Unravelling The Mystery Of The Underwater Statues Of Alegria, Cebu - Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Action
By ELENA VIVALDO
The already very diverse ecosystem in the small seaside town in the Philippines has a new – and mysterious – attraction with the underwater statues of Alegria.
Sometimes, the best travel stories are the ones that happen spontaneously, without much planning. Such is the case for some of the world’s most influential photographers, vloggers, and bloggers – brought together by the COVID-19 pandemic – who stumbled upon the underwater statues of Alegria, Cebu.
What’s the big deal about these underwater reef statues?
As if the mountains, beaches and coral-rich waters of Alegria aren’t already spellbinding, beneath the sea’s blue surface, there’s another surprise that leaves locals and visitors alike amazed: five underwater reef statues, located only a few metres below the sea’s surface, called the 5 Guardians of Alegria.
Where do they come from? Who put them there? What do they represent? Nobody really knows, but if you ask the locals, this is what you’ll hear:
“A traveller who settled in Alegria, Cebu – many, many years ago – took it upon himself to create what he called the Guardians of Alegria. What made him do it remains a mystery to this very day. Some believe it was to protect the livelihood of the local folk people and to warn off all cowards and intruders who wish harm to the people of Alegria. Others believe it was to protect the fragile eco-system that thrives in the shallow coastal areas of Alegria.
It is said that after the local Catholic priest blessed all five statues, the very next day, they disappeared without a trace.
In 2020 they were discovered again, sitting proudly looking out towards Negros island within the magnificent coral reef system of Santa Filomena. What is very strange, is at the base of the Medusa statue there are many odd-shaped stones. Could these possibly be the remains of the cowards or intruders who stared into her eyes? Scary thought indeed!”
I’ll let you decide how much of this story is true or not. But one thing’s for sure, the underwater statues of Alegria are not only an artistic creation but are also a symbol of environmental sustainability that – indeed – protect many sea creatures, from fish to corals, who have made these majestic-looking guardians their home.
Why the underwater statues of Alegria are a must-see
There are millions of places in the world, but it’s hard to find a place that still holds an aura of mystery and magic about it. Whether it’s the happy-go-lucky locals, the history, architecture, or the cuisine, it’s a combination of experiences that make Alegria a travellers’ dream.
Located just a short drive away from the more commercialised tourist spots like Moalboal, Alegria withholds the Philippines’ reputation for being an oasis of exotic natural wonders, unspoilt my mass tourism. Plus, the diving is just as good, with plenty of dive sites to satisfy divers of all levels of experience.
Alegria Dive Resort is the only dive centre in Alegria, located on the seafront under the watchful eye of the Guardians of Alegria. Interestingly, it’s also the only place in the world that offers the PADI Crown of Thorns (CoT) Management Speciality course – an environmental course that helps protect coral reefs from these coral-eating starfish.
To add to Alegria’s growing popularity, these underwater reef statues are a region’s first that have now attracted the interest of local media like GMA, and international influencers, such as:
Ask anybody in the diving community, and they’ll all have heard of Bo Mancao, or seen his work at least.
His long-term commitment to empowering local dive guides, protecting the underwater world and promoting scuba diving have earned him the coveted title of PADI ambassador and Commissioner for the Philippine Commission on Scuba Diving
Through his stunning photos and videos, he skilfully manages to capture the beauty of the aquatic world, offering a rare glimpse into underwater sights that very few people get to see. As an award-winning underwater photographer, his work is highly admired and regularly featured in international diving magazines.
Founder of The Dive Local Network, a scuba tour organization that showcases the Philippines’ best dive destinations, Bo Mancao is arguably the best in-the-know professional diver of the Philippines. Naturally, he’s familiar with the underwater statues of Alegria, and never tires of photographing them.
Finn Snow, with his reputation for going off the beaten track to reveal jaw-dropping sights, was travelling through Cebu when the pandemic broke out. True to his adventurous spirit, he made the most of the situation and – obviously – couldn’t resist the pull of seeing for himself the mystery surrounding the underwater sculptures of the Philippines.
It seems only fitting that it should be a bold travel vlogger like Finn Snow who first brought to light Alegria’s underwater statues for the whole world to see.
His thrill-packed vlogs about Alegria have further cemented his already well-established reputation for churning out new and exciting content. His contribution for putting Alegria on the map has turned him into a celebrity in the Philippines, where he has gained a massive following.
Nowadays, alongside Bo Mancao and Finn Snow, you’ll also find travel agencies, YouTubers and many other influencers spending their lockdown exploring the bountiful beauty of the Philippines and the 5 Guardians of Alegria. To add a touch of class to these underwater sculptures is Sherlyn Doloriel (Miss Scuba Philippines 2017). Her mermaid-like gracefulness is noticeable in her every movement that evoke mixed feelings of adventure and mystery.
If there is one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, is to appreciate the joy of being outdoors, in contact with nature. Nothing represents these sentiments more than the sea, regarded as a timeless symbol of freedom. Perhaps this is why the underwater statues of Alegria are so appealing and considered by many as a symbol of hope.
Not only are they a source of curiosity and entertainment, but they’re also a getaway to making us feel as one with the ocean and – ultimately – free.