Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Vacation 2011: #2 Cebu City

The Cross of Magellan

I really didn't plan this trip to Cebu, but I was thinking that if I did not push through with this trip, I might never set foot on Cebu ever in my lifetime, so I went on with it. My trip to Cebu was only my second trip outside the island of Luzon domestically, the first one was in Negros Occidental. By the way, Philippine Airlines is amazing! You can book and pay online, you just need to have a credit card or an ATM and you can get your ticket before you fly to your destination from their office at the airport. You just have to book ahead of time to get a much nicer deal. But I know you already know about that, right?

Anyway, I went to Cebu alone. It's hard being alone when you travel in a new place sometimes, obviously because it's hard to have fun if you don't know anyone around, not to mention the difficulty of taking your own picture, although you can always ask for someone else's help, just make sure he's not gonna run with your camera. LOL!

Ayala Center Cebu

The First Day, June 11, 2011.

When I arrived at about 2 PM on Cebu-Mactan International Airport, I was so excited, it felt like I'm going on a foreign trip knowing that most of the people I will meet speaks Visayan or Cebuano, a language that I don't have any knowledge about and a few of them don't even speak Tagalog, English would be the alternative. Then there's also the fear that they might take advantage of me if they learned that I'm not one of them. So you see, this trip has that foreign element in it, you'll never always know what will happen next and that's what made it so exciting. 

At the airport (which is in the island of Mactan at Lapu-Lapu City), I took a fixed rate taxi (which cost around 450 Pesos) to Cebu City. It took  us about 20 minutes from the airport to the city center of Cebu. I told the taxi driver to take me to a cheap yet accessible hotel. He took me to Regal Hotel. And yes it was cheap as well as accessible to any place. Their single bed rate was just below 1000 Pesos with breakfast. It's clean, safe and the hotel is just in front of Ayala Center Cebu and the Jeepney terminal which goes about anywhere in the city. The only problem was they almost never had an unoccupied single bed room, so I took the next best thing, the double bed room which was a little over 1,4000 Pesos, and a little over my budget. 

After I checked in, I decided to walk around the vicinity of the hotel and familiarized myself with the surroundings. I went to the mall at the Ayala Center to look for something to eat. I was already starving. I ate at Kenny Roger's inside the mall and  I went back to the hotel after that. And that was about it, that concluded the  first of my five long days in Cebu City.

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño

The Second Day, June 12, 2011.

The next day, I woke up early, took a bath, had my breakfast, took the taxi and went to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and the famous Cross of Magellan just right beside the basilica's rear gate. It was Sunday and very hot. There were 2 consecutive masses that were held one in English and the other in Cebuano, the first was just about to start when I came. There were a lot of locals, and also domestic and foreign tourists. Most of the foreign tourists were Japanese (or Koreans may be?)

I went inside the basilica. There were already a lot of people. I took some snap shots of the images and fixtures on the wall. It was amazing inside. I sat down for a moment to admire the basilica's interior. The mass was not held inside the basilica, it was held outside in front of it because there were  lots of people and the basilica can't possibly hold that many people. It was like a fiesta outside, there were lots of vendors selling different kinds of things like flowers, candles, food, balloons etc.

(When you are here and there's a mass going on, do not take pictures inside or outside the basilica or else the guard will  come to you, just like what happened to me.) 

After a brief stint at the basilica, I went to see the famous cross of Magellan. Funny, I didn't expect it would be just that. I was expecting more than just a cross inside a kiosk. I mean it's basically Cebu. Ferdinand Magellan traveled a great deal from Spain in 1521 to plant that cross there and there's not even a guard to protect it.  I used to see it only on TV even when I was a child and then suddenly there it was in front of me.  Cool.

Anyway, I asked a guy there to take some pictures of me beside the great cross of Magellan, it was not actually a great shot, but it's OK,  as long as I have my face near the cross that's fine with me.

Then I went to another church which I saw when I was in the taxi. It was just a walking distance from the Basilica. It's called the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. It looks as old but with a different architectural style compared to the Basilica del Santo Niًño. I didn't enter inside because there was a mass and it was full of people. After that I went back to the hotel and take rest. 

In the afternoon, I went back to the mall for lunch and then watched "Super 8" at the cinema. It was great! After which I ate at Chowking and  have a few beer a restaurant there. I remember calling and having a long talk with Bim, (one of my friends back home) while drinking there. At around 7PM, I went to Infinity KTV, just a block away from my hotel and had a few rounds of beer before retiring for the day.

The Taoist Temple

The Third day, June 13, 2011.

On my third day, after having my breakfast, I decided to check out of the hotel and transferred to a  new one. I went to Metro Park Hotel. I called the hotel first before I checked out. The rate for a single room was a little higher compared to Regal at 1,100 Pesos and it was available. I later realized that the reason why it was cheaper is because it's far from the main road. I stayed there for just one night.

After checking in to the hotel, I went to the Taoist Temple. It's located inside the Beverly Hills subdivision and just a few minutes away from my new hotel. The taxi driver said that Beverly Hills subdivision used to be the place where the very rich people of Cebu City live. When I arrived there, the guard gave me a piece of paper containing a few things to observe while inside the vicinity of the temple like no taking photo of the saints, observing silence etc.

The place was not that big at all when you see it personally, that's why most of the tourists didn't stay there for more than an hour, unless they wanted to take photos of themselves in every part of the temple just like what I did. I was really amazed on how cheap most of the souvenirs on their shop were. I was not supposed to buy anything, I was just gonna buy a bottle of water, but they didn't have change for my 5oo Pesos, so I bought a bracelet made of red corals for just 100 Pesos. But something's bothering me. I was thinking that maybe I'm helping those bad people destroy our coral reefs by simply buying the coral bracelet? I hope not. And sorry if I did.

After more than 2 hours, I decided to return to the hotel, but because there was no taxi available outside the Taoist Temple, I just walked towards the gate of the subdivision while enjoying the scenery. I took the taxi when I got beyond the guarded gate. By the way, some of my photos that was taken here was by a local tourist, a Chavacano from Zamboanga City. I didn't quite get her name. Thank you to her!

After resting for a few hours, I went to SM Cebu. I rode the Jeepney at the Ayala Center Jeepney terminal. The fare from Ayala to SM was 8 Pesos. I didn't really enjoy it there, I just walked around and tired myself. There's nothing special there that I haven't seen at other SM malls in Manila or Cavite. I just wanna say that "I've been there!".

The Fourth Day, June 14, 2011.

I transferred to a new hotel called Castle Peak Hotel at F. Cabahug street. I love this hotel because it's near the main street, unlike my previous hotel (Metro Park Hotelwhich I really don't recommend. When I transferred, they didn't have a single room either, but it's cheaper than my first hotel. I paid 1,388 Pesos for the superior which is a 2-bed room.

After I checked in, I went to Fort San Pedro beside La Plaza Independencia and near the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. I really thought that Fort San Pedro was as huge as Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. It was rather small, it will not take you 30 minutes to explore the whole place. I can tell that the place was poorly maintained and the exhibit inside the museum was just disappointing. You have to pay 30 Pesos entrance fee for this.

After this I went to Crown Regency Hotel for the famous Sky Experience Adventure. This place was awesome! I first went straight to the 19th floor (as I was told by the guard), and from there you have to get the tickets for whatever you want to experience like Sky walk adventure or the Edge Coaster Experience or the Zip line Adventure. I took the first two, I didn't think I can take the zip line that high. To be honest, I was scared.

Then I went up using the elevator to the 38th floor of the building. When I got there, they told me to take off all my accessories and put it inside my bag and then leave the bag at the check in counter. Then someone asked me to follow him to the deck where the coasters were. The coaster is not the same as a roller coaster which is connected to each other. Each of the coaster seats only two people at a time and there were several of them there.

When I sat inside the coaster, I just can't stop laughing because I was so nervous after seeing the view and how high I was, (I laugh sometimes whenever I'm nervous). I felt like I was going to die even though the ride hasn't started yet. And when the ride started and went to the corner of the building it automatically started to tip to a 90 degree angle, I couldn't do anything but to close my eyes and pray. I remember seeing how small the cars were from up there.

My eyes were still closed when I heard the ride photographer somewhere behind me and asked me to pose for a picture. I can't do anything but to pretend that I was enjoying the ride just for the sake of the picture. She took several photos of me so that I will have choices later if ever I wanted to buy them. After the ride was over I claimed my bag and chose the photos that I would like to buy. In some of the photos I really look stupid and ridiculous, good thing there's one that looks good enough. By the way, the picture costs 230 Pesos each. So expensive huh!

Then I went to the 37th floor for the Sky Walk Adventure. It's as simple as just walking on a platform around the building wearing a jumper with a harness but at a dizzying height. Good thing I was not alone. There's two of us walking with the personnel who told us what to do and of course the photographer. The photographer asked me to pose for a picture in some scary position like sitting at the edge of the platform, standing at the edge with one foot etc. It was so scary but when I completed the walk, I felt proud of myself. That walk somehow made me strong somewhere. I don't know where, but somewhere inside.

I was amazed on how beautiful the photos turned out to be and how good I look in them unlike the one in the Edge Coaster. I bought 2 photos, also at 230 Pesos each. It was almost 6 PM when I went down the building and I went straight to the hotel.

At around 8PM, I went at a bar in front of the hotel called Jazz. I had a pleasure of talking to the owner of the place who is a Japanese lady named Yuko. I first thought she has a Filipino husband but it turned out she has none. She just loves the Philippines, stayed there and opened a business, that's it. I even bought a T-shirt and asked her to write her name in Japanese at the back of it. She willingly obliged. The place indeed was amazing - live jazz music, good food and good ambiance. I really love the place.

The Fifth Day, June 15, 2011

I woke up early at around 7 AM. After breakfast I checked out of the hotel and went straight to the airport. My flight to Manila was 11 AM. Cebu was awesome, even if I went there alone, I can say I enjoyed every moment of it. For those would be tourists (especially those living in Asia), if you want to go somewhere in Latin America and you find it expensive and far, the Philippines is your alternative. There's a lot of places to go in the country that are so Hispanic. Zamboanga City, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Cavite or Cebu are great places to start. I'm hoping you could all come to the Philippines.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Vacation 2011: #1 Cavite

The first 2 weeks of this vacation was the worst of all my experiences here, but I don't want to dwell on that because I don't want to remind myself of the hell that I've been through with POEA. I just want to focus on some of the beautiful and positive things, like the time when I went to Noveleta and Cavite City, my trip to Cebu City (that was the highlight) and when I went to Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo City with my eldest daughter Maria.

My first trip to Cavite last May 29, 2011 was a nostalgic one because it reminds me of the good old days. Seeing my parents, some of the places and things there conjured up my childhood memories. I was so caught up by my nostalgia that I've forgotten to snap some photos of my folks in Noveleta and I guess it's too late for that now. The only photos of Noveleta that I have are some snap shots of the now flooded salt flats near the boundary of Cavite City which looks like a lake because of the rain. 

I took these photos while I was riding a local transportation we called the "Baby Bus" to Cavite City. It looks like an elaborately decorated coaster, just like it's cousin the Jeepney. It looks very similar to the "Colectivo", the popular Latin American (Argentina & Paraguay) public transportation.

The Baby Bus (not my photo)

Cavite City, known as the other Chavacano speaking city, Sangley Point (the old American military base) and made famous by Efren Peñaflorida, the CNN Hero of the year 2009. This is also the "other" place where I grew up. This is where I studied in Kindergarten at St. Joseph College (just behind the church of Nuestra Señora dela Soledad de Porta Vaga).

The city seems to have lost something that is irreplaceable, I don't know what it is, but it's not there anymore. Maybe it's my Nanay Tita (my Aunt), who died in 2008 in California. How I miss her so much. I actually went to where she used to live, but the gate was not there anymore. Not a trace. The cemetery in front of their house at the other side of the street of Blvd. Cresini is still there and I don't think it will go anywhere. I also passed by our old Methodist church in San Antonio where we used to go every Sunday.  

I've made several trips to Noveleta but only once in Cavite City. It's nice to see Cavite City again. Even though it has changed a lot, the memories are still there. Hasta la Vista!

See more of Cavite City on my Flickr

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thank You!

First of all I want to thank Jesus Christ for all the blessings He has given me in the past 39 years of my life. Without Him I'm nothing. To all my FB friends who greeted me on my birthday last May 24, I want to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart, especially to Maxine, Moona and their guitarist (on that video) who made a short video singing "Maligayang Bati" (Happy Birthday) in Tagalog especially for me and posted it on You Tube. You made me feel so special. It was so touching. Their happy birthday video really lifted me up during those moments when I was feeling so low. It was that moment when I was having problem with my papers which I needed to return to my job in Jeddah. God bless you guys! Anyway, for those who haven't seen the video yet, watch this!

Moona is from Vigo, Spain and 'Shiny' Max, a writer & a singer from Bordeaux, France. They have a band called "Sweetest Bomb" which is based in Bordeaux, France.