December 19, 2016

It is the second day of our Cebu City excursion, and unfortunately, our last day of our five-day stay in Cebu as well. Thankfully, we didn’t need further debates as to what to do for the day as we have already agreed the night before. Our itinerary for the day is composed of only two destinations – Sirao Gardens and the Temple of Lea. We made them our priority as they are located quite far from the city center.

To the Gardens

Sirao Gardens just opened in 2015 (remember this adventure was in 2016). In spite of its infancy, it was slowly gaining attention from adventurers and tourists. But thanks to the power of the ‘Gram (Instagram, and social media in general), it has slowly crept into the consciousness of many a traveler. In a year, Sirao Gardens had made its way to the tourist map, becoming one of the must-visit places while in Cebu City.

Going to the garden poses a great challenge. But after surviving canyoneering in Badian, no challenge is too big for us. The first order of business for the day is finding a way to go to the Gardens. We have two options –hire a Grab Car or hire a taxi cab. The former was impossible as we wouldn’t fit in one car; there were five of us, so taxi it is. Thankfully, JY Mall, the jump off point for most tour to the garden, is within walking distance from our accommodation. There, we were able to immediately find a taxi driver who was willing to take us to the garden. He was also the one who contacted another driver; we needed two due to our number.

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This “I Love ***” sign is ubiquitous.
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Sirao Gardens still manage to look good on a bleak day.

With the transaction done, we proceeded with our day’s adventure. On the drive going to Sirao Gardens, a feeling of nostalgia took over me. The verdure, the fogs and cold climate reminded me of Baguio and of my home province, Mountain Province. The winding roads and the foggy hills, the morning drizzle is reminiscent of the Cordilleras, especially at this time of the year.

After about thirty minutes of driving through zigzagging roads (at least they’re paved), we reached our destination. Tucked on the slopes of the rolling central Cebu highlands is Sirao Gardens, a small plot of gardens that has taken the social media world by storm. Its beauty often drew comparison to the famed flower fields of the Netherlands’. It is in this spirit that Sirao Gardens earned the moniker of “Mini Amsterdam of Cebu”.

As mentioned, the gardens wasn’t as popular back then as it is now. The only reason I knew of it was because of social media. Admittedly, social media has developed into a very powerful tool to promote tourism nowadays. The pictures of the garden I saw caught me breathless. I shared these pictures to my friends and they acquiesced readily, it is a must to drop by Sirao Gardens.

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With no sun to invigorate them, these sunflowers are drooping.
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Even if it is little, if you learn to focus, that little can be more than enough.
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Red overflowed that day.

When we reached the gardens, the bleak weather was imposing. However, we were nonplussed by the unfair weather break; we didn’t let it dampen our spirits and our enthusiasm. Before entering the gardens, we paid first a minimal entrance fee which is used for the gardens’ maintenance.

As we trudged down the muddy path to the gardens, a realization slowly took over me. I expected the gardens to be alive with a feast of different colors and hues. Unfortunately, it was otherwise. December, I have surmised, is not a good month to visit the gardens! My friend who has been there before did warm me to check first but I guess I was too lazy.

But the garden wasn’t totally bare. There were still flowers in bloom that brought the place alive despite the bleak weather. Whereas the Amsterdam flower fields are teeming with tulips, Sirao Garden’s primary flower is the celosia argentea, often referred to as the official flower of the Sinulog Festival. I believe that the flowers were already gathered in preparation for the grand festival in January, hence, the bare garden. Well, maybe. Conclusion: don’t visit the gardens in December.

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And more red!
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Tres Marias conquering ’em flower fields.
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It may not have overflowed as I expected, I am still like this small piece of wood – happy for what I saw.
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Blooming like the flowers.

Apart from the celosias, the gardens are teeming with sunflowers, chrysanthemums, and asters. The sunflowers were in bloom, but unenthusiastically. Bereft of the sun’s rays, it is like life was drained out of it. Nevertheless, we took the opportunity to take pictures, running around the gardens, looking for these Instagrammable shots and parts. We did this for nearly an hour. Simple structures such as gnomes, small windmill, bicycles and flower pots are installed to beautify the place (or not).

In spite of the bleak atmosphere, the garden was still immaculate. It is saddening to hear what happened to it the years following our visit. Apparently, some rude visitors simply don’t know how to follow rules. They stepped in where they shouldn’t and stomped their marks of ignorance all over. Let us be responsible travelers. Please. Nevertheless, the owners took time to develop the garden even better for future visitors.

Was the experience worth it? On a very good day, yes, it is very worth it. More importantly, beyond those Instagrammable pictures, nature (and flowers) has an ingenious way of instigating tranquility .

Practicalities

Entrance Fee: PHP 50, PHP 150 for professional photography
Operating hours: 6AM to 630 PM
Contact details: 0943 706 3437

How to get there

By Motorcycle (Habal-Habal): From JY Square, take a habal-habal ride to Sirao Flower Farm. Normal cost is PHP 400 round trip, good for two persons. However, the driver might charge for additional waiting fee of between PHP 100 to PHP 200. Caveat to travelers, some habal-habal drivers don’t have spare helmets. It’s a ride on your own risk business.

By Van: From Ayala Cebu PUV terminal, you can ride a UV express van. Fare is PHP 50 for one person, one-way. The van will drop you off near the garden. From there, hire a habal-habal going to the garden. Habal-habal fare is around PHP 20-30 but there is no guarantee that there are always habal-habal there to convey you to the gardens.

By Private Car: Simply use Waze to navigate the road going to the gardens.

By Taxi/Grab Car: If your group is rather big in number, I advise hiring a taxi or a grab car to take you to gardens. The most feasible spot to hire a taxi is at JY Square. The taxi meters will be turned off for the trip. Cost is variable, usually between PHP 1,000 to PHP 1,500, depending on your haggling skills.

Travel time is approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Other Practicalities:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes or footwear. The paths between the garden plots are of the dirt kind; they are unpaved.
  2. Best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the worst of the scorching heat has already passed.
  3. The flower plots are delineated or fenced, please don’t go beyond them. There is a reason why they are delineated buddy.
  4. Take pictures but, again, LEAVE NO TRACE.
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Although it is off the beaten path, the feast of colors at Sirao Gardens make all the trouble worth it.

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