Travel Diaries: Cebu, Philippines (July 8-12, 2014)

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Common notion is that traveling is a hobby of the rich and the affluent, of people who have nothing much to do but see the world with their surplus finances; that ordinary people can’t afford it, or can, but choose not to because there are much more important things to spend traveling funds on. I’d like to think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong—I agree that sure, there could be more substantial expenditures to use money on and I completely understand that each individual has varying sets of priorities, but I want to dispel the belief that traveling has to be expensive and extravagant.

Indulging in the cultures and places that the world has to offer is not an activity exclusive to the rich; it is a means to self-discovery and the introduction of change in one’s psyche—much unlike superficial material things that don’t have the capability to fill an aching void in a person, traveling is actually worth every cent you spend on it.

Contrary to a major misconception, although traveling requires a bit of a budget, you don’t necessarily have to bear a hole in your pocket for it. The essence of a trip lies in the venue-exclusive experiences you get to gain from it, not in the level of luxury your accommodation and transportation have.

It’s been more than three months since my short 5-day trip to Cebu, but when I look back to my overall experience—from the luxurious hotel check-in at the posh Movenpick Mactan, to the pocket-friendly but practical and decent stay at Express Inn, and finally the free stay at my travel buddy’s friend’s house—I realize that so much had changed within me since then.

Taken with the GoPro Hero 3+ with post-processing on VSCOcam and Pixelmator

At NAIA Terminal 4 with my travel buddy and childhood friend, Joy (check out her travel blog).

For starters, my thoughts on budget flights have taken a positive turn entirely. Gone are the days when I raised an eyebrow at plane rides that didn’t offer a single free snack onboard (I had been used to long-haul international flights as a kid). Because I paid for my flight to Cebu with my own money, I appreciated its value and practicality.

From L-R: Cebu skies at around 10-11AM and Manila skies at around 7-8PM.
Pretty much why I always prefer the window seat on airplanes.

TRAVEL TIP: Be on the lookout for piso-fare promos from airlines like AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, and etc. We got tickets from AirAsia this time around, and I must say, their service and punctuality are worthy of praise.
TRIVIA: A piso-fare promo within reach at the right place and the right time is a ticket to a spontaneous fun-filled adventure. I would know—my friend and I went on this Cebu trip without any prior planning whatsoever. We just saw the promo, booked the flight, laughed at how impulsive we were, and took it from there. We had a great time, regardless, if it still isn’t obvious at this point.

I also didn’t mind that we did not avail of a dedicated transportation service. It posed a bit of an inconvenience because we had to hail a cab every time we had somewhere to go, but what’s good about it is that by talking to taxi drivers, we got to know even more of the people and culture. No better way to get to know a place than to interact with the locals, right? Plus points because that saved us a lot of money, too (especially that bus ride to Oslob)!

Day 2, at the Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Mactan. It felt so surreal to see these in person because I was
so used to seeing them just on textbooks, posters, and tourist maps!

TRAVEL TIP: Having a working data connection on a smartphone and the GrabTaxi/EasyTaxi app will be a huge help, but don’t bother using it as a transportation from the airport because you’re better off with the taxi line-up in the arrivals area.
TRIVIA: We called GrabTaxi when we arrived at the airport but we ended up climbing the stairs to the taxi line-up, anyway, because airport security doesn’t let external taxis pass by the arrivals lane for some reason. Sorry, Kuya GrabTaxi!

What surprised me the most was how much I found our days at Express Inn and at my travel buddy’s friend’s house more enjoyable than our time at Movenpick—probably because it was during those days when we actually roamed around Cebu instead of staying cooped up in the hotel. The facilities were praise-worthy and their overall service was great (review coming up on a separate post soon), but nothing beats being able to do things you could do #OnlyInCebu.

Day 1 and 2 in Mövenpick Mactan. The rest of our photos taken in the hotel will be posted on my review!

TRAVEL TIP: If you really want to save on accommodation fees, check in at your hotel online via Expedia.com.ph not exceeding a week after you book your flight online–that would guarantee you a significant discount. For large scale hotels like Movenpick, check out their website, too! Sometimes they have flash sales that go for up to 50% off!
TRIVIA: My travel buddy’s friend who owns the house we lodged in for free is a person I had never met before in my life, but she was extremely nice and hospitable, as if we had known each other for years. I remember telling myself that a stunt like that would be something I would never pull, but guess who proved herself wrong?

Aside from checking off a bucket list of tourist spots to go to, there may not be a concrete goal for leisurely travel, but personally I feel like a trip is not fulfilling if I hadn’t reaped a change in insight from it, if not a new insight entirely. In the case of my trip, I found Cebu extremely fulfilling because it made me realize and appreciate so many things I used to never give the time of day.

My free 2-night stay at my travel buddy’s friend’s house, first and foremost, was again something I thought I would have never allowed to happen, yet it ended up being an experience I would permanently treasure. It made me learn that taking the time to get to know other people and opening one’s self to someone else’s show of hospitality aren’t so bad after all, and that’s saying a lot because I’m not that fond of socializing with strangers. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover so many similarities between me and someone I had just met—it made me think, how many more interesting and wonderful people all over the world whom I share common traits with would I meet in this lifetime? The possibilities are endless if I actually get to fulfill my dream of traveling the world someday!

Taken with the GoPro Hero 3+ with post-processing on VSCOcam and Pixelmator

Our first stop from the airport… Starbucks! This was when we came across Reina (Joy’s long-time friend) by chance.
Little did I know she was going to invite us to stay over at her place for our last two nights in Cebu!

Getting to be within close proximity of multiple locals and getting to know bits and pieces of them were completely different enlightening experiences for me as well, for it made me gain a newfound respect for Cebuano people and the Bisaya language. Although it is embarrassing for me to admit, I used to be one of those people who secretly let out a slight chuckle whenever I heard someone speaking English or Filipino with a Bisaya accent. I felt ashamed of myself for speaking Filipino to the strangers I encountered, immediately assuming that everyone in my country patronized my mother tongue and forgetting the history of the conflict between the Filipino and Bisaya languages as the national language of the Philippines. Now I could only wish to know how to speak Bisaya like the trilingual friends I made in Cebu, for the Bisaya language is a beautiful one… like all other languages.

Taken with the GoPro Hero 3+ with post-processing on VSCOcam and Pixelmator

Day 4. With Kuya Lex and Ate Debb, another two of Joy’s friends in Cebu. Ate Debb is a native Cebuana while Kuya Lex just recently moved to Cebu. He seems to have adjusted quite well, though! He also said it takes around 1-2 months of residence in Cebu to be able to understand and speak a bit of Bisaya, but I think the fact that his girlfriend is a Cebuana helps him quite a lot… 😆

The delicious food that I ordered from Fudge, Ayala Center Cebu. I swear I have never tasted a chocolate molten lava cake as good as theirs! You need to wait for 20 minutes after ordering because they make the lava cake on a per-order basis, but it was sooooo worth the wait. Joy and I finished our cake in 2 minutes (maybe less)… never mind that it was hot and fresh from the oven. #NoRagrets

The decision that was responsible for all the memorable life experiences I had already mentioned, however, was making a trip to Cebu with absolutely no concrete itinerary to stick to. It was another thing my (usually uptight) typical type A personality would not have permitted in the past, because I only ever travel when there’s either a tour package or someone to assist me with preparing an itinerary. Had I insisted on that happening again, I probably would have never gotten to meet my travel buddy’s Cebuano friends. It’s also highly likely that we would not have gone to Oslob, Cebu, where we got to go diving and swimming with the endangered whale sharks of the Philippine seas, in addition to trekking to Tumalog Falls and revelling in all of its natural beauty. Now, not only do I have an intensified concern for marine life, I have a renewed sense of pride and love for my country, too, because I got to witness even more of its glory.

Day 3 was the most interesting day of our trip. We left for the bus terminal at around 5 in the morning, took a 3-hour bus ride to Oslob (a province in Cebu), got off at exactly in front of Aaron’s Beach Resort (one of the many resorts in Oslob that held whale shark diving tours), took a short rowboat ride to the orientation place, went through the 15-minute whale shark diving orientation, and swam with the whale sharks. All our photos were taken by the surprisingly tech-savvy boatmen (they thought of enabling the burst shot on my GoPro before I did) who were more than friendly and accommodating to us! No wonder Filipinos are well-known for their hospitality.

After swimming with the whale sharks, we ate lunch at Aaron’s Beach Resort, took a 5-minute motorcycle ride, and got off for a very short trek to the Tumalog Waterfalls. The views and ambiance of the trek and the waterfalls were absolutely breathtaking! The freshwater was also unbelievably clean (and very refreshing compared to the painfully salty seawater we swam in earlier). Unfortunately, even though we took a lot of photos, most of them looked bad because we forgot to wipe off the water droplets on my GoPro lens. :(

The dynamism of travel is a rather awesome feat—you can travel to a particular place for a hundred times in a span of ten years, but each trip would always be a unique experience of its own, as that is what spontaneity permits it to be. The absence of a well-organized tour schedule might entail unplanned events and unintentional missing out on a number of tourist spots, but if those get compensated with new friends, the lack of pressure to speed up when going to places, and another reason to come back, then who’s to say you’re on the losing end?

Day 4 was our last full day in Cebu, so we went around to buy souvenirs and visit other historic places. The second and third photos in the first row were taken at the famous Magellan’s Cross (which was under construction at that time), another one of those sights I used to see just in history books as a kid. The rest of the photos on the second and third rows were taken at the Cathedral Museum of Cebu, which showcased tons of artifacts from the Spanish colonial era. The building of the museum itself could also be considered historic, for it happens to be one of the very few structures in Cebu that survived the World War II.

Taken with the iPhone 5S back camera with post-processing on VSCOcam and Pixelmator

Day 5 just consisted of our last meal in Cebu at Pizza Republic, a DIY pizza-style restaurant similar to Project Pie in Metro Manila. I also got to meet another friend of Joy’s, but getting a photo with him completely slipped my mind because the place was PACKED (I think it was newly opened during the time I was there). P.S. The entire pizza was delicious but the feta cheese topping was my favorite!

Indeed, if there’s one thing from my Cebu trip that stuck to me the most, it’s the knowledge that exploring the world (or even just your country, to begin with), unlike expensive material things, is not just for the rich and the affluent. It’s a timeless, worthwhile pastime that never decreases in value regardless of how much you spend on it, and it’s for the thirsty soul craving to be quenched with adventure, fresh insights, and life-altering experiences—things that money alone simply can’t buy.


I hope you enjoyed this reaaaaally long post (but hey, it’s about a 5-day trip)! I’ll be posting my review of Mövenpick Mactan Hotel sometime within this week, complete with more photos we took from there. See you! :)

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5 Comments

  1. Elmer Nev Valenzuela

    October 14, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Nice trip. Cool shots!

    • Erika

      October 14, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Thank you! :)

  2. Pingback: Mövenpick Hotel, Mactan Island, Cebu (July 8-9, 2014) | Erika's Secret Closet

  3. Sizzling Suzai

    February 19, 2015 at 3:01 am

    oh thanks 4 sharing, love all ur shots here! goshhh this is obviously not a long one dear HAHAHA coz ur photo collage is brilliant! yup i just cnt help from sharing all my photos when it comes blogging bout travel LOL hahaha thanks 4 inspiring me btw hehe

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