Think Cebu City and what comes to mind are tall buildings, beaches, malls, mangoes, Magellan’s Cross, centuries-old churches, lechon, and all the touristy stuff that come out when you do a Google search. In fact, these are what draw most visitors in; for years now, Cebu City has consistently received the bulk of foreign tourist arrivals in the country. This much was clear during my visit there over the weekend: at the hotel I and a group of journalists and bloggers were staying in, most of the guests were foreigners who were no doubt there to see the beautiful beaches scattered throughout the city.
But there is another side of this city, one that relatively few people know about. “Cebu City is 80 percent mountain,” the city’s tourism officer Punky Oliverio told us. And in this mountain area can be seen all sorts of wonders that you would never think you’d find in such a progressive city like Cebu.
For example, up in the mountain is where Cebu’s famed cutflower industry gets its supply. We visited the farm of Manuel Labrador, chosen the most outstanding farmer of the city in 2013, and saw the techniques he has employed to grow beautiful flowers consistently throughout the years. “I’ve put up LED lights over the plants to extend the daylight during the months of September to May when the days are shorter,” he said. The plants and flowers thus keep growing and achieve greater length than those in other farms.
A few kilometers away is Lettuce on the Rocks where, as its name says, barangay folk grow their lettuce on very rocky terrain. The farmers found out in the 1990s that lettuce can grow and even thrive here because the rocks prevent rains from washing out their produce. Since then they have been maximizing their area and have been supplying lettuce not just to the city but in surrounding areas as well.
Farther up the road is Tabunan Forest, a newly designated wildlife sanctuary and tourism zone. Different types of birds make their home here, including the critically endangered Cebu flower pecker which was last seen here in the 1990s. One can make a short and easy trek from the barangay hall into the forest and take a dip in Ginning Falls. Other activities that can be done here are mountain climbing, camping, and even caving.
Driving up even higher into the mountain, we visited the Cebu City Resource Management and Development Center (CREMDEC) which, among others, does agricultural research that benefits farmers in the city. One of the things it is focusing on these days is sweet corn production, which gives farmers a higher and more steady income than other crops. Sweet corn, in fact, has already overtaken mangoes as Cebu’s biggest agricultural product. Oliverio said Cebu City was the first to propagate it and is the biggest supplier of sweet corn in the country.
Oliverio said the Cebu City Tourism Office is working on a tour package that would highlight these mountain destinations and more. If you want to experience these, you can coordinate with her office at City Hall or do it through Galleon San Pedro Tours which gave us this refreshingly different tour.
A special thanks to Air Asia Philippines for giving us a chance to tour Cebu. It was a truly unforgettable experience 🙂
UP NEXT: An interview with Henry Jayme, leader of the Moncadista commune in Cebu City