13 Jan2009


When we had completed a brief tour of the Church of Patrocinio de Maria in Boljoon, previous post, we stepped out into a sun-drenched front lawn and I noticed a rather solid looking 2-3 storey high structure (a “blockhouse”, I now know) at one corner of the church yard. After a quick stop at the nicely set up “CR’s” (only Pinoys would understand that), I started to walk across the yard to get a closer look at the building and as serendipity would have it, a local crossed my path, and graciously offered to show me and my companions around the bell tower. Turns out the gentleman was a brother of the head of the restoration and conservation effort, so after a a few minutes, we established a connection in this world that indeed has such few degrees of separation…


But the genuine small town provincial welcome and hospitality was extended to me, a total stranger, before we even figured out a common link. Ronald Villanueva is the municipal budget officer and ICT Officer (this will be relevant later in the post) and he was checking in on one of his children in a class playing in the shadows of the bell tower. He showed us into the bell tower which also served as a prison on the first floor, complete with wall etchings/drawings counting the days someone had been incarcerated. Marred by recent graffiti, it was still a very impressive reminder of your fate if you did something wrong a hundred or more years ago. A light airy cell, it was, nevertheless a cell.


Speaking of graffiti, if I were ever supreme leader for a day, my punishment for those caught defacing private and public property with useless grafitti would be for the owners of the defaced property or in the case of national treasures, an appointed person, to be allowed to tatoo graffiti all over the faces of the perpetrators… so that the rest of their life they would have someone else’s name, expletive, wacky drawing or strange cursive writing all over the face. So there.


We climbed the vertigo inspiring wooden steps (I have a fear of heights) up to the second floor landing where wide planks of hardwood had survived some 200 years of use. Several huge bells dating back a century and a half plus continue to hang and can still be rung. Ronald explained that all along the coast of Cebu there were watchtowers to warn of invading pirates, etc. and this was just one of the watchtowers in the Boljoon town, another being much further up on the hill. The bells were stunning, though again marred by graffiti, but what really caught my eye was the roof…


A frame of beams and trusses in hardwood held up hundreds of large clay tiles made from materials in the area. This roof, if I understood it correctly, had survived the test of time, the vagaries of storms and typhoons coming full force from the sea, for some 150+ years! It was fascinating to spy the interlocking tiles which appear to have been just laid on top of each other without cement or mortar holding them together. I was so fascinated I spent several minutes looking up, wondering if I could have a small hut or lanai made the same way… it was cool, literally, and very cool, figuratively.


The bells (there were three or four, I think) were the main attraction in this building and we were actually allowed to ring them on this visit. Some were dated and go back 130+ years.


The view from this vantage point, albeit just 5-7 meters up, was spectacular and you can see the entire cove in front of Boljoon. It is here that the story has a wonderful modern twist. Ronald and other more progressive and technologically inclined citizens of Boljoon fought for, and finally installed a wifi system just in front of the church. I know, it sounds utterly bizarre, and when I saw the sign, I whipped out my ipod touch to see if I could check into marketmanila.com, but it seems there was a brown-out at that precise hour! Why wifi? It seems that the children of many OFW’s from the area were now becoming computer literate, and as their arents have visited over the past couple of years, they requested laptops (now more closely priced to fancy cellphones) instead of other doodads, and now, on a late afternoon, several citizens from the town are seen linking up to say hello to their parents and surf the net while sitting in the plaza or looking out at the ocean. Amazing. This is 150 kilometers or so south of Cebu, and there aren’t even internet cafes around here, and the nearest Jollibee is an hour North in Carcar and instead there is a free-for-all town sponsored wifi system. I was pleasantly shocked and smiling from ear to ear. Good on you, guys from Boljoon. That is just wonderful. Just wonderful. :) Now if only the folks in National government were as caring and intelligent and service oriented as the folks from this little town in Southern Cebu.




  1. Maria Clara says:

    The bells are stunning. They survive the sea breeze without much deterioration on them. High rise ceiling gives extra beauty and comfort to a building. I guess that’s how they conceived cathedral ceiling in residential houses to shield the interior of the house from the burning sun and eliminate noise. The wood they used in the old days is 50 times stronger than the wood available now. I guess due to early harvesting susceptible to dry rot and termites. Wifi is part of the modern marvel to reach and touch your loves ones shores apart.

    Jan 13, 2009 | 12:53 pm


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  3. millet says:

    this whole post took my breath away. thanks, MM.

    Jan 13, 2009 | 12:59 pm

  4. deirdregurl says:

    There is so much charm in little towns. I remember 25 years ago, I took a vacation with my mother’s sister in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, a few hours drive from Davao City. It was wonderful. It was the first time I saw and caught a firefly. And they were amazing especially at night when there are thousands of them flying about…

    Loved your last photo. Is that their plaza over there? Simple yet lovely. And I see greens everywhere. Kalami mupuyo and make it a weekend home.

    Jan 13, 2009 | 1:05 pm

  5. Rico says:

    Wi-fi! Yeah baby! For a town so remote as the nearest Jollibee is an hour away, the folks at Boljoon sure know good investments! I could live here! Really. I’ll just have my office email me my workload!

    Jan 13, 2009 | 1:11 pm

  6. natie says:

    i love these last 2 posts,MM—-those bells and the old church are marvelous!

    in i love iloilo.com, here’s one of the 4 phil baroque churches that made it to the UNESCO world heritage church:


    Jan 13, 2009 | 1:25 pm

  7. Lei says:

    impressive indeed! brings a smile to my face. love the picture of the children playing in the shadow cast by the belltower, i can just imagine how peaceful and relaxing that can be for the kids. in our stressful life, nothing beats even imagining for a few moments what it would be like to just lay on the grass where they are playing. =)

    Jan 13, 2009 | 2:22 pm

  8. mdg says:

    great people of Boljoon is the reason of having a great and amazing town.

    having been connected to travel industry before let me experienced to travel 95% of the country….and 1 thing is very sure we have a lot of places to see and enjoy in are own land.

    mm, your post surely inspires

    Jan 13, 2009 | 2:22 pm

  9. ronald says:

    hello sir,

    a million thanks for featuring our town, church and wi-fi project. it really inspires us sir……

    Jan 13, 2009 | 2:46 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Ronald, thank YOU for being such a gracious and impromptu host and tour guide during our brief, unexpected and previously unplanned trip to Boljoon. And as for the WIFI project, I really think it was brilliant and I hope more towns do that!

    Jan 13, 2009 | 3:06 pm

  11. boljo-anon says:

    The structure featured above is a blockhouse. Its original use was for defense purpose when Boljoon was under constant threat from marauders and pirates from the South in the 1700’s. Artilleries were supposed to be placed in the openings where the bells are hanging now.

    That blockhouse used to serve as the nerve of the elaborate defense system against Moro pirates introduced by one of Boljoon’s Spanish friars, Fray Julian Bermejo, OSA. The system consisted of series of watchtowers ringing the southeast portion of Cebu, from Sibonga down to Samboan and as far as Ginatilan. (http://heritageconservation.wordpress.com/2006/07/27/boljoon-church/)

    Without such defense, Cebu or the whole of Visayas may have been under the influence of Islam. Sad to note, this piece of history is never mentioned in our history books.

    Jan 13, 2009 | 3:20 pm

  12. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    The picture of the school children (and the dog!) playing by the shadow of the Bell tower says it all!!

    Its more than an Amorsolo painting….priceless!!

    Jan 13, 2009 | 3:41 pm

  13. Lee says:

    this is a pretty little place I have to visit soon. Nice… thanks Marketman for another interesting “travel” post

    Jan 13, 2009 | 4:18 pm

  14. Ley says:

    Hubby and I are really looking forward to retiring in Boljoon where we can farm and indulge in the simple joys in life…

    Jan 13, 2009 | 5:00 pm

  15. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Wow MM…your posts are truly inspiring! Makes me appreciate our country more. The landscape looks so simple yet leaves you breathless. Your photos are wonderful!! I wouldn’t mind retiring there. Many times,simple lives are all we really need. As our children move away,I realize we need less than what we used to have.
    I truly thank God for the gift of your posts. Inspiring.
    The wifi idea is great! Rural yet so urban….hahaha…

    Jan 13, 2009 | 5:44 pm

  16. Angela says:

    How beautiful! I especially love the picture of the children and the last photo.

    Jan 13, 2009 | 5:52 pm

  17. Mila says:

    The picture of the ship drawing made me think of The Count of Monte Cristo for some reason. Imagining that the prisoner was a sailor who might have seen this as an emblem of his freedom.
    What saddened me was seeing the crude carvings on the bell, argh! I visited a lot of bell towers in Ilocos some years back during a trip around the province, and so many of them are defaced and in need of major restoration. The graffiti is just a sign of how rude people are, it’s a church for goodness sake!

    Jan 13, 2009 | 6:03 pm

  18. Bhel says:

    i love the pictures of the children playing under the shadow, sayang when i was there in Boljoon last May i did not get the chance to tour in your church, but i will be back soon, Ronald prepare i will visit you together with my family ..maybe holy week…regards

    Jan 14, 2009 | 7:25 am

  19. Dotski says:


    Boljoon is such a quaint town. Staying there just takes away the stress of city life. I should know. The town has been practically home to me in the years 1990-1998.

    Your pictures are simply amazing. And thank God, you had Ronald for a guide.


    Jan 14, 2009 | 11:54 am

  20. MarketFan says:

    The belfry is the best vantage point to watch out for invaders coming from the sea in the old days. If accessible to visitors today, this is also the best place to have a bird’s eyeview of a town we’re visiting for the first time. I remember doing this in a town near Iloilo and barring vertigo, it was a unique experience.

    The WFI project of the townspeople just goes to show that we don’t need ZTE-type broadband deals which just become a source of corruption for many people.

    Jan 14, 2009 | 12:32 pm

  21. MarketFan says:

    Natie, I saw your comment belatedly. Yes, Miag-ao is the church we visited in Iloilo with a breathtaking view from the belfry.

    Jan 14, 2009 | 12:34 pm

  22. Joey in Dubai says:

    Wow, I’m impressed! For a small and remote town to think of a wifi project, that’s pretty amazing. Congratulations to Ronald and the people of Boljoon.

    Jan 14, 2009 | 1:52 pm

  23. k. ramos says:

    Wow, the people of Boljoon surely has the motivation. Congrats to you guys! This reminded me of the article in Inquirer wherein my former teacher and his colleagues helped install a Wi-Fi antenna in Batanes so that the students can learn more about things in general. With this technology, not only the OFWs of Boljoon and their children can benefit, but also the students, visitors (like MM) and everyone else as well.

    Jan 14, 2009 | 3:23 pm

  24. Jun says:

    If this church is in singapore,thailand,vietnam or hongkong it will already be listed as national heritage and one of a great place to visit. Luckily we still have a few guys like Ronald who help o restore it to it’s glory. If I ever visit cebu i’ll definitely want to see this place.

    Jan 14, 2009 | 10:49 pm

  25. ronald says:

    hello, marketmanila.com family. below are some useful links that might interest you

    Boljoon, Cebu municipal website:

    Boljoon Heritage Foundation Inc. website:

    Wi-Fi launching:

    Boljoon Church restoration:

    Jan 14, 2009 | 11:25 pm

  26. bottomsup says:

    Will show these photos to my mom! They wills surely bring back fond memories for her. Thanks, MM!

    Jan 20, 2009 | 11:35 am

  27. ximeone says:

    kanindot gyud sa boljoon.. oi..
    aside sa mga namention ni sir ronald nga site..
    heres another one..
    i happen to browse in my multiply account…

    heres the link:


    then join the groupsite:


    thanks mabuhay ka boljoon!!! weeee!!!

    Jan 30, 2009 | 4:59 am


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