There’s this little known town is southern Cebu that is blessed with over a dozen waterfalls, charming lakes, challenging caves, and gorgeous mountain peaks. It also has several well-preserved heritage structures that makes you feel you are in Espana, like Escala de Jacobe, Campanario de Antigua, and Iglesia de San Miguel.
This is the town of Samboan, located 150 kilometers on the Southern tip of the island of Cebu. It is a leisurely three-hour drive from the provincial capital. An ideal road trip destination for families and friends who wish to explore unspoiled natural wonders and ancient stone monuments.
Samboan is actually one of the province’s oldest towns. When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi landed in Cebu in 1565, his combatants was able to move further south and discover this settlement of natives while doing reconnaissance of the island.
It was made Encomienda Canamucan during the 1600s and became one of the visitas of the Parroquia de Barili de Santa Ana. Its name was change to Samboan, an abbreviation of the popular form of fishing during the Spanish time called “sinamboang.”
Samboan became an independent town in 1784 under the patronage of San Miguel Arcangel. The original territory included the present towns of Ginatilan, Malabuyoc and Alegria.
The town center where the church, the municipio and the watchtower are located, is perched on a hill overlooking Tanon Strait and the island of Negros.
How to get there
There are two ways to get to Samboan by car. Samboan can be a destination itself or part of the leisure drive to explore the many hidden gems of southern Cebu.
Drive south from Cebu City. Take the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) to avoid the usual traffic on the Cebu South Road. CSCR connects with the main road in Talisay. Turn left and continue drive south to Naga, San Fernando and Carcar.
In Carcar, there are two ways to reach Samboan. The south-eastern road passes thru the coastal townsSibonga, Argao, Oslob (the whale-watching town), Santander and then finally, Sibonga. The south western route climbs up to the mountainous road to Barili, descends to Dumanjug, and continues to Moalboal (diving town), Badian, Ginatilan and finally arrives in Samboan.
It is also possible to get to Samboan via public transport. At Cebu South Terminal, take a Ceres bus that goes directly to Samboan. Bus fare is around P200.
What to see, what to do
Samboan has many natural attractions, but it is best to visit first its heritage sites that are mostly located in Poblacion. The Poblacion is actually located on a hill, overlooking Tanon Strait.
From the coastal road, climb up a flight of 147 stone steps at Escala de Jacobe (Jacob’s Ladder) to reach the town plaza. It goes straight to the old Spanish watchtower which the locals refer to as Campanario de Antigua. At the back of the watchtower is the Station of the Cross with life-sized statues and a lovely grotto. On the right side is the town’s activity center. Climb up to the stairs to the viewdeck that affords a breath-taking view of Tanon Strait and Negros. Right next to the center is the old municipal hall, now converted to Museo de Samboan.
At the center of the plaza is the Church of Saint Michael Archangel. The present church was built in 1842 using coral stones and hardwoods. It has a bare façade, devoid from embellishments commonly found in many colonial churches of Cebu. But it has a very interesting interior of attractive retablo, painted ceiling and harlequin floor pattern. The resident canine that sleeps on the church floor is also now part of the attraction.
Fronting the church is the street that leads to the main road where the WWII Volunteers Monument at the Siempre Samboan marker is located.
After finishing the heritage attractions, it’s time to explore the natural attractions, starting with the waterfalls, and there’s plenty of them.
Chasing waterfalls should start with Aguinid, in Barangay Tambo. The entrance to this waterfalls is located only few meters from the main road. Entrance fee is P40 and hiring a local guide is necessary as five different levels must be climbed to reach the main falls. The guide will assist visitors to climb up to the succeeding levels using ropes and some moderate rock climbing skills.
A short distance from Aguinid is Binalayan Falls. Entrance fee is also P40, and hiring a local guide is required. A 15-minute trek through coconut grove and about five river crossings takes visitors to the lower falls, before finally reaching the main falls popular for its “three drops.”
In Barangay Suba, the town’s highest falls, Da-o, can be visited. Its 90-meter vertical drop can be reached via a 30-minute trek. Going further up in Canorong is the refreshing Candayvic Falls, a portmanteau of “Kang Inday Marivic” who is the wife of the incumbent mayor.
Other waterfalls that can be visited are Balay’gSawa, Tabon, and the mini falls of Kang Mingay, Trabon and Kanciahan.
Aside from waterfalls, Samboan has a beautiful mountain (Mount Bartolina) to climb, enchanting caves (Calatagan and Kang Porning) to explore and refreshing lake (Ponong) to visit.
Where to stay, what to eat
Going to Samboan will not be complete unless you stay there overnight. The best place to stay is at Fantasy Lodge, Somboan’s beautiful garden resort on a hill. Located in Barangay Dalahican, it has several family cottages overlooking the sea, a large pool and a kawa-kawa bath.
For eating out, the best place to try local delicacies is at the local market. Being located just opposite Negros, Samboan has its own version of Tanjay’s Budbud Kabog. They also have their own version of Argao’s Torta Espesyal, which comes with or without coconut wine.
But for Samboan’s unique cuisine, there’s the Manokhang, which is a dish made with native chicken, coconut milk, lots of chilis and freshwater shrimps. A dish that truly makes the drive to Samboaneven memorable.
PHOTOS BY JOSEPH T. BAUTISTA