"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller
"Book a ticket now and just fly!" - this is what happened on 24th of May, year 2014, my friends and I decided to explore several islands of Cebu, Philippines. Plane ticket booked. Next in line: Do the research. My little knowledge about the place gave me the enthusiasm to go online and start moving my fingers on my laptop keyboard for my research. What is the must-see, where to eat, what to do and how to go there are questions I have in my list.
Cebu is an island province in the Philippines consisting of the island itself and several surrounding islands. It has a capital of Cebu City, the oldest city in the Philippines. With our nature lover characteristic, to mention being a beach lover and adventurer, we decided to see the sights of Camotes, Malapascua and Bantayan Islands including a swim with the Butandings (Whale Sharks) at Oslob and a side trip to Cebu City. Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, Tepanee Beach Resort, Kota Beach and New Village became top on our list for accommodations. To add on, contact person Kuya Alfred, who is highly recommended by my friend as untiring driver, guide and photographer. Draft itinerary was prepared and almost weekly editing was done for our ideal exploration.
Six months of preparation and fortuitous event, Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) hits Visayas part of the Philippines. People were devastated by the catastrophe. However, with the tremendous support from several countries, Philippines were able to move forward and again see the beauty of rainbow after a heavy rain. News flashed around the globe giving updates on Visayas region. Unfortunately, there are people who took advantage of the disaster for their common good, nonetheless, there are still good hearted people who created several projects to helped people conquer their trauma over what happened. Perfect examples are food relief operation, debriefing with the victims who lose their love ones providing them with session to help them with emotional aspect, medical mission, livelihood program, and building of houses for their shelter. I am very lucky not being a victim but I cannot express my amazement to victims for being brave, still able to smile and continue life despite the tragedy.
After few months of waiting and numerous things happened, February 25, 2014 came and this is it, our Cebu Exploration Day! With all our bags packed, we are ready to see the sights of Cebu. From white sand beaches to cliff jumping to city adventures, name it, Cebu has it! First day started with a taxi ride going to port then ferry travel going to Camotes Island. This island is very clean and has organized community. People are sweeping their yard including area near public road and often greet you with a smile. With a scenic view from Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, we enjoyed our one-day stay in this island paradise.
February 25 is another adventure day. We woke up early for a van travel going to port for a ferry ride then bus and boat journey to Malapascua Island. With the warm greetings of Tepanee Beach Resort owners, Andrea and Silvia, together with their employees and guests, we felt like we are family and we comfortably make a conversation. Our stay in the island was highlighted with a birthday celebration of Ted, one my travel buddy at Amihan Restaurant and bar hopping and billiard session with my backpacker buddies.
We leave Malapascua Island the next day to go to our next destination, Bantayan Island - one more island in the heart of Cebu. Cottages in Kota Beach where destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan and the management is in the process of restoring the cottages when we arrived. Despite being damaged by typhoon, the island still remains safe and wonderful. Bantayan Island still has hidden nirvana; it's the Virgin Island. We are the only group who visited the place that day, swam around the dreamland and have a glimpse on the beauty of underworld like School of fishes, corals and seaweeds few steps away from the shore. What an extravagant feeling to own an island in a few hours! After two hours of staying at the island, we need to go back to Kota Beach for our dinner. Enticing foods were ordered at the restaurant to satisfy our cravings.
February 27 is literally a long day trip. We arrived at Cebu City North Bus Terminal before lunch and immediately headed to South Bus Terminal for a trip going to Oslob, southern part of Cebu. We reached Oslob at 8PM and did the researching of inn while traveling. Thank you to modern technology, we were able to find an inn, review the comments in TripAdvisor and booked an overnight stay at New Village Oslob. Ate Merlyn fetched us at public market. While walking, we came up with an agreement that her husband will take us to the Butanding (Whale Shark) attraction and a hidden falls next morning. Dinner was served, conversation with my travel buddies about latest updates in life took place and movie night completed our fourth day.
Everyone woke up early on February 28 and ready for an encounter with the gentle sea creatures' butanding. All are excited, geared up and ready for "swim with the butandings" scene. An introduction was conducted for the dos and don'ts and in just a blink of an eye; people are jumping into the water for a picture perfect shots with our stars - the Butandings. Side trip to hidden falls, lunch to satisfy our tummy before going to city for a night extreme adventure at Crown Regency Hotel & Towers. Being born with extreme characteristic, we chose Edge Coaster, approximately 4 minutes and Skywalk, approximately 10-15 minutes, tour around the outer rim of the tower and had a chance to see a breathtaking view of Cebu City at night.
With the overwhelming experienced in Cebu, I am gratified that I had a chance to have a glimpse of a paradise and met courageous people that continue their battle for life after Typhoon Haiyan through helping each other. This is indeed a living legacy that despite havoc faced, "A PARADISE WILL ALWAYS BE PARADISE".