Southern trek 2015

Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - February 8, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Like in previous years, the Suroy-suroy Southern Getaway took place a week after the Sinulog. Originally conceived by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry for balikbayans (since quite a number come home for the Sinulog) and other visitors, it was meant for them to see undiscovered places and have the opportunity to buy local products. The provincial government took over and worked with the local government units to boost tourism in the towns, not only in the south but also throughout the rest of Cebu.

Being the pioneer “suroy” route, what used to be known as the Southern Heritage Trail has been participated by many in the target markets. Hence, the organizers, under dynamic Vice-Governor Agnes Magpale, improved on the 2015 Southern Getaway.   The pace is made more leisurely by doing just four stops per day in this three-day trek.   They now focus on just heritage sites and new places are added for participants to discover and revisit on their own. The Vice-Governor shared that only towns that were willing or ready to host were included in the itinerary. Other towns along the route sent tour guides who took turns in getting on the three buses to give information on their respective towns. Ingenious way of highlighting the towns and saving time!

What a better way to start this heritage trek than breakfast at the Mancao ancestral house in Carcar? The well preserved 1930s building is a peek into the past, appreciated by many who went through the house during the sumptuous buffet breakfast in the garden. Well done, Mayor Nicepuro Apura!

We crossed over to the southwest to visit the two-level Mantayupan Falls in Barili.   It is a hydroelectric source for the area and a new site for this trek. Clean toilets with soap and towels at the Causin family’s A.C. Tilapiahan in Campangga make this stop notable, as well as the amazing variety of native delicacies they prepared for snacks.   Salamat, Mayor Teresito Marinas! Many participants were given packs of peanut brittles, budbud, linusak, salvaro, bukayo, etc. to take away. 

Being internationally known as a topnotch dive spot, Moalboal welcomed us for lunch along the beachfront.   Gov. Junjun Davide with wife Jobelle joined the caravan as led by Vice Gov. Magpale.   Alegria was our dinner host and the birthday celebrator Vice-Gov. Agnes was surprised with the tarpaulin greeting during the dinner musicale which ended with an impressive fireworks display. Kudos to the indefatigable Mayor Verna Magallon. Then the caravan backtracked to Moalboal for the overnight stay at their assigned resorts. Participants pay only the cost of two nights’ stay at various resorts.

Notable Day 2 host was Malabuyoc where a “diwata” ritual was performed, asking permission from the water spirits for the visitors to avail of the healing sulfuric waters of Mainit Hot Springs, before visitors were allowed into the area. While some bathe, others took advantage of the free foot and shoulder massage near the merienda venue. Merienda fare consisted of five (!) whole lechon baboy, aside from the manok halang-halang, bitcho-bitcho, bukayo, etc.

Mayor Raymond Calderon personally welcomed the “suroy” participants to another new site: Aguinid Falls in Tangbo, Samboan.   Despite the five lechon served for snacks in Malabuyoc, the three more whole lechon served for lunch were also demolished! So were the sa-ang clams, grilled squid, along with the community-made  oven-fresh torta, cookies and hot (oven was right there at the falls area) pan bisaya.   Aguinid Falls is a veil-type falls flowing over five levels, so pristine and alluring that many braved the steep terrain to swim. From there, the caravan proceeded to Jacob’s Ladder, an extant stone stairway from what used to be the shoreline to the 19th century parish church of St. Michael the Archangel.

Despite our very late arrival in Oslob (crossing back to the southeast) due to a delay caused by the rains, the “suroy” participants were entertained by school children with delightful songs and dances, over a buffet dinner at the plaza. After which, we proceeded to our respective resorts along the beach.   Next morning, some participants went whale watching as early as  6 a.m. as bus pick up was at  9 a.m. When we looked out to the sea from our respective resorts, the whale watchers on their boats were just meters away – at a shouting distance.

Day 3’s highlight was the heritage town of Boljoon, one of Cebu’s oldest town, established in 1599. The Nuestra Sra. Patrocinio de Maria Church is declared a National Cultural Treasure. It was where we were served snacks, at the side garden of the convento adjacent to the church.   We viewed some religious statues still complete with ivory faces and hands in the convento.

Then off to the fog-covered mountains of Mantalongon in Dalaguete: the vegetable basket of Cebu.   We were served lots of budbud varieties, nangka-filled cookies, fragrant wood-fire cooked rice cakes, torta, etc.   After which, they brought in sacks of freshly picked veggies for us to take home in plastic bags.   We were overwhelmed by the “abi-abi” we experienced, Mayor Ronald Allan Cesante. This kind of hospitality is a valued cultural gem fast vanishing.

Participants were groaning as they carry their bags of take-away by the time the caravan reached Argao, where we had lunch at the park.   I, for one, grabbed what’s left of the items for sale – pure tableya (gone in a whiff!), torta tuba, browas, among others.   Mayor Edsel Galeos was on hand to see to the lunch preparation and the impressive dance performances.

Then back to Carcar for some serious shopping of many local delicacies and products. I never fail to buy a kilo each of their frozen pork and beef tapa, and of course their famous footwear. I left the caravan in Argao and shopped on my own in Carcar. (Got some visitors waiting for me at home.) But the caravan ended with dinner at the lechon city of Cebu – Talisay – where they had their dinner and, of course, more songs and dances.

There were 85 paying guests of the close to 150 suroy-suroy participants in three tourist coaches and satellite vans. Most of the guests were balik-suroy participants and I heard a lot of positive comments on the enjoyable pace and the improvements of this year’s “suroy.” Especially in the toilet facilities, although a lot of upgrading still has to be put in place. Commendation must also go to the suroy-suroy marshals, headed by Grace Paulino, who saw to every participant’s comfort and need. It is the little things that matter most!

Suroy-suroy Camotes Islands follows in early May – for sure an altogether different experience of Cebu!

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