Farm-hopping in the Queen City of the South
The Queen City of the South is synonymous to Sinulog, Spanish-era ancestral houses and churches, museums, lechon, posh beach resorts in neighboring Mactan, and a host of other stuff worth braving the urban traffic for.
In Cebu’s upland barangays are its garden and farm resorts that have been luring visitors in recent years because of the refreshing back-to-nature experience they offer to people from all ages and economic classes, visitors and locals alike.
Cebu recently hosted the 6th national Farm Tourism Conference organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism of former DoT secretary Mina Gabor, where attendees visited some of the city’s top farm and garden getaways. This is a very clear indication that Cebu—the city and the province—has crafted a new exciting tourist magnet which has the backing of both the government and industry stakeholders.
At the confab, Gabor said that farm tourism’s most important effect are the economic benefits to farmers and their communities where rural way of life is appreciated by guests and the environment is sustained.
Step on the gas, and let’s retrace on a road trip, some of Cebu’s enticing highland farm resorts.
Pit stop 1: Montebello Villa Hotel. Almost half a century before farm tourism became vogue, this hotel has been pushing this concept in the way they designed and developed their property in the Banilad suburb.
Once adjacent to a vineyard and majestic mountain view, its eclectic charm never fails to dazzle old-time visitors and even locals with its Iberian-themed architecture and interiors, sprawling manicured gardens, low building density, and open spaces which are a rarity in this vertical concrete jungle.
Here, guests can literally stop by the wayside to smell the flowers and enjoy the nostalgic throwback years of Cebu, just a few meters away from the madding crowd.
Montebello quips of being the “best garden resort hotel” because it is the only one of its kind in the city, and its contemporaries have either sold out or closed shop. Let not its Old World charm, though, give the impression that it is somewhat frozen in time. Truth be told, its rooms, amenities, cuisine and guest service can still give the new hotels a stiff competition.
Pit stop 2: Terrazas de Flores. Located in Malubog, it is the first botanical garden you’ll encounter as you drive along the meandering Transcentral Highway. It prides itself as the Philippines’ first and only flower terraces, and has more than 120 plants and flowers species, arranged fascinatingly and colorfully on a steep mountain slope.
The garden is notable for its rows of flowers that run horizontally at a slope where sits atop a hilltop cafe which serves comfort food, home-made ice cream, desserts, and short orders. It also features an art gallery, a small, man-made waterfall, trellises, short bridges, bamboo grove, a tree sanctuary, and cabanas for lounging, all of which encourage positive energy and creative juices.
Pit stop 3: Sirao Gardens. A few minutes drive up north is this picture-perfect spot which has been making the rounds of all social media platforms for the past few years. There are actually two gardens belonging to different owners—the original Sirao Flower Garden, dubbed the Little Amsterdam of Cebu, and Sirao Pictorial Garden and Camping Site, a stone throw away from each other.
This is where the phrase “A picture paints a thousand words” really comes to life and let the photographs evoke the poet and the romantic in every person.
Pit stop 4: Adlawon Nature Farm. Situated in Adlaon village 26 kilometers from downtown, this urban retreat is a farm in the true sense of word, more than being a resort. This vibrant farming community thrives on the 5-hectare expanse of serene environment, dotted with mango trees, vegetable gardens, and facilities for those taking refuge in the bosom of the lush Central Cebu Protected Landscape.
Once the playground for de-stressing of a professional couple, the property has become in their words, “a sanctuary for friends and family, a place to celebrate life and revel in the bounty of nature.”
With an altitude of more than 500 meters above sea level, it has a pleasant climate the whole year round with its cool, crisp mountain air.
For a consummate experience, it recently added a couple of rooms for guests who want to spend the night in a different environment, interact with farmers, feel the agrarian community life, get down and dirty doing farm work, and relish healthy farm-to-table dining experience.
With more farms and garden resorts coming up in the upland suburbs and neighboring towns and cities, Cebu has a more exciting and enlightening alternative road trip away from its infamous gridlock.
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