Cebu’s Taoist Temple is a popular religious site established by the hill in Cebu City. It is not a tourism destination but it became popular due to its peculiar structure and artistic appeal even to non-believers of this religion.
It overlooks the city giving you a nice panorama of the city skyline and the blue water dividing the capital and Mactan Island.
This temple is great for anybody who wants to get some fresh air and relax from the city.
The site of the temples, religious figures, designs, dragons and paintings can help you forget and even relieve your stress. Part of the healing effect when visiting the place is the open and relaxing green scenery that enveloped the place aside from its hillside gardens.
Of course, if you believe in Taoism this is a perfect place for you to pray or meditate about your faith and life. And if you believe in something besides this religion, please make sure you show respect and behave properly within the area.
Devotees of Taoism would certainly know what the 99 steps mean. As I have just learned, the 99 symbolises or represents the 99 Chapters of Taoism scripture. It means that as you ascend through the steps you are within the holy book of this religion.
Just for a quick background of Taoism (only for those who doesn’t know), this religion was founded or based on the teachings of Lao Tze, an ancient Chinese philosopher.
Since many centuries ago, Chinese traders and early Chinese immigrants of Cebu brought with them their Taoist belief and established this community. The development of this temple is through the efforts of Chinese people of Cebu. Most of them belong to prominent and business families.
What is so special with this site that appeals visitors cannot simple be described in just one or a few words. However, for the sake of giving you a background I’ll be delighted to describe some of its features.
The main entrance gate’s height, design and colors, for me, is just striking and special. It is not a common sight in the province, that is dotted with Christian structures (and symbols), to see gates with strong red and green colors and dragons, intricate designs, symbols, Chinese characters, among other features.
My recent visit (2 October 2015) to the Taoist Temple exactly points me to this striking gate which prompted me to shoot my first photo of the site. I was just excited to have reached the place and took the photos. I asked the security guard underneath the shade of the gate and pointed me the take the other entrance.
If you have problems with climbing some stairs or steps, getting to the top of the temple could be a problem. That’s because you need to climb lots of steps to reach the main temple where the Taoist saints are located.
This is the main structure where the saints and other religious symbols and writings carefully set and positioned. Just like most religious structures, the symbols and statues are facing towards the worshipers direction.
Unlike the Christian churches and places of worship, maybe through cultural differences, this temple uses no benches or chairs but small and somewhat rectangular-shaped cushions that support one while kneeling (or sitting) down to make your supplications.
The temple above
Right above the main temple, there is another one above it. You can climb the steps at the right side of the main one and it is on your left hand side. It is smaller and has its own statue of a Taoist saint (you are not allowed to take a photo/picture of it).
Actually, this temple is the most prominent one when you are looking at this site from a distance. The columns and walls have written Chinese characters describing the place and whatever it is intended to say (for those who cannot read or understand the language).
This temple is with colorful paints and paintings depicting its religious meanings and background.
Aside from the main worship temple, there are smaller worship structures to the right of the main one when facing towards that direction.
The Fishing Chinaman
As you face that temple described above, on its left hand side you will see an interesting sight – a small pond and a fisherman. Actually it is more of an aquarium being inhabited by Koi fish of different bright colors (golden, yellowish, etc.).
There at the center of the pond or aquarium, you will see the prominent sculpture of a Chinese-looking fisherman who is obviously trying to catch fish. Just don’t toss in coins there because you are not allowed to. There is a place where you can make wishes and then throw in your coins!
Structure with (holy) sculptures & wishing jars
To the right of this small temple (with your back facing towards the city) is another smaller but attractive structure with religious sculptures. In here, you will see water and a number of metallic jars where you can throw in some coins (allowed) after you make your wishes.
This could be the wishing well and you are allowed to take photos in this area including the religious sculptures as your background.
These dragons are very symbolic among Chinese people. Ancient Chinese dragons are symbols of energy (chi) and good fortune including great success, achievements, and prosperity.
Due to those symbolic meanings, dragon paintings, carvings and other images representing dragons are obviously visible in Chinese temples especially at this Taoist temple.
The dragons are on top of the roofs (two-tiered roofing) covering the main temple, and you can have great views of them if you were around the smaller temple mentioned above. You will notice that these dragons seem to be guarding the main temple by occupying each four corners of the roofs.
The biggest dragon you can find in this site is not one of those on the rooftops. It is the one on the ground or hillside garden, which seemingly moving towards the main temple.
This dragon is the most popular one and most visitors do not miss to get a photo with this ‘creature’
If you want to rest, there are some places where you can take a break after climbing up the steps. Somewhere in the middle of the place as you ascend you will find benches facing the main temple.
Alright, let’s check out some facilities they have aside from the holy places. Here they are…
Chairs and tables
I believe you can bring with you some snacks (probably ‘lechons’ are not allowed) and make use of the tables with chairs and umbrellas located on the right side and below the main temple.
Yes, they also have a souvenir shop but not quite visible. It is located within and by the right hand side of the big hall. You can purchase some symbols and small products related to Taoism as souvenirs or lucky charms.
Restrooms (or CRs)
These important and emergency rooms are available behind the big hall’s left-hand side.
I guess (80 per cent) that it is for social and religious activities. This will be full during their feast day which falls on the 21st of October. As you can see in the photo, there is no decoration or anything hanging.
However, it will be filled with colorful lanterns and candles when the feast is a few days approaching. But for me, although it looks empty it looks great!
About two decades ago, we’ve been to this place and I have to reminisce the exact place and structure. I can only remember that I have been here and not exactly how it looked like before.
That’s probably because there are many changes that are incorporated in the whole place (and not because I’m getting older!).
Anyhow, I find the place very relaxing, entertaining and deeply spiritual. In other words, the Taoist Temple is really worth your time and effort. It is a great place for a family, friends or group.
By car, you can reach up to the main gate of the area where there is a checkpoint being manned by security guards. You will be checked and your vehicle since this is a private property, then proceed further to find your parking space.
By motorbike, you can hire a single motorbike down below (close and around JY Square Mall). It will cost you 10 pesos or so but not more than 20. To get to JY Square Mall, you can take a taxi or jeepney from Cebu SM Mall with Lahug route.
Just ask people where the Taoist Temple is and you will get a perfect guide. Specifically, you need to go the opulent Beverly Hills of Cebu where this nice place is established.