The view is straight out of a charming travel postcard: powdery white sand, blue-kissed waves that sparkled under the summer sun, Crayola-color painted bancas parked under tall, swaying coconut trees.
One might say that the beaches in the town of San Remigio in Cebu look just like any other beach in the Philippines. But there’s one fact that separates the shores of this fishing town from the others: San Remigio has the longest coastline in the province of Cebu.
The town’s coastline is a 44-kilometer stretch of sugary sand that snakes along the northern edges of Cebu province. It’s so long that it encompasses the shores of 13 coastal villages or almost half of San Remigio’s 27 total barangays, from Brgy. Punta all the way to Brgy. Luyang.
On April 2 this year, the town will mark its 150th year of being a local government unit. In 1864, San Remigio was proclaimed a municipality and its name was changed from Kanghagas to San Remigio.
Back then, the seemingly endless sliver of white sand attracted the attention of Moro pirates that were sweeping through the shores of northern Cebu. A Spanish sentinel, Remigio Multon, helped protect the town from the marauders. He stepped up and led the townfolks in organizing homeguards through the ronda system. Because of his heroism during the fight against the Moro pirates, the town was eventually renamed in honor of him.
According to San Remigio Information Officer Venicio “Dodong” Dajuya, tourists coming to San Remigio have 8 beach resorts to choose from, all of which are privately owned. A sleepy town, San Remigio draws in visitors who are on the lookout for a refuge from the noise of the city. Tourists here mostly soak in the serene beaches where the village kids run around on the sand while the fishermen leisurely lounge beside their upturned bancas, killing time before they have to set out to sea when dawn creeps in.
The residents are quite proud of their shoreline, turning it into the highlight of their town fiesta which they call the “Lapyahan” Festival celebrated on May 16. Lapyahan is the dialect word for shoreline.
Although its shoreline is currently San Remigio’s crowning jewel, the locals’ creativity and their skilled, deft hands in basketweaving are certainly some attributes that the community are starting to be proud of.
When tourists visit the Lapyahan public beach, they will be met by a tent where baskets in all shapes and sizes are spread out. This is a display of some of the baskets that San Remigio native Zaldy Umpad himself designed.
“Every week, I come up with designs for our weavers to create and execute. These are just some of what we have in our factory right now,” said Zaldy, his arm sweeping to indicate the hampers, wickets, plant holders, trays, and other basket containers.
Zaldy has been designing baskets for 25 years already before San Remigio Mayor Jay Olivar tapped him to design for the San Remigio Handicraft Cooperative (SAHCO). The coop members themselves weave the designs that Zaldy draws up.
“I create two original designs every week. Once I see a design that now becomes common, like this one,” he said, pointing to a tall, beige wicker basket hamper, “I immediately replace them with a new design.”
SAHCO members are now busy weaving basket items to meet orders for export to countries like Turkey. “We usually have to fill one 1×40 footer vans with basket items,” said Zaldy. They only have 30 days to craft thousands of basket products to fill up one container van.
Visitors can help themselves with the basket items on display for a much lesser price. “Once these baskets are bought by the companies, their prices go up. Here we sell them at factory price,” said Zaldy.
Mayor Olivar is intent on making basket weaving as the leading alternative livelihood for village residents who are mostly farmers and fishermen. According to Zaldy, the mayor has issued instructions for SAHCO to organize basketweavers in all 27 villages in San Remigio. Once this plan takes off, San Remigio can position itself into becoming a major supplier in the basket weaving industry.
For now, beach and basket lovers can find beauty in San Remigio, from its long, pristine shoreline to the sturdy and attractive handicrafts of the locals. (RMN/PIA Cebu)
For more details about San Remigio, check out their Facebook page.
This story was published at the PIA E-Newsletter April 2013 issue.