Revisiting Kawasan Falls


August 2012, Shaun and I went south to another one of our spur-of-the-moment road trips and ended up in Badian.  Shaun has been missing this place which was an oft visited seminar venue in college.  As always, “kinowboy” or rugged was the order of the trip.  We checked into La Playa and after a good night’s rest, went for an early walk to Kawasan Falls.



We stopped for breakfast by a roadside eatery and found nicely prepared native pickled fish “inun-unan”.  Fish slow-cooked in vinegar and salt in a claypot with ginger and tomatoes.  We were told that the governor had shut down operations and had not allowed people in to the waterfalls area.  The governor was said to have been worried about buildings and commercial structures sprouting along the trail towards and around the waterfalls.  We were surprised to learn this as we have always assumed it was open.  At the same time we were secretly pleased that the government cared enough to want to leave nature be.

We were told not to worry and to just take the trail on the other side of the river.  So off we went and like always, the trek alone already made me feel refreshed from all the busy days at work.  Shaun hadn’t been here for 12 years and myself, even longer.  It felt good to be back and trekking along fresh air and green foliage, not to mention the occasional dip into very cool waters.  And since operations had been shut down, did I mention we had the place all to ourselves, on a weekend!





what better way to warm up than to have our very own San Miguel Beer!

Carcar Photoblog 1


It was a day after the town fiesta in the name of their patron Sta. Catalina which was also Thanksgiving Holiday (Pacific Standard Time) for those of us in the call center industry.  My team and I decided to take advantage of this long weekend to bond.  The team rented a private resthouse and partied like there was no tomorrow.  We all had a blast.

Shaun followed later that day and slept over.  The next day, when the rest were getting to head back to Cebu, he and I decided to stay awhile and explore Carcar.

We discovered that it was one of four heritage towns in the entire country.  While Silay, Vigan and Taal are Spanish heritage towns, Carcar is more American owing much to Mayor Mercado in the 1920’s who was an architect himself.   Although you will see Spanish Mestiza architecture, these are side-by side Victorian architecture.

The most prominent of the Spanish era houses was the Balay na Tisa. The architecture itself is not Spanish but very Filipino.  It has a roof made of tisa (clay material) tiles, high ceilings, large windows with the ventanillas(mini windows) below them. All these serve to deflect the heat and make it more adoptable to the temperate humid climate.  Th ground floor is made of stone.

The Carcar City Musuem is one of the buildings that is more American – Victorian.  It has a beautiful facade with intricate lattice-work.  It used to be a clubhouse complete with a swimming pool at the back.  It was then turned into a dispensary between 1937 -2005 when it was turned into a museum.

What could be more American than a bandstand at the town center?  The bandstand-rotunda was commissioned by Carcar’s most famous Mayor Mercado around the 1920’s.  The very first settlers in Carcar were from Valladolid, a seaside baranggay.  They wanted to get away from the Moro raiders so they moved inland to where the rotunda stands now.  The rotunda was said to have been built to mark where these first settlers set up camp.

How We Lost to Camsur (3rd Part)

What we have, what we don’t and what is(not) happening. 

One of Bohol’s thrust is eco-tourism, Camsur’s is nature and sporting events while Boracay clearly is enjoying the fruits from its beaches.  While Bohol has and Boracay clearly wanted to preserved their shorelines, we chopped ours with barbed wire fences and walls posturing as wave breakers.  While Boracay has learned its lesson from the E. coli scare in 1997, we’ve done nothing to clean our waters, Talisay and Lilo-an, anyone?

Whatever natural blessings these other destinations have, Cebu also has.  For crying out loud, Camsur had to CREATE a waterpark.  It is also not so much as what a place already has but what is HAPPENING.  Camsur has IRONMAN, now for Cebu, aside from Sinulog, what else do we have?  For example, Olanggo Island.  It is known for bird watching during the wet season.  Not many people have tried this activity.  It is sad considering how near Olanggo is from Mactan island.  What about a free or subsidized ferry boat ride?  Just like Statten Island’s in NYC?  Amazingly, the Talima resort, with its meager offering of fun with three inflatable “toys” draws more crowds than bird-watching.  With all the water around us, has anyone ever thought of a water sporting event in Cebu?  What about our diving industry?  What has the local government ever done to support it?  A strong partership between these private groups and the local government can create wonderful ideas for pushing Cebu’s tourism industry. 

I envy Davao’s well manicured parks.  The Sto Nino Shrine, Matina HIlls and the People’s Park.  Cebu on the other hand, allegedly cannot even afford to light the Fuente Osmena oval and make its fountain flow regularly that the Lhuillers have to “sponsor” these expenses.  Allegedly, Cebu was also hardpressed to finance the electric bill of the 2nd Mandaue – Mactan Bridge.  The Heritage Monument in Parian, just across my bedroom is funded by the National Government.

I could be wrong but I don’t think money is the issue here, I believe its the lack of political will to really make things happen.

In summary, how did we lose to Camsur?  Cebu is dirty.  Although we have a rich culture and heritage, we have left most of them to neglect.  Although we are blessed with natural resources, we are not maximizing their potential and in most cases, we are slowly destroying them.  Although we have a strong private sector in the tourism and hospitality industry, we have not supported them in a way that encourages long – term benefits for both parties(the businessmen and the government). 

Let’s clean up, continue to enhance infrastructure, provide for alternative source of income for the “locals”(vendors and pickpockets), save heritage buildings(including the Osmena Mausoleum), save our natural resources (beaches and mountains), support the local tourism industry (I don’t mean the big chains but the local resorts, diving shops, small travel agencies, the souvenir shops, the native crafts industry, etc), create, if not support, EVENTS that provide for experiences and memories for our tourists, not just sights to see.  Lastly, for our local government, to stop the bickering and stop the focus on business for personal gain, but instead redirect attention to a strong income source for the city. – tourism.  The alarm is on, it is time.

How we lost to CamSur

(First part of a series.  Based solely on my humble and maybe uninformed opinion)

CamSur recently beat Cebu as the top tourist destination in the country.  Why not?  With a strong, united tourism group with fresh ideas for a virginal destination, CamSur sure will be busy attending to tourists for years to come.

Many in the city’s hospitality and tourism industry, including government officials were surprised and disappointed.  My opinion is that we have been laying on our laurels for far too long. Besides, what has the local government ever done that ensures long term success?

CamSur has risen from being the 39th poorest region in the country to being number 10 in 2009, owing to income from the tourism trade.  And from being number 3 to the top tourist destination in the Philippines.  The key was a strong determination to rise from poverty, a young, dynamic governor (Luis Villafuerte, 41 years old) and a united team of dedicated locals.  From changing its very provincial name to something really hip – CamSur to attracting Survivor France and Israel and then openning call centers (yes, I am sure I have colleagues who were able to interact with some of them) and foreign language schools, this province has gone a long way in just a short time.  It now hosts international sporting events flocked by tourists from around the world.

What about Cebu?  It cannot be denied that tourism is a strong contributor to Cebu’s economy and yet, many of the projects supporting it are financed by private investors. In my humble opinion, the problem lies in poor management of our local funds and the seemingly endless political bickering of Osmena and Garcia.   Our then Mayor, who is now Congressman Tommy Osmena, spends a good deal of time quarelling the provincial governor Gwen Garcia.  Any extra time is then spent pushing for projects that serve his personal interest(what else is new?) OR nursing his bloated ego. 

Don’t get me wrong, I WAS a fan.  I could remember Ceboom! back in the early 90’s, when Tommy led Cebu to rise from the heap that was Ruping.  However, in recent years, it would seem as if Rep Osmena has other more important matters to attend to. 

Here are some of the most basic concerns that our local government have overlooked.  I believe we need to address these if we are to bring back our tourism flare.

1.  I have been living in the downtown area of Cebu for 6 years now and I cannot deny the fact that garbage is everywhere.  The collection system is inefficient, now you see them, now you don’t.  Well at least in my part of town.  I came home at 12AM from a movie date and the garbage bag we put out for the 9PM truck was still out there.  This morning, I found a metro aide sweeping it up.  Whatever happened to the garbage truck? 

Our streams and rivers, criscrossing the city in many spots, are all dead and smelly.  When it rains, most of these overflow.  Colon is filthy, with dust, smog and all the trash.  

2.  When it rains, everybody can very well tell which parts of the city to avoid.  By now, most locals know which areas are prone to flooding due to clogged canals.  I remembered the intersection in Sanciangko and Junquera from my college years in USC, the gutters overflow when it rains, we are talking 1996 here and up until now, it’s almost 2011, the same problem still exists.  This is the same story for some parts of Basak, Pardo, Bonifacio Street, AS Fortuna(Mandaue jurisdiction) among others.  Why have we not addressed these all this time?

3.  Cebu is rich in culture and heritage sites.  What have we ever done to preserve these?  Kudos to Gov. Gwen Garcia for taking measures to protect and develop those in the provincial areas.  The provincial government even has a TV channel featuring these tourist spots and occassional historical documentaries by local narrators.  I enjoy them thouroughly. 

IN the city, it’s a different story altogether.  AGain, many of these sites which are located within the city are either maintained and financed by private groups.  The city clearly is not paying close attention to an aspect in its heritage that cleary is a strong tourism pull.  There are cities that spend tons of money to preserve if not acquire items of cultural and historic value.  We on the other hand , are leaving most of them to rot.  Take for instance the works of Dante Guidetti, like The Vision Theater, it is now left at the mercy of DVD merchants, raping its beautiful architecture from the inside.  I fear the day when it will totally lose even the beauty of its facade.  Guidetti was also responsible for the beautiful Osmena Mausoleum in San Miguel, which is being left at the mercy of squatters around the area.  Clearly, REp Osmena does not consider even his family’s heritage important.

(to be continued…)