Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. NiÃ±o , the provinceâ€™s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.
Our vehicle sped, tracing the wide cement and asphalt road down south in the first leg of our Cebu Ocho. Concrete houses and buildings gave way to wooden ones, open fields and rolling hills. As we pushed through, kilometer by kilometer, town by town, rural Cebu is unfolding. It’s ruggedness fascinating and it’s bucolic sceneries, breathtaking.
Tourists and travelers don’t get to experience the real Cebu. They just confine themselves within the four corners of their hotel rooms as well as the predictability, comforts and triteness of the city. For most, it’s the highlight of their visit without really knowing what’s beyond the perimeter of the concrete jungle, and thus missing out the real Cebuano character of thriving in adversity and persevering despite the odds.
The island is not as fertile as Negros which has been blessed with soil enriched by a millenia of volcanic eruptions. It is a sliver of land that is mostly elevated limestone, a testament to its geological past. Of the few remaining flat lands, it is hardy that it can only support limited kind of crops. Because of these circumstances, the Cebuano is left with no choice but to look out to the sea or confront and strive to thrive in these conditions.
South Cebu is no exception. Most of it’s land area is mountainous and inhospitable. Roads wind, rise and drop as one drives through but it has one of the beautiful landscapes in the province. Around two hours from the city, the approach to Boljoon is one example.
From a high elevation, the seascape is just breathtaking. One then goes down through curving roads cut through the side of a limestone cliff at the right and the left opens to the sea with a low vertical drop. And suddenly, rounding off the massive chalk of a rocky face, into a cove, the small town of Boljoon comes into view. The waters are just pristine with small bancas anchored a few meters from the coastline. Small houses line the road and then, the centuries old coral stone church looms at the end of a clearing. Awesome!
The southern part has one of the most pleasant drives I had in the province. Well paved and wide roads is almost always empty except for the occassional bus plying the route. Tricycles as well as passenger multicabs pass from time to time but it is often all yours. Human traffic is also at a minimum.
However, even if there are few vehicles, speed limits are not often observed and with many blind curves. Couple this with the people’s lax attitude in these parts and it can be disastrous. A few years ago, I was speeding near Oslob and suddenly, a child crossed the street. It sent me shaking with fear. Well, unless you are in Tuburan.
In many parts, large, decades, and perhaps, even centuries old trees line the sides and a brief stop under the shade is always advisable.
One thing that will easily catch a traveler’s attention are the pristine and beautiful beaches along the road. There are white sandy coastlines or the ordinary brown and black ones with their occasional bathers and frolickers but most of the time, empty. These are undeveloped, with no resorts or huts or other familiar amenities but still inviting. I can’t just help think that the people living here are really blessed. In other places, people pay to enter into resorts but here, one can just stop, go down and enjoy the sea.
Fishing is a fact of life here but in one stopover, where bancas were lined, I was just surprised and impressed that some parts had beautiful carvings on them. There is always room for artistic expression and Cebuanos are known for it. During low tide in the afternoon, its easy to spot shell gatherers at the shallow waters.
Market day in towns bring out goods and produce and a clearing beside the market can transform into a thriving spot where livestock and bundles of vegetables and fruits are haggled and sold. Piglets in sacks are bought for a future celebration while a herd of goats are tied to a tree trunk waiting for a good price.
Along the road, it is common to see many stalls selling cheap fruits from the backyard and in such stop, one big jackfruit can be yours for as low as 30 pesos. It’s that affordable.
The south of Cebu is rugged but beautiful. It brings you to another face of the province that most travelers and visitors often fail to see. It is a simple but hardy life that molds the persevering spirit of the Cebuanos.
Road trips are always a treat for me. You not only get to see more of the country and know more about the people, but you are humbled to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around yourself. That there are bigger things beyond the city or travel should not be limited to tourist traps and staying at a posh hotel. It’s more than that and the south of Cebu is one good place to go.