An Escape to the Queen City

February, aside from being THE love month, is also my wife and I’s ESCAPADE month. We started this tradition three years ago with a lavish trip to Baguio. I think it’s been established that the both of us see traveling as more than just something to talk and blog about, but really, IS an actual experience, so we’re not stopping this anytime soon. 🙂
After Baguio, and last year’s Taytay Falls escapade, we thought about spending our Valentine’s day somewhere else: something we haven’t been to before, something considerably cheap so we don’t go over our budget and something pretty we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
We initially planned on going to three different places: first Bacolod, then we’ll sidetrip to Iloilo and then end our trip in Boracay. Problem was, we didn’t make any prior airline bookings due to financial considerations. I was surprised to have found the fare rates to skyrocket to a whole ‘nother level when one does it the last minute. It was exasperating! Seriously. Some one-way trip costs as high as PhP6000 pesos per adult!!!

Our plan B? That long overdue visit to the Queen City of the South!

We didn’t have an itinerary. We didn’t have hotel reservations. Think travel disaster. Haha!

But no. I think, to date, our Cebu trip was one of the best trips we’ve had. That may be because – first – it’s our first trip after our much-complained travel hiatus over the past six months. Money had been a big issue (backtrack to a few pages and you’ll get what I mean) for some time and getting it off our backs and having a little something to spend on backpacking can be one big sigh of relief; and second – it’ll be our first out-of-town trip with Saab! 🙂 This one excited us more than any of the other reasons we have.

First day:

We took the early Zest Air flight, Friday. We left at around 4:50am and arrived at around 6-ish in Mactan, with a little drizzling and a few people flocking the airport. We took an airport taxi (just cause we didn’t see any regular ones; turns out you have to exit by the second floor to get those, tsk!). It cost us about PhP300 (though the actual meter read PhP306, the driver kindly asked for PhP300 flat – how nice!), from Mactan to Cebu City proper. Though we didn’t have hotel reservations, I searched Google beforehand and asked an old friend who now resides in Cebu, Mark, to look for apartelles and pension houses near the city. Coincidentally, he’s planning on bringing his mom, dad and sisters to Cebu by April so he already has some places in mind. Thus Pacific Pension came in handy. I called the day before our arrival and asked if there would be available rooms as early as 6am (normal hotel check in time is at 12noon) and I was told it depends if somebody checks out that early. Apparently, they’re fully booked so our chances are pretty slim. Fortunately though, when we got in, there were a couple family rooms available (cost is at P1100), which was about PhP300 pesos more than what a standard room costs. We thought that’s fine, so we took one. 🙂

The room’s a very simple room. We have our own toilet and bath, cable TV (with so poor a reception) and a bed big enough for the three of us. Airconditioning works fine, which is kind of a big deal for me as our daughter’s very pawisin. We slept as soon as we got inside, as we weren’t able to sleep the previous night due to packing and us being in the airport 2 hours before departure (the flight leaves at 4am so go figure).
We woke up at around 12noon, re-energized and excited to explore the city. We decided it would be a good day to explore the malls, since we’ll have dinner with my college friends later that evening anyway. So we visited the Ayala Center first – which was really gorgeous with the landscape and water work at the Terraces. We did some photo op before deciding to eat in Sunburst to try their well-reviewed chicken. I have a list of must-try restos and food spots by the way, and I plan on checking them all by the time we leave this beautiful city.

After that late lunch, my wife asked me if she can have her nails done as she hasn’t done so in Manila before we left due to time constraints. I agreed and decided to have some pedi session too so we took the jeepney en route to SM City Cebu. It was very near and it took us only a few minutes to reach the place. A few hours in Let’s Face It (there was only one person doing mani pedi so it took us about 2 hours to finish) was what our nails needed and we’re back to Ayala Center to meet my friends.

It had been 6 years since I last saw my closest college friends, Ago and Mark. We’re friends, co-engineers (them – licensed; me, oh well, me), boardmates, college batchmates, confidantes, each other’s persons. Mark, with our love for music and a friendship that spans about 16 years of our life; Ago, with his sincerity and family-oriented values that got his family and my family in one special bond for about 12 years now.Time and time again, our friendship prove to be stronger than distance, time and life accomplishments. And there we were – me, with my wife and daughter, Mark and his girlfriend of 4 years and Ago -oh well, just Ago – having dinner at Cafe Laguna (where seafood and lechon delicacies were mouth-watering), remembering the good ‘ol times like nothing has changed, like we didn’t age at all, still laughing at the simplest, funniest things around us.

We left Ayala at around 10pm already and since Ago still has work the following day, we agreed to part ways. After planning on meeting again Saturday night for drinks and karaoke (which unfortunately didn’t push through), Mark and Bianca gave us a ride home.

Second Day:

Our second day in Cebu marks our visit to the most familiar tourist attractions in the City. I called it the lakas maka-Sibika at Kultura tour. Before starting our tour, we came across Apurado restaurant just beside the Robinson Mall in Fuente Osmena Circle. They offer daily lunch and dinner buffets at an affordable price, and one also has the option to include lechon in their buffet package for a few additional pesos. This was our second conquest of lechon and it was never better. I had to keep myself from laughing boisterously when my wife secretly packed our remaining lechon (which was about 80% of the original serving, it was just too big a serving!) in a plastic bag and stuffed it in my bag (lechon is a part of the buffet package, so we had to eat it or leave it). Apurado also offers desserts and free drinks (choice of OJ or iced tea) which was great because normally for buffets (at least in Manila) drinks aren’t included. I was too full after this that I had to walk and play with Saab for a few minutes before leaving to make myself breathe in proper intervals lol (baboy lang).

And then we went ahead and proceeded with our DIY tour. We paid homage to the century old Sto.Nino church where I think the debotos of Quiapo will sure have some tough competition. My wife actually had an encounter with one of those old women who suddenly pins something on you, without giving some sort of a heads up first.To be honest, that’s a little too invasive and I would actually think for a second there, that that person meant more harm than good. After that, we paid a visit to the famous Magellan’s Cross where a lot of Korean tourists flock and take pictures wherever conducive. We also strolled through the grounds of Fort San Pedro and coincidentally spotted a few pre-wedding pictorials. Fort San Pedro is a smaller version of Manila’s Fort Santiago and in my opinion, just a little less majestic.

After a few kilometers of walking and strolling, we decided to go to SM City again to check on some return flights to Manila. I already have a feeling that we’re oh-so-late for this already and we might not get some good deals na. We plan on returning to Manila the following day – perhaps an evening flight. It only took us two travel agencies to realize that economy flights for the following day have already been filled, and that the only ones with available seats are REALLY expensive. I was decisive not to spend more than PhP5000 for the return flight, that’s just too much. I think at that point, I realized how important an itinerary is, how vital it is to have all things set before one flies and enjoys a foreign land. But really, how can realizations help me at that point. I just have to find a way to make things right.
We went into a nearby Netopia and searched the net for more help. I called Zest Air and asked if they can squeeze in two adults and an infant on lap on their cheapest flight the following evening but to no avail. I was really on the verge of frustration that my wife preferred to not say anything anymore to not further my helplessness (I can be a tool when I get frustrated, sorry). Alas, the Big Guy upstairs responded. I came across Philippines Airlines and saw a flight that’s priced at 1789 per adult and 500 for infant – only it leaves Monday at 6pm. What the hell – this is our life saver! I don’t mind spending for one more night as long as we get that flight. We then saw ourselves running to the nearest PAL office to get our tickets but I think our luck quickly ran out as the office was already closed! My frustration was beginning to have a repeat when my wife dragged me to the first travel agency we went to earlier. You can only imagine the relief I had when I finally saw our return tickets being printed by the travel agent. I was that close to losing my sanity and having my wife and daughter experience their first 24-hour, dragging travel by sea. Buti na lang!

It was just right that we cap the night with a Chinese-inspired dinner at Lai Garden SM City to remind us this was a vacation and that we have no other plans but to enjoy. And by the way, our pension house decided to downgrade the price of our room so instead of paying PhP1100, we paid only Php800 for our second night. So much for positivity, don’t you think? 🙂

Third Day:
We will not leave Cebu without experiencing their beaches. That’s for sure. Initially we were thinking of availing Supercat’s Bohol Package but since we already spent a lot on our plane tickets, we didn’t bother anymore. Us exploring Bohol will come, in time. Anyway, I searched the net again for popular Cebu beaches and voila! Cebu White Sands is the answer to that.

Before heading to White Sands, we asked Ago if he knows any affordable apartelles in Mactan, as we would be leaving the following day and it’ll be more convenient if we have our last night near the airport. As it happens, 1st Avenue Apartelle just opened late last year and offers the most affordable rates in town. Lowest price is at PhP500 per room per night. Since we wanted our own toilet, bath and cable TV, we opted for the next choice which was priced at 780.

This comes with a free breakfast so definitely this one’s the better choice as compared to our first room. Nonetheless we charge ’em all to experience, so no biggie. But the next time we visit Cebu, 1st Avenue Apartelle will be our number 1 choice. 🙂
Cebu White Sands is located in Maribago Bay, an hour’s drive away from Lapu-Lapu, Mactan Island.The resort has a swimming pool, a creamy-white sand beachfront and offers activities such as banana boat ride, paragliding and parasailing, boating only to name a few. It was evident that the resort is a favorite among foreigners as majority of their customers were such. There were Americans, Koreans, Germans, etc.
We signed up as daytrippers and paid 750 per person consisting of a lunch buffet and full use of their amenities. This is Saab’s first time to swim so we enjoyed alot, even though at first she was really scared and had to cry for the heavens. Luckily, as the day went by, she got used to it and eventually enjoyed. The food – it was ambrosia. Apart from those displayed, there was an actual chef cooking right beside the buffet area too, mixing and frying all sorts of vegetables and meat in front of him. I think I had three rounds of going to and fro, putting food on my platter. My wife? Oh she gets more. I love bringing her to buffets dahil nasusulit ang bayad hahaha!

We spent the entire enjoying the sun, the sea and sand. Saab even had two swimsuit changes (oh di ba?!) and we also got a chance to meet a new friend – Lynn, a Michigan native who now lives in Banawa, Cebu to look after her granddaughter (you know the usual success stories, Filipina marries an American etc. etc…)

I learned a lot from her stories and POV’s so it was rather an enjoyable and an educational experience at the same time. We left at 5pm, as that was when our time would be up and proceeded to meet Ago who agreed to treat us (again) for dinner. We went to Tong’s Seafood in Marina Mall Mactan and again, basked in the ambiance of talaba and a whole lot of meat. Seriously, I think I gained about 20 lbs only from this trip. We just don’t stop eating and eating. Ago was also kind enough to buy us pasalubongs (oh d ba ang gracious lang nya na host) such as danggit, some dried mangoes and a few other local delicacies I’m not all too familiar with.

Finally, we spent our fourth day exploring Metro Gaisano in Mactan as we wait for our flight. Also, we had lunch at AA Barbecue, one of the more popular Cebuano barbecue junctions in there. I especially like their fruit drink – we ordered orange-mango served in tall, large glasses, mixed with watermelon and a few other fruit purees. That’s the last must-try resto scratched off of my list. 🙂

We boarded PAL flight PR 850 at 5:10pm, the plane left at 5:40pm and we arrived at around 6:15pm here in Manila. A thought – PAL planes are way bigger than CebuPac’s or ZestAir’s and it has these nice, techie screens in front of each seat where you can watch videos such as Glee, and play pretty interesting games such as Tetris and Sudoku to keep you entertained the entire flight. Quite honestly, I feel safer boarding PAL and I think it flies faster too. The by-the-minute update of where the plane geographically is kinda gave me an assurance that we were getting nearer on safer territories too. Weird, I know, as I’ve told you on a previous post, I became more and more paranoid now that I am father. While I was at the plane, I can’t help but be very observant of everything. Can’t blame me, I just need my wife and daughter to be safe, that’s all.

Anywho, to close this – our trip to Cebu would be one of those I’ll treasure forever because of the many significant memories it holds. It would always remind me that I’ve got it good – a beautiful family and sincere friends who’ll always have my back come what may. Thank you and see you again, Cebu!

 

And here are some of our pics!

 

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One thought on “An Escape to the Queen City

  1. I forgot to recommend sa inyo yung restaurant ng friend ko! It's called "east,west" and it's just right in IT Park. Their food there is so yummy, and you have to try their mango-strawberry slushies. =)And yeah, I also feel safer when I'm riding via PAL. That's what we took during both legs of our show's tour.

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