Old Oslob: More than Just the Whale Sharks
The rustic and laid-back coastal town of Oslob in Cebu is something worth visiting. Aside from the deluge of visitors looking forward to swim with the whale sharks, the town has a unique charm of its own for cultural and art aficionados—the Spanish-colonial era La Iglesia de la Imaculada Concepcion, the Cuartel and the watchtower, all within the town’s old core.
Several years ago, I visited the southern town of Oslob in Cebu. Back then, it wasn’t at the limelight of tourism—except maybe of the few and those who visit Sumilon Island. It was our visita iglesia in one of Cebu’s largest Spanish-colonial churches. What surprised us with this town was aside from its church were the ruins of the Army Barracks called Cuartel, and the once towering watchtower, slowly eroding in the beach.
Oslob then was a very laidback town…even up until now.
However, when the news broke about the whale sharks, the name of the town went on the spotlight. The whale shark interaction activity both stirred fun and controversy for the people. As for me, I don’t have the interest in swimming with the whale sharks, even if I wanted to, but tried to restrain myself from doing so.
La Iglesia de Imaculada Concepcion
The Church of Immaculate Conception, or Oslob Church, is one imposing church near coast, facing the turquoise seas. Built in the 19th century under Bishop Santos Gomes Maranon, the site was chosen by the Fray Julian Bermejo, OSA, the said architect of the church fortresses in southern Cebu.
With its massive and white-washed stones and towering belfry, one wouldn’t not notice that it is the center and the core of Oslobnon history and culture.
When we visited it a few years ago, the old Spanish-colonial convent was still there. However, in 2008, a fire consumed the church interiors and the convent. It wasn’t the first time that this church was on fire though. Good thing the walls and the belfry remained strong. At the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010, the restoration was complete—although the convent is gone.
Built at the twilight of colonial administration of the Spaniards in the Philippines, it was meant to be as an army barrack. The incomplete coral stone ruin sits near the church and a perfect place for some pictorials, pre-nups, and playing hide-and-clap, Conjuring lang ang peg!
A lonely ruined watchtower guards the old Oslob for already two centuries. The balwarte, as the locals called it, is made of coral stone and is part of the seven watchtowers that were built to protect southern Cebu from the marauding Moros.
I was surprised that it was saved (and even landscaped) from utter deterioration as the coast has already destroyed half of it. Today, it stands protected from the sea, with a monument of Fray Julian Bermejo, OSA—the said architect of church fortresses and watchtowers in southern Cebu.
So, for those who are not really into swimming with the whale sharks, or for those who like to have a side trip, pass by the old Oslob quarters and get to relax in cool sea breeze of early morning or late afternoon.
Next stop…Boljoon! Suroy-suroy sa gihapon.