Argao will always be the town down south that my family and I would regularly visit during holidays and vacations. Being a coastal town, there are beaches everywhere. It also has its share of wide open fields and fishponds. But having a lot of “nature stuff” certainly does not mean Argao is behind the times. Through the efforts of the local government and its citizens, tourists have access to a new world necessity: free wifi! Where else can you sit on the grass checking your Facebook or Twitter account?
How to get there:
Ride a bus from the South Bus Terminal. You can choose between a non-air-conditioned (79php) or air conditioned (86php) bus. The trip takes about an hour and a half. I prefer riding the bus without the air-con so I can enjoy the coolness of fresh country air.
Tell the conductor that you’re stopping near the Argao church. Don’t worry if he forgets, you can’t miss Argao; they have posters and billboards all around reminding you where you are. Why the church? The church is located at the center of town so it makes for a good point of reference.
- St. Michael’s Church. The structure itself is like a time capsule: old painted ceiling, religious icons and a very old organ pipe. The square stones that make up the exterior walls still have the marks of tools that were used to shape the boulders around the building. The bell tower is beautifully preserved and is still in use. Old doors greet you behind modern aluminum ones; in a way, telling you how the present is trying to protect the past. Inside, the high ceiling astounds with its portrayal of biblical scenes (if there’s a mass going on, I make sure to look up only when Lola’s not watching). Standing inside something that was made more than a hundred years ago, makes for a sense of appreciation of all things old. Don’t you think?
- Town Plaza. This wasn’t here ten years ago. Well, not this well-kept anyway. Now, it has manicured lawns, white stone benches and free wifi! You could update your status while you roll on the grass with your dog. At night, the plaza is a must-see, unlike a decade ago where you could barely see anything. Now, there are lights everywhere you look—they even have speakers that play mellow tunes while you stroll around.
- Municipal Hall. This is where official business gets done. There didn’t seem to be anything special about this place until one day, while I was taking pictures of the plaza with the church in the background, one of the Tanods offered to show me the second floor so I could have a higher vantage point. I was led into a big room with antique furniture. He then brought me to the balcony, a wide open balcony. It almost made me want to spread my arms and shout, “I’M KING OF THE WORLD!” Kidding…
- Lawis. Get a trike and tell the driver to take you to Mahayahay Beach Resort. Lawis refers to the area in front of the resort, not the resort itself. There’s a bunch of cottages that line up along the beach. You may rent one or you can opt to just bring a hapin and sit on the sand. Although the sand isn’t white, the water is crystal clear. You can sometimes see small fish swim up to the shallow water.
- Argao Nature Park. It’s a nice place for extreme sports. You can zipline (20php only, it’s a short trip from the top of the trees to the other side of the lake), wall-climb and row a boat, all without thinning your wallet. With an entrance fee of only 5php, you can fly, climb like Spiderman or row a boat till you drop.
- Chitang’s Torta Bakery. You can’t complete your Argao trip without tasting its local delicacy: torta! Chitang’s may be the famous one, but there are still other bakeries that sell tortas or broas. Try Argao Bakery and OJ’s.
- Alex Kafe. It’s a small restaurant near the church. High-ceilinged and airy, the ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon in. Paintings and drawings decorate the walls. There’s an old sewing machine in the corner, shelves full of old dusty books and other antiques line the sides. They serve good meals, but I usually look for their halo-halo. Yummy!
- Tuba/Bahalina. Tuba is fermented coconut juice. Bahalina refers to the time it takes the juice to ferment—in this case, a month or so. Where to get it? Tell the trike driver, “Adto ta sa palitanan ug tuba sa ilang kintanar.” My relatives have been making tuba for decades. “Cianini,” a name that combines my Lola Dencia and my Lolo Nini, became the brand name of their products. After Lolo Nini passed away, Lola Dencia has been managing the business together with her children. You can buy a small bottle here and maybe even ask questions about the fermentation process.
- Argao Central Elementary School. I’m talking about the field around the school to be exact. It’s a great nice spot to watch the sun set behind the mountains.