Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Untold Church of Cebu

5:00 am, hotel bed side clock beaten because of snoozing.  6:30 am, decided to move, sipped last night's stale coffee, took few bites from the complimentary fruit platter, and went off to visit the rarely photographed 17th century Patrocinio de Sta. Maria Church in Boljoon, three hours from Cebu city.

The South Terminal of Cebu city is a good transport hub if you want to explore Cebu south by bus. Buses to Argao, Carcar, Oslob, etc. are all there. I took one going to Boljoon. Before boarding, I stood in the busy terminal looking for the "Series" bus company since the bellboy repeatedly said, "sir take Series bus para comfortable." Didn't find it so just took an ordinary bus and when I opened the window, saw a big bus with a logo "Ceres" passed by. Missed it.

Boljoon Church's introduction was cinematic. Her shape stood hidden from the different mountains facing Bohol Strait and slowly revealed itself while our bus went down the main coastal highway. Her sea-blasted and weather-faded white facade remarked by its 17th century baroque architecture, ages gracefully and separates itself from the renovated surroundings of the church.

The front lawns are massive. Once in a while, locals stay here for occasional gatherings before a procession for example, or just to hang out. Can't blame them, a view this good is definitely inviting. I took this opportunity to relax before hearing the 10am mass.  

Mass was celebrated in Cebuano, wherein English phrases was like a cold Coke in the desert. Once mass is over, Patrocinio de Sta. Maria of Boljoon is silent and empty. It is during these silent moments I like staying inside churches. The size of the interior was huge and highlighted by the different 17th century details like windows set on top of her wide pillars made of mortar and lime.  

Photographing Cebuano kids while hearing their voices and slippers echo inside the old church were definitely good notes to remember.

Weather once again played its teasing role. If mother nature decides not to open her robe today and throw buckets of rain, live with it. You will see here how I had a good time looking for shadows while rain poured outside, or while I walked inside the quarters of the church.  

The best part is meeting new friends like Bonie the "kampanero" or bell guardian, and Mateo the pedicab driver. Bonie lets me inside the 18th century bell tower separated from the main church. He told me different stories from how nitwits tried to take one of the really heavy bells. Beats any "Italian Job" sequel. "Pag gusto talaga, gagawan ng paraan" as Bonie said, or if willing, there's a way; and also the different times of the day he needed to sound the bell before mass starts as reminders for the locals.

Mateo on the other hand is the skillful (left hand on the handle bar and right hand pointing out to tell me “that’s Bohol and Siquijor island” while making sharp turns) pedicab driver who gave me a tour of the small roads that lead to the other barangays. But it was a guilt trip for me, why? Imagine this, Mateo must be in is 60s, peddling an all steel pedi cab and the heavy me as his passenger. He had fun that's what he said. Maybe it's because of the casual stops for a sweet banana and a soda near the town's plaza.

I needed to go back to the city and anticipate Cebu's traffic. A night stay could have been a good choice, but that's too much for my senses already. This time I caught a Ceres bus or the "Series", entered my cold, fragrant, and newly made-up hotel room, finished a freshly brewed coffee, and finished this story.

Our 7,107 islands has lots of "brochured" or canned tourist spots. But like what I tell my readers, always choose the road less traveled and think the opposite, trust your adventure and travel senses, ask around, and you'll see a place to feed your one of a kind "trip."

Cebu is not only about it's tapered hotels, dried mangoes, and over fed whale sharks in Oslob. It's also about the other untold churches waiting to be discovered and photographed!