Sunday, November 22, 2015

The APEC Escape: Cebu Adventures 2015

The first time I visited Cebu was in 2003, when I competed in the National Secondary Press Conference in Mandaue, where I won second place in Copyreading and Headline Writing (Filipino) category. It’s been 12 years, and I was very excited to see the place again. This time, with my family. I availed of a Cebu Travel Package at Php 5,000/person from Deann Travel and Tours, my friends’ travel agency. The package includes airfare, airport transfers, hotel accommodation at Castle Peak Hotel, daily buffet breakfast, and island hopping and snorkeling with free lunch!

However, because of the APEC mayhem, our flight back to Manila was cancelled and we needed to extend our stay in the Queen City of the South. This made our stay even more memorable.

Deann Travel and Tours Cebu Adventure
With my family (L-R): Ferdie, May, Joy, Alpha, Nanay, me

Cebu Adventure Day 1: November 15, 2015

We were picked up by Justine, the driver of our service vehicle going to NAIA 3 around 230am in time for our 540am flight. I was surprised to see a lot of people in the airport that early. And because of the laglag-bala scare, most of the bags were carefully wrapped! Ours were not wrapped, that’s why I was very worried. I told my family members to be attentive, especially, whenever we surrendered our bags for scanning. Thank God, we were not victimized by laglag-bala syndicate.

We boarded a huge aircraft at 5am and in 55 minutes, we safely landed in Cebu.

Kuya Tata, our shuttle service driver, fetched us from Mactan International Airport and brought us to Castle Peak Hotel, in Mabolo, Cebu where we would stay in the next four days. We arrived at Castle Peak at 8am, earlier than the supposed check in time of 2pm. So, we jsut decided to have our buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant, The Dining Room, first. The breakfast buffet cost Php 295 per person.

Deann Travel and Tours
The van that fetched us from the airport

Budget Travel Cebu 2015
The Dining Room at Castle Peak buffet breakfast

At 10am, we were informed that we could have an early check in and we need not wait until 2pm to go to our room and rest! We were booked in triple sharing rooms, however, I noticed that the two rooms assigned to us were different because one room (where my sister, May, and my brother-in-law, Ferdie, and their daughter, Alpha, would stay) was newly renovated, while the other room (where my mom, my other niece, and I would stay) was not renovated yet. But the rooms were clean and well-maintained. If there’s one thing, however, that I really liked about the accommodation, it’s the Internet connection, which was faster compared to the other local hotels I previously stayed in.

Budget Travel Cebu 2015
The room where Nanay, my niece Joy, and myself stayed.

Budget Travel Cebu 2015
The room where May, Ferdie, and Alpha stayed.

We rested and recharged and had our lunch around 3pm. We ordered food from restaurant and had these delivered to the renovated room. Our order included Sinabawang Kalabasa, Crispy Chicken, Chicken in Coconut Milk, Sweet and Sour Pork, Rice, and Kakanin and Hot Chocolate, all of which cost around Php 1,200 .

Budget Travel Cebu 2015
Day 1 Lunch 

Then we went to the 10th floor where May, Ferdie, Nanay, and my nieces dipped into the pool. Alpha, my 1-year old niece did not want to get out of the pool and would always say “one more!”, whenever we asked her “enough, baby?!”

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
My family dipping in the roof deck pool

We all freshened up and went to the nearby church. We attended the mass in Cebuano where the priest gave his homily on embracing death and being excited about this (how apt!)

After the mass, we visited SM City Cebu where we had our first dinner. We bought a Black Forest cake for Ferdie who was celebrating his 25th birthday. We ate at Chikaan Cebu and ordered Adobong Kangkong, Grilled Pusit, Bistek Cebuano, Sinigang na Hipon, and Rice.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Flashing my "Awkward" shirt at SM City Cebu

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Dinner time!

Outside SM City Cebu, a lot of people were waiting for vehicles to go home. Probably because it was a Sunday and it's the 15th of the month, thus, many people flocked to SM for shopping. We waited and decided to walk a few meters more, and finally, we got a cab.

Before sleeping, May and I visited Chill Out Bar at the 9th floor of the hotel to enjoy the view of the city.
Cebu Budget Travel 2015

Cebu Adventure Day 2: November 16, 2015

This was the day when our island tour was scheduled. That morning, our buffet breakfast was free. I ate Seafood Marinara, Scrambled Egg, Ham and Bread, Fruits and Mixed Vegetables. But there were congee, pancakes, and salads, available, too.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Day 2 Breakfast (Day 1 Complimentary Buffet Breakfast)

Our tour guide, Chielo, picked us up at 9am and we rode inside the same van that fetched us from the airport the other day. It took us around 30 minutes to the dock where we would transfer to the motorized boat going to Nalusuan Island Resort.

The motorized boat was exclusive to us. We reached Nalusuan Island Resort in approximately an hour. When we reached the island resort, we saw a lot of Koreans swimming and snorkeling! It's been a common scene in every tourist spot I’ve been to, such as Boracay and Baguio. (It's not bad, I believe. In fact, we could take advantage of this opportunity. I seriously consider taking up Korean language classes.)

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Our "exclusive" boat bringing us to Nalusuan Island Resort

Except for me, all of my companions, even my one-year old niece dipped into the sea. Good thing, it was low tide that noon. Wearing their life vests, they enjoyed observing different varieties of fishes that came to them whenever they dropped fish feeds/pellets.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Enjoying the sea!

Alpha just enjoyed playing with the fish and being submerged in the water, that she did not want to get out!

After snorkeling, we had our sumptuous lunch at the restaurant. We were served with grilled chicken, grilled fish, grilled prawns, grilled squid, pork barbecue, sweet potato chips, fruits (watermelon, banana, and mango), and soft drinks. The foods served were more than enough, so we asked the waiters to wrap the leftover and we gave that to our motor boat driver.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Lunch at Nalusuan Island Resort
(this made the travel package really worth the price!)

After eating, they continued swimming at the other side of the island resort, where the sand was powdery white, similar to that of Boracay’s. According to our tour guide, Nalusuan is one of the more famous island resorts in Cebu.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Swimming pa more!

We went home and braved the afternoon traffic going to the hotel. We rested and had our dinner at Choobi Choobi, another famous eating places in Cebu, recommended by our tour guide. We ordered their famous Bag of Buttered Shrimp (it’s a plastic bag full of shrimp, as the name goes). We also ordered Tinolang Native Chicken and rice.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Choobi Choobi Restaurant beside Castle Peak Hotel

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Choobi Choobi's best seller: Bag of Shrimps

Since the night was young, May, Ferdie, and I, decided to walk and tried to look for a KTV bar. We found Wat Ever Family KTV at The Ridges Commercial Center. The room rate was Php 99/hour. It was affordable given the cleanliness of the room and the audio quality. We spent three hours singing our hearts out while consuming bottles of Red Horse, Tanduay Ice, and another best buy, the Php 199 Spice Girls Platter comprised of Spicy Chicken Wings, Chili Cheese Sticks, Fries, and Nachos.

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Singing my heart out

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Remote control or calculator?

Cebu Budget Travel 2015
Spice Girls Combo for Php 199

We rode a cab going home and we reached the hotel at 1am.

Cebu Adventure Day 3: November 17, 2015

It’s Day 2 of our free buffet breakfast at Castle Peak! This time, the hotel served danggit! I had been craving for danggit the moment we landed in Cebu. Aside from danggit they also served Pork Tocino, Pork and Chicked Adobo, and Potato Croquettes. Scrambled Eggs, Congee, Pan Cakes, Salad, Cereals, and Fruits were still available. Coffee, Hot Chocolate, and Tea were also served.

Day 3 Breakfast (Day 2 of Complimentary Buffet Breakfast)

At the middle of our videoke session the other night, I received a text message from my friend who owns the agency that we should be the one to rebook our cancelled flight. Thus, the first itinerary for the morning before proceeding with the Cebu City Tour was to rebook our flight. We told our new tour guide, Ate Flor, to accompany us to the nearest Cebu Pacific Office. We went to Robinsons Mall where the main ticketing office was located. The earliest flight available if we opt to land in NAIA would be on November 21, Saturday. I had to be in Manila on Friday, November 20 because I had meetings to attend, thus, we selected the November 20, 450am flight, but we would land at Clark International Airport. From there, we would transfer to Manila and arrive in around 1-1.5 hours, discounting traffic. That meant extending our accommodation for another 2 days and hiring a service vehicle from Clark to Manila and Cavite. That also meant additional expense! While on tour, I had been calculating the expenses in my head and convincing myself that it was fine and that I should not stress over this. I had to enjoy the entire stay in Cebu.

After rebooking our flight, we resumed with our Cebu City Tour. The first stop was at the Heritage of Cebu Monument, built right on the original Plaza Parian. Sculpted by Eduardo Castrillo, the gigantic structure depicted all the important moments in Cebu’s history: the fight in Mactan between Lapu-Lapu and Magellan, the conversion of Rajah Humabon and his followers to Christianity, local revolution againsts Spaniards, Cebuano veneration of Sto. Nino, and the beatification of first Cebuano saint, Saint Pedro Calungsod.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
First Stop: Heritage of Cebu Monument

The next stop was at Plaza Independencia, a vast plaza fronting our third stop, Fort San Pedro. Fort San Pedro was said to be the smallest fort in the country. Fort San Pedro is triangular in shape and is made of mortar. We visited the gallery inside Fort San Pedro that contained images of the important events in Cebu.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Second Stop: Plaza Independencia

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Third Stop: Fort San Pedro

The fourth stop was at Magellan’s Cross. It’s being renovated because it was damaged by the earthquake, thus, it’s not photogenic. You would see blue sack at the background.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Fourth Stop: Magellan's Cross 

The fifth stop was at Basilica Sto. Nino. Also damaged by the earthquake, it was being renovated, as well. We prayed shortly, took a look at the replica of the Sto. Nino, and checked the souvenir shop for religious items. Outside the church, May and Ferdie lit candles and offered prayers, as well.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Fifth Stop: Basilica Sto. Nino

The sixth stop was at the Philippine Taoist Temple at Beverly Hills. It’s a temple for the believers of Taoism. The way leading to the temple were reminiscent of the Great Wall of China. There were spots where taking of photographs were prohibited, especially the temples of the gods (God of Health, God of Sea, God of Soul). There’s a statue of Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher who was also the founder of Taoism, fishing with a straight rod. I made sure that I would have the photo with this statue. According to Ate Flor, this temple was only one of the few temples that are open for public.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Sixth Stop: Philippine Taoist Temple, Beverly Hills
Affordable Cebu City Tour
Me and Lao Tzu (statue)

That was the last stop of our Cebu City Tour. We decided to continue with Mactan Tour and just added another Php 500/person. On our way to Mactan, we dropped by Jollibee and bought our lunch which we ate while inside the van.

Our first stop in Mactan was the famous Alegre Guitars, the only store they have in the country. Alegre guitars, ukuleles, and bandurias, according to Albert, the person who greeted us, were not available in malls or in other places, except there. Because of the quality of the products, famous personalities have visited and purchased from them.

Affordable Mactan City Tour
Seventh Stop: Alegre Guitars

The sound quality is dependent on the type of wood being used. Alegre Guitars uses various types of wood, both available locally or imported. The best wood, according to Albert, was Indian Rosewood, imported from India. We visited the shop and I was able to buy a ukulele for Php 3,200, because Albert had been playing Canon in D in ukulele while we were talking and I really loved the sound it created! I’ve been planning to master a musical instrument for next year and I decided, it would be ukulele! Tutorials are available in Youtube, thus, learning should be easy. May also bought a small guitar for Alpha, which she never released from her grip.

Affordable Mactan City Tour
Enjoying our instruments

The next stop was at the Liberty Shrine, which marked the place where Lapu-Lapu and his men triumphed over Spanish invaders led by Fedinand Magellan in April 27, 1521. According to Ate Flor, a re-enactment of the said event is being held at the seaside every April 27 to commemorate this victory. Famous actors are being invited to play key roles and in the past, Manny Pacquiao acted as Lapu-Lapu. Inside the Liberty Shrine were the Magellan Marker, the Magellan Monument, and Lapu-Lapu’s statue.

Affordable Mactan City Tour
Last Stop: Liberty Shrine

Affordable Mactan City Tour
Lapu-Lapu Statue

We bought shirts and souvenir items before we headed back to the hotel.

Affordable Mactan City Tour
Shopping for souvenir items

At night, we had our dinner at Joed’s Lutong Hapon where ordered Pork Ramen, Bento, and Teriyaki

Affordable Cebu City Tour
At Joed's Lutong Hapon

May and Nanay availed of the Php 800 whole body massage-facial-sauna offered at Twin Peaks Spa.

Affordable Cebu City Adventure
Twin Peaks Spa

Cebu Adventure Day 4: November 18, 2015

The other night, we learned that we could not extend our stay in Castle Peak Hotel, because they’re already fully booked. Thus, we had to transfer to another hotel. Cebugaja, the agency which handled our city tours, helped us in finding one and offered Red Planet Hotel in Ayala Center. Each room would cost Php 1,600/night or Php 6,400 for 2 nights for 2 rooms. It’s cheaper than if we stayed in Castle Peak, but it would not have the amenities, such as the pool and of course, the high-speed WiFi. We just enjoyed the last day of our stay in Castle Peak. The breakfast included Chopsuey, Sardines (I missed eating sardines!), hotdog, and fruits. Plus the usual pancakes, salad, and congee.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
Last Complimentary Buffet Breakfast!

After the breakfast, I decided to dip in the pool, the activity I missed on the first day.

Affordable Cebu City Tour
When I finally decided to swim.

We went to Red Planet hotel and checked in at 1pm. The rooms were clean, though small. There were advertisements inside about the hotel and the points that one would earn if he or she decided to refer someone. The mirrors gave the spacious illusions. Frosted door where you could have an idea of what one is doing inside. Wi-Fi worked well with phone and iPad, but not with laptop! We rested and skipped lunch!

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Beds at Red Planet Hotels (see the advertisement inside?)

At night, we had our dinner at the House of Le Chon, which is only a walking distance from the hotel. The place had an interesting interior design! We ordered rice, CarCar Lechon, Pinakbet, and Sinigang na Salmon.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
At the House of Le Chon

Affordable Cebu City Travel
The famous CarCar Lechon

At night, we went shopping at Metro Department Store because I planned to go straight to the office on the 20th, because I had a meeting to attend at 10am. I needed to buy pants and polo shirt, because what I brought in this trip were all shorts.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Ayala Center Cebu
We returned to hotel, and then May, Ferdie and I went back to Ayala Center Cebu, which resembled Greenbelt or Bonifacio High Street in terms of structure and landscape. Of course, it’s the signature Ayala look! We strolled and took photos. Finally, we stayed at Coffee Bean and there we shared stories with each other until 12am.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Enjoying a mug of Macchiato

Cebu Adventure Day 5: November 19, 2015

Nanay, May, and I decided to go to Taboan on our fifth day to buy some dried fish and other pasalubong. We were not planning to buy too much because we did not have extra baggage.

We rode a cab going to Taboan. When we reached the place, the smell of the dried fish, pusit, and danggit, among others brought back the happy memories of some 12 years ago. We bought danggit, daing na pusit, and dried mangoes.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
May and Nanay looking for pasalubong

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Dried fish and other seafood galore!

Afterwards, we went to Ayala Center Cebu and had our brunch at BonChon. We returned to the hotel and rested, as the heat outside the hotel was burning.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
BonChon Tipid Brunch

We had our dinner at Bigby’s at Ayala Center. I love Bigby’s interiors, as well, as it had quotations about traveling! I also got an idea on what to do with all the keychains being given to me by my friends – collect them and put all them in one frame, and display them on your wall! We ordered their Belly Buster, Pineapple Ball (Sliced Ham), Rice, and Mango Crepe for Php 1,400.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Dinner at Bigby's before on our last night in Cebu

Found at the ceiling of Bigby's. Agree!

Got an idea for my keychains!

I love this sliced ham! I will order this again next time.

After dinner, we just strolled around the area, took our photos, and went home. We slept at 10pm so we could wake up at 130am. The service vehicle would bring us to the airport at 230am, in time for our 450am flight.

The view from our room at Red Planet Hotels.
Ayala Center Cebu was just across.

I spent more than what I supposed to spend because of the cancellation of flights, and consequently, the extension of our stay in Cebu, due to APEC. Cebu Pacific did not offer free accommodation. The company just rebooked the flight without charges. On the brighter side, I was able to spend more time with my family. And all the monies spent were worth all the memories, which are priceless.

Affordable Cebu City Travel
Landed safely at Clark International Airport