I visited Toledo, the only city located at the western coast of Cebu, with a story already in mind. Back then, I wanted to see for myself the turquoise yet toxic waters of Biga Pit, a tailings pond operated by Carmen Copper Corporation.
For me, Biga, including the other open-pit mines in the area, play important roles in Toledo’s history. These have both reshaped the city’s landscapes and undoubtedly, changed its economic fortunes throughout the years.
But my one chance to see Biga faded when the local habal-habal drivers we talked to had no idea where it was located in the first place. The closest we could get to, as far as my mining narrative is concerned, was just setting foot at Lutopan, my roommate Andy’s hometown.
I would later find out that their village was built for the copper mine’s staffs back in the day. Not far from their place is a spot where we could make out a mountain being stripped bare like modern-day rice terraces. Such sight is not uncommon especially in these parts.
From war pillboxes to miniature landmarks
Now that Biga was out of the picture, Andy asked us to if we’d like to try wall-climbing at the limestone cliffs of Cantabaco instead or just leisurely walk around the poblacion. We chose the latter of course as we were too unfit for any kind of outdoor adventure.
Our mini-tour started at the Toledo City Hall located at Ilihan, a slightly elevated portion in the city. At this height, we were treated to scenic views of the Tañon Strait and the nearby Hinulawan River. Toledo was originally named ‘Hinulawan’ until the Spaniards decided to rename it after that landlocked city in Spain sometime in the 1860s.
Scattered around the government complex are pillboxes which underscores Ilihan’s strategic location during World War II.
Next stop was the CEBECO III Park which showcases a large Cebu map propped with miniature landmarks of popular tourist spots and heritage churches. In here one can literally tour around the province in just 5 minutes or less.
Our final destination that afternoon would have been the Capilla Santa Ana. But since we were running late, we decided to just walk all the way to Toledo’s busy port and catch the sun set behind the Negros mountains.
A garden maze and religious relics
We dropped by Capilla Santa Ana before heading out for Malubog Lake the next day. This is actually a private chapel owned by Lilian Yare, a Toledo native, and her late husband, Michael Overs. They built it to house the religious artifacts and relics they have collected in their travels overseas.
Many are drawn to this small chapel at Barangay Ibo for its very ‘Instagrammable’ garden maze. I can only agree as there are many portions here that beg for selfies and if you are so inclined – for meditation as well.
My favorite part in Capilla Santa Ana though was not the maze but the room containing the owners’ relic collections. Photographs are not allowed here but if there’s one that I wish I captured in my camera, it has to be that unassuming reliquary which contained tiny bone fragments from over 100 saints!
The long butt-numbing jeepney ride to Malubog Lake tested our patience in so many ways. So you could just imagine our relief when we finally alighted by the man-made lake at Barangay Gen. Climaco.
It is said that Malubog only came to be after a holding dam was built here in 1968. The impounded water, we’ve been told, has been used by the copper mine for their operations. The affected residents at that time were then taught alternative sources of livelihood such as tilapia farming.
At the opposite bank of the lake is an old tunnel that led us to a natural pool surrounded by lush vegetation.
It’s not really a secret spot as the locals frequent here with their improvised fishing rods in tow. I have read from online blogs though that access beyond the old Malubog tunnel has been recently restricted.
On our way back, I realized that there is definitely more to Toledo than my Biga Pit narrative. Our weekend, albeit brief, here has allowed us to see what the city has in store – from open-pit mines to a man-made lake and from forgotten WII remnants to interesting religious relics.
I guess you can experience all these, and perhaps even more, when you spend a little more time at Toledo City.
The quickest way to get to Toledo is by riding a public van at the V-hire Station along Junquera St. in downtown Cebu.
Capilla Santa Ana Museum & Community Center
Operating hours: Monday to Saturday, 10:00AM – 12:00 noon, 1:00-4:00 PM
Entrance fees: Tourists -Php200, local rate – Php100, students – Php50