Oslob’s overwhelming treasures

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AFTER spending three days mostly underwater for my PADI open water diving course in Mactan, Cebu, I wasn’t entirely sure if I still wanted to swim with the whale sharks in Oslob, a provincial town four hours away from the city proper.

So when we were informed that whale shark viewing was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagupit, I was relieved. Or so I thought. That’s okay, I told myself; I didn’t want to be in the water anyway.

But like a pretentious person on a diet, I felt I turned down that chocolate bar too soon. After all, nobody goes to Oslob without interacting with these magnificent, gentle creatures. Well, except us.

We only had one day in Oslob so we decided to become “laidback tourists,” and set aside our adventurous, thrill-seeking selves for a while. After a tasty breakfast of fried rice, sunny sideup eggs, tomato and danggit, we decided to explore historical sites in Oslob.

We hailed a tricycle just outside our resort and asked the driver to take us to the town proper. The driver, who I’m sure was only being friendly, told us we could not see the whale sharks because of the typhoon. He then tried to convince us to stay for another day. We wanted to but we had a flight to catch the next day, we told the young Cebuano driver.

The town was less than 10 minutes from Lagunde Beach Resort where we were staying. Our first stop was the 19th century Immaculate Conception Parish Church. It was said that the church survived numerous fires during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s. Today, the structure stands proud as a beacon of Catholic faith for Oslob residents. A few metres away from the church are two Spanish ruins – the Cuartel and Baluarte – believed to be erected in the early 1800s to serve as barracks for Spanish soldiers and quell naval attacks along Oslob’s shoreline, respectively.

These two glorious remnants command respect and admiration but also make for great selfie backdrops. After taking splendid shots of the church and the ruins, we decided to visit the
famous Tumalog Falls. We were told to take the habal-habal, or motorcycle, as it was not safe to hike, no thanks to Hagupit. After a relaxing and somewhat exhilarating ride to Tumalog, we were informed by guides at the front gate that visitors were not allowed up the hill to see the falls, again, courtesy of the typhoon. But thanks to our powers of persuasion, the manongs agreed to take us in (we had to ride scooters) to take some photos for five minutes. The first thing that caught my attention was the fresh smell emanating from the lush greenery. This little piece of heaven, tucked within the forests of Oslob, was the best part of the trip, albeit the limited time that we had.

The majestic falls and the clear, placid waters were so serene, it’s mesmerizing. The guides had to literally jolt me out of my surreal state. “Ate, tara na po. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by a family-owned, hole-in-thewall restaurant where we had a delightful home-cooked meal of sinigang na baboy, chicken barbeque, beef mechado and steaming rice. We capped the day by taking a stroll along the shoreline, which was readily accessible through our hotel. By this time, I’ve completely accepted my fate: I didn’t get to see the gentle swimming giants that Oslob is famous for but I promised myself I would someday return to swim with one.

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