APEC to-do: Aloguinsan eco-tours showcase responsible tourism

The scene is a clean green river flanked by lush flora and mangrove forests as it makes its way out to sea. Your ride is a small baroto (wooden boat) rowed by a fisherman. Your guide is another fisherman who points out and identifies the different mangrove species that line the riverbanks and even the occasional visible birds by their scientific names.

This is the Bojo River Village Tour and it happens in the small town of Aloguinsan located on Cebu’s western seaboard some 60 to 70 kilometers from the commercial center that is Cebu City.

A community of local fishers and their families make their home in the village, which is around two kilometers from the town center. They serve as guardians of the 1.4-kilometer long Bojo River and the surrounding environment that make up the Bojo River Nature Reserve. Organized into the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS), the community manages the Bojo River Village Tour.

Running parallel to the riverbank is a 400-meter bamboo boardwalk built amidst the mangrove forest. Since the bamboo walkway is connected to a natural trail made up of 150 steps carved on a hillside, an optional trek can lead all the way up to a hilltop gazebo that provides a clear and unobstructed view of the river landscape.

Aside from the river cruise and some swimming, the village tour also includes an ancient send-off ritual performed by a medicine man, mat-weaving demonstration, and buffet lunch of locally grown produce and the freshest seafood.


Farmhouse Culinary Adventure

The town is also known for its Farmhouse, a demo facility for natural  farming methods and growing organic produce, and a secluded cove that was once the home of a hermit more than a hundred years ago.

Its two other tours involve a culinary experience at the demo farm and a relaxing day at the Hermit’s Cove.

Within the Farmhouse is a restaurant that uses locally grown ingredients for a traditional menu that draws on Spanish and Chinese influences. The one-of-a-kind culinary experience it offers involves a walk round the vegetable farm, livestock area, chicken coop, vermiculture and tilapia pond.

Cebu is known for cooking rice in diamond-shaped containers made of palm leaves, locally known as “puso”, and the Farmhouse treats visitors to a puso-making demonstration.

The Green Culinary Adventure, which is managed by the Cultural Heritage for Aloguinsan Tourism (CHAT), ends with a mouth-watering buffet lunch.

Want to bring some of those fresh vegetables home? Just pick and pay for what you fancy.

Exploring The Hermit’s Cove

Over at the town’s coastal front is a sheltered cove where a hermit once lived over a hundred years ago. With its fine white sand, swaying palms, and crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life, it’s not difficult to see why claimed this spot of paradise for his own.

The Baybay Cove in Kantabogon, just five minutes by motorized banca from the town center, is now home to a small number of fishermen and their families who continue to celebrate through songs and stories the hermit’s extraordinary life and exploits.

They offer tours to this tropical destination that include snorkelling with a local guide at the underwater garden within the 18-hectare marine protected area. Kantabogon’s underwater scene is a colorful mix of a fishes, corals, and marine turtles. There have been sightings of whale sharks in the area as well.

Visitors partake of lunch made up of authentic fisherman’s fare prepared the ancient Filipino seafarer’s way. They also get to witness old fishing rituals and techniques, and participate in handicraft-making.

Depending on weather and tide, the itineraries for this tour managed by the Kantabogon Ecotourism Association (KEA) may vary.

Eco-tour rates, booking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalk-in package is P400 per person and includes swimming and a river cruise. The full tour is P650 per head for a minimum of five persons. A welcome lei, welcome drinks, lunch at the Bojo river, snacks at the Farmhouse, handicraft demo, river cruise, and swimming are included in the package.

A student package is P850 per head for a minimum group of five. It includes welcome lei, welcome drinks, lunch at the Farmhouse, snacks at the Bojo River, handicraft demo, river cruise, swimming, and a tour of the baluarte, church, and parola.

Since the communities running the tours need to prepare everything beforehand, they ask that booking be done two days in advance. For inquiries and booking purposes, contact the Aloguinsan Tourism Office at (032) 469-9041, Rudney at 0905-913 3055, Jamaila at 0922-658 0094 or 0949-3758 978, and Jerry at 0917-730 9757.

Town accommodations

For visitors planning to stay overnight, Aloguinsan has a pension house and a resort. You may also want to experience homestay accommodation, of which the town has plenty to offer.

Direct booking inquiries to Almaxi’s Apartelle at 0910-429 9687 or Lunhaw Resort at 0920-118 3050 or 0922-395 7519.

Getting to Aloguinsan

Aloguinsan is a small town with a population of about 27,000 residents. It faces the island of Negros. From Cebu City, it is 72 kilometers via Toledo City and 58 kilometers via Carcar City.

Buses leave for the town from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City via the longer route through Toledo City and a shorter route via Carcar City (only two trips daily). Average travel time is approximately two hours.

Other options include the V-hire (vans for hire) at One Citilink Terminal (just a short distance away from the South Bus Terminal) and rent-a-car services. You may also choose to use your own transport.