Cebu City, Philippines

Time for a new Filipino island.

I’ve enjoyed Palawan. It’s so beautiful.

I’ve seen more beaches than ever before. The water is crystal clear and lovely for swimming and I’ve eaten too many mangos.

But its also very expensive. I’m flying to Cebu, but only staying in the city for a couple of days while I wait for my Saturday flight to KL.

In Puerto Princesa, I caught a tricycle for the very short ride to the airport, taking just 10 minutes.

Airports in the Philippines are always really busy and always have long queues. A queue to get into the terminal building. A queue to scan your bags. A queue to drop your bags. A queue to pay a terminal fee (so annoying). A queue to be scanned again. All a bit ridiculous really. The size of these buildings weren’t designed for all these people!

The flight to Cebu was just one hour. Cebu Pacific surpassed themselves today – we landed 20 minutes EARLY! Wow. The only way to get from the airport to the city is to take a taxi. The ride only took about half an hour to reach the hotel – much less traffic than I remember from the last time I was here. So I arrived about 2.30pm.

It’s Holy Week (ie the week before Easter). Filipinos take this all very seriously and everyone is gearing up for the holiday weekend. As a result, all the little shops and restaurants are closed! Luckily the market is still open – so I’m all stocked with mangos. And I managed to find a bakery – so have some bread rolls too!
Friday 29 March 2013

Well today’s plan was somewhat ruined. Almost a year ago, I was in Donsol (Philippines) hoping to see a whaleshark. Donsol used to almost guarantee sightings with this migratory species passing through for several months at the beginning of every year. However recently, the numbers have dropped significantly. I didn’t know this before I got there, but it was evident when I was there, that hardly any had been seen all year (2012).

I’ve been reading recent reports and it sounds like this year was a similar situation, with really not many, if any at all. It seems they may have changed their migratory paths (or been fished out) which is a shame.

One place that does have whalesharks however, is Oslob, Cebu island. This town has recently gained fame for its hoards of whalesharks that gather in the lagoon every morning. However, Oslob is in the middle of an environmental disagreement – to bring the whalesharks into the lagoon, they feed them. But rather than just read reports about it, I wanted to go and have a look myself then make up my mind.

I probably didn’t chose the best day to plan to visit – Good Friday. But that’s just the way it accidentally worked out. I planned to leave Cebu on a 3am bus.

That is until a Japanese girl in my room who arrived at 10pm, just having come from Oslob told me there is no whaleshark watching tomorrow!? After a bit of googling, yes, it’s true, there’s one tiny post on Facebook about it.

So lucky I didn’t get myself up at 2.20am for the 6 hour round trip then! But also a bit of a shame. Whalesharks and me, we’re just not meant to be.

So to a day in Cebu where EVERYTHING is closed. This is fun. At least the wifi works.

Easter in the Philippines is a serious religious event. There’s no Easter bunnies, no eggs and certainly no egg hunts! There are church services happening all over the city and everything is closed. It seems that everyone is on holiday, enjoying themselves – in this part of Cebu that seems to be basically hanging around on the streets in large groups while the icecream man does his rounds!

Each year the Philippines makes global headlines for their gruesome reinactments of the crucifixion, where people are nailed to crosses – with nails through their hands and feet. And while (thankfully) I did not see real nailing take place in Cebu, they still perform reinactments. Around midday, there was a procession along the street infront of my hotel – ‘Jesus’ carrying a cross, flanked by guards (complete with horses!) and followed by the ‘villagers’. Everyone was dressed in costume and a van followed behind playing happy music! Later on, I heard loud noise coming from the nearby church – they were carrying on, with people being put on crosses (standing and holding onto ropes! No nails involved!) while the village and horses watched on. They invited me to join in which was nice, but I didn’t stay too long, I didn’t want it to turn into the white-person-show, as I was already attracting quite a lot of attention with everyone wanting their photos taken!


And what is a visit to a country without going to a temple. The Philippines is a 90% Christian country. But there is a small Buddhist community – and they have built Chu Un temple. This very small temple is nothing like the grandeur of Thailand, Laos or China. It was very small, with a traditional spiky roof and surrounded by nice pretty grounds. That was it really!

Later on in the evening, I had a bit of a shock when a funeral procession went by, followed by hundreds of candle-bearing locals. There was even a body on display in the coffin. However, after the initial shock had passed, I quickly realised that the ‘body’ was in fact a plastic model of Jesus! And the hundreds of people were yet again, taking part in another ceremony. Complete with marching band.


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