AFTER immersing in the rich culture of several towns in Cebu and enjoying tourist destinations of the southern part of the province, Lino Mercurio, 58, excitedly scanned through the photos in his phone, choosing which photos to best post in his social media accounts.
His younger brother, Omar, also had more action photos of him, especially with Lino swimming together with the whale sharks in Oslob town.
According to Lino, it was not his first time to go whale watching as he already saw these gentle giants in Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia, where he and his family are now living.
However, it was his first time to swim with the whale sharks in the southern town of Oslob, and it only happened when he and his wife, Joy, decided to join the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Southern Adventure.
The long-running tour program of the Cebu Provincial Government under the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) once again brought tourists, who were mostly balikbayans, to different sites in the southern part of Cebu.
The three-day, two-night tour was held on Jan. 22 to 25, with 45 guests and eight social media bloggers in attendance.
Before the tour started, Gov. Hilario P. Davide III and Vice Gov. Agnes A. Magpale led the send-off ceremony for the guests at the Capitol grounds.
The four tour buses that transported the guests first visited the heritage park of Sibonga where they were greeted with a dance presentation by the students. They were also treated to some of Cebu’s delicacies like biko, budbud, linusak, puto kutsinta, palitaw and masi.
They had a chance to visit and offer prayers at the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist in Barangay Lindogon, Sibonga before they departed for Argao for their lunch.
At lunchtime, the guests enjoyed the view of the town’s plaza.
In his welcome message, Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero said that the town strives hard to preserve its cultural heritage, earning its honor as a champion on heritage sites for the past two years.
“It is much an honor that you chose Argao as one of your destinations,” he said.
The guests were charmed by the music coming from Argao’s pipe organ at the Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel.
They also saw a demo on how to weave hablon, make tablea, and bake torta.
Before heading to their next stop in Boljoon, guests got the chance to taste the town’s local delicacies while watching a cultural dance. They also had a brief tour at the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church.
Mayor Merlou Derama thanked Davide and Magpale for including Boljoon in the tour program this year.
In Oslob, they toured the town’s plaza and the historic watchtower and barracks.
The first day of tour ended with a dinner in Santander hosted by Mayor Marilyn Wenceslao.
On the second day, Mercurio, Joy and Omar got up early to experience the famous whale-watching in Oslob.
They were just among the few guests who took the chance to avail themselves of this water activity.
“I was not so excited to see and swim with the whale sharks because I already saw these abroad. However, interacting with the animals is a different experience. Iba pala ‘pag nakasama mong lumangoy ‘yung butanding,” said Mercurio.
During the tour, police officers and members of the Capitol’s Civil Security Services Division escorted the guests’ four buses. A team from the Provincial Health Office was also there to take care of the guests’ medical needs.
It was Mercurio’s first time to visit and join a tour in Cebu. Yet, his first time was very memorable, he said.
“I feel like a VVIP, a very, very important person with the Capitol’s treatment to us kasi may security, mayors ang involve. Di naman kami sanay,” he said.
After Oslob, Mercurio and the other guests went to Samboan where they were offered with heavy snacks and had a tour at the heritage plaza.
They then proceeded to Alegria and visited the Que Alegre Organic Farm, the town’s heritage park, and St. Francis Xavier Church. They also had a lunch at Batong Malunhaw Resort of Alegria.
They ended the second day by having a dinner with live entertainment at the Moalboal Heritage Park.
Mercurio said the visit at the historical sites, the unlimited food served by the host local government units and the swim with the whale sharks are just among the most memorable experience he had in Suroy Suroy.
“It’s nice, parang eye-opener, bakit ngayon pa lang kami nagpunta dito. I’ve been to Europe and other countries, dito pala sa Pilipinas marami palang makikita,” he said.
While he continued posting his photos on Facebook, his friends and relatives have started asking about the schedule of the next Suroy-Suroy.
“Saan ka ba makakuha ng tour na ganito. May pulis. It’s overwhelming,” he said.
Omar, a former vice mayor of the municipality of Buhi in Camarines Sur, said he was overjoyed with the experience in Suroy Suroy.
“Tuwang tuwa ako. ‘Yang mga bata di naman ‘yan ma-appreciate (yung heritage sites) pero ikaw (na nasa edad na) s’yempre di ba,” he said.
On the last day of the tour, guests had more time to roam around Moalboal and go island hopping to see its famous sardine run and also go dolphin and turtle watching before they left for Ronda to have lunch, visit its church, and tour a dragon fruit farm in Barangay Santa Cruz.
They also had a chance to shop local footwear and the famous chicharon in Carcar City following a rolling tour of the city’s Santa Catalina Street, which is lined with colonial era houses, and to snap photos at the City of Naga’s boardwalk.
After the three-day tour, a closing ceremony was held at the Capitol where the guests were treated to dinner. (https://www.cebu.gov.ph)