FOR over a quarter of a century, Maribago Bluewaters Resort & Spa in Mactan Island, Cebu, has been, just like Cebu City’s tourism industry, constantly reinventing itself. As the tourism trend nowadays is getting away from the urban lifestyle, Cebu travel agencies and resorts have now deviated from the usual cultural and heritage tours and beach package. Maribago Bluewater Resort has also followed suit, now offering tours to the highlands of Busay, Cebu City, for their guests. Now gaining popularity among domestic and international tourists, these tours to old favorites, as well as relatively new spots, all with their panoramic views of the city and its surrounding mountains, are the most appealing tour package nowadays, and members of print and online media were invited by the resort to savor this.
Of course, staying in a Class “AAA” beach resort for three days also means savoring its amenities—staying in luxurious air-conditioned beachfront cottages, swimming its 1.1-hectare, man-made white sand breakwater called the Bluewater Private Island, as well as its lagoon swimming pools; and dining at its five F&B outlets and watching themed shows, while having dinner.
On our second day, right after breakfast, we boarded two vans for the start of our Highland Tour. The 35-kilometer per 1.5-hour uphill drive, via the Transcentral Highway, brought us to our first stopover at the Busay Highlands—Sirao Gardens. Known as “Little Amsterdam” or “Mini Holland” of Cebu, this 8,000 square meter piece of uphill land is privately owned by spouses Alfredo and Elena Sy-Chua, who raised flame-like celosia (locally known as burlas) flowers, as well as a variety of other plants, planted in variegated tiers along both sides, accentuating the place with their vibrant colors.
A further 8 km drive took us to the charming Terrazas de Flores Botanical Garden, opened last October (and relaunched on February). The first botanical garden of its kind in Cebu and in the Philippines, it is owned by businessman Yuri Barrameda. Its 127 species of colorful flowers are meticulously arranged to form part of the hedges of 56 terraces that follow the natural contours of the hill’s slope. Others are planted on the ground, while some snake up and down trellises or cover the arched roof of the canopied footpath. The garden also has three cozy cabanas and a restaurant.
One km further from Terrazas is the popular Tops Lookout (better known simply as Tops), a must-visit viewpoint situated 2,000 feet (610 m) atop Busay Hill. This modernist, fortress-like and well-maintained viewpoint has kiosks where we could buy snacks and drinks; toilet facilities and benches, where we could sit and have a breathtaking, panoramic view of Cebu City, Mactan and Olango Islands and Bohol in the background.
A few meters from Tops is the grandiose Temple of Leah, Cebu City’s newest attraction. Called the “Taj Mahal” of Cebu, it was built by Teodorico Soriano Adarna (owner of the Queensland chain of motels and grandfather of actress Ellen Adarna) as a testament to his undying love and ceaseless devotion for his late wife Leah Villa Albino-Adarna. This seven-story, still unfinished, classic Greek and Roman-inspired temple became an instant domestic tourist attraction as it awes visitors with its imposing breadth. Its west balcony, surrounded by resplendent sculptures, has a panoramic view of the cities of Metro Cebu.
Walking distance from the temple was the restaurant Lantaw, our lunch venue. Here, we dined on delicious native fare, while enjoying the breeze and the wonderful mountain view.
Back at the resort, we sampled Amuma Spa’s Signature Massage. Amuma is a Visayan term that means “to pamper”. Its uniquely Filipino therapy, called hilot, promotes healing and induces relaxation. Unlike the usual massage, the hilot follows basic natural principles and is tailored to the client’s unique healing needs, which are worlds away from the soothing massage at the spa. In fact, hilot is all about pressure. Initially painful, the right pressure is directly applied just on the problematic parts of the body and, afterwards, one soon begins to feel relief. What a way to end a tiring day.
1 Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa
2 Temple of Leah
3 Terazas de Flores
4 Amuma Spa
5 Tops lookout