Side Trip: Boljoon and Argao, Cebu

My brother and I spent our weekend in Boljoon, a quaint town south of Cebu City, birthplace of my father, and naturally, home to all paternal relatives.


Boljoon is a coastal town and proud host to one of the National Museum’s list of national treasures: Nuestra Señora Patrocinio de Maria established by the Augustinians on June 23, 1599 where only recently, archaelogists from the National Museum were busy digging for (and finding) golds and porcelains from centuries past. 

The Boljoon Church is the oldest remaining original stone church in Cebu that is relatively well preserved. In 1999, the National Historical Institute declared Boljoon’s church a National Historical Landmark and the following year, the National Museum declared it as a National Cultural Treasure– from Boljoon website.

Our purpose was not exactly leisure but free-spirited as we are, we successfully tucked in some play time in our tight schedule.

Saturday morning we spent traveling, I from Manila aboard PAL’s first flight out to Cebu at 0430H while my brother, also on a first flight out from Davao (0630H) via Cebu Pacific. For fear of not being able to wake up early for my flight like what happened a few months back, I convinced myself not to sleep on Friday night. I was not exactly wide awake the whole time but luckily I made it to the airport groggy but on time.

I was already in Cebu airport, lounging inside Waterfront Hotel and Casino tourist booth at 0600H while my brother, down South was irritated over the delayed arrival of their turnaround aircraft.

I don’t have to mention this because it may cause him his job, but the guy manning the Waterfront booth was I think more bored than accommodating that he turned on the TV and DVD player, and together with the guy from another hotel, we watched The Messengers, a horror movie and a perfect antidote for three sleepy heads.  Thank you and I hope your company won’t find out you. Goodluck.

My brother arrived late, so much for CebuPac’s on time all the time brand promise. Immediately we went outside, met our cousin Jason, had a quick breakfast, and off we went to Cebu South Terminal for our 3-hour bus ride to Boljoon.

The rest of the day was business, as we attended to the main purpose of our visit.


Sunday morning we visited the cemetery where our grandparents and a host of relatives were buried.  We hiked along the national road, sweating out the beer that we drunk the night before.  Then we went swimming at my grandmother’s beachfront residence.  The water was cold, the waves gentle, the white stones and pebbles that make up most of the beach were hurtful to my feet.  Nevertheless, it was fun like always.

After we said our goodbyes, we boarded a Ceres bus back to Cebu City but along the way we decided to be a little adventurous and got off at Argao for a little side trip.

Argao, like Boljoon and other towns in South Cebu has its rustic rural appeal.  I suggested Argao because of all the towns in the South, Argao has the most active presence in cyberspace, and that is partially due to its very maverick tourism officer, Mr Alex Kintanar Gonzales.






And so we arrived at the famous Alex Cafe, a very simple yet homey restaurant cum coffee shop cum tourist assistance center.  There we met Alex’s most friendly wife, Ma Eva Uy Gonzales.  My brother asked her for a nearby accommodation (should we plan to go back some other time) and she immediately offered a room at the back of the cafe- for free!  What is friendlier than that?

I looked for Alex but the wife and the waitress smiled back at me and said, “Alex is gone.  He died last January”.  That was  sad. 


As for the living, we feasted on humba (very tender pork belly cooked in soy sauce and vinegar; Visayan version I surmise of the famous adobo), sotanghon chicken soup, ginataang mungo and torta (a kind of pastry charcoal-oven baked with coconut wine).  Everything was delicious, especially with the very old phonograph playing trumpets and bugles in the background.  It felt like a scene from a period movie.


Then we went to Argao Church, a few steps walk from Alex’s Cafe.  We did not mind the scorching summer heat (31 degrees said the temperature reader– how thoughtful) and begun taking photos of the various edifices inside the church’s courtyard:  the municipal hall, hall of justice, legislative building, community well, park, and of course, the towering belfry beside the church.  The church itself was the biggest and sturdiest building around the area, a most telling revelation of the Spanish influences in local governance. 





There are other tourist attractions in Argao but unfortunately, we did not have the luxury of time to visit other places.   Surely Argao is on our ‘next time’ list.