I spent to 2 weeks living the island life in the beautiful Philippines. My 4 siblings, parents, husband, and I traveled separately with our destination to Iloilo City for my brother’s wedding.
We met one of my sisters in South Korea, and we flew together to Cebu. Our flight on Korean Air was wonderful. They kept us well fed, kept the wine coming, and the movie selection was great, they even had a charger on the back of the seat. When we arrived in Cebu, we watched the luggages get taken one by one until there were none left at baggage claim. We were informed our luggages were still in New York! Ugh. I failed to pack an extra set of clothes in our carry-on, so we spent money on things I didn’t plan on. ((TIP 1: Bring extra set of clothes, underwear, swimsuits in carry-on.))
Our first day, we spent our time shopping for new clothes at Ayala mall. Some people have asked me the prices for clothes there, and they are similar to the States. I mean, like a little more than going to T.J. Maxx and not amazing quality. Hubs got his shorts for $20 each, 2 shirts for $20, swim trunks for $20. I bought 2 dresses, one for $18, the other for $24, shorts for $15, and a swim suit for $30.. See not that cheap! My sister got her hair rebonded, which took 4 hours for $100. ((Tip 2: If you can, get your pesos at the ATM. We skip the fees, only paying the $5 fee from my bank. My sister went to the currency exchange and got 38 pesos for $1, the usual is 44 pesos.)) We ended the day with a couple’s massage at a local salon. It was wonderful.
The next day, we woke up early to head to Oslob (2 hours away). We hired a driver for the day named JocJoc. We instantly became like family. On our drive away from the city, we spotted multiple groups of people, led by priests, walking the streets holding lit candles. JocJoc told us it was adoration, then began to tell us about religion and spirituality in Cebu. He said the religion is mainly Catholic, but there are a small percentage of Mormons and Muslims. He mentioned that he wished the church would target the youth, that the youth felt “bored” with the church. He told us about his family, and we felt like we knew them. His motto in life is, “I just close my eyes.” He said he has been around people who scam others, abuse drugs, commit sin, but he must just close his eyes. Meaning, he understands why they do these things, but he doesn’t condone it or do it himself. He said if he didn’t close his eyes, he will be greatly affected and become angry and cynical to the world. He was also our tour guide, photographer, bag carrier, dealmaker, translator, and bodyguard. When we made it to the dive spot to swim with the whale sharks, JocJoc got us the local discount… well, except hubs, he couldn’t pull it off!
The whale sharks were HUGE! The videos I watched didn’t prepare me for their actual size. One of the boat guides said, “Look, behind you. Take a picture.” I turned around and saw this big mouth opening coming at me, I replied to the boat guide, “Kurog kurog ako! (I’m scared)” Him and his friends laughed and said in visaya, “So pretty, but so scared.” Hubs enjoyed swimming around with the whale sharks. The water was so salty, you could just float. We tried to take a picture underwater with the whale sharks, but we kept floating. One of the pictures, hubs is underwater holding on to my ankle because he thought I was having a hard time sinking. Little did he know, I was trying to swim up because I got water in my snorkel and was drowning.
Our next stop was Tumalog Falls. JocJoc said, “This is just sprinkles.” It was more than “just sprinkles”; the falls were beautiful. We took a motorcycle down to the falls and that in itself was fun. The views there are breathtaking. The water was cold, but you get used to it. It wasn’t too crowded so you could take your time and soak in the beauty.
JocJoc detoured us to the oldest church in Cebu, Basilica del Santo Nino. Our tour guide was a 15 year old boy who wanted to become a priest. The church was beautiful. Fun fact: the churches in the P.I. do not have air conditioning.
We got the call that our luggage made it to the airport! On our way to the airport, JocJoc made stops to the “Original Torta Shop” and the best chicharon in the city. ((Tip 3: When looking for a driver, be weary. There are people who will take advantage of you, not because they are evil, but because they can’t afford rice or to take their child to school. My oldest sister’s friend recommended JocJoc to us.))
We stayed the night at my oldest sister’s high school friend’s house. It was beautiful. It sat on a mountain top, one side overlooks the water, the other the mountains. She had a cook (Adele), and we would tell her what we wanted to eat and she would make it. We ate breakfast on a table outside overlooking the beautiful mountain view. She has 2 kids, twins- one boy and one girl (Gabriel and Anya), who were so adorable. For dinner, we met my parents, aunts, cousins (whom I’ve never met) at Lantau by the sea. The service was terrible, but the food was good.
The next night, we stayed at Plantation Bay Resort. That place is a dream. They welcome you with pineapple juice, they drive you in a golf cart with your luggage right and drop you off right in front of your door, and tour you around the resort. Our room was right on the lagoon; the stairs led down to the water. I put on my swim suit right away and we hit the swim up bar. We found out that night was Arabian night at the resort, so we made reservations right away. They served Mediterranean food, the servers were dressed like Aladdin, and they had bellydancers to entertain us on the beach. They called for people to come on the ‘dance floor’ to learn how to bellydance. (Check out my YouTube video to see our hilarious moves.) We were the last people there, and we decided to sing with the band. We all sang “All of Me” by John Legend. We had such a great time.
The next morning, the roosters woke us up early. We ate breakfast, swam, paddle boarded, tandem biked, and soaked in our last day in Cebu. We took a shuttle to the airport and met up with my parents to fly to Iloilo.
We called JocJoc to drive us around prior to Plantation Bay. He took us to the mall since my sister wanted to get her pocket wifi fixed. While we were sitting at Starbuck’s waiting, JocJoc told hubs and I that he lost a good friend a week before meeting us. He felt like our meeting was God’s timing. He told us how we treated him like family and we would be in his hearts forever. He invited us to have dinner with his family one day. He said his house is small and they didn’t have much, but it would be his pleasure to have us over. He teared up in telling hubs how much he enjoyed their conversation. We knew JocJoc for 2 days and made a great impact in his life, and him in ours.
Always be kind. You never know what people are going through.