Thursday, November 27, 2008

PANAGSAMA RESORTS, MOALBOAL (A trip to the southwestern part of Cebu)

Last October we were able to explore the southeastern part of Cebu visiting old churches along the way from Minglanilla to Boljoon. The last stop was at the beach resort of Club Fort Med where we stayed overnight. This time we planned to complete the exploration of southern part of Cebu by visiting the western towns. We planned to go to Carcar and from there cross over to the west to Barili, then to Dumanjug, Ronda, Alcantara, Moalboal, Badian, Alegria, Malabuyoc, Samboan and Santander which is already on the southernmost tip of Cebu. We no longer planned to stop by Oslob as we were told that their old church got burned a few years back. On returning back to the city we would then pass through the towns we visited last month of Boljoon, Alcoy, Dalaguete, Argao, Sibonga, Carcar, San Fernando, Naga and Minglanilla.

Thus on a Friday morning just after we finished our annual retreat, five of us priests took the opportunity to explore these south western towns. As we drove down from the Talavera Retreat House in Quiot, Pardo where we had our retreat, the first old church that caught our sight and visited was the fortress like parish church of Pardo. The church façade has cylindrical structures on both sides thus giving it the look of a fortress. The massive bell tower is right at the center of the façade. This church built between 1880—1893 has Sto. Tomas de Villanueva as its titular saint.

The next town that we had a stop over was already on the western side of Cebu: Dumanjug. The façade of the Dumanjug church is simply impressive. Made of finely cut coral stone, it is of neoclassical form with simple decorative elements. The bell tower which is on one side of the church has a dodecagonal plan which is the only one I have seen so far in my travels around the country. It has three stories but is unusually high. The marker in front of the church says that it was completed in 1864 ten years after construction started in 1854 when Dumanjug was elevated into a parish. It also says that the church is one of the few old church structures in Cebu and probably in the whole Philippines which was designed, executed, supervised and completed by Filipinos themselves. Of more recent structure found just beside the church was the garden setting of the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Enclosed with a parameter wall, there is an open rectangular shape building where the adorers could make their adoration. The monstrance sits on a glass case at the end of the wall outside of the chapel with beautifully landscaped plants in between.

Then we stopped by for a short visit at the church of Ronda. The church was under renovation. They were putting on a new roofing which was higher than the original and they extended the church on both sides. A tarpouline picture of the planned renovated church was posted outside of the church. The renovation would also include the facelifting of the façade of the church.

The next stop was Moalboal. I was shocked to notice that only the façade of the old church remained while the rest of the body lay in ruins. I visited the place about ten years ago and I still remember that the church was just beside the old convento. Asking around I was told that they had to demolish the church as the columns have exploded when the steel inside got rusted. I was told that sometime before, they decided to elevate the height of the church. New columns were put in place using the white sand that abound in the area. Since it was porous, water seeped into the columns and corroded the steel works inside causing them to explode and rendering the whole church in danger of collapsing. And so they decided to demolish the church and build a new one beside it. What was ironic was that the new semi circular church had a very low roofing, the ceiling of which one could almost touch.

It was already lunch time when we reached Moalboal and we decided that we will stay in one of the beach resorts of the area and continue the tour of the old churches the following day.

The famous beaches of Moalboal are found in the Panagsama Resorts in Brgy Basdiot. It is about three kilometers from the town proper. In Panagsama there is no sandy beach to speak of except at its northern end. In the place where most of the resorts are found they have put in place low barrier walls with some white sand inside separating it from the rocky shore. However, the sea is very much ideal for snorkeling. Just a few meters from the shore soft and hard corals abound especially near the drop off point. Fishes of all kinds could also be seen. When I went snorkeling, I for a moment got scared when suddenly the waters just near me darkened only to find out there was a huge school of small fishes passing by. They could have numbered to the millions.

Moalboal is really famous for scuba diving. I saw at least five dive centers in Panagsama resorts. There are plenty of dive sites around the area. The best one they said was the one found in Pescador Island which was perhaps about 15 mintues away by boat. I would have wanted to go on scuba diving, but we arrived late. There were plenty of foreigners there mostly from Europe, China and Korea. I surely will return to Moalboal for scuba diving.

Since we arrived already past two in the afternoon and there was no more scuba diving available, we decided to rest for a while. We lodged at Eve’s Kiosk Dive Resort. At about four in the afternoon, we took the car and drove about six kilometers away to the White Beach in Basdako which is north of Basdiot in the peninsula of Moalboal. It is here where the white beaches are found. There were few people on the beach, but they said on the weekends it would be full of people from all over the province. Just like in Basdiot, there were also a good growth of soft and hard corals found near the drop off point.

Early the following day, I went on snorkeling around the area in Panagsama. I snorkeled near the edge of the drop off where most of the corals were found. I noticed that there were plenty of tiny brownish particles in the waters which were at times itchy. I don’t know if they were caused by the coral growth or algae or pollution. However, it could not have been the latter also as the waters near the shore was very clear. Except for that little distraction, I had a good time snorkeling around the area.

Right after breakfast we right away took our leave as we still had several towns to visit. The first town after Moalboal was Badian. The façade of the church was quite old already. It only had one level with four very tall rectangular columns two of which were free standing which supported the pediment on top. There was a rectangular space between the two middle columns and the recessed entrance to the church. A newer three story belfry was free standing on one side of the church. They had a two tiered retablo on the altar, with the image of the Immaculate Conception on top and St. James the Apostle in the lower middle flanked by the niches of St. Joseph and St. Anthony. There was a wedding mass with three couples going on when we visited.

After Badian, we passed by the town of Alegria. The church dates back to the American occupation and is made of cement (buhos nga cemento). The two-storey belfry serves as the façade and canopy to the entrance of the church. They were preparing for their parish fiesta in honor of St. Francis Xavier when we visited. A unique activity that the parish priest did was putting on a display of antique images and religious pictures owned by the parishioners and were placed all over the altar.

Malabuyoc came after Alegria. The church is also antique made of massive cut stone. It sits right at the edge of the road. The three floor sexagonal belfry is freestanding but almost touches one side of the church. They were renovating the interiors of the church by installing new ceilings and putting on a small dome at the center.

The next town was Genatilan. They also have an old church made of hewn coral blocks. It had a simple façade with a newly built canopy on the entrance of the church. The bell tower is on the right of the church that rises in four tapering tiers capped by a spire. The ceiling inside the church is newly built with a small dome at the middle of the cruciform church. It had a varnished retablo as an altar with St. Gregory the Great on the middle niche flanked by St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Anthony of Padua. On the front of the both sides of the retablo are newly installed niches of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Samboan came after Genatilan. The town sits on a hill. It also has an antique church the façade of which is made of white coral blocks. Adjacent to the church is its polygonal four-tiered belfry. On the other side of the church is the newly renovated convento with its brightly varnished wooden panels on the second floor. However, a triangular pediment was added to the convent thus competing with the façade of the church.

The last church that we visited which completed our tour of southern Cebu was Santander. The church façade was neo-classical with its belfry in the middle making it look tall and slender. It had three triangular arches with stained glass windows. The main door was made of glass painted with the Alliance of Two Hearts.

While we were touring the towns south of Cebu it coincided with the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbu, a tourism venture being promoted by the governor of Cebu, Gwen Garcia. The three day tour of the Suroy-suroy Sugbu was titled Southern Heritage Trail. Gwen Garcia was bringing along with her busloads of local and foreign tourists. Preparations were being done in every town. Exhibits of local products were being displayed in newly constructed booths, bands were playing and old and young in colorful costumes were ready to make some presentations. Since we came just a few hours ahead of the group, it looked as if we were the advance party. We finally meet them in Santander. They were going from east to west while we were traveling from the west to the east of the southern part of Cebu. That enterprise of the governor was indeed commendable as there are truly lots of things that can be discovered in this part of the island.

As we were driving along the road leading to Argao we saw a now seldomly seen activity: a bayanihan. A group of people were carrying on the road a nipa hut which was being transferred to another site.

Most of the resorts in Panagsama, Moalboal sits right on the edge of the waters.
There is not much of a beach to speak of here. But the place is ideal for snorkeling.

Six kilometers away from Panagsama beach is the White Beach in Basdako, Moalboal. Here one could have some stretches of white sand beach. Just a few meters from the shore, is a drop off and one could see here plenty of soft corals.

White Beach in Basdako, Moalboal

Pescador Island just across Moalboal is famous for scuba diving and snorkeling. It has the best site in Cebu which provides everything in such a small area.

Divers, mostly foreigners get ready for a dive.

Eve's Kiosk were we stayed. It had very simple rooms.

There are plenty of resorts in Panagsama beach to choose from most of them offering modest accommodations.

The fortress like church of Pardo.

The Altar of the Church of Pardo.

The Church of Dumanjug.

The Altar of the Church of Dumanjug

The Adoration Chapel was on a garden beside the church.

The Blessed Sacrament is located at the end of the garden wall outside of the small building where the adorers would stay.

Adorers of the eucharist gazing through the glass panel towards the monstrance at the end of the wall.

The convento of Dumanjug

The 12-sided wall of the belfry of Dumanjug

A closer view of the facade of the Dumanjug church

The Church of Ronda. The church is under renovation.

The facade of the old church of Moalboal is what remains.

A closer view of the facade of the old church

The new church is semi-circular with very low roofing.

The Church of Badian.

Altar of the church of Badian.

Church of Alegria

Altar of the Alegria church. They placed exhibits of antique statues and images by the altar as one of the activities of their forthcoming fiesta in honor of St. Francis Xavier.

One of the antique image of the Sto. Niño on display.

We met the parish priest and he showed us around.

Church of Malabuyoc

Church of Genatilan

Altar of Genatilan

The belfry of Genatilan is very conspicuous as one enters the town.

Church and convent of Samboan

A pediment-like structure on the convento competes with the facade of the church.

Fr. Maloy talking with the parish priestof Samboan. He was the one who renovated the convento using hard wood abundant in the locality. He had it varnished giving it a bright look.

The townsfolf of Samboan were waiting for the arrival of Gov. Gwen Garcia who was bringing along busloads of tourists. They were in costumes ready to render presentations upon arrival of the guests.

Booths displaying local products

A rotunda at the entrance to the town of Samboan

The church of Santander

We encountered the party of Gov. Garcia in Santander in their Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbu tourism caravan.

A typical bayanihan activity: helping a neighbor transfer his nipa hut to another location.

The church of Caceres.