Cebu as an alternative for Boracay and Palawan
Philippines

Cebu as an alternative for Boracay and Palawan

Cebu is less known. Far less than the islands of Boracay and Palawan when you decide to roll up your sleeves and start browsing the net. It’s also not so touristic developed. On landing from Hong Kong we were welcomed by a great number of locals who provide some kind of service. When locals try to sell you something, it cannot be anything, but useful. When you get sunburned, who else but some local is going to pluck an aloe vera leaf from the garden and tell you in broken English how to rub it. Weather for free or for a couple of pesos, that’s another question. If you’re a smoker, they will persuade you to use a rolled up, dried banana leaf instead of a cigarette. It comes with no filter and it’s very strong. It burns the throat, but it’s good. It’s our first day and we’ve already started smoking shit!

These sort of things made us wander the island to the very south and all the way to the northest part. These are the things that made us realize that Cebu is worth a visit, maybe even more than the islands of Boracay and Palawan.

 

Typhoons are not crazy about it, but the sea world absolutely adores it

As far as logistics is concerned, it is very well positioned. You don’t have to carry rescue equipment, not even a helmet. Typhoons usually bypass the island. The Philippines are a totally fucked up place when it comes to the weather. There is a classification of these winds. The speed of impact. Spatial scale. Whether it is a storm, cyclone, typhoon or super typhoon. There are about 20 such occurrences every year in the Philippines and according to this classification, 12-13 are typhoons and super typhoons. Believe it or not, it’s not at all windy. The contrast is such that you’re either blown away by the wind or it’s virtually non-existent.

As much as this island may appear to be unsightly on the surface, it hides a real treasure underwater. If Triton were to appear underwater, they would have absolutely everything. Many migratory routes of sea creatures, mostly whales, tortoises and dolphins lead through Cebu.

Our pocket promised to love it too. Cebu has its own airline company. It is very well connected and this is the cheapest option if you decide to visit the Philippines. Apart from Manila, of course. We set off from the very heart of the island. From the city of Cebu, to be more precise. It’s a vast jungle where the trip from one end to the other can last for a couple of hours. The city has around 1 million inhabitants. The infrastructure is bad. The roads are full of holes. But sooner or later we’ll leave it behind us and head towards Moalboal, our first destination.

Cebu City has interesting things to offer, but we weren’t much enthusiastic about it since there were so many things waiting for us in the south.

 

Fishing villages

There are plenty of these. Our small fishing village is located in the western part of Cebu. Moalboal. The drive with some decrepit KIA took longer than we had expected. One must drive very, very slow. Somehow, you get the impression that everyone lives on the street. The dogs sleep on it. The kids play tag. A few people have even put debris in a pile and placed tables behind this improvised barrier on which mancala is played and banana leaf is smoked late into the night. The discussion at the time was about the elections. A heated one. Whether or not to support Duterte. The scent and taste of local. Cebu is definitely an excellent choice.

We arrived late at night. According to all standards, Moalboal is no more than a small settlement. For the most part, there is no road and you have to travel on macadam. We were so (un)lucky to be there on the last day of the village fair. Whenever someone grabbed a microphone on the fair, half of the village was left without electricity.

Cebu

“Ok. Where did we come? Everything is dead. Neglected. Now there is no electricity. And it has started to rain.”

“Does it matter? We have a half-open bathroom with a barrel of water for washing. And a few lizards. “

We spent the first night in the bathroom. Although it was night, it was hot outside and we splashed buckets of water on ourselves and ate a third type of mango.

Cebu

In the morning we realized that our cabanas were movie like and that there are five types of mangoes and that all these types and subtypes – along with some other fruit, such as saraguella which looks like a pepper, but tastes like cherries – were waiting for us on the porch. Now, whenever we think of mango we feel nauseous. But then we used to gorge on it as if there wasn’t anything else to eat in the Philippines. Pancakes with mango, mango juice, another juice from some other type of mango etc. Milk and mango. Just mango! Diarrhea…

Cebu

We’re not sure if we would recommend Moalboal to everyone. We had a whale of a time. How many people would actually go to the Philippines just for the most delicious and fresh fish which is caught just for you, because you’ve had the privilege to point your finger at the one that you want to be prepared for you. Who would go there because of fucking mango which can be prepared in 1001 ways and everything hidden under the water. Just try to resist that first impression of neglect that Moalboal gives and decide to spend a couple of days here.

The underwater world. That’s Tim Burton’s fairytale. Without much searching, you can bump into jellyfish, tortoises, dolphins, sharks, saddle breams, a large school of sardines and coral reefs at a nearby island of Pescador.

Just take our word for it – you want to start early in the morning, around 5.30 am, however difficult it may seem to be or however shitty you may feel, and just sail with the fishermen along the bay.

 

Whale sharks

Is all that underwater world enough? We heard that 15-metre long gentle giants go through this bay on their migratory route. We’re talking about whale sharks. The depths that they inhabit demand that you have a PADI diving course. Our whole life is lacking the PADI course. We can not seam to make us start with that. But, luckily, there’s an alternative. In the vicinity of Moalboal there is Oslob (it’s not really so close, it’s just that the map says it’s not that far). This is where whale sharks feed on krill every morning. Krill is a mixture of ground shrimps, small fish and some plants.

Try as we might, KIA simply won’t start. We didn’t even have time to start panicking when five Filipinos come to our aid and start pushing the car. A clash of cultures ensues from this encounter. They start offering mango to us again and we offer plazma biscuits to them. The important thing is that we managed to start KIA. It’s ready to hit the road and we quickly jump into the car, because we’re running out of time and the whale sharks won’t wait for us.

Cebu
marcelekkel@flickr

If you decide to meet these gentle giants, stick to all the rules! It’s a great privilege to dive with these magnificent creatures.

While we were going back we were completely silent. The largest creature I’ve ever seen is my friend Beban who’s 210cm tall. People would often stand next to him and say: ‘Omg, you’re so tall!’ Now that we are heading back he seems kind of small to me while we are trying to fathom that we were in the company of whale sharks whose length was 8-9 meters. They told us that these were just small examples. However, we cannot get a grip on ourselves.

 

Jungle, waterfalls, cascades

We got the impression that nobody bathes at home in Cebu because Filipinos are scattered across waterfalls and their cascades. While travelling, we often exclaim ‘Oh, this is life!’

Kawasan and Tumalog are the most famous waterfalls in Cebu and one of the largest in the Philippines. We figured out that the best way to see them would be to go 5 km into the jungle and get to them through the canyon. In this case, the journey itself is much more inspiring than the destination.

Cebu

The water is turquoise. You can see an occasional monkey in the canopies. Millipedes and centipedes swim around, but fortunately there are no snakes. You can see miniature stone pyramids on all sides. The best thing is to jump off the cliff, climb on lianas or drink San Miguel beer and watch the others do all this. Of course, there is mango again.

 

Beaches for desktop background

The first nearby island we visited was Sumilon. It is located in the very south. It is near Oslob. Not only according to the map, it is really in the vicinity of Oslob. It’s a private island where you can spend a day with 20 or so euros. Meals are included in the price.

The water is tempestuous and the beach is full of corals. We noticed that people got in the water in rubber slippers. The sea is also full of corals.

Cebu

Who cares about the underwater world anymore! There are sun beds everywhere. The wind is a bit stronger. It blows strong enough for you not to realize how the sun is scorching hot. You can find all the information on BlueWater site if you ever decide to visit this place.

It’s time to start KIA again and head north. The search for best beaches continues. We simply need the hot sand and some cheap alcohol. The islands of Bantayan and Malapascua are in the very north. We just have to choose a ferry and decide where we’d rather go.

“Let’s go to Malapascua because it’s the only place in the world where we can see the tresher shark!”

“Let’s go to Bantayan, its beaches are so calm like on some postcard.”

“Malapascua also has beaches. Everything is beautiful…white and clean.”

“But there’s no island hopping. A bit of Virgin islands, a bit of Paradise beach.”

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe and Bantayan wins. The ferry leading to Santa Fe goes very often. It’s comfortable. The sea is deep blue. There’s wind and an occasional seagull comes along. We were the only foreigners on the boat.

Cebu

And then we found Amihan on the island of Bantayan. It felt like we were inside the postcard itself. The only thing left was for someone to put a stamp on our foreheads and send us back home. Bamboo and sand everywhere. Seashells are scattered like watermelons on all sides. An octopus is drying itself on the rock. A small dog keeps barking while it trudges through the hot sand just to sound our arrival.

Every morning, without doing the ablutions, we stretch and head directly for the beach. We jump into the water bleary-eyed. THIS IS LIFE! All the time we keep turning around to see who’s going to say something contrary to that. There’s no one to oppose us this time, everyone smiles from ear to ear. A Filipino approaches carrying mango juice on a tray (again). Are you fucking with us? Is there anything else here? Yes, there is. Homemade gin tonic, half a litre for €1. We drank 42 in the course of three days.

Oh, yes, the sea disappears on Bantayan. Whether you drink one gin tonic or ten, the sea will ebb out 100-150 meters. It has nothing to do with the drinks. The tide is strange on smaller islands. It is so clearly visible. This is the perfect time to put on your sneakers and start clambering the rocks which have previously been underwater. Sea stars, crabs and lobsters and an occasional gigantic sea urchin are suddenly so close at hand.

Cebu

Low tide is even more interesting if it happens whenever you decide to take a tour of every sandbank and nearby abandoned beaches. It is so interesting that we had to haul our metal and wooden boat on our backs for at least half a kilometer towards the open sea. If we had known that we had to haggle with the man at the bar about who’s going to carry the boat, things would have been different.

We had never carried a boat towards the open sea trudging our way through a myriad of gigantic sea urchins. Luckily, that gin tonic we were talking about is available in bottles which you can take with yourself.

 

Who is Cebu for?

Truth be told, it is not for everyone. If you like to hoist a flag and say ‘this is it, we’ve made it‘, then this is definitely not the place for you. Cebu is probably the right choice for you if you like to roam around and you don’t mind carrying a backpack.

Cebu is a local story. The story about 10 million presidential campaign posters. Some have even stuck campaign posters of Duterte and the others all over their houses. They had 42 candidates that year. Cebu is a story about enjoying small things. It’s a world where barracuda is caught, where people jump from waterfalls and where everyone is passionate about the bloody cockfights. This is the place where, for some reason, everyone wears tight-fitting D&G shirts or synthetic football shirts.

Cebu is “where we’re going”. All the other islands had that “we’ve arrived” feel about them. Anyway, you can choose whatever floats your boat.

You can see pics from island hopping on Instagram.

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