It feels awkward to be writing about this trip in the aftermath of Typhoon Ursula that wreaked havoc on these very areas. Maybe it explains why when we were there, both my daughter and I were muted in our delight to just being there in the first place. Much more is the mere fact that we were able to make the trip at all, because of the numerous flight cancellations happening.
Anyway, I planned this trip in advance. Scored Air Asia tickets to Cebu. My daughter and I made the necessary bookings for accommodations.
But Typhoon Ursula made us adjust our itinerary as she was still lashing Northern Visayas.
HOW WE GOT THERE
Our Manila-Cebu flight, thankfully, was not cancelled, and after about an hour-long flight, we touched down at Mactan International Airport. The airport is amazingly clean and mall-like. I mean, this is what airports in our country should look like.
DAY 1 WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 25, 2019
We followed our original itinerary, boarded a van-for-hire and headed straight to NorthBus Terminal. Unfortunately, all trips to Hagnaya Port were cancelled, as all RORO trips to Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island have been cancelled by the Coast Guard due to rough seas. We hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to Kiwi Pension House (where we reserved a room albeit for December 29, 2019), and unfortunately, all rooms were taken that night. I called up Mike Reyes, a long-time friend and Cebu resident, and he picked us up. We stayed at his place till about 5:00am, made a couple of calls and we were able to get a room at Hotel Stella in Gen. Gil Garcia St., Mandaue City. We hailed a taxi and headed straight to the hotel, checked-in, and rested up. Hotel Stella is nice with basic amenities like hot water shower, wifi, a cafe, cold ACU, toiletries, and towels.
We woke up at around 11am and decided to book a Cebu City Tour with Cebu City Travel and Tours, and requested that we be picked up at around 12:30 noontime. We made our way to the famous barbecue capital of the Philippines, the Larsian sa Fuente, where we had our lunch.
Our ride, a Toyota Innova, and our driver, Vincent, picked us up at Larsian sa Fuente. We went straight to Sirao Flower Farm, a place up in the mountainous region of Lahug.
2nd stop was a place called Tops Lookout, an observation deck with a city panorama view.
We stayed for a while at Temple of Leah. This Roman-inspired temple was built in the Year 2012 by a husband as a symbol of his love to and of Leah Villa Albino-Adarna.
Next on the list is the Cebu Taoist Temple, located inside Beverly Hills Subdivision, built in 1972 by Cebu’s Chinese community. Heavily-guarded, and photo-taking is limited, the intricate designs are something to behold, really.
We then made our way to the Cebu Heritage Monument, built by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. An imposing monument to the history of Cebu, it was designed so that you’d look up to it set against blue skies. Its made of cement, steel and bronze, its sheer size is intimidating, and once you see it up close, it is truly an amazing work of art.
Right across the street is the Yap Sandiego House, said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China, sometime in 1675. The locals call this house balay nga bato ug kahoy because its built out of corals and wood. The guide inside the house told us that the house was originally owned by a certain Don Juan Yap who later on married a local woman named Dona Maria Florido, and their eldest daughter married Don Mariano Avendano SanDiego. The house has since been passed on to ten (10) generations of Yap-Sandiegos.
A very popular landmark in Cebu is Magellan’s Cross, located in the town plaza, next to the munisipyo. The cross itself is encased in tingalo wood to protect it from the elements, as well as from people who chip away parts of the cross because they claim that it has miraculous healing powers. Ferdinand Magellan ordered his Portuguese crewmen to plant the cross upon arriving in Cebu. Some people believe that the cross encased in the tingalo wood is but a replica planted by Spaniards after successfully christianizing the Philippines, as the original cross is said to have been destroyed.
The Basilica de Sto. Nino was full of people that day so we did not go inside anymore. This church is said to be the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country as it is said to have been built in the year 1565. It is said that the church lies on the spot where the image of the Sto. Nino was found during the expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Housed inside the church is said to be the icon of the Child Jesus, presented by Ferdinand Magellan to the then chief consort of Rajah Humabon upon their christening in the Year 1521.
The Rajah Humabon monument, situated near the Metroploitan Cathedral, was built as homage to the said Rajah, who later was baptized as Don Carlos. Information on the Rajah was culled from Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, who wrote that Humabon was Rajah of Cebu, an indianized Philippine political clan.
Our luck ran out as the Fort San Pedro was closed that day. Fuerte San Pedro was a military garrison in Cebu built by and under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. It is in the area now known as Plaza Independencia. It was said to be made originally of wood but later on made into concrete to repel Muslim raiders. It is said to have been the center of Spanish settlement here in the Philippines, and this dates back to 1738, making it the oldest bastion fort in the country.
We made our way back to the hotel, paid Vincent our tour fee, and rested a bit. Later on that evening. we made our way to Rico’s Lechon Restaurant. Lechon in Cebu is not dipped in sarsa but in suka, and believe me, it is delicious. Their chorizo, much like what we ate in Larsian Fuente, is also delicious.
DAY 2 THURSDAY DECEMBER 26, 2019
We found out that there were now trips going to Bantayan Island via the said municipality’s FB page. We checked out of Hotel Stella at around 1:00am and hailed a taxi bound for NorthBus Terminal. We immediately boarded the HAGNAYA ACU bus, paid, and slept during the 3-hour trip. We arrived at Hagnaya port and waited a bit until tickets were being sold. We paid the terminal fee, boarded the RORO bound for Sta. Fe, Bantayan, and slept some more during the 1 hour trip. Upon disembarking, we paid another set of terminal fees and boarded a tricycle which took us to our accommodations, Budyong Beach Resort. We spent the whole morning settling in and just taking in the view. Despite Typhoon Ursula hitting Bantayan Island, her scenery is still breathtaking.
We decided to take a late brunch at quaint TapaMaster @MJ Square.
By now, we were able to score a tricycle tour to take us to 3 popular spots in the island. We did not include St. Paul Church anymore because it is quite a ways off from where we are located.
OBO-OB MANGROVE PARK / CAMP SAWI
We headed for Paradise Beach, and unfortunately, it was levelled by Typhoon Ursula, with seaweed all over the place. Locals say it’ll take months before it can be returned to its pristine state. Well, it is what it is.
For our last stop, we went to a place called The Ruins, and you can see why it’s a popular place for those who want to take photos for their IG stories. It also offers stunning views and panoramas.
We went back to the resort in time for a late afternoon swim, and caught the awesome sunset. Here in Bantayan Island, you can catch both spectacular sunsets and sunrise.
Later that evening we had dinner at Cou Cou Bar and Restaurant. The Chicken Fingers and Ribs were good, the carbonara was passable.
DAY 3 FRIDAY DECEMBER 27, 2019
HILANTAGAAN-SILION (VIRGIN) ISLAND HOPPING
We scored a boat ride and boatman to both Hilantagaan and Virgin Island, which were both hit hard by Typhoon Ursula. Woke up early that morning to get my coffee fix at TapaMaster. And of course, watch the sunrise from the resort. You be the judge when I say that Bantayan Island offers spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
We boarded the motorized banca and off we went.
We didn’t stay that long in the fishing village of Hilantagaan, where I just had a cup of coffee, biscuits, and hung around with and chatted with some locals.
Virgin Island, however, is simply magical.
We headed back to Bantayan and had lunch at Aloha Tika. Sisig/Pork Adobo/Ramen. Not so good. Perhaps because they’re exhausted because there were a lot of people served but still…well, you know what I’m saying
Relax. Chill. Breathe. Swim. Watch the sunset. Repeat. Relax. Chill. Breathe. Swim. Watch the sunset. Repeat.
Later that evening, we had a light dinner at the Kota Beach Resort resto next door, and it was great. Spaghetti Boulagnaisse for me, Chicken Fingers for my daughter.
DAY 4 SATURDAY DECEMBER 28, 2019
BANTAYAN TO MALAPASCUA
In our haste to make it to Malapascua early, we decided to take a motorized banca ride from Bantayan to Malapascua. We were assured that the weather would cooperate and the twin-engine boat can get us there. Forty-five minutes into the trip, my daughter was panicking, as the waves were a bit choppy. We decided to dock at Kawit, take a trike to Maya Port, and a boat ride to Malapascua. Lesson learned. We will never do that again (2 hrs boat ride in open sea).
Our Kalanggaman Island tour contact, Bimbo, constantly kept in touch with us, and met us at the shore of Malapascua Island, told us to check-in later, and escorted us straight to another boat that took us to Kalanggaman Island (another 2 hr trip, but this time in a much bigger and more powerful boat but it was sort of buwis-buhay also hahahahaha).
What we saw when we arrived at the island was just simply so spectacular, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. I posted in FB that Virgin Island was the best place in Cebu but I take it back because this is truly WOW (technically Kalanggaman Island is a municipality of Palompon, Leyte but I’m not complaining, after all, I want it for myself, too, hahahahaha) !!!
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. They did a good job of cleaning it up after Typhoon Ursula. The waters surrounding the island is still so clear, the sand so white it hurts the eyes (good thing I wore sunglasses), its ridiculous, really. I never thought such a place existed. When I tell you to better come see this, you better come and see this.
Lunch that day (care of the tour organizer) consisted of grilled pork, grilled chicken, rice, a huge grilled fish, pansit canton, watermelon, and bottled Coca-Cola (this one seemed really out-of-place, oh well). We arrived at Kalanggaman at around 10:37am and left at exactly 2:00pm, and arrived at Malapascua just in time to check-in @Malapascua Blue Water Dive Resort, chilled at the beach, chatted up some of the locals and foreigners (told them where happy-hour was) and watched the sunset.
Later in the evening we dined at the Little Mermaid Dive resort and their Little Mermaid pizza is awesome! and so was their carbonara. We made our way back to our accommodations and lights out by 10:00pm.
DAY 5 SUNDAY DECEMBER 29, 2019
I woke up 5am to have coffee and watch the sunrise here in Malapascua.
My daughter and I had breakfast here in Iroha Japanese Bar and Restaurant. Food was delicious and affordable.
We bought a few souvenirs (a T-shirt and local bracelet for me, sarong for my daughter), and had an early lunch (pansit/adobo/onion rings) at Ocean Vida Dive Resort (not great but not bad either).
We left Malapascua that day 12:20pm. Arrived at Maya Port 1:05pm, and took the 1:30pm bus to Cebu City. We arrived at Cebu City at around 6:18pm because of traffic at the Liloan area. We checked-in at Hotel Stella again because they were very accommodating and the rooms and amenities were good and affordable enough. Later that evening we went over to my friend Mike’s house and we had dinner consisting of salads, lechon, rice, and siomai (they reside in Tisa, the siomai capital of Cebu). We stayed at Mike’s place till 9:30pm and made our way back to the hotel.
DAY 6 MONDAY DECEMBER 30, 2019
We checked-out of the hotel at around 7am, headed straight to Shamrock Pasalubong Center, bought a few of those yummy otap, and had breakfast at McDonald’s Fuente Circle. We booked a Grab car to take us to the airport at around 9:30am and arrived at the airport a little past 10:00am. We immediately checked-in and waited for our flight. While inside the deparure area, we again bought a T-shirt and key chain as part of our souvenir haul. We boarded our flight 12:25pm, took off 12:45pm and arrived in Manila 2:15pm.
We explored only the northern part of Cebu. If only we had more time, we could’ve gone to Southern Cebu and went swimming with whale-sharks in Oslob, experience canyoneering at Kawasan Falls, and maybe even scuba-dived to see the thresher and hammerhead sharks get cleaned by fishes in Kimud Shoal 14kms off Malapascua Island.
So many things to do in Cebu, so little time.
Maybe next time. In the meantime, Cebu occupies a special place in my heart.
We truly have a gem of an island right here in the Philippines, in Cebu.
Here are some contact numbers that can be useful to DIYers out there who get to read this:
HOTEL STELLA – 09176381333
BUDYONG BEACH RESORT – 09994949473
CEBU CITY TRAVEL & TOURS (c/o Josh) – 09055030499
MALAPASCUA BLUE WATER DIVE RESORT – 09178213127
And to the budget conscious, I didn’t forget about you, as expenses incurred for two (2) people are enumerated below (not included is round-trip airfare Manila – Cebu – Manila).
|DECEMBER 25, 2019 WEDNESDAY (DAY 1)||TIME||COST|
|Sashamae’s & Spike’s allowance (HEY i LOVE MY DOGS!)||1,000.00|
|Prepare for Cebu flight||4:00pm|
|GRAB! To NAIA Domestic /Dinner||6:30pm||514.00|
|Dinner @Yang Chow||7:30pm||614.00|
|Depart Manila for Cebu (Mactan airport)||12:10am|
|Arrive at Mactan airport||1:25am|
|Van to Northbus Terminal (no trip to Hagnaya Port)||1:50am-2:20am||360.00|
|Taxi to Kiwi Pension House (fully-booked)||2:20am-2:42am||180.00|
|Stayed @Mike’s place||3:00am-4:50am|
|Check in to Hotel Stella||5:25am||1,585.00|
|LUNCH @Larsian sa Fuente||12:00-12:30pm||300.00|
|City Tour c/o Cebu Travel & Tours||1:00pm-5:00pm||3,180.00|
|– Sirao Flower Farm (entrance fee P100 each)||200.00|
|– Tops View (entrance fee P50 each)||100.00|
|– Temple of Leah (entrance fee P150 each)||300.00|
|– Taoist Temple|
|– Cebu Heritage Monument|
|– Yap-Sandiego House (entrance fee P100 each)||200.00|
|– Magellan’s Cross|
|– Cebu Municipal Hall & Plaza|
|– Basilica de Sto. Nino|
|– Rajah Humabon Monument|
|– Fort San Pedro|
|Back to Hotel Stella||6:30-7:30pm|
|Dinner @Rico’s Lechon||7:50pm-8:45pm||680.00|
|Taxi back to Hotel Stella||9:25pm||100.00|
|DECEMBER 26, 2019 THURSDAY (DAY 2)|
|Checkout @Hotel Stella||1:00am|
|Taxi to NorthBus Terminal / misc||1:50am-2:10am||180.00|
|Ceres Bus to Hagnaya port||2:17am-5:17am||360.00|
|Pay Terminal Fee||40.00|
|Miscellaneous purchases @Hagnaya Port||180.00|
|Purchase tickets / ride ferry to Bantayan Island||5:30am-6:30am||380.00|
|Arrive @Sta. Fe Port, Bantayan Island / Pay terminal fee||7:25am||80.00|
|Tricycle to accomodations||8:30am||40.00|
|Check-in: BUDYONG BEACH RESORT||3,300.00|
|Breakfast / Miscellaneous||8:57am-9:00am||200.00|
|Late Lunch @Tapamaster in MJ Square||12:00noon||570.00|
|Purchase souvenir shirt /ref magnet||300.00|
|Hire Tricy for Bantayan Island Tour||1:00pm-4:00pm||500.00|
|– Obo-ob Mangrove Ecopark (entrance fee P60 each / P15 hat)||150.00|
|– Paradise Beach (entrance fee P50)||100.00|
|– The Ruins|
|Back to RESORT||4:00pm-4:30pm|
|Beach Bumming / Swimming/sunset-watching||5:00pm-6:15pm|
|Dinner Cou Cou Bar & Resto||7:00pm||705.00|
|DECEMBER 27, 2019 FRIDAY (DAY 3)|
|BREAKFAST / miscellaneous / sunrise watching||4:30am||417.00|
|ISLAND HOPPING||6:00am – 12:00pm||800.00|
|– Hilantagaan Island|
|– Silion Island (Virgin Island entrance)||500.00|
|Back to RESORT|
|LUNCH @Aloha Tika/ misc||3:00pm||803.00|
|Back to RESORT||4:00pm|
|Rest / swim / sunset-watching||4:30pm-5:58pm|
|Dinner @Kota Beach Resort||7:00pm||400.00|
|DECEMBER 28, 2019 SATURDAY (DAY 4)|
|Checkout of BUDYONG RESORT||5:00am|
|Boat to Kawit/tricy/boat to Malapascua||5:30am-7:30am||2,800.00|
|Day tour to KALANGGAMAN ISLAND / LUNCH c/o tour org||8:00am-4:00pm||2,100.00|
|Check-in to MALAPASCUA BLUE WATER BEACH & DIVE RESORT||4:36pm||2,000.00|
|Restup / sunset watching||4:36pm-5:56pm|
|DINNER @LITTLE MERMAID RESORT & BAR||6:00pm||620.00|
|DECEMBER 29, 2019 SUNDAY (DAY 5)|
|Coffee / sunrise-watching||5:15am||40.00|
|Breakfast @Iroha Japanese Bar & Restaurant||4:30am||380.00|
|Lunch @Ocean Vida Dive Resort||10:00am||850.00|
|Checkout from MALAPASCUA BLUE WATER BEACH & DIVE RESORT||11:45am|
|Boat ride back to Maya Port||12:17pm-1:05pm||500.00|
|Bus ride to Cebu City||1:30pm-6:18pm||400.00|
|Lastday checkin Hotel Stella||6:30pm||1,550.00|
|Taxi back & forth to Mike’s place||7:40pm-9:30pm||370.00|
|December 30, 2019 MONDAY (DAY 6)|
|Prep for flight to Manila||6:30am|
|Checkout/GRAB! to Mactan airport||7:00am-8:00am||319.00|
|Depart Cebu for Manila||12:45pm|
|GRAB to San Juan||375.00|
|TOTAL EXPENSES (for two (2) persons)||P 33,422.00|
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER.