An Unintended Tour of Toledo’s Capilla Santa Ana

One day I found myself driving towards the city of Toledo. There was no particular destination or plan. But as I was driving through Naga, I made a quick decision to swerve right. I always enjoy the short drive from Naga City to Toledo via the Uling Road. The whole route is a mix of winding stretches, and corniches, and challenging ascents. And let’s not forget the gorgeous landscape that makes Naga one of Cebu’s most blessed localities.

When I reached the city proper less than an hour later, I immediately drove straight to Jollibee (of course) for lunch. Actually, my first choice was McDonald’s but I ended up standing in line for more than 30 minutes and there were still 8 people in front of me! So I bolted out the door and went to Jollibee. Which was a good 20 meters away. The situation in Jollibee was pretty much the same. But the three dudes standing in front of me unexpectedly decided to leave the queue because they were running out of (lunch break) time. So five minutes later, I was already munching on my yumburger and chickenjoy and scanning my Facebook newsfeed for interesting developments.

And that was when I remembered how one friend was yapping non-stop about this maze garden in Toledo City a couple of weeks back. So, I went to her profile page and found that one post that she’d shared. The name of the place was Capilla Santa Ana. It is now considered one of the most visited tourist spots in Toledo City, Cebu. And, apparently,  it was just a mile away from where I was.

Gardening in Toledo? Why not?

After lunch, I immediately went to Capilla Santa Ana. At the gate, I was told that I would have to wait for 40 more minutes (I arrived at 12:20 pm) as the chapel was still closed for lunch. It was also during this time that I realized that this was actually a museum.

The chapel is only open from 10 to 12 in the morning and from 1 to 4 in the afternoon from Monday to Saturday. And they charge a pretty hefty entrance fee. Especially if you’re a non-local.

After driving around Toledo City (for about 35 minutes,) I returned to the chapel and asked the guard at the gate to let me in. Although I can already clearly see that there were already people inside, the guard motioned that it still wasn’t 1 pm. Okay, so maybe he was just following proper protocol. So I waited outside the gate. Like I was sunbathing or something.

Five minutes later, I was allowed to go in.

I was told to enter the main chapel and look for a small office where I could pay the entrance fee. I was pretty surprised to see that the foyer area was already almost full. I don’t think the guard let them all in before the lunch break. Because that would be absurd!

Anyway, while the lady was finishing my receipt (apparently, she’s also a tour guide,) I quietly asked if it was okay to already roam around and look for that famous garden. “Wait lang ta ha!” she said. I waited for her to finish two more receipts for other visitors before I asked her another question. “So we’re actually touring the property?” I asked. I asked because I really didn’t know. I thought that after paying 100 pesos, we’d all be free to roam around and take a gazillion photographs. “This is a museum, sir,” she said in Cebuano.

While waiting for the ‘tour’ to start, I walked around the teeny weeny foyer area and took photos. The details are gorgeous, to be honest.

Finally, we were all allowed to go in. The funny thing is, there were already people inside. Haha.

We were told to settle down and find a seat. Then, a different lady introduced herself as our tour guide. She said that due to our number, the group would be divided into two. From the way she was talking (beginning from the back story of the owners,) I sensed that this was going to be a long ‘tour.’ I looked around and assessed the visitors inside the chapel with me. There were students in volleyball get-up. There were several families with kids. And there were couples with selfies sticks. I don’t think any of them knew that they’d be taking a literal museum ‘tour’ that day. Haha.

To be fair, the chapel was beautiful. And the artifacts and pieces inside were just wonderful.

After a lengthy introduction, the lady said that it was time to visit the small chamber to the left. The first batch tried to squeeze in but the prayer room was just too small. As I was getting ready to take a video of her talking about the artifacts inside the room, she blocked my phone with her hand and informed me that taking of pictures was prohibited inside the chambers.

Then, we all went to the opposite chamber where she talked about the pieces inside. Now, take note that as this was happening, the second half of the tour group was left inside the main chapel. And most of them were going in and out of the smaller chambers and taking lots of photographs. Which was prohibited. Haha.

When we went out of the second chamber, I decided to not join the join of the tour. As they entered another chamber, I just walked around (the main chapel) and took photographs of the pieces on display.




The last chamber that the tour group visited was this big one near where I was taking pictures. As the visitors went in one by one (and gushed at the items on display,) one young girl, about 12 to 14, took out her mobile phone and took one photo. The guide turned to her and snapped, “Di lagi pwede. Kapila na gyud ka ha!” (I told you, you’re not allowed to do that. You’ve done that several times!)

Well, heck no. I didn’t travel all the way here and have to see that. No, thanks.

So I went out of the main chapel and looked for the maze garden. Now, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who left the tour group. The volleyball teens were already inside the maze taking tons of photographs. And this one lady that I saw inside the chapel a couple of minutes ago, was also already busy taking photos of the maze. “Wa ko nag-expect sa grabe nga tour oi!” she said laughing. (I wasn’t expecting that long tour!) Haha!

The garden, called Labyrinth, is a huge green maze that has one entry and exit point. So if you can’t stand the heat, or if you get tired really easily, I suggest you just stay outside the circle.

This statue of the Virgin Mary stands at the very center of the maze. It sort of acts as the ‘summit’ for those who wish to conquer the maze.

Satchmo, of course, had to pose, too!

The Labyrinth of Capilla Santa Ana. [CLICK for BIGGER PHOTO]

A couple of minutes after that photo was taken, the rest of the tour group came out of the chapel and swarmed the maze.

And I was on my way to my next adventure.

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