The hearts of San Remigio still beating after Hurricane Yolanda disaster

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Colors of the Beach in San Remegio
Colors of the Beach in San Remigio

What is it to be Filipino? Is it ethnicity or regional? Could it be possibly a national identity or patriotism? In an attempt to not spark a major debate on the issue, I would like to challenge the conventional line of thinking and state I believe being Filipino is in the heart. It is something that combines courage, resilience, passion and ingenuity all into a defining term that represents a people.

And it is found woven into the community of San Remigio…

An almost forgotten Jewel of northern Cebu, this once sought-after tourist destination was hit hard by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. The one-minute sustained winds of 195mph were enough to make Yolanda the most devastating typhoon, on record, to make land-fall. In the Philippines alone 6,300 people lost their lives to nature’s wrath during the event.

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San Remigio
Blue Waters and Dancing Sunsets

San Remigio sustained a level of destruction that has been carried through the years to today.  The community struggles to regain its once-coveted tourist destination status and once again become the jewel of Central Visayan tourism as it had once been recognised as. Even with a recovered coastline, the stumps of toppled coconut trees and foundations of destroyed homes punctuate the coastline as a reminder of the hardships and loss the community endured.

San Remigio boasts the longest shoreline of any municipality in Cebu. Here, several beach resorts, as well as public beaches, enjoy the benefit from the long stretches of white sand that lines the northwestern region of the island. The culmination over the devastation from Typhoon Yolanda and overfishing has caused much of the diving and snorkeling in the past to be not as captivating as it once was.

Today, however, San Remigio has become a new emerging diving destination. There are several marine sanctuaries, with new dive sites being developed on a constant basis. There are the presences of a PADI dive shop in San Remigio Beach Club that will cater to both beginner and experienced divers who want to enjoy San Remigio’s marine life.

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Bantayan Island

The port of Hagnaya offers a frequent ferry service to Bantayan Island and is also the main source of travel to various points along the Daanbatayan as well as several smaller islands located just of the coast.

San Remigio was formerly known as “Kanghagas”, an indigenous tree that grew prolifically in the area. When the Spanish explorers came into the region, they identified a townsite by clearing the Kanghagas trees and the town eventually became a part of barangay Punta.

It was first identified that the Visita of Kanghagas was to be in the governance jurisdiction of Bantayan. In 1850 Bogo established a parish, and the three barrios of Kanghagas, Lambusan, and Victoria (Maarat) became under the civil governance of Bogo. Kangahagas was renamed Isabel after the queen of Spain. In 1864 these barrios establish a new parish named as San Juan Nepomuceno Parish and the new town was called San Remigio.

As rich and colorful as the history of the region is, the true beauty lies in the resilience of the people. Small fishing villages rise early to get the day’s first catches and remain late into the night fishing by lantern and bringing up nets of meagre catches just to sustain a livelihood. Yet each day the community gathers and children play in the slow lapping waters of the blue coves of the region. The fishing boats line the shores in a colorful display that plays against the contrasting white sands of the beach.

Residences in San Remigio

As you travel through the main streets of San Remigio, one gets the sense of longevity present in the pride and attitudes of the residences of the town.  Recovery has been slow, but it has been occurring. Many of the main buildings and homes of those who stayed, after the destruction of Yolanda, stand tall in an almost defiance of the natures act of aggression.

The Casa Del Sur Resort is no different. The battered structures of the resort have slowly received the care needed to keep the grounds in business. The resort itself reflects an almost “Casa Blanca” sense to its presence. A bit of beach-combing and cold San Miguel’s will be the only thing to crowd your afternoon schedule here.

Bantayan Island, San Remigio
Bantayan Island

An excellent menu and great service-oriented staff make the stay delightful. The staff will cater to your needs and even schedule your tours using local guides. They had a banka come in and take us Island hopping for the day where we were able to explore the close-by neighboring islands and take in the breath-taking beauty of Bantayan and the Virgin Islands.  Both places calling to the adventurer to bask in the sun while lying lazily on the sandy beaches as the surf ripples softly lapping against the shoreline.

The Beauty that is Northern Cebu

There is a sense of soul to the region. A sense of belonging to anyone willing to daring to endeavor in the splendor and beauty that this part of Northern Cebu has to offer. It may not be the bustling streets of Cebu City, but is everything that can be offered by other exotic locations within Cebu like Oslob or Moal Boal.

This is a place the beckons one to lay down the cell phone and walk away from the laptop. The people and the views entice you to their version of time in a slower place, one that seems to make you reason within yourself to a different line of thinking. While sitting along the shoreline, I myself got caught up in a daydream of beachside bungalows and morning coffee with a beach haven view.

I suppose this trip should come with a warning, travel at your own risk of a change in priorities and a sense of a slower way of life. One can become lost to reason in a place like this, the romance of retirement called me daily.

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