Imagine yourself basking in the sun of one of the world’s most renowned islands. Imagine holding a book under a coconut tree with nothing but yourself to keep you company and the occasional humming of the bird serves as your own background music.
Life is good, eh? And it’s so much sweeter when you’re in a place you can call home.
When I was a kid, I heard stories about my dad’s hometown: Cebu. But it was a place far from what I call home – a modest yet modern house in greater Manila. I lived in my mom’s hometown in Oriental Mindoro for two years and this was a second home to me. Who would’ve taught that I would find a third one in a place I barely even thought of exploring? If you ask me, it isn’t at the top of my list but a spur-of-the-moment Facebook conversation with a friend led me to book a flight to Cebu in the latter part of October this year.
I just quit my job and wrote a story about how I decided to live my life driven by multiple passions (Read the story here: On Slowing Down and Growing: Why Quitting My Job Before My Birthday is the Best Birthday Gift Ever). My high school friend Larmie, who I haven’t seen for six years, sent me a Facebook message and after exchanging random thoughts about our choices in life, we decided to travel together. This trip was made almost a month after my trip to Bali and so I was at an all-time high for adventure and wanderlust.
Cebu, also known as the Queen City of the South, is an island province in the Philippines rich not only in culture and heritage but also in crystal clear waters and pristine beaches. Recently named as the 19th best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler along with Palawan and Boracay, Cebu is a perfect mix of modern yet suburban living. I kind of regret appreciating this island only now when my father has been priding himself on being a Cebuano ever since.
But aside from it being a Philippine pride, there are five (5) things one must know when traveling to Cebu, whether you are a local looking for an Instagrammable holiday getaway or a foreigner searching for the perfect tropical vacation.
1. Know what you want and prepare yourself for what could happen in between
You know how some people categorize the kind of traveller that they are? Some love to immerse themselves in the place’s culture, others want to explore unspoiled territories while the adrenaline-seekers look for the heart-pumping activities they can do.
Whether you love to just simply lie on the beach or go for extreme water sports, Cebu is one of the best choices in the list. It offers different treats for travelers.
For beach lovers like me, you can definitely take advantage of the island’s long stretch of coastline with its turquoise sea blending perfectly with the shore. I personally love Lambug Beach in Badian because it gives you a sense of being away from home – with no tourists staying up late at night. No nightlife, just the combination of serenity and relaxation.
But even if you just love to stay on the beach, Cebu’s wide array of activities will awaken the adventure junkie in you. My friend, Larmie tried canyoneering at the famous Kawasan Falls in Badian while I opted not to because of a recent rib injury. I actually thought of not doing any water sport because well, I was too scared. However, the life force in me pushed me to go out there and face my greatest fear – deep water. In the end, I went to see and swim with the whale sharks in Oslob.
If you think your itinerary won’t change last minute, think again, because sometimes you’ll only know the best things about a place when you’re already there.
2. Yell under a waterfall and let the cold water seep through your skin
Cebu is not only gifted with picture-perfect beaches and amazing people, it is also home to many other tourist attractions that one would find satisfaction in discovering. I personally handpicked Kawasan Falls located in Badian. We went straight there from the airport via Ceres Bus Liner at the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City. Cab fare from the airport to the terminal is around PHP 130.00 and the air-conditioned bus (via Barili) costs around PHP 120.00.
It was a good two-hour bus ride, depending on the traffic. Get off at Matutinao Church and once you do, several guides will approach and ask you whether you will go canyoneering to get to Kawasan or you’ll just take the trail instead. I took the fifteen-minute trail and my friend went on her own adventure. Getting to Kawasan via the trail was as easy as a breeze. Entrance fee is PHP 20.00.
When I finally got to Kawasan, I was captivated. It was like paradise in the middle of a jungle. It was pretty early when we got there and so there weren’t a lot of tourists but by lunchtime, expect it to be a little bit more crowded. You can rent tables if you want or just buy food in the mini-restaurants and they’ll allow you to stay. I waited for Larmie for two hours and so I opted to rent our own table.
When she’s done with her own little adventure, we rented our own balsa and headed to the waterfall where we let its cold water seep through our skin. We let our guides tell us how to pose for GoPro moments. We yelled and danced and yelled some more just to be able to survive the cold water.
If you’re looking for a different kind of adrenaline rush, try doing what we did. Don your favorite bikini or rashguard and shout, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” under a waterfall. This time, let go and drown yourself with something you have no control over.
3. Disconnect and feel the sand on your toes
When we went to Cebu, we didn’t have any plans of disconnecting. We were pretty confident that there would be reliable Internet access from where we would be staying. Boy, we were wrong. We stayed in a modest room in Magic Beach Resort in Lambug Beach in Badian. My friend and I opted to rent the room with a fan instead of the air-conditioned one.
What our room looked like from the outside
The reception area (Cool huh?)
We had a hard time connecting to the Internet because of the crappy phone signal but instead of worrying about unanswered emails and Facebook messages, I found myself enjoying the cold breeze, drinking coffee while watching the waves, and listening to the occasional whistling of the wind. Unlike my recent trip to Bali where I tried sumptuous dishes, Larmie and I opted to eat what was available. Because the market was far from Lambug Beach, we had to make do of what was being offered by the locals – typical Filipino merienda and ulam.
Coffee by the shore
My afternoon merienda – pancit canton and a refreshing Royal soda
The breakfast that was – sinangag, fried egg, and bread
I was refreshed knowing that the world will continue to revolve even if I disconnect from it; that a day or two without Facebook was not fatal at all. Sure, we were able to connect for a little more than fifteen minutes (if we were lucky) but I was glad it gave us more time to appreciate the beauty that was surrounding us. I had more time reading my book while lying on the beach. I had more time dipping my toes into the water. And I had more time letting the fierce sunshine rays kiss my entire body.
4. Go to a party place without feeling the need to party
Because we decided to go back to the city the night before our flight back home, Larmie and I decided not to book an accommodation anymore and just stay the whole time at the famous Mango Square, the center of the nightlife in Cebu City. We made sure to take our much-needed caffeine first at the coffee shop just across Mango Square, Coffee Bean Scent which turned out to be a sanctuary for students.
With no makeup on and with backpacks in tow, we felt out of place – like two girls who have just been kicked out from their dormitories. We didn’t mind, though. We went to Mango Square not to party but just to have somewhere to stay for the night. We had orange juice, not cocktails, and paired our sisig with rice. We observed and observed some more until I was inspired enough to write a different piece about the girls of Mango Square. When you’re looking for something to write, you must begin somewhere and must have a keen eye for everything. The writer in me was awakened that night although I eventually felt sleepy. We left Mango Square a little before 3 AM and were grateful that it sheltered us for no cost at all.
5. Revel in the beauty of the island
The three-day trip to Cebu turned out to be so much more than what I expected. From the one-hour motorcycle ride from Badian to Oslob to the magnificent whooshing of the Kawasan Falls, I had enough chance to see why it’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It isn’t grandiose but it could be. Its long stretch of crystal blue waters will make you realize the richness of this world. Letting the cold morning air play with my hair as we rushed past the busy rural streets was one of my best memories of Cebu yet. We were cold, our legs were numb but we didn’t care because we knew we’re on to a great ride.
As our last day in Cebu drifted to a close, I added yet another sunset to my little collection – the sunset in Badian. And just Iike I always say, I know that this sun is the same sun that sets everywhere but I still get this feeling, every single time, that no it’s not. It isn’t at all the same.
Sunset in Badian
About the Writer:
Janessa Tek-ing is a twenty-something Filipina whose drive in life is to make a difference through her love for writing. She in search of the world’s best stories – stories inspired by the places she visits, the people she meets, and the things she experiences. She finds joy in reading a good book while basking in the sun. A life-seeker and a writer, Nessa believes in silver linings and happy endings. Read more of her stories at her WordPress and Tumblr.