Tanduay First 5 : Rock Royalty

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Just came from a rock concert held at the football field at Burnham Park, Baguio City, with the Melvin Jones Grandstand as the stage for the country’s best rock bands. The concert is aptly dubbed Rock Royalty featuring the most popular rock bands in the Philippines. The Baguio concert is but one leg of a nationwide tour that kicked off in Legazpi and Naga earlier this year.

First set : URBAN DUB:

 

 

Second Set: KAMIKAZEE

 

Jay of the extremely popular band Kamikazee

 

a girl from the audience. Jay : “kiss me anywhere you want to”. And the crowd goes gaga.

 

Next set : Rico Blanco

 

Rico Blanco. Actor. Rakista.

 

Next set: Parokya ni Edgar

 

He was asked in school what church he went to, and answered in jest “Parokya ni Edgar”. The joke stuck, and became the band that is now a household name, popular among the upper class and the poorest Filipinos

 

Last set : WOLFGANG

 

 

Watch out for these bands as they tour the rest of the country :

July 13 – Cagayan de Oro

August 17 – Digos

August 18 – General Santos City

September 7 – Surigao

September 8 – Butuan

November 9 – Pagadian

December 1 – Bacolod City

Lemon Grass : Cebu’s Best Restaurant

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I used to say Laguna Garden Cafe was the best. Until I tried Lemon Grass. Turns out both are owned by the same restaurateur. The Vietnamese and Thai cuisine in Lemon Grass spells the big difference. I have had lunch and dinner in this restaurant at least 5 times, enough to say I have always liked the food.

 

On this trip, I sat outside, on the terrace, and ordered steamed fish, rice, and lemonade with citrus and herbs. The steamed fish was very good, wrapped in banana leaves, with herbs and spices that made it so different from the steamed fish we make at home. The lemonade was so refreshing I ordered another glass. The bill came to only P455.00.

mouth-watering steamed fish in herbs and spices

 

steamed rice came in a cone of banana leaves

 

the most refreshing lemonade : slices of lemon, oranges, dashed with mint, basil, and cucumber

 

I call this restaurant The Best not because of any freebies. I paid for everything I ordered. Everytime. In fact, I still say this is the best in spite of the rather less-than-friendly owner.

I sat al fresco so I can smoke after lunch, after I asked the staff if I can smoke later, and was told that I could. After lunch, a lady passed, whom I didn’t recognize to be  the owner – – – the staff told me so when I asked who she was – – – and I asked for an ash tray. She said they don’t give out ash trays because “smoking is not allowed”. Holy smoke ! I had to sit outside instead of the comforts of airconditioning inside, only to be told I couldn’t smoke – – – after I was earlier told I could.  I didn’t argue, and just  considered that pronouncement to be the rule. But this also made me wonder why Laguna Garden Cafe allowed us to smoke on their tables by the terrace after lunch when I went to Cebu for the Sinulog last January, the staff even providing us ash trays. Oh well, maybe the rules have changed.

So, yes, even with this bad experience, I still say Lemon Grass Restaurant has the best cuisine. . And maybe I should find another spot where I can smoke, after another lunch or dinner in this favorite restaurant.

next time I would sit in airconditioned comfort

The Most Refreshing Drink in Cebu

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I was at Lemon Grass, right beside Laguna Terrace Cafe at the Ayala Center in Cebu. On the drinks menu, I saw Lemonade with Citrus and Herbs. A pitcher costs P195 and, thinking I could not down a pitcher of lemonade, ordered a glass for P85. It was so refreshing on a hot summer day, sitting by the terrace, that I ordered another one. On hindsight, I could have ordered a pitcher.

not even Cebu’s famous halo halo will be more refreshing

The concoction is made up of slices of lemon, oranges, mint, cucumber and basil. Maybe next time I will order a pitcherful  of this most refreshing drink.

I had to order another one !

Bohol and Panglao

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Bohol is probably the most serious threat to Boracay’s supremacy in the tourism business. Bohol is not as crowded and has more to offer than white sand beaches. Its top attractions are Panglao Island and 74 more islands within its jurisdiction, the Loboc River Cruise,  and the Chocolate Hills. Indeed, one can stay in Bohol for one month and not run out of interesting sights to see.

Bohol Countryside Tour

This is how tour operators call the one day tour that includes Chocolate Hills. This is the most popular tour booked by visitors to Bohol.

The nearest point is the Blood Compact Shrine. It features a metal sculpture of the “sandugo” between Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna and their men. I had to wait for other tourists who pose with the cast for their souvenir shots before I was able to take a photo sans tourists.

Not Portuguese? I’ll drink to that

Nearby is the Baclayon Church, said to be the second-oldest church in the Philippines. Don’t ask me which one is the oldest, I have yet to research on that.

Bohol Python

I don’t know why this is part of the tour. Just a 30-ft python in a cage. With a few birds in cages, too. Skip this and find better use of your tour time.

This is all you will see. Waste of time and money (entrance fee si small, though, but still not worth it.

Tarsier Encounter. Some accounts say that the tarsier is the second-smallest primate, some say it is the smallest. Well, all I can say is that it is really small, about 4 inches long, and I wouldn’t think of cuddling it. Its tail is long, and longer than its body.

Loay Bolo making industry. A stop to see their local version of “panday”.

You will have to check-in your balisong, or you will be arrested by the airport security

Man-made mahogany forest. This is beautiful. It is surreal in the sense that Filipinos generally destroy forests, but in Bohol they make them. A stretch of more than one kilometer in Bilar town.

the reverse of deforestation

Chocolate Hills in Carmen. Visible even as we approach the view deck, built on top of one of the hills. There are accommodations on the hill, as well as restaurants and souvenir shops. Made me feel like I was in Baguio’s Mines View Park area.

 

Butterfly Sanctuary. For a small entrance fee, visitors are toured by professional guides. They talk about the different varieties, the scientific names of each specie (and who would remember at least one?), how the butterflies mate, the plants that serve as food, as well as host plants where they lay their eggs.

my cam caught the butterflies mating

Clarin Ancestral House. The Clarins are prominent Boholanos, with members of the family having served as senators before our time. A coffee shop serves patrons at the ground floor, and in the garden.

Loboc Town. The most intriguing sight is the old Loboc Church with an unfinished elevated road beside it. The elevated road (like the skyway) is supposed to have traversed the road but the church was on the way. The plan called for the demolition of the church until the resistance to this foolish undertaking won. Imagine tearing down an old, historic church. Why? Locals are saying that the skyway was conceptualized as an excuse to tear down the church and, in the process, dig up the wealth that people say are buried underneath, buried by the retreating Japanese during the second world war.

the skyway that was stopped (see right)

this beautiful and historic church almost went down

Loboc River Cruise. Easily one of the highlights of a Bohol tour. Buffet lunch is P300, but guests pay a terminal fee. Sumptuous lunch, with free softdrinks. The boat then moves thru the river, and turns around after reaching the falls, It then docks momentarily in one of the permanent rafts on the side of the river and guests are treated to singing and dancing by locals clad in their native costumes. Some guests join the dance, and try the tinikling.

do not miss this experience, and make sure you do Loboc and not Loay

a show by the locals, joined later by visitors

The Bohol Countryside Tour costs P2,200 per person, minimum 2 persons, and includes a professional guide on an air-conditioned car, and driver. All meals and entrance fees are included. Guests pay double when traveling solo (minimum is 2 pax). Tour is available in hotel tour desks. If you want to pre-book, call my tour agent: Aurora Travel and Tours , phone (038) 4120287 and ask for Leony Mendoza

Panglao Island Tour

For those who have never been to Panglao, be aware that you don’t need to ride a boat for Panglao Island. The island is separated by s small channel from the mainland and is connected by two bridges on both ends to Tagbilaran City. There are two municipalities in Panglao Island: Dauis and Panglao.

Panglao Church

A  tour is normally booked by visitors who decide not to stay overnight in Panglao Island. The tour includes a visit to Dauis Church, the Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao Church, Bohol Bee Farm, and Bohol Beach Club. Tour fee of P2,500 per head includes lunch at Bohol Bee Farm. Can be booked in any of the hotel tour desks, too, or the travel agent I used, above.

Dauis Church, Panglao Island

Where to stay

In Tagbilaran, I stayed at the Soledad Suites, and I will be happy to recommend this hotel to travelers. It is new, clean, and the rooms are comfortable. The restaurant has a limited menu, but the food is good. The cafe and bar is popular even among the locals and can get rather busy at night. The staff is professional and more attentive than in most hotels. I will definitely book in this hotel again if I should be back in Tagbilaran.

comfortable room for P2,000

Soledad Suites has rooms from P2,000 to P3,200. It is refreshing to see “water from the faucet is potable”. Call them at (038) 4113074.

A friend of mine who happened to be in Tagbilaran when I was there was happy about his accommodations in Villa del Sol. I suggest you also check them out. They welcome packages that include the room, the tours, and transfers to and from airport/pier. Their website is http://www.villadelsolbohol.com/index.asp

Accommodations in  Panglao

I first went to Alona Kew, the most recommended high-end resort after the Bohol Beach Club. I chose a superior beachfront room (P4,100) but was told their credit card facility was off at the moment. They suggested I go to the nearby BPI ATM, but I figured I don’t want to stay in a place requiring cash transactions. My driver told me that his guest last week was also asked for cash payments, saying also their credit-card connection was out of order. A high-end resort requiring cash and using out-of-order credit card connections for more than a week as a reason?  Besides, I was honestly turned off by their lobby and front desk area which seemed more appropriate in a city setting, not in a resort island. But some people like uber comfort and they do have P5,000 suites within the hotel building,  and a presidential suite at P12,000. I decided to check out a nother resort instead. But in case you want to book Alona Kew, you may call (038)5029042, 0r 5029027. Make sure their credit card facility is working if you forgot to bring your bundles of cash.

The resort that my driver suggested was Dumaluan, right beside Bohol Beach Club. I got an executive beach front room for P4,000. It was the room nearest the beach, with no room nearer. Room 101, and I made a note of it because I will specify this room when I go back. This is my idea of a beach resort. On hindsight, I liked this better than the much-hyped Alona Kew.

view from my ground level room in Dumaluan

The resort looks more alive. There are hammocks near the white sand beach. There are oversized all-weather wooden chairs and tables on the sand, just a few meters away from the water. They have lunch and dinner (by candlelight) settings near the water, too. There is a swimming pool with cottages around it. Pool tables are also available for enthusiasts, and may be booked by the hour. In the evening, diners were treated to live entertainment by a local band.

Dumaluan Beach Resort has rooms starting at P1,300 and suites for P6,000 and P7,000. They have water-sports facilities and can arrange for diving tours. You can book by phone (038) 5029092, 5029081. Visit their website http://www.dumaluanbeach.com

Bee Farm is interesting, and I think I will stay there one night on my return to Panglao. They are the Bohol version of Sonya’s garden and Ilog Maria (Silang,Cavite), combined. The theme is Balinese, and shabby chic. They have a beautiful cafe serving organic buffet lunches, up on a cliff with the beautiful blue waters as the view.

colony suite: P7,000 for 4pax

interesting shop

Accommodations ar Bee Farm start at P3,000, including the beautiful Colony Suite which can accommodate a group of 4 at P7,00o. Phone (038) 5022288, 5022297, mobile 09173041491

There are several other accommodations in Panglao. If you want to play it safe, book your first day in one of the better resorts, and then walk on the beach and find cheaper inns where you can move for the rest of your stay.

Shopping

If you get tired if island life and would want a city feel again, go to either BQ Mall or the Island City Mall. known to locals as ICM. ICM is big and has an SM feel to it.

Beyond Tagbilaran and Panglao

The 3 most popular islands off Panglao are Pamilacan, Balicasag, and Cabilao. A Dolphin Watching +Balicasag Island Tour will cost P3,000 for 1-4 pax

All of these are within the vicinity of Tagbilaran and Panglao. I will write separately about the northern towns farthest from Tagbilaran. They can be covered only by another tour and would be impractical to cover when one visits Bohol for just 2-3 days. To cover the rest, one needs to stay at least a day more, on a private car. Or 2-3 days more when commuting.

a 2-3 day visit will confine you to the lower left portion of this map

How to go to Bohol

The most popular access to Bohol is via a fast ferry from Cebu which takes just two hours. The boat is fast and comfortable. You can even check in your luggage at only P25 per piece. The pier is right there in Tagbilaran City.

Visitors can also fly to Tagbilaran, direct from Manila.

In my case, I was in Camiguin and the locals said boats travel the seas from there to Bohol.

boat from Balbagon, Camiguin to Jagna, Bohol

I canceled my other trips, including a visit to Zamboanga, and took the boat to Bohol instead, traveling for 3 1/2 hours to the port in Jagna, more than an hour away from Tagbilaran.

ihaw-ihaw on the ro-ro deck

visit to the navigation deck

Jagna, Bohol

Aircon vans are available in the town proper to ferry passengers to Tacloban  (fare : P80), but the dispatchers pack the vans like sardines, and the vans don’t leave until they are filled to capacity. You can rent a van all to yourself for P1,000 and not have to wait.


and the travel from Jagna to Tagbilaran is on picturesque coastal road

Argao, to visit a dear friend

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I gave my mom, resident of Sydney, a Cebu vacation. She has never been to Cebu all her life.

Marcelo Fernan Bridge in Cebu

After doing the usual tourist itinerary, I asked her if we can go to a place outside the city so I could visit a friend.

On a rented car, we were driving to Argao. I wasn’t sure though where exactly my friend was laid to rest. I thought that, surely, the local residents would be able to lead me to his tomb. After all, he passed away while serving as Press Secretary, and he was a much loved son of Argao.

Talisay

These "leaning to the center" posts lead to Talisay

The first city outside of Cebu on the way to Argao is Talisay. I remembered having seafood lunch once or twice many years in the past, when a trip to the seaside restaurants in Talisay were de riguer. I am told business is not as brisk, with locals opting for the sutukil stores in Lapulapu City instead when the urge to have fresh seafoods out of town hits them.

Minglanilla is next. And then Naga City.

Naga City figured in the news in the past year, when the town was granted cityhood, and the same was taken away. What was taken away was eventually granted one more time. Naga town has, therefore, moved to cityhood, returned to being a town, and is now finally a city. Maybe for this reason, the “city” officials have not changed the signage to indicate Naga being a city. The city derives income from the power plant that it hosts, as well as cement factories within its jurisdiction.

Naga "Municipal" Hall

San Fernando comes next. I made a detour to Pulchra, a 5-star resort in the area owned by a Filipino and Indonesian group, done in a Balinese theme. I was not able to check out the rooms, but with the way the place was set-up, from the manicured garden leading to the reception, to the spacious reception area, and the poolside next to the sea, I can safely say the facilities, and the accommodations, are first class. Rates are quoted in US dollars, and definitely high-end.

Rooms here are quoted in US $, and the cheapest room for 2 is the equivalent of P12,000 when off-peak

landscaped road leading to the high-end property

reception area at the Pulchra

the poolside, and the sea, just past the reception area

Carcar is next. It shares the same town-city-town-city saga as Naga. Carcar is famous for its shoe industry, and it seems like Marikina has moved to Carcar. Travelers also make sure they stop and buy the local delicacies  – – – ampaw and chicharon. I wrote about Carcar as a separate post, and showed photos of shoes shoes shoes and more shoes in their “permanent” trade expo.

a seemingly permanent trade expo to promote Carcar's shoe industry

Sibonga comes next. We stopped at the boundary of Sibonga and Argao to have some refreshments.  We had some “torta”,  an Argao delicacy. This shop at the boundary probably felt entitled to the “torta” industry of Argao. The storekeeper was very pleasant.

torta in Sibonga, near the Argao boundary

We finally hit Argao. On the way to the center, the view to the left was fantastic. Pristine beaches. In fact a premier beach resort in the area was once a top destination in Cebu province – – the old Argao Beach Club. Technically within the next town of Dalaguete, but the resort made Argao famous.

seaside road in Argao

I was able to contact relatives of my departed friend, and we decided to have lunch before visiting his tomb. Lunch was at Alex Kafe, the undisputed best place for lunch or dinner for visitors to Argao.

relatives of my friend in Argao, and my visiting mom

Alex Kafe is interesting. The restaurant has an old-world character, with old bric a brac adorning the place. An old sewing machine, an old book case, etc. They are famous for their tsokolate (chocolate) but everything on the menu that we tried were very very good. The place is shabby chic, actually more shabby than chic. It was very hot and humid inside the restaurant, made worse by the GI sheet roofing that does not have a ceiling to block the heat caused by the tin roof. I figure the place must be much better at night when the temperature is cooler.

While waiting for lunch to be served, I decided to walk to the old church where my friend received his final blessings before being laid to rest. It is beautiful.

After lunch, we went to his tomb. I prayed. It felt very good to travel the distance to pray for a dear departed friend. I felt consoled that I was finally able to visit him in Argao because I had wanted to be there when he was being laid to rest, and I just couldn’t go.

Rest in peace, my friend

May he rest in peace. But in my heart he lives, and is still having fun. Doing a “back-to-back” videoke number with me, literally standing behind me, our backs joined together like we were Siamese twins.

And ready to jump to the river with us, and enjoy a bottle of beer.

Fond memories: after shooting the rapids, we swam in the river, and enjoyed a bottle of beer

Olango Island, bird sanctuary

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Olango Island, viewed from a boat leaving the wharf beside the Hilton

Olango Island is accessed from a wharf at the side of the Hilton in Mactan, Cebu. A boat ride costs P15, plus a terminal fee of P1.

the terminal going to Olango, and Bohol, and Pasil etc

I bought my ticket and immediately, “agents” gathered around me offering their services as guide, or offering to arrange for lunch in the many floating restaurants in Cao-uy, or offering boat rental at P3,000 with the boat taking us to Olango, waiting for us while having lunch, and to take us back to the pier beside the Hilton. I fended them all off, decided on doing it on my own.

The regular boat wasn’t ready to depart. One of the boats, anchored on the pier but unsuccessful in getting a tourist group, was going back to Olango. One of the crew members asked if we would rather take the boat that leaves now, at P30 per person. Deal.

a boat this big at a bargain price of P30 per head for me and mom

Cebu Hilton, from the Olango-bound boat

The boat ride was short, Olango is just 4-5 kms away. We landed in a place called Paring, nearer Cao-uy, where the floating restaurants are.

diseambarking in Paring, Olango Island

We took a tricycle to Cao-uy, paying P60. And then we had to board still another boat to take us to the floating restaurant.

one of many floating restaurants

We went to Topie and Dinah. Because it was just my mom and I, I picked the smallest lapulapu to be steamed, 6 small prawns and a  squid to be grilled, and a few shells for broth. I was shocked to be told that the lunch bill will be P1,800. I felt like I was being held up face to face in broad daylight. But what the heck, I did not want to take the journey back on an empty stomach, with my diabetic mom who can not afford to be hungry. And so can’t I.

The restaurant where they do broad daylight, face-to-face hold up by charging excessive food and drinks costs

The restaurant was built on the water, with 4 or 5 others nearby. Apparently, the owners rent out their boats to tourists who snorkel around Olango, at a “discount”, with the agreement that lunch will be in their restaurant. I wondered how much discount that was, or maybe their lunch bill will be even more expensive on a per person basis.

We ordered a bottle of Coke and a bottle of Sprite, plus two small bottles of mineral water. I nearly fell off my chair when I found out that the drinks were P50 each. Yes, in a small, makeshift restaurant on the water.

I wouldn’t recommend the experience to friends, except to those who are ready to pay a huge price for this experience. And will tell them to bring their bottled water. And advise them not to order those clam-like shells for broth – – – the meat was so tough. The broth tasted good, though.

access to the floating restaurant

old man gathering small crabs right in the vicinity

Saving Grace : the Bird Sanctuary

From Cao-uy, I rode a tricycle to the Bird Sanctuary in San Vicente, past the “ciudad” of Sta Rosa. No, it is not a city, but locals call it ciudad being the island’s trade center. Not much trading here though.

My small digital camera couldn’t focus and photograph the birds. But birdwatchers and photo enthusiasts will fall in love with this place.

a shed within the walkway

birdwatching deck past the shed on the walkway

mangroves as bird habitat

my CANON ixus can't capture the birds ! (sigh)

I checked with Boy, one of the caretakers about possible overnight accommodations, thinking of a return to enjoy the tranquility. Tents can be rented at P250 overnight, with each tent good for 2 or 3. Toilet facilities can be used at a small fee, and food can be bought from the stores in Sta Rosa. The charges within the reserve are as follows:

fees at the bird sanctuary

There are resorts with accommodations in Olango. But I will be camping at the Bird Sanctuary when I go back.

Returning to Mactan, we took the boat from the pier in Sta Rosa. And I was happy to be allowed to use our unused ticket for the return journey.

Olango is bird sanctuary, not the floating restaurants !

Carcar, shoe capital of the Visayas

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Carcar is an hour and a half away from Cebu City, and is the turn off to the famous Moalboal dive sites.

Unlike in most towns and cities, the Carcar City Hall and church are not seen from the main highway, but tucked somewhere near the city center. A beautiful building sits between the city hall and the church that serves as a Museum.

one of the oldest in the country

the convent

Carcar Museum - - a beautiful structure

The ampaw shops are concentrated on the rotunda. Go around and you will see several stores selling ampaw and chicharon.

the Carcar roundabout - - - turn right to Moalboal. And go around for ampaw and chicharon.

chicharon and ampaw

ampaw and chicharon

Carcar has a robust shoemaking industry. A trade expo seems like a permanent set up on the grounds of the Acacia Grill restaurant.

major Carcar shoemakers are showcased here

Other than the restaurant, visitors can get refreshments at the end section of the trade expo building. Popsicles, sandwiches, and softdrinks are available. It is also at this end where bags and items other than shoes are available.

bags, too

Try shopping in Carcar. My mom, an avid shoe shopper, says prices are very cheap. Step-ins are as cheap as P120, shoes can be as cheap as P150. I took photos from the different stalls for everyone to see the variety of styles, in the event you should pass by Carcar.

my 78-year old mom bought 3 pairs in 20 minutes

Cebu: 1-day City Tour

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Cebu is the hub of the Visayan region, with Cebu City as the capital. In school, we learn that Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines, older than Manila, the seat of the national government. In fact, it was in Cebu where the “discoverer” of the Philippines for the western world planted the cross to symbolize the Christianization of the Philippines.

Magellan’s Cross. This is necessarily the first stop, from where the next must-visit places can follow. On a concrete gazebo stands a huge cross which represents the cross planted by Magellan. But they are careful to clarify that the “tindalo” wood in effect serves as cover for the original cross. There is a glass mosaic on the dome that shows that bit of history when Magellan came to this part of the world.

Right beside the cross is the gate that leads to the the Basilica Minore de Sto Nino. This church is probably one of the most visited churches in the country, and the seat of all religious activities honoring the much venerated Sto Nino.  A museum is across from the church, within the basilica compound.

Basilica Minore de Sto Nino

Fort San Pedro is Cebu’s version of Fort Santiago, and the walk among the ruins is a lesson in history. Cannons in strategic positions are a sight to behold and, with the thick walls surrounding the whole area, remind visitors of the then impregnability of the Fort.

Fort San Pedro

Blind man and a girl singing for donations

Keep out of here!

Gorordo Mansion completes the visitor’s trip down memory lane. The Mansion makes visitors imagine a glorious past. Big, old house in a rather spacious block of land. A wide, open, second floor azotea. The house has been bought by the Aboitiz Foundation and remains open to the public except on Mondays when maintenance work is scheduled.

Casa Gorordo, viewed from the street

Casa Gorordo

the azotea

The Taoist Temple is another must-visit spot in Cebu, right inside Cebu’s premiere address, the gated Beverly Hills. Visitors are allowed, but taking photos of the saints is prohibited. Senior citizens can be driven all the way to the road that leads to the temple itself. However, I have almost always stopped at the lower gate, and take the steps, gasping, all the way up. Silence is observed in this holy place.

the temple as viewed from the altar level walkway

an imposing view at street level

Carbon Market is the next stop, but make sure you don’t have valuables with you, and your mobile phones are safely tucked in your pockets, all jewelry left behind where you are staying. This is like a back street alley and thugs can cause harm. If you are alert, then you can survive the market experience, and maybe even enjoy the hunt for bargains. They literally have everything here, including ukay ukay.

Carbon market, the biggest market in Cebu

what do you see : chaos or bargain?

Walk along Fuente Osmena to the end of the road where the Provincial Capitol stands. It is an awesome structure. Imposing and venerable.

Cap the day tour with a drive up the roof of Cebu City, called the Tops Lookout. This is in the direction of Nivel Hills, past Marco Polo Hotel (the former Cebu Plaza Hotel). Go there and be sure you are there before 6:30 pm to see Cebu slowly being lit from late afternoon to early evening. The view when it gets dark is breathtaking. Whenever I am at Tops, I get myself a San Mig light and dried squid bbq. A bottle of SMB light, a Coke zero, plus 4 pcs of daing na pusit bbq cost me only P225. Entrance fee to this fortress-like sky garden is P100 per person.

You can spend the rest of the evening at the Ayala Center, and maybe pick a resto-bar for dinner, before calling it a day.

My favorite hotels in the city:

Marco Polo Hotel at Nivel Hills. This is a better version of the old Cebu Plaza Hotel. I am, however, terribly missing Lantaw, the restaurant by the poolside in front of the hotel that offered a good view of the city, over coolers.

Marco Polo Cebu

Waterfront Hotel, Lahug. Probably the biggest in the city, with a convention center big enough to accommodate the 2,500+ delegates we have had in two editions of the Philippine Advertising Congress. A PAGCOR casino operates from the 2nd level of the hotel.

the famous meet-up lobby of the Waterfront Hotel. Huge.

a cake and...

and a capuccino

I always get myself a cake and a capuccino at the cake shop by the lobby, and have it at the tables outside the lobby-level flower shop.

Marriot Hotel has the most convenient location, being right at the Ayala Center. It is also the hotel I most recently checked into, having with me my 78-year old mom and, therefore,  location was a top consideration.

2 queen size beds, for me and mom

the refreshing pool at the Marriot Hotel, Ayala Center

Twin Lakes, Sibulan, Negros Oriental

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Balinsasayaw

Balinsasayaw is a 70+ hectare lake with the 30-hectare Danao as its twin. It is a beautiful placid site, soothing tired muscles caused by the bumpy ride up the mountains in Janay Janay, San Jose, Negros Oriental. The San Jose mountain road  bends over to the town of Sibulan.

Twin Lakes is under the authority of the DENR, thru the Protected Areas Management Board or PAMB. They operate a restaurant at Twin Lakes. The person who guided me at Twin Lakes is a guy named Venie who works for a PO (people’s org).

Gazebos around the restaurant/viewing deck

There are no hotels at Twin Lakes, although camping may be arranged on the restaurant grounds. Venie pointed me to a spot where they will allow a tent to be pitched. I asked whether the toilets at the restaurant will be open for the campers and he said Yes.

Venie (left) will take care of you at Twin Lakes

Restaurant at Twin Lakes

Visitors pay an entrance fee of P10, with an official receipt of the Republic of the Philippines issued as you pay. And then you go 9 kms further up.

At that spot where entrance fees are collected, some locals were picnicking. Bathers were wading on the lake (a third lake? ) with some visitors actually paddling canoes from a distance.

What can one do at Twin Lakes, other than marvel at the magnificence of the lakes? Kayaking and trekking are the two top activities. In fact, one needs to ride a banca or a kayak to get to the observation deck between the twin lakes. Otherwise, the visitor will see only Balinsasayaw.

Venie will allow you to pitch a tent on the restaurant grounds, only at night

Contact Venie at09222260281 and he can even arrange for food to be cooked for your contingent.

Happy trekking!

Forest Camp, Valencia, Negros Oriental

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The road in Valencia, just past Talay in Dumaguete is lined with tall eucalyptus trees with violet, orange, and white bougainvillas clinging to the trees.  I can’t help but notice beautiful homes on the road. Middle-class ones, and several really big and beautiful homes with gardens.

This mountain resort is about 20 minutes by motorbike from Dumaguete. Immediately outside the resort are two huge swimming pools with spring water, each with nearly a thousand bathers, at P10 entrance per person. After all, it was a Sunday in summer.

Upon entering Forest Camp, visitors are charged P80 per pax. An admonition to keep the place clean, the trekkers’ code, is prominent at the gate.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints . . .

Forest Camp is a popular picnic destination. Most of the daytime guests are families who go straight to rented tables and picnic huts, big picnic baskets and drinks in tow.  And then everyone takes to the series of small swimming pools and to the stream.

spring water pool

I have never ever seen a resort with notices all over saying “Drinking Alcoholic Beverages Strictly Prohibited”. What a pleasant surprise. Indeed, a place for wholesome family picnics. I had to ask the resort staff if they prohibit smoking, too. No, they don’t. In fact, they said  some visitors discreetly bring in alcoholic drinks, and the staff  just look the other way. But because of the official prohibition, guests who bring in drinks surreptitiously have to drink in moderation and, as a result, the place is generally free from trouble caused by drunkards.  Or maybe the drunk aren’t able to negotiate the camp’s hanging bridge.

Visitors who don’t bring picnic baskets can buy food and drinks in the restaurant. I loved their “buco halo”, halo halo on buco at only P60.

halo halo on buco

You can also fish for your lunch in the tilapia pond near the restaurant, pay for your catch and have the pla pla steamed or grilled by the staff.

Accommodations are also available, sans airconditioning. The forest keeps the rooms naturally cool. The Rambutan and Durian cottages are rented out at P1,000 per day , with P200 additional charges for each person in excess of two occupants. The Bahay Kubo, the Champaca, and the Narra go for P2,500 per day, accommodating as many as 10 persons in the cottage.

Rambutan cottage :P1,000 per day for 2 pax

Picnic huts like Tree House, Kamalig Lanzones, and Kamalig Mangosteen are rented out for P300 per day. Campers can also sleep in tents, at P200 per head, with tents, beddings, and mats provided by the camp.

Guided treks to the Casaroro Falls and to Lake Nailig are available, at P800 per guide, with 1 guide for a maximum of 5 guests.

Forest Camp facilities can be booked via phone (035)4234017 or mobile 09172711806