Sirao Garden: Charming Place, Stressful Commute

There’s one thing travelers don’t mention when writing about Sirao Flower Garden—that getting there is a pain in the a**. Don’t get me wrong; this place is a garden lover’s dream come true. Like all the other visitors, I Instagrammed to my heart’s content. But the stressful commute was one for the books.

Sirao Flower Garden is 17km from Cebu City proper.

The entrance fee to Sirao Garden is only ₱50 for adults, but getting there from my hostel in Mactan Island took me four jeepney rides and one long habal-habal (motorbike) ride, totaling four hours of travel time and around ₱550. That’s just one-way. Getting back to my hostel took another five hours and additional ₱50 (three stops). And because a typhoon arrived that afternoon, I was drenched for hours and returned home with a flu.




Sirao Garden in a Nutshell

When social media exploded with floral destinations last year, Sirao Garden often topped the list. In fact, I featured it in my Cosmo article, “7 Floral Destinations For Your Next VL.” Dubbed as Little Amsterdam of Cebu, Sirao Garden or Sirao Flower Farm is an 8,000-square-meter piece of uphill land. It’s located in Sirao, a barangay in Busay that’s around 17km from Cebu City proper.

Entrance path to the main Sirao Flower Garden. The second location, Sirao Pictorial Garden and Camping Site, is located a few meters away. I skipped that one.

Sirao Flower Garden is also called “Little Amsterdam of Cebu.”

Unlike Amsterdam’s famous tulips, the highlight of Sirao Garden is the celiosa flower, also known as wool flowers or cockscombs. Sirao features other colorful flora, like hyacinths and sunflowers. You’ll also see “selfie corners,” play houses, kitschy decor, and little replicas of Dutch structures like windmills.

Two Sirao Gardens

Beginning early 2018, there are now two separate Sirao Gardens with two separate entrance fees—1.) the original Sirao Flower Garden and 2.) the Sirao Pictorial Garden and Camping Site, which has a swimming pool, fountains, and camping grounds. I skipped the latter because I wasn’t interested in a resort. I was there for the flowers, and the original Sirao Flower Garden focused on that.

Rates

Regular adult: ₱50 for the flower garden
Senior citizen: ₱25
Children below 7 years old: free
Children 8-10 years old: ₱25
Pre-nup shoots: ₱1,000
Debut or birthday shoot: ₱500
Pool use: ₱100 for adults, ₱50 for children below 12 years old

You’re not allowed to bring food and drinks inside. They have a small canteen inside where you can purchase basic drinks and grub. There are also stores right outside the location. Sirao Flower Garden is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Camping is from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

There are windmill replicas and other kitschy decor scattered around the garden.

Kate was here.

My Long, Stressful Commute

I was in Cebu for a backpacking trip with my German-Polish friend, Martina. She was sick that day, so I planned for a DIY Cebu City tour, where I would skip the places I already saw before (like the churches), and focus on uphill locations, like Sirao Garden.

An Uber or Grab ride would have cost me about ₱1,000-1,500 for a round trip, which was too much for my backpacker budget. I asked the locals in Mactan Island which jeepney rides to take to get to Sirao Garden.

I left my hostel at 10 a.m. After three jeepney rides for ₱30 and two hours of travel, I took a lunch break at Metro Gaisano Cebu. At 1p.m., I took another jeepney ride for ₱8 to JY Square. There, I found a habal-habal driver who initially thought I was a foreigner and kept giving me an exorbitant price. After 30 minutes of haggling in Tagalog, he finally agreed to take me on a roundtrip ride to Sirao Garden and Temple of Leah for ₱400.

After a 45-minute habal-habal ride, I finally arrived in Sirao Garden at 4 p.m. As the typhoon kicked in, I was stranded in Sirao until 6 p.m., waiting for the rain to subside. I had only a windbreaker as my protection. I met fellow Filipino travelers while stuck in Sirao, and the three of them were on a group habal-habal tour.

The typhoon arrived as soon as I arrived in Sirao Garden, so I was stranded there for a few hours.

Sirao Bear and I didn’t want to get drenched, so we sought shelter in the canteen.



We all decided to go to our last stop, Temple of Leah, even if it was still raining. After a 30-minute tour of the temple, we all parted ways. My driver took me back to JY Square. I tipped him an extra ₱100 for being my personal photographer.

From there, I took a ₱7 jeepney ride to SM Cebu, where I waited for 1.5 hours to hop on an air-conditioned shuttle service to Mactan Island for ₱35. I took another ₱12 jeep ride to Maribago, and walked back to my hostel with my drenched clothes. It was 10 p.m.

How You Can Get There

Via Go To Tops Shuttle. This service will give you a roundtrip ride to Sirao Garden for ₱350 (no ticket included), Tops Lookout for ₱300 (including entrance ticket), Temple of Leah for ₱150 (no ticket included), or ₱650 for all 3 spots. Pickup point is at Jollibee beside JY Square, Lahug every 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7:20 p.m.

Via habal-habal. You’ll find habal-habal drivers lurking at JY Square Mall and its surrounding area in Lahug. Haggle until you get a decent roundtrip price. Sadly, the more foreign and touristy you look, the higher the price they’ll give you. Average price is ₱400 for two people riding as passengers on one motorbike. If you’re just one passenger, it’s still ₱400. You might have to add ₱100 if you want to hire the driver as your personal photographer. Cebuanos and those who speak Bisaya can get a cheaper price. Me, I got a deal of ₱500, which included a round trip to Sirao Garden and Temple of Leah, plus having the driver as my personal photographer. Tour drivers and guides are allowed to enter Sirao Garden for free. Other additional expenses include the entrance tickets, food, and bus/jeepney fares to get to JY Square from your hotel.

There are lots of interactive spots, like this duyan (swing), selfie corners, and proposal spots for those planning to pop the question.

Two of the stars of Sirao Garden: the sunflowers (yellow) and celiosas (red)

My favorite flowers in the universe

Via private vehicle. Price varies depending on where you’re coming from and how many people will fit in the rented car/van. This is the most expensive way.

Via Grab, Uber, or Taxi. When I calculated the cost from my place, Mactan Seaside Hostel in Mactan Island, my one-way Grab or Uber fare would cost about ₱500-800.

Via organized tour. There are dozens of travel agencies with different package rates available. From what I researched, rates are about ₱500-700 per person for a habal-habal tour (3-4 people) or ₱1,500-2,000 per person for a van tour (3-6 people). The standard day tour includes Sto. Nino Church, Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, San Diego-Yap Ancestral House, Museo Sugbo, Taoist Temple, Heritage Monument, and the uphill spots—Temple of Leah, Tops Lookout, and Sirao Flower Garden.

No, you may not enter the playhouse, but you make take a hundred photos.

I love how the owner has a collection of kitschy toys and garden decor, like this huge pot of dolls in the canteen area.

Should You Go or Skip It?

I think the reason why many Filipino tourists are fascinated with flower gardens—aside from the obvious photo shoot factor—is that floral farms are such a novelty. City girls like me didn’t grow up biking to work or school with farms or fields of colorful flowers as our daily backdrop—unless you count the santan flowers and coconut trees in my backyard. To see and touch sunflowers taller than us is an exciting experience for those who aren’t accustomed to it.

My travel buddy Martina skipped Sirao Garden because floral fields are such a normal sight in Europe where she lives. My advice for tourists: If you’re from a place where floral fields come a dime a dozen, then just skip Sirao Garden altogether when you’re visiting Cebu. Your floral fields are most likely better.

But if the sight of grand gardens and floral fields excite you, then by all means, head over to Sirao Garden. Just prepare yourself for a long and expensive commute.

Date of visit: February 12, 2018


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