Located just north of Balamban, Asturias is one of the less-visited towns along the northwest coast of Cebu island. Less than two hours away from Cebu City, via the Cebu Transcentral Highway, the municipality makes for an excellent day trip or weekend getaway. While its elegant town church and famous bingka dawa (millet cakes) can be found just along the highway, most of its attractions – such as cold springs, waterfalls, and caves – are hidden gems tucked away farther inland, reached by partially paved mountain roads.
Bingka Dawa Stalls
Coming from Balamban, the gateway to Asturias is Barangay Owak, home of the town’s most celebrated delicacy called bingka dawa (millet cake). Unlike the typical Filipino bingka (bibingka in Tagalog), this special version is made with dawa or kabóg (millet) instead of pilít (glutinous rice), giving it a finer and softer texture. Stalls selling this unique native cake line the highway near Owak Covered Court. They are sold for ₱25 for two pieces wrapped in banana leaves, and are best consumed within three days. At Teresita’s Special Bingka Dawa, the vendors showed me how they’re made at a stilted hut behind their roadside stall. The bingka dawa are cooked in clay stoves heated with smoldering coconut husks from underneath and above.
San Roque de Montpellier Church
The town center’s centerpiece is San Roque de Montpellier Church, completed in 1935. The neoclassical building stands in front of the town plaza near the municipal hall. It is named after the patron saint of Asturias, St. Roch of Montpellier. The nearby Village Walk Asturias, a commercial center with restaurants and retail shops at Burgos corner G. Delfin Sts, is a nice place to grab a bite or cup of coffee.
Hemmed in by hilly countryside, this lush oasis strewn with lotus and water hyacinths in Barangay Bago is perhaps the most visited tourist spot in Asturias. One can walk on a boardwalk (entrance fee: ₱10) to the middle of the lake. The open-air lakeside establishment Buswang Lake House Restobar is an excellent spot to enjoy food or drinks while admiring the bucolic surroundings.
If you’re looking for adventure, head for Barangay Manguiao, where local youths can take you spelunking in Manguiao Cave. It’s a wet cave with an underground stream, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Exploring this small cave entails wading through waist-deep water and crawling through narrow tunnels that widen up to a chamber densely decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, and some sparkling flowstones. The cave entrance is a few minutes walk from the Lower Manguiao Community Stage, where visitors can park their vehicles. Ask around for local guides, or drop by the barangay hall first for assistance.
This small hidden waterfall is the perfect spot to bathe and enjoy a picnic after exploring Manguiao Cave. It is located in a private property farther up the village. Visits to this waterfall must be arranged beforehand through St. Anthony Beach Resort (Tel. +63 9268151427; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) in Barangay Tubigagmanok. The cascade is only a few meters tall, but the exclusivity ensures it is never overcrowded, setting it apart from larger, popular waterfalls. Next to the upper level of the waterfall is a clearing with picnic tables and a thatch-roofed outhouse for the guests’ convenience. There’s a larger waterfall, Tagbubonga Falls, deeper in the mountains but this is easier to access from the east coast via Danao City.
Agtugop Cold Spring
Another great spot to cool off is this cold spring (free entrance) located in the mountain barangay of Agtugop, near the village’s elementary school. Canonball into its deep, luminous waters or relax on a inner tube floater that can be rented for only ₱20. It’s especially popular with locals, so weekdays are a better time to visit. The mountain roads going here are partially concreted and some sections have muddy potholes, so its better to charter a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) from the highway junction, or bring a large four-wheeled vehicle (preferably 4×4).
Old Panghaw Ruins
The photogenic ruins of a panghaw or chimney, constructed from coral stone and concrete, stands across a rice field in Barangay Lunas, the northernmost village along the highway, bordering Tuburan. The structure is enveloped by the roots of a dakit tree (a type of banyan). I could find no information online on the history of this heritage structure, and the barangay tanod who guided us knew very little. According to him, it was built no later than the Japanese occupation in World War II. Comparing images of similar structures, it is most likely the remnants of a sugar mill. The panghaw is a few minutes walk from highway, traversing a rice field and few residences. Ask for assistance of a local guide from the barangay hall (located inside the Lunas Covered Court).
How to Get There
From Cebu City, take an air-conditioned Tuburan-bound van (aka v-hire) from the PUV terminals of either IT Park (across Ayala Malls Central Bloc) or Cebu Business Park (Ayala Center Cebu), via the Cebu Transcentral Highway, and alight at Asturias (PHP 180, 2 hours). Note: if vans don’t fill up with passengers at Ayala Center, passengers are transferred to IT Park free of charge.