Going Back to Cebu
The thought of flying to Cebu from Incheon was an exciting thing to be realized. It has always been my dream since my last visit last two years ago. I was in Cebu for about a week in 2012 right before the terrible Haiyan typhoon, the strongest and the deadliest one, that has ever hit the Visayan Region. The province of Cebu was only partially hit, especially the islands of Malapascua and Bantayan that suffered heavy damages to structures and losses to properties and resorts facilities. Anyhow, with the grateful heart for those who provide help and charity through various means, the islands became enliven once again, the plants growing and the coconut leaves started to spring up (although a number of them have been decimated by the storm) and dancing with the sea breeze and wind.
Wow, that’s a long one! Okay, going back to my wishes to go back to the island. My sister abroad one day early this year sent me a message through facebook saying she already bought tickets for her visit to the Philippines – soon! I suddenly got excited that my blood rushed to my head and made my eyes open wide and re-read the line to be sure. And there it is! She said it right and i read it correctly – that she is going home to visit our family with my mum. I don’t know why I got so excited about it knowing it is not me going home but my sister. Trying to refresh my memory I remember that I was also planning to visit the Philippines while my elder sister is there. And lo, here is my chance! But how can I do that when in fact I have responsibilities to do – office work and taking care of my family – my wife, Felix (my cat), Anghela (my dog) and Cecilia (my mum-in-law)! – things that I can’t just leave behind for a while since it is not my vacation period yet! However, it seems that I have some reasonable ‘excuses’ to tell my boss. I would say that I haven’t seen my mum and sister in the past three years. Besides, my mum is not that very healthy and she is getting older. It should be good enough to convince my boss to let me go, I figured. And behold, when I told my boss regarding my wish and reasons behind it, he did not hesitate to accept my reasons and for going and being absent for over a week. He though it should be my vacation. Upon hearing that generous response, I rushed to my PC and opened my facebook page – my website’s page name. There, I searched my sister’s name and started hitting the keyboard with much excitement sending the message that I can possibly also visit the Philippines while she is there.
After a few hours my sister appeared online and started answering my message. And so we started exchanging messages. In short, when and if I can make it, I can go home to do this and that and go here and there including visiting my siblings, their families, and especially visiting islands and resorts on Cebu Province. Honestly, I have to tell you this, as much as I am happy to see my family back home I am very much excited to visit some islands and resorts, not to stay and enjoy there but to take photos and record every nooks and corners, sounds and sights, memory and feelings for each and every places and experiences.
That’s right, and am I too open and transparent with my thoughts and feelings. Probably so! That’s because I want to be more hones with myself and important part of my life. Yes, I felt awkward and embarrassed with myself knowing that my intention to visit the Philippines this is very much centered on what I can get and much less than what I can give to my family and everyone I left and haven’t met for quite some time. Am I being selfish? I asked myself and I felt relieved upon learning that I have to do this because I need to prepare and support my own family today and in the near future. My website although it is still in its fledgling stage is already providing us help and hopefully it will be our major source of living (with your generous support). Yes, I believe that I will be fruitful and successful in this plan because I discovered that my heart, mind and energy is for building and creating my travel guide website among the other ones I have already begun and still in its developing period.
Getting more excited
We left Incheon airport on time at around 2am. It was a nice feeling knowing that you are going somewhere not to ‘work’ (the usual 9 to 6 and five times a week routine) but to do something you really want and wish in life – just enjoy without any responsibilities at all. Now, I am writing this portion at Hong Kong international Airport while waiting for my transfer airplane for Cebu at 8:55 am. It’s not a long wait I thought. But I was impatient to learn that when I arrived at this airport, the gate number was not posted yet or announced ahead so that I can settle down and maybe write this page. That means I had to wait somewhere where I could readily check the announcement flight panel for my updates – that’s not really a nice feeling. Anyway, after over about 40 minutes the Gate #31 appeared on the electronic board or panel. By the way, I wished they could resolve my personal discontent of having the gate number not being posted much earlier. Probably I’m just too punctual or too excited or impatient in this situation. Or, I’m just practical and that I don’t want to rush looking for my gate, and I don’t want to waste time doing nothing either – or is waiting doing something?
Arriving just a few minutes before in Hong Kong Airport was a bit scary. There were thick clouds and visibility was not something comforting. What feared me most (or a bit recognizing that you are thousands of feet about the earth) was the abrupt and sudden jumps of the plane caused by air pockets. You know, just last year a number of plane mishaps and accidents occurred. I didn’t want to think about them but I couldn’t stop myself or my mind from flashing scary imaginations. Thank God everything went just fine and we landed on Mactan Cebu International Airport safe and sound. That pilot, you’re the man!
I was communicating (or chatting is the right expression and updated nowadays) with my brother-in-law fb text. He was curious regarding my global position! One that stands out among his messages was about the ‘gifts’. I did not talk about it but he related that I don’t have to bring any and that I have gifts myself (chocolate and coffee) from Canada, which my sister brought with her all the way across the globe. Anyhow, I text him saying I will go straight ahead to SM or Shoe Mart Department Store Cebu and will procure my boat ticket for the evening’s trip – overnight right. That’s because I can stay on Mactan Island at his sister’s house, the place where I visited the last time I visited the province. I feel sorry that I couldn’t go there earlier but could possibly see them when I return from Mindanao. I was already thinking that I might celebrate my birthday in Cebu and at his sister’s house. Well, I don’t mind it and probably this would be my first birthday celebration in the Philippines in the past 20 years.
Going back to ‘pasalubong’, ‘sinugatan’, bring home or whatever you may call it. I would say that my wife and myself spent days thinking and even deliberating about what presents to bring. Actually, not ‘what to bring’ but what I ‘can bring’ considering that we were not financially ready to spend much for gifts and in fact we are in tight budget nowadays. However, luckily, having a smart wife, she was able to prepare enough amounts of gifts good enough to give to my siblings and to my dozens of nephews and nieces and extended family members. Gosh, hopefully uninvited guests and other distant relatives will not come and ask for ‘pasalubong’ (gifts). I believe that my presence is more than anything I could bring or any expensive and nice looking present, isn’t it?
Arrival at Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Touchdown! Yes, it’s a beautiful feeling that you arrived safely and that you can do a lot of things and it is what you really want and hoped for deep inside. (I’m referring to doing the regular routine of work in a cubicle comparing with my other reasons for visiting my native land). Getting out from the plane and walking down towards the immigration area and towards the baggage claim conveyor section of the island’s airport was an experience of combined emotions. Searching and waiting for my medium size travel bag I also observed other new arrivals getting excited but tired as well during the travel. I noticed that there are more foreign visitors than I can remember years ago. I am wondering if there are any of them that have searched cebu-bluewaters.com and got convinced to visit the province and booked one of the resorts there! Momentarily, I felt excited and happy with myself to imagine that one of them did.
Now, my only problem is that when I wanted to go to the toilet (washroom, CR, loo or whatever your language will call it) and change my remaining upper long underwear it was under renovation or they are fixing something inside! Darn it! Now, I am wondering what will happen to me wearing the warmer underwear for a cold climate on a tropical country. I couldn’t imagine that it should be very uncomfortable. Make the story short, luckily there’s a CR/washroom/loo/toilet right outside the Nothing To Declare exit to its right. Wow, I suddenly felt relieved anticipating that the hot temperature inside is waiting for me to step out and ready to heat my whole being! Yes, I am ready to leave the airport and catch a taxi for SM Department Store – my target direction to start my first work on the list – that is procuring my boat ticket for the night’s trip to Ozamis City. It is always challenging and frustrating for me (certainly, for many people I know) getting a taxi and dealing with the driver about the fare rate. So, anyway, I went out and ask the security guard for directions to get a taxi.
I finally, got one but after asking two other guys about the legal location, that’s because other taxi drivers just pick up passengers from other corners not legally permitted by the airport because it cause traffic congestion. The driver was a young man wearing red shirt as it’s the uniform of the taxi company. He was quite friendly and we talked a lot about things especially focused on Cebu theme, the topic I usually get excited about and only interested in. yes, he gave me a heads up saying that the traffic along the way to SM would be annoying. That’s because there is a road repair going somewhere in the middle of the main road. And he was right. We were talking about the time frame and the way the road is being repaired and the responsible people behind the project. It is always interesting and disappointing to say that repairs, new project constructions and other development structures are being pushed when elections are fast approaching. Certainly, it is true not only in developing countries but in other countries as well. While talking with the seemingly nice and friendly your driver, at the back of my mind I always try to guess and think smart whether the guy is trying to outsmart me to get more and longer distance to cover. Anyhow, I feel a bit relieved that, after using my background in psychology, I profiled him as a young but somehow not a cheat trying to get more bucks at once from me. Besides, I know the place and I speak the language, and so he couldn’t easily just do things without being too complicatedly and intricately smart. We arrived at SM’s Traveler’s Lounge where anybody can keep their belongings for a pay (usually PhP30 for small luggage – just like mine). They are open from early morning until 8:30PM only, if you want to know. Yes, they keep your things safely there, but just bring with you your valuable personal items just in case.
Taking photos for Cebu travel log
Right after entrusting my two pieces of luggage, I went inside the department store with only one priority mission in mind – securing a boat ticket for the evening’s trip. That’s right, I went inside and feeling the cool atmosphere provided by the heavy airconditioning system then started searching for a shipping line’s office. There I found one, but unfortunately their company has no boat leaving for Ozamis in the evening but the next day – I can’t wait for the next day. So, I asked what other shipping company that has a boat (or ship) that travels that evening and I got the response saying “We are not familiar with other companies’ schedule”. Yeah, right, you wouldn’t help other companies compete with your own business – silly me! I was just hoping they are generous enough to help me out quickly! And so there I went looking for another shipping company office. I went to approach another security guard (whom I usually trust with my inquiries since they know better the place and more trustworthy ^^). When he asked which shipping company am I looking for, I just couldn’t answer right away and I can see the expression of his face (saying what the ****ing company are you looking for). I know he is kind and realized that I don’t know the shipping company name I was looking for and just said the office right beside the shipping company I have just inquired sells tickets for other shipping lines. Yes, that’s embarrassing to know that it was right beside it – I wouldn’t know it anyway because it was not a shipping line’s name. so, there I rushed again and happy to know it was not crowded. I asked the clerk about my very important question: “Is there a boat that leaves for Ozamis City tonight?” hoping that the answer would be positive. And there she said the magic word “Yes”. Feeling very delighted to know that important fact, and then I asked about the choices of accommodation. She mentioned that the ordinary one is this and the others are that. I couldn’t believe my ears since the ordinary rate was one the most expensive accommodation when I was in the university. Wow, really things have changed a lot in Cebu. Anyway, I decided to buy the medium range ticket but still feeling ambivalent but I have no choice since everything has gone up.
That’s what I call progress and development. Right, talking about development Cebu has really gone that far since I left years ago. I can notice high rise buildings. When I visited the place where I used to live (near Mabolo area) I could hardly recognize the area. I know that Ayala department store was set up but everything in the area have changed. Now hotels, banks, spas, residential buildings, stores, housing and new roads have been built or still are in their development stage. From SM, I headed to Ayala Center taking a jeepney ride. I missed riding it by just hanging on (kabit lang) at the only entrance and exit part of this public utility vehicle (or PUV as we call it). Yes, it gave back my memories back when I was a university student (San Carlos) long time ago especially taking it in the morning when everybody go to school, offices and other daily work places in the metropolitan. So, since I just wanted to look around and take photos for anything interesting I jumped off from the jeepney and walked towards Ayala Center, one of the nice places in the metropolitan where you can shop, enjoy the restaurants, cafes, health clubs, the garden in the middle of the establishment and other facilities and business offices available within the center.
Taking the motorbike to Pier 1
After being satisfied of the photos I took inside Ayala Center and its surrounding establishments (such as the Marriott Hotel, etc.) I headed out and asked the security about the jeepneys that go to SM direction. This time, the jeepney wasn’t full and I had all the empty long sit all the way to SM. When I arrived I headed straight to the traveler’s lounge to collect my two luggages. I was wondering which transport I should take for the boat – a taxi or a jeepney, I reckoned. I decided to take a taxi cab since I have a heavy travel luggage and other small backpacks. When I approached the waiting lane to queue for a taxi one guy approached and offered another ride – a single motorbike! Wow, I never thought of that and I wondered how I can take it considering I have three luggage. However, that’s not the big question. The question is how much is he offering for that ride until Pier 1. So, I dared asking how much and was wondering if the rate he offered is fair. And so I started dealing and finally insisted taking a taxi, however, I thought that we reached to a consensus point where we can both have fair deal. There I was taking a helmet and he mounted my heavy luggage right infront of him. Yes, we just fit in well and there’s no problem whatsoever except that I don’t feel so safe riding on two wheels only. Anyway, we reached the destination and was thankful for his service and added an extra pesos for being good driver and hard working person (he is a security guard of the department store and makes extra bucks transporting passengers with his motorbike.).
On the boat (ship)
In the pier area, it looked busy, cars, jeepneys, trucks and forklifts and criss-crossing and I had to be very careful not to be caught in the middle of them. I passed through all of them dragging my heavy luggage and took one shot of the Piers 1’s terminal station where every passenger should wait for a shuttle service that ferry them to their respective boats. There I went inside the terminal and had to pay to a terminal fee.
I finally found my place, or my bunk, inside the boat and tried to settle down. Since I wanted to take photos of the pier and the night lights of Cebu City, I left my luggage on top of my assigned bunk and went to the upper deck to take some photos. There I found nice spot to take photos of the boats aligned by the pier with lights on and getting ready to depart an hour or so later on. It was a colorful night and I could see the crimson lights at the same time the full moon that started to rise to light our way during the night.