Boodle Fight Lunch
Upon our arrival at Cebu City, our guide Mae kindly picked us up at the airport and we started the trip with a Filipino Boodle Fight lunch. Boodle Fight originated from the army – you have to eat fast and fight for your food if you want to get your stomach fed, hence the name. Seafood Island at the Ayala Mall has a great selection of Boodle Fight meals. I thought a Boodle Fight meal was a great way to start a tour in the Philippines. I gotta say, price point at Cebu is just amazing comparing to San Francisco. It was only $50 USD for us 7 with drinks. Some of us even had two drinks. We also tried the famous calamansi juice here. Calamansi is a common tropical fruit that plays the same role to a dish as our lemon. You see it in lots Filipino dishes, either mixed in or cut in pieces set on the side of a plate for you to squeeze that tangy acidity to flavor up the food. And almost all restaurants offer calamansi juice too. It tastes more similar to kumquat than lemon and is quite refreshing. Mae showed us how to eat with hand. Most of us tried but Bruce and Dad didn’t want to cooperate.
San Pedro Fort
A tiny vintage fort with classic Spanish fort look. It is a nice little spot to stroll around.
Basilica of Santo Nino and Magellan’s Cross
Mae had a local lady pray for us at the Magellan’s Cross, with a praying dance. Seeing Catholic activities at Cebu reminds me a lot of churches at Latin America. The colonized inevitably mixed a bit, sometimes a lot, of pagan traditions into Christianity when it was introduced by the European invaders. In Cebu, praying to the God often is done with a praying dance. Cebu City has a huge festival for the praying dance every year.
We were gonna have our first dinner at a local night market but everyone was tired from the flight so we checked in hotel early. Night market was skipped, and we walked to Zubuchon next to our hotel for dinner. Zubuchon was covered by Anthony Bourdain’s show as one of the best spots to try lechon (suckling pig) at Cebu. People say Cebu has the best suckling pig in the Philippines. (I think Bourdain might have agreed with that too… ) Zubu is Cebu in Cebuano. Just like having steak every day when in Buenos Aires, we had lechon almost every day when we were at Cebu, whether it was voluntarily or not. Claire liked House of Lechon the best and Dad actually liked the lechon at our hotel’s free buffet breakfast the best. Yes, they provided lechon at breakfast. xD
Island Hopping around Mactan with Cebu Tours
We had very friendly boatmen and great guide today but I have to say, not my cup of tea simply because those beautiful islets were crowded by tourists.
I had Jollibee once when that Jollibee by the Yerba Buena Garden was still in business. I don’t remember much about the food so I suppose it was nothing more than a tasteless fast food meal. But, Jollibee experience at Cebu City was quite contrasting. Most items we ordered were actually tasty and oh muh god, it cost $20 USD for the whole family. No wonder Jollibee is the king of the fast food in the Philippines. I liked their spaghetti quite a bit. The flavor was nothing Italian though, hah.
Dried Mangos and Papaya Soap
Claire picked up dried mangos to share with friends back home and Mrs. Kao looked up online and picked up a bunch of papaya soap for her girlfriends. I picked up one papaya soap too just for fun. Mrs. is unbelievably addicted to the social media these days… she had to share her travel photos with all her chatty retired girlfriends instantly. I always have portable Wi-Fi with me coz I have to (or, I choose to) work when I travel, but she asked me to turn on my Wi-Fi even when I didn’t have to work!
Bojo River Mangroves
Mae met up with us again today to tour us to the Bojo River mangroves. Just when I thought I knew how mangroves look like, Bojo River nicely surprised me. I had never seen the type of mangrove trees dominating the Bojo River area before. It is called Nipa in Tagalog and is a nice looking mangrove tree. Bojo River has water from the cold springs and the river meets the ocean with a narrow open. Water is in emerald green and the whole area is just very tranquil and relaxing. We sampled Filipino snacks and listened to the locals singing their beautiful folk songs. We also learned how to weave Filipino tamales with coconut leaves. It was hard and if I were to do it any longer, my fingers might have cramps. xD
It was a perfect mangrove and Filipino culture tour today. Upon saying goodbye to us at the hotel, Mae gifted everyone a pretty coconut leaf weaved bag filled with popular Filipino snacks. Such a sweetheart.
Moalboal is three hours away from Cebu City and is known for beautiful coral fish, sea turtles and schools and schools of sardines. And it didn’t disappoint. We liked that even though Moalboal is known, the crowd was nothing comparing to the snorkeling spots closer to Cebu City. Perhaps it was the water, the snorkeling I did before at the Caribbean never featured shiny blue fish. And in the water around Cebu island, including that day at Moalboal and days after at other snorkeling spots, there were just schools and schools of various types of blue fish. Sometimes they were so shiny and so blue, you wonder how the nature produces such rich saturated color. Snorkeling at Ho Chan at Belize still ranks the highest to me, but those beautiful coral reefs, clear turquoise water and stunning shiny blue fish at Pescador Island 30 mins off Moalboal shore was very impressive.
After snorkeling at Pescadore Island, our boat moved back to right off Moalboal shore, literally 30 to 50 feet from shore, and there we saw a few large sea turtles and countless sardines. Those sardines just swirled and swirled, and the schools were so large, you wouldn’t be able to see how deep the schools extended into the ocean floor. Marine life lover, 5-year-old Bruce was so excited and while he was a little cold in the water, he shook his voice and said to Claire “Mama, thank you for taking me to the Philippines to see fish.” So adorable.
Other than sardines, we also saw several turtles today. Claire and I even saw a puff fish. That guy was cute and tiny bit funny looking. I saw another puff fish few days after when we were at Sumilon Island. Back to turtles, this one I saw was big and has kinda mezmerizing pattern on the shell.
Jimmy had to leave us today as he was only able to conjure 5 vacation days. I also worked a bit longer than wanted today. But after a long 1.5 hr call, I wrapped up and visited Carbon Market with the family. We all had fun digging and buying knickknacks. Stuff was very cheap here, like 4-key chain-one-USD cheap. Half way through the market, JiaoTo’s lips were pale and appeared to have minor heat sickness. Vendors at the market were truly caring and immediately pulled a chair to have the little girl sit down. Several locals crowded up sharing their tips to fight off heat sickness. After a short while, JiaoTo seemed to be recovered some and was ok to keep going. Many thanks to locals at the Carbon Market. Your genuine help was heart-warming.
3.5-hr ride to Oslob was luckily smooth. Sometimes Cebu City could really have traffic jams based on our past few days here. Checking in at AJ’s was all pleasantly fine too. AJ’s is a small family friendly resort, only 5 mins by walk form the whale shark viewing spot. They have only three rooms, not fancy but all new and clean. They specialize in customizing tours so lodging is really not what they’re known for. In the following few days we had royal services at AJ’s. The staff pampered us all around and catered to all our needs. One day Dad and Bruce had to get ear drops for minor ear infections, AJ’s sent two staff to accompany four of us to a local clinic. The day to Apo Island, 7 of us had a boat and there were 7 staff on board to serve us. Tumalog Fall excursion, two staff went with us. Even just dinner at a nearby place, they had someone escort us to the restaurant. The following day we dined at the same place, they still had someone walk us over. They literally were trying to take care of us with every single chance they had.
Tumalog Fall was a really nice little excursion to see unique rock formation, waterfall and a pretty green lake.
Old town after the waterfall
1st Whale Shark Viewing
Not much to say, whale sharks are just amazing and you have to see it yourself.
Very pretty island resort with nice facilities. Buffet lunch was nice, and snorkeling was good too. We also kayaked at the small but pretty mangrove canal.
Kawasan Fall Canyoneering
World class canyon scenes, very pretty water all the way along. Before the tour, we were told it usually takes 2 hours to finish. We ended up spending 6 hours… As you can imagine, we were very, very slow. Bruce is only five, and Little has very weak legs and can’t really climb if there was no assistance. We were truly grateful for the three guides assisting us. Any of them could carry Bruce on the shoulder but still lend a hand to help one of us to balance on rocks, plus carrying a bag or two on the back. They were quite durable and impressive.
Little said she was so tired and almost passed out but it was so pretty and she thought the tour was worth the effort. That woman is little but has our family’s adventurous spirit. You go girl.
2nd Whale Shark Viewing
The first viewing was unforgettable so the whole family wanted to see the sharks again. Well, except Mrs. Kao said she was happy with the first viewing and didn’t have to go again. But she was a sheep and followed us to see the sharks again. Man, good thing she did tag along. Those fish managed to amaze us even more at the 2nd viewing. We had a gigantic bus size whale shark at the 2nd viewing. It stayed around our boat and didn’t leave the whole time we were there. And water was clearer than the day of the 1st viewing. It couldn’t get better. We were all so pumped and content after. Whale sharks indeed are gentle giants in the water. They just gracefully swam around us. It was beyond wonderful.
Above and Below
We didn’t have good weather today but were still fortunate to see a couple sea turtles. We were told that when the weather is good, Apo Island has tons of sea turtles around. Guess that means we’ll have to come back next time.
Time to leave and see who’s more tanned from the trip. JiaoTo no doubt won the contest. Her skin color already looked quite Filipino a couple days ago.