can dine at the open-air Mar Bantayan Restaurant, which offers Filipino and international cuisine. The poolside Abutanan bar and the wine cellar offer a varied selection of wines from around the globe.

There are 50 villas at the Cordova Reef Village Resort clustered around or near an 808-sq.m. swimming pool within the four-hectare property by the sea. What is most striking about the villas is their circular design and conical roofs. They are currently undergoing a facelift. The thatched roofs have been replaced with white painted GI sheets. The upgrading is being done in stages. All of the villas, which are of different sizes, are fully air-conditioned, with marble-finished bathrooms with separate bathtubs, shower and toilet facilities.

 “We are introducing day-use packages for guests,” says GM Alexander Farrugia, a Malta national married to a Filipina. “Guests can book a Day Use Package, which includes a meal consisting of the menu of the day,” Farrugia explains. “The Villa plus Meal Package, good for two persons, includes use of a villa from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus two meals from the menu of the day.”

The resort also has a spa as well as a business center and a spacious function and banquet hall. In October this year, when she marries artist Salvador “Buddy” Ching, Miech Apao will hold her wedding reception here.

A Cebu resident, Miech is a frequent guest at the resort where she and members of her family have celebrated various occasions: the birthday of a nine-year-old niece, the debut party of another niece, and the birthday of her 75-year-old mother.

“I like it here because it’s cool because, thanks to all the trees,” she says. The fruit trees, which were originally in the property, continue to provide shade and they often catch the passing breeze. She also likes the feeling of privacy, which makes its somewhat remote and secluded location a plus factor.

This may very well be Cordova’s best-kept secret. But it may not stay a secret for long.

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Cordova Reef Village Resort is located in Bantayan, Poblacion, Cordova, Mactan, Cebu. Call (6332)238-1878/236-3343/236-3344/4968079; mobile 6392-28570236/6392-28570238. Log on to, e-mail,,

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