Hidden Valley Mountain Resort: What a Wonderpool World

Nestled within the mountains of Toledo and Pinamungajan is a hidden oasis with majestic pools that will certainly satisfy your inner mermaid (or merman). To those who are craving for waves but can do without the dangers of the open sea, then look no more this place is for you. Mountains and waves seem out of sync. Never mind that their wave pool generates artificial waves out of spring water. It's as real as it can get with those three-foot waves anyway.




It was an early morning trip to Pinamungajan with our clients from Access e-Talk Plus for a team building seminar. Our destination was Hidden Valley Mountain Resort at Barangay Lamac, Pinamungajan, Cebu. True to its name, the Hidden Valley Mountain Resort was quite difficult to find but going there is definitely worthwhile.

Hidden Valley Mountain Resort in Pinamungajan Cebu
Hidden Valley Mountain Resort

Sirao Flower Garden: A Hidden Gem in Cebu City's Mountains

In Cebu City, you would not expect that deep in the mountain barangays, you will find a garden of luscious flowers. Sirao Flower Farm is a place to go for your pre-nuptial or debut photos. Being surrounded by flowers in your pictures is definitely romantic. The place is also known as the Little Amsterdam of Cebu. Or quite simply, the Celosia Flower Farm. And yes, it's this flower farm that was trending on social media in the past year.




Sirao Garden first started as a simple flower farm. The flowers were harvested every end of the year which will be used for All Soul’s Day and for Sinulog. The owners of Sirao Garden were surprised to find that their garden was starting to attract visitors from different places. So they decided to plant more flowers and develop the place.

Sirao Flower Garden in Cebu City
Sirao Flower Garden


When I went there a year ago (2016), the ground was still a muddy terrain but now they added a little bit of concrete so that it will be safe for walking. They have also added a couple of tree houses so that you can see the majestic view in Sirao Garden.

cottage for rent at Sirao Flower Garden
Cottage for rent


It is enjoyable to walk around the garden filled with Celosia flowers. You can also spot a few sunflowers here and there. It feels like you’re in the secret garden. A lot of people visit the place during the weekends and holidays. It’s a tourist spot even for Cebuanos.

Sirao Flower Garden
Flowers in bloom


When my friends and I visited Sirao Garden, it was raining just a few hours ago and since it’s a garden, well, our shoes were caked with mud. But it didn’t stop us (or even the other people) from exploring the place. The mud didn’t seem to matter anymore as long as the people can have Instagram-worthy photos. The sky was dark but we were still able to take really cool photos. Outside Sirao Garden, there are stalls with food or drinks to satisfy your stomach needs after picture-taking (I strongly recommend their sweet corn!).

Sirao Flower Garden
Flower plots


It’s not hard to get to Sirao Garden, although it is a bit away from the city. It’s just along the road so it’s not a difficult place to spot. Plus, they also have a really big sign saying #SIRAO. You can ride a
motorcycle or habal-habal from JY Square Mall Lahug. There are a lot of motorcycles that will offer a ride for a fee of around Php 200.00 – Php 300.00. There are still a lot of places to tour in Busay, it would be a waste to go right back down after visiting Sirao Garden. You may arrange a private city tour with any tour companies. Entrance fee to the place is at Php 30.00.

Sirao Flower Garden
Sirao Flower Garden
Have you been to the Sirao Flower Garden? How was your experience? You may share in the comments below.

Contributing Writer: Edelyn Codera
Gratis: The Wonderful Cebu Blog would like to extend gratitude to South Shore Tours for sponsoring a Twin City Tour in Cebu for our writer. The Sirao Flower Gardens was one of the stops in that twin city tour.

Tops: Breathtaking Views of the Queen City of the South

Tops got its name by being literally at the top. This former helipad in Malubog, Cebu City is a famous tourist destination for scenic views of the city lights at night and the urban sprawl and nature’s greens during daylight. As mentioned, Tops was once a helipad. It was owned by a scion of the influential Osmeña political family. There are also restaurants and areas where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The place seems to have an allure that constantly attracts both locals and visiting tourists. 




From JY Square in Lahug, you can ask habal-habal drivers to take you to Tops with a fare ranging between Php 80-100.00 one way. You can also opt to ride a taxi but I think that’s more expensive. Or if you want to, you can walk for thirty minutes to one hour depending on your pace. That's if you want some extra challenge going to Tops. As for us, we rode on the car provided by South Shores Travel and Tours for our twin city tour.

Tops Lookout in Cebu City
Tops Lookout

Jonie's Sizzlers and Roast: Really Cheap Meals in Cebu

Cebu is foodie heaven. And as economic theory states, costs can be high where there is high demand. The good thing about Cebu though is that despite that heavy demand for restaurants, there is also no shortage of supply. That means, cost is somehow balanced and Cebu dining need not be expensive. Sure there are quite a number of places that are expensive. But there are also many that offer great value for your buck. There's the typical hole in the wall places. But you can find cheap food even in malls.




Jonie's Flavored Chicken

While not exactly a much talked about restaurant, Jonie's Sizzlers and Roast offers meals with very affordable prices. Jonie's is located at the upper ground floor of SM City Cebu. They specialize in flavored roast chicken. I must say there's pretty good flavor in their roast chicken.

One good thing about the Jonie's Sizzlers and Roast menu is that while they specialize in flavored roast chicken, they serve a variety of meats as well. And they have vegetarian options too. The menu has pork dishes, fish and seafood dishes, chicken, and beef. Here are some that we tried:

Grilled Tangigue 

Tangigue or mackerel is one of my favorite fish food along with salmon and bangus (milkfish). I love tangigue either as a fish steak, fried or pan-seared, or grilled. When I want to eat healthier at Jonie's, I order the grilled tangigue.

grilled fish at Jonie's Flavored Chicken
Grilled tangigue

Skip's Beach Resort: A Backpacker's Lodge in Daanbantayan

Back in 2007, I went to meet Skip Ellsworth at his beach resort in Agujo, Daanbantayan, Cebu. By then, Skip was already ailing and can only move through the aid of a wheelchair. He introduced me to his wife Belle and one of his kids who was only about 11 or 12 years old by that time. Skip was a martial artist. He was Bruce Lee's third student in America.


Almost nine years after that visit, I was again in Daanbantayan. I was on a familiarization tour of Virgin Beach Resort. But I made sure I visited Skip's Beach Resort and KTV once again. I was able to talk to Belle and learned from her that Skip passed away in 2008.
Skip's Beach Resort in Daanbantayan Cebu
Skip's Beach Resort and KTV
View from the terrace of Skip's Beach Resort
View from the terrace

Santiago Bay Garden and Resort in the Camotes Group of Islands

In February 2016, I facilitated a team building program for NPax Cebu Corporation in the Camotes group of islands in the northwestern part of Cebu province. The event was held at the Santiago Bay Garden and Resort in San Francisco town on Pacijan island. It was a good venue for team building programs in the Camotes islands.

Santiago Bay Garden and Resort is among the popular resorts in Camotes. You have to book in advance to get a room here. 


Santiago Bay Garden and Resort Camotes
Santiago Bay Garden and Resort in the Camotes Islands


Thresher Shack: Humble Dormitory in Malapascua Island

There are more fancy accommodation options on Malapascua Island. But I chose to stay at The Thresher Shack. The Thresher Shack is a humble dormitory type accommodation. It is located at the Divelink Cebu property on Logon Beach. It also helped that one of the partners that own Divelink Cebu is an uncle of mine.


The Thresher Shack

Uncle Gary is one of the major owners of Divelink Cebu. When you get to know him, it is not hard to know why the humble accommodation that started with just 6 beds was called Thresher Shack. Uncle Gary is a marine biologist. He is a scuba diving enthusiast. And he is a prominent shark conservationist as well. He is now based on Malapascua Island. Malapascua is a known haven for thresher sharks in the northern part of the central Visayas province of Cebu.


The Thresher Shack
The Thresher Shack

Mactan Island: A Suggested Itinerary for a Quick Day Tour

Mactan Island is known for its beaches. But there is actually more to that in this island in Cebu. Here is a suggested itinerary for a quick day tour of Mactan Island.





Mactan Ferry 

If coming from Cebu City, we suggest that you take the Mactan Ferry at Pier 3. It is a convenient way to get to Mactan Island and avoid the dreaded traffic situation in Mandaue City and Lapulapu City. It's also a cheap way to get started with the tour. Besides, who doesn't want the fresh sea breeze of the morning?

Muelle Osmeña Wharf and Lighthouse

The Mactan ferry docks at the Muelle Osmeña Wharf. On site is a lighthouse that is more than 100 years old. Snap a photo with that lighthouse.

Birhen sa Regla Church 

Across the exit of the Muelle Osmeña Wharf is the Birhen sa Regla Church. The main church in Lapulapu City, many devotees come here to ask for favors. Common among these favors is the prayer to conceive.

Saint Alphonsus Catholic School 

Also in the area is Saint Alphonsus Catholic School. SACS was established in 1916. It is more than a hundred years old.

Senyang's 

For breakfast, we suggest a local Mactan Island fare. Head to Senyang's for their famous lumpia. Senyang's is walking distance from St. Alphonsus Catholic School.

Lapulapu Central Elementary School 

For the serious history buffs, visit the Gabaldon building at the Lapulapu City Elementary School.

Lapulapu City Hall

Visit the Lapulapu monument at city hall and learn about its history. It used to hold a bow and arrow. But after a succession of 3 mayors died of heart attack, they changed the weapon.


Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a public park under the Mactan Island side of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. Walk with caution in this park as there have been numerous reports of crime. Or better yet, snap photos from the vehicle you are riding in.

Ukehub Kafe

Admire the world-class ukulele products from Susing's Guitar at the Ukehub Kafe. If you are lucky, you might be able to catch a learn-to-play session for the ukulele. Or you can schedule one before you embark on your tour.

Ukuleles on display at the Ukehub Kafe on Mactan Island
Ukuleles on display at the Ukehub Kafe


Mactan Shrine

One of the most visited sites in Mactan Island is the Mactan Shrine. It is believed to be the site of the Battle of Mactan. Ferdinand Magellan died in that battle. That battle also enshrined Datu Lapulapu as the first Filipino to triumph against the Spanish conquistadores.

Sutukil

Right beside the Mactan Shrine are restaurants that offer sutukil, a Cebuano palate feast consisting of sugba (roast), tuwa (soup), and kilawin (fish ceviche). If you are big on seafood dishes, you will lobe this place.

Mactan Newtown

The Mactan Newtown is the newest commercial park in Mactan Island.  Head to the Mactan Alfresco to sample some of the restaurants. Restaurants in the area are Muvanz, Choobi Choobi, Meximama, Orange Karenderia, Mama Linda Inato, and Oyster Bay Express. Or just simply marvel at the modern structures within the area.


Hadsan Cove

When you have time, you can try the submarine tour, helmet diving, or the hot air balloon at Hadsan Cove.

Dinner

Choose between MB's Tavern and the kandingan places for dinner. MB's tavern is a German-owned cafe. They serve pizza, breads, and some Filipino dishes. Choose MB's tavern if you want to play it safe. For the more adventurous, try goat meat dishes in one of the kandingan places in barangay Basak.

Pueblo Verde 

Pueblo is a modern shopping complex right outside the Mactan Export Processing Zone II in barangay Basak.

D'Jungle Dinner and Cultural Show

If you do not have a flight to catch, cap the night off with dinner at D'Jungle Restaurant. An after-dinner cultural show starts around 7:00 p.m. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to that.

Buy Packed Lechon at the Airport

If you have a late night flight to catch, be sure to bring in some lechon from Cebu. Ayer's and Zubuchon have stalls at the Mactan Cebu International Airport where you can get some.

Do you know of other interesting places to visit in Mactan Island? Let us know in the comments section below.

Twin City Tour: Cebu + Lapulapu

There are many tourists who come to Cebu with very limited times. They sure want to maximize whatever time they have to enjoy local culture, food, and tourist spots. One of way for them to make good use of their time is to do a twin city tour

In the past, we posted about quick tours they can do at certain locations in Metro Cebu. Let us explore another one in this post. This itinerary shall focus on Cebu City and Lapulapu City. We recommend the services of South Shore Tours for vehicles you will need on this tour. They have a twin city tour package that can be availed for a price as low as PhP 900 per person.

Have your driver pick you up at your hotel right after you have breakfast. We recommend that you start early. Start your twin city tour no later than 9 a.m. 

Flower Garden

You may have heard of the flower gardens in Cebu's mountain barangays. Start your twin city tour with a visit to one of them. Sirao's Celosia gardens may be the most popular. There is Terrazas de Flores which is nearer to urban Cebu City. There is also Balamban's Buwakan ni Alejandra. Although Balamban is not part of Cebu City. Enjoy the scenery and take photos for your Instagram. 

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Sirao Flower Garden
Sirao Flower Garden


Tops 

Your second stop will be at Tops Lookout. Tops is a popular hangout for both locals and visitors. The former helipad of the Osmeña family gives good views of the city. This is true specially at night.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Tops
Tops


Temple of Leah 

The Temple of Leah is the third stop. This temple is a new structure. There are a few interesting things about it. For one, it was built as a copy of the Parthenon in Greece. Second, it is a mausoleum a man built in loving memory of his late wife. In the future, they plan to add more value to this destination by adding museum pieces.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Temple of Leah
Temple of Leah


Taoist Temple

Move on to the Taoist Temple. This temple was built in 1972. It showcases Chinese influences in Cebu. This is a popular stop for tourists as well. The dragon sculptures, botanical gardens, and landscaping are the things to see here.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Taoist Temple
Taoist Temple

Spanish-era Structures

Next up is a walking tour of Spanish-era structures. Ask your driver to drop you off at Fort San Pedro. Fort San Pedro is the country's oldest and smallest tri-bastion fort. The fort hosted the earliest Spanish settlement in the archipelago. At certain times of the year, they have tourism interns who guide tourists around the structure. Right outside Fort San Pedro is Plaza Independencia. It is a very old park that also has a very interesting history.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro

Walk to Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño. This church is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the Philippines. The Magellan's Cross is right outside it's premises. The cross was erected to celebrate the conversion of natives to Christianity. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted this cross. The kiosk that houses this cross is one of Cebu's most iconic symbols.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Magellan's Cross


Take another short walk to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu. It took several years to complete. It also has a very interesting history. Right beside it is the cathedral museum.

Further down the road is Shamrock Pasalubong Center. You can buy local delicacies at this place. Cross the bridge over Estero de Parian. Stop at the eastern end of Colon Street. Here you will find the Colon Street Obelisk. It indicates that Colon Street is the oldest and shortest national road in the country. From Colon Street, one can see the Heritage of Cebu Monument. It was built on the old Plaza Parian. The monument depicts many historical events in Cebu.

The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is a stone's throw away from the monument. This house was built in 1675. Walk another block and drop by Casa Gorordo. This is the ancestral home of Cebu's first Filipino archbishop. Ask your driver to pick you up at this location and drive to Museo Sugbo.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House


Museo Sugbo is the Cebu branch of the National Museum of the Philippines. This edifice used to be the Carcel de Cebu. It served as a jail facility for centuries. It was converted into a museum in 2008. This is the end of the Cebu City leg of your. Eat some lunch before proceeding to Mactan Island. Check out Cebu City's buffet restaurants for a good meal.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Museo Sugbo
Museo Sugbo


A good place to start the Lapulapu City leg of your twin city tour is at the Mactan Shrine. This is the site of the Battle of Mactan. It was here where Lapulapu and his men fought and killed Magellan. Alternatively, you can have a real Cebuano lunch beside this shrine. It is where you will find many sutukil restaurants. Sutukil is a Cebuano meal of grilled seafood, soup, and fish ceviche.

After the shrine visit, immerse yourself in the Cebuano musical culture. You can either visit Susing's Guitar factory or the Ukehub Kafe. If you're lucky, you might be able to attend a ukulele workshop at 
Ukehub.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: Ukuleles
Ukuleles on display at Ukehub Kafe


Roman Catholics may want to say a prayer at the Birhen sa Regla church. Cebuanos often come to this church to ask for divine favors. Those who are not too religious may choose to marvel at the Muelle Osmeña lighthouse instead. The lighthouse is more than 100 years old.

End your tour at the 10000 Roses Cafe. Technically, the cafe is located in the town of Cordova. Consider it a bonus in the twin city tour. Enjoy the view of 10000 LED-powered artificial white roses. This place is best visited at night.

Twin city tour in Cebu stop: 10000 Roses Cafe
10000 Roses
I hope you enjoy your twin city tour!

Note: Some photos are contributed by Cheska Baynas and South Shore Tours.

El Cebu Viejo: A Walking Tour of Cebu's Old Spanish Quarters

The Philippines had been a colony of the Spanish Empire for 333 years. Spanish influences are seen in many of Cebu's old structures. Most of these Spanish-era structures are found near Cebu City's waterfront. A walking tour can be done to appreciate these Hispanic influences. We suggest an itinerary in this post.





Fort San Pedro 

It is the smallest and oldest tri-bastion fort in the country. The fort housed the first Spanish settlement in the country. Fort San Pedro is a popular wedding reception venue. A few refer to it as the Cotta. It is among the more popular tourist stops in Cebu City.

Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro

Talisay City, Cebu: A Suggestion for a Quick Day Tour

Talisay City is among the newest cities in Cebu province. I once lived here during my high school years. Let me share to you how you can do a quick day tour of urban Talisay City. 





Gaisano Fiesta Mall 

A good starting point is the Gaisano Fiesta Mall in barangay Tabunok. This is Talisay City's biggest and first mall. Tabunok is also Talisay City's most urbanized barangay. 

Tabunok Flyover 

The Tabunok flyover is not just a flyover. It is the first flyover in the entire Cebu province. The area around it is among the busiest in Talisay City in terms of commercial activity. 

Linda's Chicharon

While Carcar City is known for its chicharon, there is one stall near the Tabunok flyover that sells really good chicharon and pinakupsan. Look for Linda's Chicharon along the stretch of Rabaya Street between the flyover and Sangi Road. 

Victoria's Halo-halo 

Back in high school, Victoria's Halo-halo was a popular place to get some desserts. It hasn't changed much to date. 

Isdaan sa Tangke

From Rafael Rabaya Road, take a tricycle to barangay Tangke. While Bantayan Island is known for its dried fish industry, Isdaan has also made a name for itself in the industry. It supplies most of its products to groceries in Cebu.

Santa Teresa de Avila Church

The Santa Teresa de Avila Church is more than a century old. It is Talisay City's main catholic church. The church is located in the old part of town.

Santa Teresa de Avila Church
Santa Teresa de Avila Church in Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines

Heritage Walk: American-era Waterfront Tour in Cebu City

Americans have considerable influences in Cebuano culture. Architecture is one of them. This posts suggests an itinerary for a tour of American-era structures in Cebu City's waterfront. It is a short tour. It can probably be completed in less than half a day.




Aduana Building

Aduana is also known as the Malacañang sa Sugbu. The Aduana building was the customs building during the American occupation of the city. Aduana is a Spanish word. It literally means customs. It is now used as the official residence of the country's president in the Visayas. This building was built in 1910.  This building also fronts the oldest part of Cebu's international port. The dock is now used by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Compania Maritima Building 

Compania Maritima is a picture of neglect. This is a building of significant historical value. But its current state is sad and in ruin. Several homeless people actually live here. The outside reeks of the smell of urine. Compania Maritima used to be the location of Hotel Shamrock. It used to be the headquarters of one of the country's biggest shipping companies. And it is where Shamrock traces its humble history. Shamrock is now one of today's leaders in the Cebu food industry.

Compania Maritima Building
Compania Maritima Building


Mountain-themed Day Tour of Cebu City

Cebu City is not all urban. There are parts of the city that is still mostly green. When you are in Cebu and want a change of scenery from the mostly urban hassles of city living, you may want to take a mountain-themed tour of Cebu City. This post is about a suggested itinerary.





JY Square Mall 

Suggested starting point for this itinerary is at the JY Square Mall. 

Breakfast

Lots of options here. Here are 3 of them:

Crate Cafe

Come here if you love coffee. Or when you imagine yourself sipping your morning cup of coffee in an outdoor table with Cebu's hills as backdrop. It prepares you for the adventure ahead. They open at 7 a.m. but are closed on Mondays.

Terrazas de Flores Cafe and Botanical Garden

If you wanna get right at it, Terrazas de Flores do not only offer your morning dose of coffee and breakfast but also a beautiful flower garden which kind of starts your day of several flower garden visits. They open at 7 a.m. all week.

Dolce

Coffee, salads, desserts. You will feel at home at Dolce if you want those. They also open at 7 a.m. You may also want to skip this in the morning and visit it for after dinner dessert.

Sirao Flower Garden or Celosia Flower Farm

Starting from the farthest end of this itinerary takes one to the now famous Sirao Flower Garden. Also known as the Celosia Flower Garden and dubbed Cebu's Little Amsterdam. It's a flower garden with beautiful views. Take heed though if you are allergic to pollen.


Sirao Flower Farm
Sirao Flower Garden

111 Waterfalls of Cebu

I Read somewhere that Cebu has a total of 111 waterfalls. It may very well be the waterfall capital of the Philippines. 





In this post, I will attempt to list down these 111 natural gems that makes Cebu a refreshing tourist haven.

Canlaob Falls
Canlaob Falls

Earn A Free Hotel Stay While You Book Your Cebu Hotel

Who doesn't love free? I know I do. And I know many of you dear readers do to. So, let me share to you how you can earn points that you can use towards free hotel stays in the future. This is specially good for people who travel frequently and book hotel rooms quite frequently. Much like airline miles program that earn free airfare, this one also let's you accumulate points that you can use to book hotels in the future. The good thing about this is it is free to join.

This program is from Travelbook.ph. Each completed hotel stay booked through the program earns users a specific number of points. Let this points accumulate over time. Here's how you can use the accumulated points:

Pay for a hotel room

You can pay for the entire cost of a hotel room using only the points you earn from the Travelbook.ph program. Yes, you heard that right. When you have enough points, it can cover the entire cost of a hotel room.


Earn a free hotel stay with the Travelbook.ph program

As a hotel discount

Do not worry if the cost of the hotel room is greater than the points balance that you have. You can still use those points. What you can do is apply it as a discount to the booking. That way, you don't have to pay for your hotel room entirely by cash.

Things to Remember

Of course, this program has its limitations. Take note of these major points:
  • You have to sign up as a member to access the benefits of this program.
  • Points earned from the Travelbook.ph Rewards Program can only be used towards hotel bookings in the Philippines.
  • Points expire after 1 calendar year.
  • Take heed of cancellation policies as there may be related charges when you cancel bookings.
How cool is that?