Three must-visit her­itage parks down south

3 must-visit her­itage sites in the south­ern towns of Cebu

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Contents - Photos & Text by N.S. Vil­laflor

THE South­ern towns of Cebu of­fer not just nat­u­ral at­trac­tions such as count­less wa­ter­falls, breath­tak­ing moun­tain scener­ies, and the pro­tected seascape of Tañon Strait, but her­itage sites as well. Since a trip down south is inevitable this sum­mer, check out three must-visit, easy to lo­cate her­itage sites to make make your trip worth­while and let’s you ap­pre­ci­ate his­tory and the value of open space.

MAN BE­HIND THE BALUARTES.

A cu­ri­ous statue fac­ing the Cebu Strait in the Os­lob Her­itage Park is that of “El Par­roco Cap­i­tan” Fr. Ju­lian Ber­mejo (1777-1851). Per­haps one of the most im­por­tant pub­lic fig­ure dur­ing his time, the priest de­vised a strong coastal de­fense sys­tem called “baluartes” that served as look­out sta­tions at the south­ern towns against ma­raud­ers.

OS­LOB HER­ITAGE PARK

Lo­cated some 120 kilo­me­ters from Cebu City is the sprawl­ing Os­lob Her­itage Park, which faces the sea. Within the park are the Balu­arte, Cuar­tel and the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Par­ish Church, as well as a statue of “El Par­roco Cap­i­tan” Fr. Ju­lian Ber­mejo.

The Cuar­tel

Made of co­ral stones, the Cuar­tel served as bar­racks for Span­ish armies, but con­struc­tion was halted dur­ing the Amer­i­can oc­cu­pa­tion in 1899. The walls of the Cuar­tel are 19 cen­time­ters thick.

The Balu­arte

Built in 1788 on the coast­line of Os­lob, the sev­en­meter-tall hexag­o­nal Balu­arte is one of 12 watch­tow­ers con­structed in the south­ern town to de­fend against moro ma­raud­ers. These baluartes de­vised by Fr. Ber­mejo stretched from Car­car town all the way to San­tander, the south­ern tip of Cebu is­land.

Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Par­ish Church

Con­struc­tion of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Par­ish Church be­gan in 1830, with Fr. Ber­mejo choos­ing the site since it is suit­able for a set­tle­ment. The church was hit by fire twice — in 1955 and then in 2008 — and was re­stored anew in De­cem­ber 2010.

CABECERA DE AR­GAO

A his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural land­mark in the south that shouldn’t be missed for a good stroll is the Cabecera de Ar­gao, which used to be a for­ti­fied town or Span­ish pueblo. Within the town cen­ter, now her­itage park, is the Ar­gao Par­ish Church, the Ar­gao Hall of Jus­tice and the Balay Lung­sod sa Ar­gao.

Ar­gao Par­ish Church

Stand­ing el­e­gantly in the Cabecera de Ar­gao Her­itage Park, this Baroque Ro­coco church took 54 years to build: started in 1734 and fin­ished in 1788. The church is cur­rently un­der­go­ing restora­tion us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods.

Ar­gao Hall of Jus­tice

The Ar­gao Hall of Jus­tice was built in the 1800s dur­ing the Span­ish oc­cu­pa­tion within the town’s for­ti­fied walls in the pueblo. It fea­tures me­ter-thick co­ral stone walls, capiz win­dows and clay roof tiles. The Span­ish can­non in the fore­ground is one of three canyons on dis­play at the park. Brought some time be­tween 1600 and 1700 dur­ing the Galleon trade, these canyons were used to de­fend against moro raiders.

Balay Lung­sod sa Ar­gao

Built in 1608, the well-ven­ti­lated Balay Lung­sod sa Ar­gao or mu­nic­i­pal hall also serves as a mu­seum of tra­di­tional Ar­gaoanon im­ple­ments. The struc­ture, which car­ries Chi­nese el­e­ments, par­tic­u­larly the clay roof tile de­sign, is typ­i­cal of that pe­riod: the first level built of stone and wood sup­ports the sec­ond level which is made of light ma­te­ri­als.

SAMBOAN MU­NIC­I­PAL PLAZA

Samboan is famed for its breath­tak­ing sunsets and the epic Aguinid Falls, but it’s also home to a well-kept her­itage park at the town cen­ter. You won’t miss it as a huge sculpted sign that reads “Siem­pre Samboan” on a hill­side along the high­way would lead you to the park, which can be en­joyed at night af­ter view­ing the sun­set.

Re­li­gious Sculp­tures

Inside the town plaza are beau­ti­ful life-size sculp­tures de­pict­ing the Sta­tions of the Cross. Though Holy Week has just passed, the place still of­fers a solemn, if not awe-in­spir­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially at night.

Campanario de An­tigua

A Span­ish struc­ture made of co­ral stones, the Campanario de An­tigua was built as a look­out against moro raiders. Erected on a coastal hill some 65 me­ters above sea level, the three-story watch tower is the tallest of its kind on the en­tire is­land and gives a com­mand­ing view of Tañon Strait. The re­stored watch tower is con­nected to the coast (now a high­way road) by Es­cala de Ja­cobe, or Ja­cob’s Lad­der, a flight of 147 stone steps.

San Miguel Ar­changel Church

Built 200 years ago, the Samboan Church or St. Michael Ar­changel Church has unique ma­sonry and de­sign fea­tures such as a bare fa­cade and a sin­gle nave. The church is one of Cebu’s old­est Span­ish build­ings.

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