Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘Cebu’

​Breathing Adventure: The Final City Tour (Lost in Cebu Part 5)

I felt quite forlorn as our vacation in Cebu was wrapping up. It was the final day of our tour and we tried to see a few more places before moving back into reality.
After a heavy breakfast of eggs, hotdogs, and pandesal, we said goodbye to our very kind, elderly neighbors who had welcomed us more than our host. We proceeded to the city to get a taxi that would take us to a few more tourist sites and to the airport.

Orion overlooking Cebu City

We went to Tops, one of the highest points of the city, to see the Temple of Leah. We could have chosen to take a tour at Tops next but it was inaccessible during that time. A landslide caused by continuous rains had blocked the main road going to the peak. Fortunately, the Temple was still open to the public.

The Temple of Leah is not a place of worship. It serves as a dedication of entrepreneur and engineer Teodorico Adarna to his wife, Leah. This structure was also made for future generations of the Adarna clan to trace their roots and their heritage, as well as to stand as a landmark for Cebu.

Curious tourists came in groups to gaze at the glory of this temple that stands atop Baranggay Busay. Paying Php50 at the entrance, I’ve noticed that the temple was not yet completely done. Mounds of gravel was still hauled on a corner while parts of the tower’s basement was still undone. Construction was still ongoing although it had already begun on 2012. 

On the other hand, I was impressed by the Roman-inspired structures and statues that adorned the place. Walking along the fountain made me think I was in Italy. Doric columns and fierce, golden lions have guarded the steps into the temple. Neoclassical figures of Roman deities have beheld the vast and aesthetic topography of Cebu City. 

I’ve read articles that Leah was a traveler and she loved to collect items which were laid here. Giant Chinese and European vases she used to collect stood along the staircases. A dusty cellar full of foreign wine was kept locked in one of the rooms. This room, as well as other curious ones that were heavily locked, should have been developed and opened to the public for a grander visiting experience. 

Giving homage to the statue of Leah

In the middle of the large room stood the statue of Leah. Shrouded in gold, she beamed before intrigued tourists who dropped by to see who she was. It was the main attraction actually, but I guess the tourists who visited have realized they wanted nothing more but selfies and groupies in the place.

Turning wacky with friends

There was limited time left before my friends’ 4pm flight. Our lively and courteous taxi driver suggested we should take lunch at a popular seafood restaurant in the city. Now this is were diversity of Filipinos comes in, because Cebuanos have a totally different dialect and accent compared to those who live in Tagalog regions. We heard our driver say the name’s place was Isticki. But when we arrived at the place, we saw that its name was STK.

STK stands of sinugba (grilled), tola (boiled), and kilaw (marinated). They offer sumptuous seafood dishes like mixed seafood and the halaan soup. The place is very classy and homey as its antique decors would remind you of those summer days at grandma’s old house in a province far from Manila. 

Mixed seafood

Halaan soup with rice

Some of the antique that remind you of grandpa’s time capsule

Seafood that you can buy and take home (although they are a bit too expensive)

I returned to Manila alone because I was booked on a much later flight. My friends have taken an earlier flight. Despite the flight being late because of bad weather, I was still brimming with excitement. I wanted to tell everybody how wonderful Cebu was and I can’t wait to return again to see more of the island.

​Breathing Adventure: Basking in Hot Springs (Lost in Cebu Part 4)

The entrance to Mainit Springs

I let the cold drizzle kiss my face as I engulfed the fresh and salty air from the sea. I stared at the boats gathered at the whale watching site in a distance, trying to replay every detail of my close encounter with the whale sharks. The adventure could have ended on these shores but we wanted to see more of Cebu.
We had planned to visit a nearby waterfalls but locals have told us this might not be a good time. The weather had been very moody, bringing occassional rains that could spoil a trek. We opted to try the hot springs at Malabuyoc which would take more than an hour’s travel from Oslob. 

A waterfall near Mainit Springs

Upon reaching Bato bus terminal, we negotiated with motorcycle riders who had ferried us to the site. I advice you to better rent a car when visiting every tourist spot in Cebu because public transportation can be more costly. Travel time from Bato to Brgy. Montaneza in Malabuyoc would take almost an hour. 

The Mainit Springs (which is derived from the Tagalog word “hot”) is located in a dense forest filled with coconut trees. These sulfur springs are placed near a dormant or extinct volcano (whichever version you might hear). Entrance fee is only at Php20 and the site open from 6 am to 5 pm. 

The four springs come in varying degrees of heat. The coolest was at 36 degrees while the hottest was at 42 degrees. The coolest spring became even cooler because of the rains. But the ones at 40 and 42 degrees were not as easily bearable as you think. 

The secret to tolerate really hot pools is to start dipping the toes into the steaming water and try to slowly put the whole body little by little. Now, I dream of having my own sulfuric hot springs at home because it’s good for the body. It could prevent me from having a stuffed nose due to allergic rhinitis every morning and that has been proven at my first visit to Mainit in Bontoc (that’s at the northern tip of the Philippines). And because it’s relaxing, I could have dosed off in the pool if were not for my friends who were chatting with me.

Hot springs can increase metabolism. Saying so, I noticed my heart beat became faster after I dipped in the hottest pool. It’s advisable to immerse in immensely hot pools for a maximum of ten minutes. Then splash cold water unto the body briefly to close the pores. 

There’s also a message and therapy room which only costs Pho250. Too bad, the masseur was not there. We wrapped up our visit with a refreshing sip of buko juice (coconut juice) and hot pancakes. 

I can’t help but stare at the sea as our tour guides, who were also the motorbike riders who chaperoned us to the site, took us back to the bus station. Everything around me was a dream that could only come once in a while. I savored every moment and every sensation that surrounded the great, blue sea that lined the highway because within its waves were good memories of a paradise I knew I’d return to one day. 

​Breathing Adventure: Swimming With The Whales (Lost in Cebu Part 3)

The roar of the sea waves was like a bewitching song entertaining us as we dined on crunchy danggit (salted, dried fish), fried rice and fried eggs. It was our breakfast on our first day, rather night, at Oslob. We had arrived at the southern tip of Cebu after a long ride from the city, a trek from the mountain and a wandering search for our guest house while riding a tricycle. Locals seem wary of foreign visitors who curiously poke their noses into their laid-back, rural lifestyle while children were the first to jump in to guide oblivious tourists like us. Just like any other barrio (little town), eateries would close as early as 8pm expect for Paul and Madz which served a satisfactory meal paired with orange juice and hot chocolate. 

A meal of danggit with friend eggs and rice, paired with hot chocolate and orange juice.

The roaring sea waves made me more thrilled to see whale sharks or the butanding the next day. These gentle giants have made Oslob a popular tourist destination as tourists are allowed to see them up close and personal (but no touching is allowed). I love animals and the butanding itself is a fascination to me. However, the weather, gloomy as ever, was threatening to cut operations early. The caretaker of our guesthouse has told us the Coast Guard has called off the whale watching operations by 9am that day due to dangerously strong currents. Supposedly, operations end by 12nn.

We were hopeful, still. After a strong downpour during the early hours of the morning, we headed to the whale watching station before operations start at 6am. Foreign tourists outnumber local tourists in jam-packed queues which was beginning to grow longer because cashier windows were not opening yet. An operator told us the Coast Guard was still checking if it’s safe to hold operations today because the winds and the waves were strong. By that time, I was already assuring myself there’s always a next time to go back to Cebu.

Boats gathered at the whale watching site.

It was past 6am when operations were allowed to begin. Before I’d forget, whale watching costs about Php300 while swimming with the whales is at Php500. That’s for the local rate. Foreign rates are more expensive. You can go for the first option if you’re seasick (which one of us did not realize until we were at the sea). The second option will provide you not only a close encounter with the butanding but with other sights hidden in the sea. We thought we’d miss the opportunity of capturing moments with the butanding because we do not own a GoPro camera. We were able to rent one at the whale watching station at Php550.

Me, along with my friends, swimming with the whales.

I’m not a good swimmer, but I would love to take a dive into the sea. I admit I was scared of diving especially when the boatmen told us to remove our life vests so we can sink into the waters. Non-swimmers are advised to hold unto the rafter so we would not sink. But these guys are ready to save you before you float away into the sea. 

A fisherman feeding the butanding which was swimming beside his boat.

The fishermen were feeding the butanding with a breakfast of alamang (krill) when we came into the sea. I was fascinated by how its huge mouth was slurping the waters and munching its food as it moved towards us. There were about five six boats with us and some of the tourists were already taking pictures in a short distance away from the whale (because as I’ve said, touching is not allowed). I guess there were two or three butandings that were swimming among us. Thirty minutes were the only time allowed for each group so we had to jump into the waters to meet the whale!

The butanding ignoring me as I wave behind its back.

When I peeked into the sea, I was marvelled at the size of the whale which was about 5 to 6 meters long. The boatmen told us it was just a baby whale and the mother whale has not visited the area for a long time (hmmm…she might have flipped our boats by then). More fascinating were the fishes called alumahan (a type of mackarel) that were following the whale wherever it swims. The waters would have been clearer if the sun was shining by that time. But we were fortunate to see the whale that day despite the low pressure area that was threatening Cebu for a week. Besides, we were not burned by the heat of the sun. The wearing of sunblock or sunscreen is not allowed because these might become toxic to whales. 

The alumahan swimming with the butanding.

By the time we left the waters, the rains outpoured again. I believe the Lord has favored us by letting the rains stop for a while so we could see the whale. We were thinking of a plan B because this does not seem to be the right time to visit a nearby falls.

Yours truly posing at one of the restaurants by the sea.

Another breakfast of danggit.

The view of the sea at the restaurant.

I was languishing myself on a breakfast of danggit and mango juice because we only had a few hours left in Oslob. Check out time at our guest house, Chateau de Tan-awan, should be at 12nn. Even a night of staying in this place was memorable because it’s clean, quiet and peaceful. As it stood beside, the sound of the waves had lulled me to sleep.

The lounge area at the guest house.

The little souvenir shop at the guest house.

So we had to travel again to find another tourist spot. We barely had two days left in Cebu so we were not leaving without seeing much of the island. We got options though. We’re willing to risk for these options for the sake of collating beautiful memories.

​Breathing Adventure: Lost In Cebu (Part 1)

I was exhilarated and nervous at the same time. I gulped my coffee before I boarded on the plane. I felt my first panic check-in attack after a two-year flying hiatus. I had great trouble fixing my luggage one day before take-off. But I was still numb from the fact I was about to head to the far-away island of Cebu.

I thought I was transported back to Recto, Manila when we dropped by Colon in Cebu City. One of the curious little facts of this city.

Cebu is one of the major islands situated in the Visayas region. Travelling there by plane from Manila would take about one and a half hours. Called the Queen of the South, Cebu is the region’s main economic center. It is known for its beaches, dried mangoes, native guitars, otap (flaky biscuit covered in sugar), lechon (roast pig), and its yearly festival called Sinulog (an event dedicated to the island’s major saint). I honestly am not interested in religious festivals. I wanted to tag along with my friends because I wanted to experience the magic this island has to offer. 

Masks being sold at Sinulog Festival.

Curious as a cat, we strolled around the city despite missing the Sinulog parade. Like little kids, we had face paint, bought hats, and looked at what the crowd was looking at. I was surprised when Cebu City appeared to be a prototype of Metro Manila. Colon itself was reminiscent of Recto, scenes around the Church of Sto. Niño was almost identical to that of Quiapo, and the markets looked like Divisoria. I felt like I have been transported back to Manila so we tried to see other spots where we could stroll along.

Rains had spoiled our second day so we ended up in Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. The latter looked like a mini-version of Manila’s Fort Santiago in Intramuros. The reason it is so is because Cebu was one the Spanish conquistadores’ main headquarters before they moved to Manila where they built a similar fortress as Fort San Pedro. Entrance is only at Php30 and it is here where you will get a glimpse of Cebu’s history. 

For those who have studied at schools around Manila’s Intramuros, you might mistaken this as a lane at Intramuros but it’s actually in Cebu’s Fort San Pedro.

A canon overlooking Plaza Independencia. One of the similar sights in Manila’s Intramuros.

One of the galleries that could be found in Fort San Pedro. This one is filled with pictures from this site’s history.

Another gallery featuring portraits of some of Cebu’s founding fathers and historical figures like Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu.

Toss a coin to make a wish at this wishing well at Fort San Pedro.

The best part of our initial stroll was the food trip. From street food to mall diners, every meat comes with a serving of pusô (not the heart, but it is rice wrapped in leaves). 

Pusô in a basket.

Ranging from Php3 to Php5, they are being served on baskets along with a viand of siomai, pig’s face (yes! The skin made to be thin and crunchy before your eyes), or spicy lechon (somebody help my diet!!). 

A vendor slashing the pusô in the middle.

These handful of packed rice has been slightly slashed in the middle so you could easily open and eat it. Make sure you’ll count all the pusô you’ll be eating because they’ll charge you for each one you’ll gobble. Just don’t expect to eat with a spoon and fork because you have 

Street food siomai with pusô.

to eat your food by hand. Don’t worry, they will give you clean hand gloves. 

Pusô with, not pork chop, but with pig’s face.

Lechon with pusô.

Larsian is a recommended eatery in the city, especially for all grilled food lovers. They have a variety of meats, chorizos and seafood such as squid and blue marlin which they will grill and serve at your table. Each of them range from Php20 to Php150. And of course they come with pusô

Larsian

Grilled chicken, pork, and fish with pusô only at Larsian

As I’ve mentioned, Cebu is good for their otap so we did not miss dropping by Shamrock which was located along the Rotonda near Larsian. It also has a variety of other goodies like my childhood favorites, ronquillos and torones de mani

Other street food treats to be found in Cebu. This lady is selling baked rice cakes cooked in an oven.

Rice cakes

Corn on a cob sold on the street.

I guess buying pasalubong and souvenirs was the greatest irony on the initial part of our trip. But that does not signal the end of our Cebu trip because we still have more to visit for the next three days.

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