For me riding is an outlet to feel re-energized, revitalized, and to clear my mind. So during this trip I was looking for a spiritual type of feel while I was in Cebu, with my weary soul seemingly tired from all the traveling and the hustles and bustles of Metro Cebu.
Having lived in Cebu for a brief moment in time, I had the opportunity to visit some of the finest tourist spots in Eastern Visayas. Although not my favorite destination in Cebu like the Simala Shrine in Sibonga or the Yap – San Diego Ancestral House in Parian, the Philippine Taoist Temple should be in my top 10 list, and will be a worthwhile trip for some. Besides, who can refuse a good view of the city while having that calming effect on your body, mind, and spirit?
As some of you may know, I am into some sort of beginner photography which I do during my free time or when I am on a motorcycle ride. Whenever I am on rides, I am usually equipped with at least a couple of cameras. With the entire city of Cebu serving as the backdrop once you have reached the highest point of the temple, then there is no way for you not to appreciate the beautiful view that is right in front of your eyes. Though not as grand as the pictures you see taken in Thailand, this temple still deserves a place in your “Where to go when in Cebu” list.
Built in 1972, the Cebu Taoist Temple is located in Beverly Hills Subdivision in Cebu City, Philippines. The temple was built by Cebu’s substantial Chinese community. With an elevation of 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, the temple is a towering, multi-tiered, multi-hued attraction accessible by three separate winding routes.
Unlike the neighboring Phu Sian Temple, the Taoist temple is open to the worshipers and non-worshipers alike. A ritual among devotees is where one prays to the gods to grant one’s wish. The ritual includes washing of hands, going inside the chapel barefoot and dropping two blocks of wood. If the blocks of wood are both face up then one could make a wish. If not then it is not yet the time for one’s wish to be granted and one has to come to the temple some other time (source: Wikipedia).
To each his own still, as I’m pretty sure not everyone will enjoy it as much as the others do, and not everyone will appreciate the task that is the Taoist Temple. I say task because since it is a place of worship and sanctity, there are quite a few restrictions and challenges. Firstly, there are the 81 (99 for some) steps which represent the number of books in Taoism. Not everyone will enjoy going up on a high-altitude place as it could be quite challenging for the knees of some tourists. But then you could be positive and think of it as your daily dose of exercise or it could even serve as your sacrifice as well. Secondly, there is a dress code. It could be quite bothersome for some people but for me it is only proper. I do not approve of people going into places of worship wearing revealing clothes or those appearing as if they just woke up and got out of bed. Shorts are definitely not allowed most especially in the sacred places in the temple. Not sure about slippers though but one should consider that this is a holy place of worship first, a tourist spot second. Also, there are some places in the temple that explicitly states that one should not take pictures of the area. What’s disappointing though is that during my time visiting, there were still a few hardheaded people who still kept on sneaking a couple of shots just so they could post something in their social media accounts, an embarrassment actually since it shows that they do not give value and utmost respect to other peoples’ beliefs. What’s more disappointing is that they would probably call themselves holy once they enter their own religion’s churches.
Location of Taoist Temple
The Cebu Taoist Temple is located in the posh Beverly Hills in Lahug, Cebu. This is the area where most of Cebu’s elite lives. This is by far the most popular non-Catholic shrine in Cebu. It is very popular mainly because of its proximity to the city proper as it is located in nearby Lahug. Today, though, it’s also a famous destination of other Asian nationalities, who share the same faith as the Chinese.
The temple is only about 30 minutes away from the city proper and is a convenient place of worship for mostly the Chinese and Korean people in the area. The location of Beverly Hills is about 7 kilometers from the city centre of Lahug. For those without their own transportation, it is advised to hail a taxi cab from anywhere in Cebu to be able to get to Beverly Hills. Just use your negotiating skills so the cab driver would wait for you. Take note that since Beverly Hills is a high class suburb, there are no public utility vehicles in the area, not even tricycles. Forgetting to remind manong driver to wait for you would mean that you will have to walk at least a couple of kilometers uphill going out of Beverly Hills.
Inside the Taoist Temple
The temple, being the center of worship for Taoism in this part of Cebu, thoroughly follows the teachings of Lao Tzu. It is a shrine for those people practicing Taoism, a religion based on the teachings of Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher. He was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Although a legendary figure, he is usually dated to around the 6th century BC and reckoned a contemporary of Confucius, but some historians contend that he actually lived during the Warring States period of the 5th or 4th century BC. A central figure in Chinese culture, Lao Tzu is claimed by both the emperors of the Tang dynasty and modern people of the Li surname as a founder of their lineage. Throughout history, Lao Tzu’s work has been embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements.
Upon entering the temple gate, you will notice that the entrance to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China. Even though it is a smaller version of the Great Wall of China it never fails to trigger my curiosity. I have been several times and every single time I am there I make sure to have my picture taken. There are also dragons waiting for you to take a picture of them. Guarding the entrance are white stone lions. There is also a large dragon inside, with its most distinct feature being its tongue hanging out. Apart from the main temple, there is also a mini temple inside that offers a nice view of the city as well.
The temple includes a chapel, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well. Being a thrifty traveler, the souvenirs from their shop is expensive (take note I did not use the phrase “a bit”). It should be noted though that the items they sell are not your typical ref magnets or key chains but rather handmade mini statues and jewels, bracelets, and the like.
There will always be better days ↑↑↑
During Wednesdays and Sundays you can observe their age old traditional ritual of climbing the 81 steps of Taoism in the temple grounds as well as the traditional lighting of joss sticks. Unlike in other religions which uses candles, Taoists use joss sticks. At times, the resident monks also will read your fortune. Of course it is up to you whether to believe in those kinds of things or be someone who takes hold of your own destiny and fate. There is also a unique ritual that you can observe on their holy days. The resident temple monks would throw a couple of blocks for you. If you get matching symbols, then you may proceed to the priest and ask for your wish to come true. It is not a guarantee that your wish will be granted, but it is a permission that you may ask. The priest then may either ask you to reconsider your wish or grant it. In case it is not granted then you have to go through the entire process once again. Even before you reach that point, the numerous steps are there to help and make you think about your wish. It is good for your body and soul since you get to reflect.
You get a frere view of Metropolitan Cebu
Although I’ve been here several times already, the simple adventure here in the Taoist Temple still never ceases to amaze me. Although not as grand as the other Taoist Temples all over the world, the Taoist Temple in Cebu is beautiful in its own right. Although primarily a place of worship, it has evolved and transformed itself as a tourist spot, while still maintaining the sanctity of what it represents. Whenever you are in Cebu, make sure you visit this holy place, and the Cebu City view it gives you is only a bonus.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider