Saturday, December 1, 2007

Carmen: The secrets out

An oasis just 42km's from Cebu City. Carmen has something special for nature lovers.

The quiet, unassuming town of Carmen, located some 42 kilometers north of Cebu City, is rich in history and a virgin nature protected by time and its people.

While Carmen is mostly known for its sinamay industry, a Sunday trek to the heart of its lush mountains and small barrios brought me to the soul of this old town, which was founded in 1870.

The roaring, carefree water of its Mangitngit Falls was a gracious, refreshing welcome after our hike from the barrio’s main road. Its cold water was like a balm that soothed my red, sun-kissed cheeks and arms.

Together with the officials of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Carmen local government, we drove through the trails into the private hacienda of M. Lhuillier, another Carmen wonder.

The hacienda was a hodgepodge of wildlife, flowers, trees and vegetables. It has a zoo and viewing park that has a deer house, fishpond, horse rodeo area, and a hut on a cliff that gives guests a four-window view of the surrounding mountains and seas.

It was a leisurely, idyllic drive while Moon River played over the car radio. Carmen town Mayor Virginio Villamor, an environmentalist, has hundreds of hectares of protected land where he has been planting trees since in the 1970s. No wonder Carmen is a refuge for those who can’t stand the heat and dust of the city.

Carmen is proud of its many caves. While I had no sweat getting into Hinagdanan Cave in Bohol a couple of years ago because its passage was made easy, Carmen’s Titip Cave literally made my knees shake and left minor bruises on my arms. Getting into the cave required body strength, flexibility and courage.

When the cave guide asked all of us to turn off our flashlights, there was total darkness. I held my breath in fear and thrill.

When we turned on our lights again, I was fascinated to see the crystal clear water of a subterranean pool and the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites that speak of its age and grandeur.

From my adventurous climb at the cave, we drove to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima nestled at the peak of natural rock in Corte (one of Carmen’s barangays) where a panoramic view of Lapu-lapu City awaits. It was a serene, chilly place to be. Pine trees are everywhere.

Carmen gets as cold as 15OC during its coolest months of November and December.

Before the sun set in, we ended our trip at St. Benedict’s Monastery, a place of worship in the mountain, some six kilometers from Carmen municipal building to behold the grand finale of our day -- bat watching.

Around one million wrinkled-lip and fruit bats (locally known as kabyaw) inhabiting the Kabyawan Cave come out in batches daily and paint the twilight sky with black dots. They showed up and looked like crushed Oreos spreading in the sky.

So breathtaking, that watchers would want to freeze them and have them stay, but they fly away to neighboring islands like Bohol and Negros and don’t return to their home cave until before sun up the following day.

A less than two-hour drive from Cebu City, Carmen (formerly called Bugho before the Spaniards came) is a third class municipality with close to 40,000 settlers in a land area of some 8,210 hectares.

The town’s local government has strong advocacies protecting the environment. Among its treasures are the Mangrove Pocket Forest, Villamor Tree Farm, turtle habitat at Cantumog River, a monkey sanctuary with an estimated 200 monkeys at Magtakup Cliffs, and Batong Diyut Fish Sanctuary, a 20-hectare marine protected area with sunken Japanese warships and colorful marine life.


Invest in Carmen and get incentives

OFFICIALS of Carmen in northern Cebu agreed to grant tax incentives to companies so they can attract investors to their town.

They also reclassified some lands from agricultural to industrial, and some areas as economic zone as part of their efforts.

The Carmen Municipal Council approved an ordinance providing local tax incentives to businesses engaged in manufacturing whose annual gross receipts is at least P20 million.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilor Gerard Villamor, was approved last Aug. 10 and certified urgent by the councilor’s father, Mayor Virginio Villamor.

A copy of the legislation was received by the Provincial Board and referred to commit tees for review in yesterday’s regular session.

In the resolution, the councilors agreed that they need to attract investors, so they must give tax incentives for the municipality to have a “business-conducive environment.”

Tax holidays on business permit fees, annual business axes and real property taxes will be given for a period of 10 years for qualified companies who will invest in the town.

Covered in the tax holidays are export companies sending 70 percent of their products abroad, and “indirect” export companies supplying services or products to export companies.

Earlier, all congressmen in Cebu also filed a bill in the House of Representatives to declare the entire Cebu Province, including Bantayan and Camotes islands as economic zone.

The declaration, if approved into law, will give tax incentives to investors.

The bill, however, has yet to go through the usual process of law making in the House and the Senate.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Carmen is politically subdivided into 21 barangays.

  • Baring
  • Cantipay
  • Cantumog
  • Cantucong
  • Caurasan
  • Corte
  • Dawis Norte
  • Dawis Sur
  • Cogon East
  • Hagnaya
  • Ipil
  • Lanipga
  • Liboron
  • Lower Natimao-an
  • Luyang
  • Poblacion (Main Barangay of Carmen)
  • Puente
  • Sac-on
  • Triumfo
  • Upper Natimao-an
  • Cogon West

Places of Interest / Tourist Spots

Mt. Calvary (Baring, Carmen, Cebu)

Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine - Brgy. Corte

Uragay Spring - Brgy. Corte

Educational Institutions

Educational Institutions - A number of public and private schools and educational institutions also exist in the the locality. They are listed as follows:

Cebu Academy

Cebu State College of Science and Technology-College of Fisheries Tehcnology

Carmen National High School (Cantumog and Caurasan Campus)

Carmen Christian School

Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

Livelihood And Establishments

As a 3rd class municipality, Carmen welcomes leading establishments in the field of agriculture, mining, aquaculture, and even food processing.

Leading Establishments:

Shemberg Biotech Corporation - the biggest seaweed processing plant in Asia producing all types of refined carrageenan for food applications
Vitarich Corporation - poultry farms and broiler production
Enviroboard Manufacturing Corporation - sugar cane waste recycling plant producing commercial boards and plywood
Santa Lucia Real Estate - a real estate establishment situated next to Shemberg Biotech Corporation

All these major establishments are providing its residents opportunities for a better life. Other minor establishments include stone crafts and handicrafts, coal mining and processing, corn and rice field farming and hog raising, and horticulture.

The town's central business district houses the public transportation terminal, the new public market, refreshment bars and cafes, and dozens of retail stores and minimarkets.

Transportation & Communication

Transportation - Locally assembled public utility vehicles such as the 20-seater capacity jeepneys are the basic means of transportation enjoyed by the residents bound to and from Cebu City. There are those increasing number of 10-seater capacity multi-cabs as well as the 4-seater capacity tricycles that conjest the national highway but only serve the commuting public to reach other neighboring places as far as Danao City to the south and Catmon Municipality to the north. Every barangay is accessible thru the network of barangay roads and bridges although not as smooth and well-paved as the national coastal highway. Usually, jeepneys, tricycles, or even motorcycles locally termed as "habal-habal" are the means of transportation which serve as the backbone of the local and internal trade and commerce industry of the municipality. This setup also gives everyone, from all walks of life - from nature trail-seekers to scientific researchers, the chance to explore the scenic mountain heights, long and winding rivers and springs, and magnificent caves.

Port - Carmen has one port used as a docking station for cargo vessels that cruise to any point in the neighboring islands and for passenger ships transporting people to and from the province of Leyte.

Public Calling Office - Although at the moment there is only one Public Calling Office located in the Municipal Hall provided by the Rural Telephone Service, most people are now enjoying the convenience brought about by cellular phones from Islacom, Smart, Piltel, Globe, and similar other technologies.

Excerpted from : "A Publication of the Cebu Association of Municipal Planning and Development Coordinators, 1993 - 1994"