Tour Argao’s Old Cabecera with the Argao Youth Heritage Society

May 11, 2022 Travel

I like exploring places on my own and doing everything at my own pace. But in Argao, one of the stops in the recent Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches Tour I participated in, part of the experience is meeting the young guides of the Argao Youth Heritage Society and going on a Cabecera tour with them.

The Argao Youth for Heritage Society or AYHS, which was established in 2016 by Ruel Javier Rigor, is an organization composed of young Argaoanons promoting Argao’s culture and heritage. It grew from a summer activity to a tour-guiding group.

Our AYHS guides (from left) Vinci Miguelle Agua, Jover Basilisco, Paul Benedict Sariana, and Marianne Anselm Dela cruz


There are not a lot of similar organizations that I am aware of. The last time I toured with a similar group was with Hanoi Kids. They are somewhat a similar group but with different objectives. The main objective of Hanoi Kids is to enhance the English skill of each member. Both organizations though, give insightful perspectives. 


Our AYHS guides were led by Jover Basilisco, a graduating student of Bachelor of Arts in Literature.


It was a hot morning and it was tempting to find a quiet place in the plaza and just sit. 


Argao was the third stop of our pilgrimage tour. Earlier that day, we heard Holy Mass at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino in Cebu City, toured its vicinity, then proceeded to St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar, where we also had filling snacks of lechon and chicharron paired with puso or hanging rice in the nearby Museo de Carcar.


Good a thing, Jover was very engaging.


We met him at the Balay Lungsod Sa Argao, where our group was welcomed with leis made of a traditional fabric called hablon. From there, we walked to the plaza and gathered under the shade of a tree. 


The “El Pueblo Hispano Antiguo de Argao” or Cabecera de Argao” is a Spanish-era pueblo or town center. It is patterned after Spain’s usual settlement plans for its colonies – with the church, rectory, municipal hall, and plaza in the same complex. Residents live within the hearing distance of the bells. This is common around the country but I find Argao very charming.


The pueblo used to be enclosed in a massive coral stone wall to provide defense against Moro invaders.


We had a good vista of the rest of the pueblo from where we were standing – the Hall of Justice, The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel, a Jose Rizal monument, a Spanish period community well, and antique canons that were used as a defense against attacks.

The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael de Archangel


Hall of Justice

antique canons

From there, we walked to get a good view of Puerta Marina, an arched entranceway, and the Capilla Mortuario, which functioned as a leprosarium during the Spanish period and an autopsy area during the American era. 

Puerta Marina and the Capilla Mortuario


After Jover’s introduction of the Puerta Marina and Capilla Mortuario, Vinci Miguelle Agua, who started guiding at the age of 8 and already has 10 years of service under her belt, took over.


She enthused “Ask me what my favorite part of the pueblo is.” When none of us could guess, she pointed to a low wall also made of coral stones, which is the oldest intact Via crucis in the country.


The Via crucis is a series of images depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a traditional processional or meditation route.


We headed to the church after, which is the main reason we dropped by Argao. The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel is one of Southern Cebu’s Jubilee churches. Instead of going in via the church’s main door, we entered via the Holy Door, but not without saying our prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father and a bit of a catechism from our tour chaplain, Fr. Brian Brigoli.


Anyone who passes through the Holy Doors, and has recently gone to confession, received the Holy Communion, and prayed for the intentions of the Holy Father will receive plenary indulgence or complete remission of all temporal punishments due to sins.

The Holy Door and Fr. Brian Brigoli


The Argao Church is one of the five Holy Doors in Southern Cebu and one of the thirteen in the province of Cebu. These doors were opened to mark the 500 years of Christianity in the country.  


When we got inside, we were given a bit of time for personal prayers and appreciation of the church’s intricate ornamentation, with the tune from the church’s pipe organ as our background music. 


The pipe organ was built around 1816 – 1818 and was restored from 2015-2017.


After the church, we proceeded to the Argao Museum, which collects and presents the  treasures of the church, including those made of gold and silver. 

The statue of St. Michael de Archangel at the church museum


Fr. Brian, who is also the chairperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu’s Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church was also at the museum and he showed to us a scale model of the pueblo, which he helped build when he was a seminarian. Interestingly, Fr. Brian told us that they did not have the exact measurements and they just used the shadows from the sun for estimates.


We left the cabecera after the museum for lunch and on our way back to our bus, we spotted some stalls selling torta or sponge cake.


The story of torta is closely tied to the cabecera. There was an abundance of egg yolks during the construction of the church. The albumen popularly known as egg whites were used to bind the coral stones. Of course, the women of Argao didn’t allow the egg yolks to go to waste. So, tortas were born and are now one of Argao’s most popular exports, together with tableya.


After our lunch at Maayo Beach Resort in Argao, we also visited Jessie’s Homemade Torta, where we had a fun cooking demonstration capped with another filling snack of torta and sikwate.


For the rest of our Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches tour, we visited three more Jubilee Churches - the San Guillermo de Aquitania Church in Dalaguete, The Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church in Boljoon, and the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Ana in Barili. We also heard mass at St. Gregory the Great Parish Church in Ginatilan, the town where San Pedro Calungsod, the second Filipino saint is from. 

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