15 August 2012, Singapore – When talking about travel destinations in the Philippines, most people will recommend destinations like urbanized Philippines capital, Manila or sea side haven, Boracay. With a recent trip organized by Department of Tourism (The Philippines) & Cebu Pacific Air, I made my first visit to Cebu, Philippines.
If you have not been to Cebu or heard about it, here’s what you have missed out.
Only a three and a half hour direct flight away from Singapore on Cebu Pacific Air, Cebu, a beautiful & spiritual province of the Philippines, is made up of Cebu Island and 167 islands surrounding it. It is a travel destination that you will get the best of both urbanized cityscape and the wonders of nature from the islands. If you like what you see above keep reading to find out more.
Cebu City Historic Tour
Cebu City is a pretty developed city, with a few large shopping malls like Ayala Malls 360 and SM City Cebu where shopaholics can have their shopping therapy from designer products to having a manicure treatment. Aside from the usual shopping, there is a lot of sightseeing spots in Cebu City worth checking out.
Mactan Shrine Park
Mactan Shrine Park is built to commemorate the events of the Battle of Mactan that happened in 1521. On March 1521, at these ground where Mactan Shrine Park is located, Datu Lapu-Lapu, a native leader defeated Spanish soldiers and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and became the first “Philippine National Hero” to resist foreign rule.
Here in the park you will learn about the history of the battle and view the monuments of both Datu Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan. If it is a sunny day and you are in the mood for a dip in the lake, you can do so, just like the locals do in the park.
Basilica Del Santo Nino de Cebu
Basilica Del Santo Nino is a popular tourist spot in Cebu City which also houses one of the oldest Christian relics in Philippines, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus (Santo Nino) found by Spanish explorers in 1565 preserved in a burned wooden box which was left behind during the 1521Ferdinand Magellan expedition.
The moment I stepped into this 16th century church, I could feel that holy ambiance and could not help but admire the architectural details on every corner of this magnificent church. I also saw many devotees queuing up to admire and ask for blessings from the Santo Nino sculpture.
Cebu Taoist Temple
Here’s a beautiful & colourful Taoist temple on Beverly Hills. Yes, there is a Beverly Hills in Cebu too but it is a vast difference from the one in America. In Cebu, there’s a substantial Chinese community, so the Cebu Taoist Temple was built for the Taoist worshipers and it is also an attraction for non worshipers too. Just make sure to watch out for signs of “No Photography” for some parts of the temple.
Yap Sandiego Ancestral House
Passed down from generation to generation in the family, the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House will bring you back in time, with the house filled with antiques and artifacts collected by the owner Mr. Val Sandiego. Being an art collector, Mr. Sandiego’s selection of antiques blends flawlessly into the dilapidated structure of the 17th century coral stone house, with many intrigued life-sized Christian artifacts that make this a must visit destination in Cebu City.
Cebu City Causal Side Tour Destinations
How about some useful and tasty souvenirs for you to remember this trip?
At Alegre Guitar Factory you will be able to buy a handmade guitar or ukulele of any shape and size. If you are going to pick one of these instruments as a new talent, it will be wise to get one at factory price now.
Do you know that the process of making and packaging the famous Philippines Dried Mangoes is almost a manual process? A factory visit to Profood Factory, would open your eyes to hundreds of workers stationed in a process chain, from manually peeling and slicing the mangoes to marinating and handpicking the processed mangoes for packaging. That means the quality of the mangoes are strictly maintained by skilled workers and not by machines. Don’t forget to buy some Green Dried Mangoes if you like sour munchies to nibble.
Island Hopping & Sightseeing in Bohol Island
From Cebu City, take a two hour ferry to Bohol Island. On Bohol Island you will find one of the most famous attractions in Cebu, the Chocolate Hills. It is a valley made up of more than 1,200 limestone domes that vary in sizes from 30 to 50 metres. During the dry season, the grass on the domes will turn brown and hence the valley looks like its filled with chocolate truffles which gave it its name “Chocolate Hills”.
In Bohol Island, I went up close to meet with one of the smallest known primates in the world, the Philippine Tarsier, at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation where they are kept in its natural habitat. The Philippine Tarsiers are very cute and adorable, but they are also a protect species.
Please avoid visiting the tarsiers kept in cages along Loboc river. These shy animals are suicidal when under captivity , so they don’t survive for long after being captured.
Baclayon Church Bohol Island
Baclayon Church in Bohol Island is not just one of the oldest churches in Philippines. It is also one of the few remaining churches built with coral stones. It gives out a very rustic holy ambiance that allowed me to take some of my favourite portraits during my trip in Cebu. I recommend visiting the church just before sunset, when the sun’s ray shines through the stained glass windows, forming rainbow shades on the unpolished coral stone walls.
Island Hopping to Pamilacan Island & Balicasag Island
We started the island hopping at 5am and get to see a nice hue of mist forming over Bohol Island as the boat sailed away from it. Spending a couple of hours and having breakfast on the bumpy boat ride around Pamilacan Island for dolphin watching, we finally met with a big school of dolphins (So MANY! I could not even count how many there were) and a swordfish. According to our boatman, when in season there will be whale sharks passing by too.
Snorkeling at Balicasag Island is one of the best experience I had with snorkeling. Near the edge of a deep coral cliff, I saw the beautiful corals upclose while I also got to spot a turtle swimming in the deep blue sea.
Back at Bohol Island, we made a detour to Alona Beach to try out sea walking on the seabed that is about five meters deep. During the sea walking, we were assisted by the divers to move around the seabed as the current was too strong for us to move on our own.
Check out the video below to see the spinner dolphins jumping out of water & my snorkeling video at Balicasag. Videos were taken with the Sony Waterproof Handycam GW77:
Hotel & Resort in Cebu
During my trip in Cebu, I stayed in Marco Polo Plaza in Cebu City and Panglao Island Nature Resort when I was in Bohol Island. Marco Polo Plaza is nicely located on a small hill top in Cebu City. It is nice and peaceful yet less than 30 drive minutes away from all the attractions I’ve mentioned from Cebu City. The rooms are cozy and clean with a decent spread of international & local breakfast buffet every morning. If you like to swim, there is a pool by the side of the restaurant & bar where you can have a relaxing dip in the pool in the evening while enjoying the live band music from the bar.
At Panglao Island Nature Resort, the rooms are chalet style with about four rooms in one block. The rooms are huge and I love the private beach at the resort. There is a spa in the resort with air conditioned private rooms facing the sea. Unfortunately, during our stay in Bohol Island, we were exhausted from our tours and sea sports to explore & enjoy the resort.
Photos To Remember
As a cam whore myself, I loved the time I spent in Cebu with many photo moments with my travel companions at the scenic locations we visited. I hope one day I can revisit Cebu again to specially do a proper portfolio shoot with my friends, or even just going around doing streetphotography will be great too. The people is Cebu are so friendly and it was a joy doing portrait shots of them. Check out our Full Cebu Photo Album on our facebook page and our additional at Sony Illuminate Blog.
Cebu Pacific, the largest national flag carrier of The Philippines flies three direct routes from Singapore, with up to 32 weekly flights from Singapore to Manila, and daily flights from Singapore to both Cebu and Clark.