Beating a path to Boljoon


Visitors to Cebu usually troop to the cities or the tried-and-tested spots on the island of Mactan. They don’t know what they’re missing. You don’t have to go where guide books and travel shows tell you to.

Many people forget that travel is partly an adventure—and you can’t really call yourself “adventurous” if you don’t at least make an attempt to go off the proverbial beaten path. There lies the difference between a tourist and a traveler. Not that you can’t be both.

Little-known locations

There are little-known towns in Cebu that boast of picturesque charm. If you really want to take a break from being a tourist even for just a day, then you should drive further down south of Cebu and visit the town of Boljoon.

The small town’s main attraction is the Church of Patrocinio de Maria. The church’s original structure was put up in 1599. However, it was destroyed during the Muslim raid of 1782, which also devastated most of the town. In 1783, they started the reconstruction of a new church. This time around, a stone fence was built around it as a protective measure.

Church history

It is said that among the churches in Cebu, the Church of Patrocinio de Maria is the best showcase of our colonial past. It is also the oldest remaining stone church in Cebu. History buffs will have a blast exploring it—although they would most likely be dismayed that some parts of the church need repairs badly. To date, the church is focused on the restoration of shingles on its roof to preserve the old look.

The rectangular bell tower of the Boljoon parish is also a point of interest. At one point, it housed around seven bells on its topmost floor. These days, only four bells are left.

The tower’s lower floor also served as the prison cell. The cell’s walls are adorned by drawings done in black ink—mostly of steam ships. Perhaps, most of the prisoners were pirates or wayward sailors. There was one drawing, however, that seemed to be inspired by Chinese aesthetics. One can only guess at the prisoner’s identity and why he got locked up in the first place.

In closer proximity is the town cemetery, whose entrance is marked by an arch with a miniature skeleton sculpture. The walls surrounding the cemetery are also embellished with sculpted skulls and cross bones.

Awesome collection

Despite the fact that the parish museum is also in dire need of funds for the restoration and maintenance of its artifacts, its collection is still pretty impressive. Even after being significantly decimated by the elements and looting in the past, there are still—thankfully—enough awesome historical treasures left behind.

One of the first things that caught my attention were the lagang, which were fashioned from sea shells. The whimsical ornaments were at least 100 years old. There was also a 19th century Madonna and Child painting by an unknown artist.

Centuries-old leather-bound church records, which contained the names of past parishioners, revealed that Boljoon used to have many seamstresses and burdaderas (embroiderers). This explains why many of the old priests’ vestments on display had intricate embroidery done in gold thread.

Even lapsed Catholics would be impressed by the craftsmanship of the wooden statues of saints dating back to the 19th century. Standing at about four feet tall, each is skillfully carved and painted in rich colors. Since Boljoon was known for its needlework, the museum curator surmised that the statues were most likely from outside Boljoon.

New wave

Tourism is just starting out in Boljoon. There are nearby resorts that will surely entice more people to come to Boljoon. Plus, as it turns out, the town that treasures its past is not averse to technology that will propel it to the future. It may be an out-of-the-way destination, but the town manages to retain its Old World charm while offering modern-day conveniences. Surely, both tourists and travelers will find that hard to resist.

Boljoon may not be a rich town, but its residents are taking strides to preserve their heritage. They should inspire the rest of us to get to know our own country more by taking delightful side trips that enrich our minds. – FVI, GMANews.TV

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