the quiet side of Cebu

/ 01 March 2016 /
Like thousands of other travelers, we went one summer to the province of Cebu expecting to bask on white beaches and sip chic little cocktails. Okay, we didn't exactly plan that, but at least one beach trip to the island of Mactan -- which is crawling with hotels, resorts, and foreign tourists -- was on the itinerary.

Let's just say that "beach trip" didn't go so well. In summary: We got kinda lost and spent the whole afternoon commuting through half the island. Getting lost like that was actually nice, but we wanted to be somewhere more... chilled.

And we found the perfect chill. Not at the beach, not at a resort, and definitely not in an urbanized area like Mactan.

South was the way to go.

Towards the southern half of the island-province, some three hours by bus from Cebu City, is the sleepy barangay of Mantalongon, Dalaguete. This barangay is just like any other Filipino rural town: relaxed atmosphere, welcoming people, streets you can roam around on without fear of pollution or getting mugged.

But Mantalongon is also a gateway to one of the most underrated destinations in Cebu: Pico Osmeña or Osmeña Peak.

The peak is the highest on the island, but don't let that description fool you. Osmeña Peak is actually easy to access -- it's more of a hike than a climb.

Before you can make your way up the trail, you have to take a motorcycle ride from the Mantalongon market to the base of the mountain. Brace yourself for this ride because the roads are winding and bumpy. But if you manage to keep your eyes open, you'll be rewarded by scenic views of limestone cliffs and vegetable farms.

At the foot of Osmeña Peak, a gently sloping vegetable patch flanks the start of the trail. At this point, you'll meet kids volunteering to guide you up the mountain for a small fee.

Expect lots of limestone patches and some slightly steep slopes on your way up. Less active people (e.g. me) might have to catch their breath occasionally. But the 45-minute hike is far from arduous, especially when the gods have blessed your trip with a cool, overcast sky.

And at the peak, you'll forget everything else.

Osmeña Peak provides an almost 360-degree view of Dalaguete's numerous limestone hills and the neighboring islands beyond. When the weather is cool, you can watch the fog quietly roll down the green-carpeted hills. The scene is breathtaking. All around you is just beautiful silence and the scent of grass and wet earth.

Be all there. Take your time to see and listen and breathe. Be still.

When it's time to go, you might not want to head back to the city just yet. We didn't. Instead, we took an unplanned sidetrip to see some more of Mantalongon. We had lunch at a seaside boulevard of carinderias and then roamed around. And I, a sucker for old buildings, found an unassuming gem.

The San Guillermo de Aquitania Parish Church, located just a few blocks away from the Mantalogon market, was originally erected in 1802. Through the centuries, it has served as a fort, survived earthquakes, and undergone several restorations. It is also a memorial site for Don Pedro Buenconsejo, one of the former Gobernadorcillos of Dalaguete.

The church's Spanish baroque grandiose has been well-preserved, a huge reason it has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

Our brief but unforgettable escape in south Cebu ended with us waiting for a bus at an old sari-sari store playing music from an AM radio. It was 2 in the the afternoon and the town was having its siesta. Time was languid in this part of Cebu -- a charm we couldn't have found at any tourist-filled resort.


More info on Osmeña Peak here and here.
More info on San Antonio de Aquitania Parish Church here.


{ Tyril Bacas } on: March 1, 2016 at 6:50 AM said...

Definitely frustrated at the lack of beach time but the Osmena peak climb made up for it :)

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