Island hopping to Cebu

The fast ferry (passengers only, no vehicles) to Dumaguete was a smaller more beaten up craft than the one to Siquijor. Open class (the cheap seats) weren’t on top this time, but were at the back with the luggage. Everything was dirty looking.

Once again it was a perfectly flat sea, albeit not glassy like the first. We were grateful for this given there was a tropical low (downgraded typhoon) not all that far away.

A shorter journey we were there in less than an hour.

This was the leg of the trip we were freewheeling. With our flight back to Hong Kong leaving from Cebu City halfway up Cebu island and it being a long and narrow island, we had debated the night before whether to take the left coast up or the right. We also knew we didn’t want to head straight there or all that we’d see of the island is the city. Eventually we’d picked a town on the right side that we decided to try and head to. If we didn’t make it there it didn’t matter, our goal for the day was just to get onto Cebu.

At Dumaguete we knew we needed to change ports to get a local ferry. Having landed at the busy main port we took our time and lucked on Dunkin Doughnuts for breakfast. We also got one of the staff to write down the name of the port we needed. Outside the port we easily got a three wheeler and were soon whizzing on our way. We’d read there were plenty of boats making the short journey across to Cebu but didn’t expect to walk straight onto one, it was loading up vehicles when we arrived.

The journey only took 30 minutes. We arrived at a small port with not much there. We spoke to guy about where we were headed and he suggest we could go to the bus stop (rather than the bus station for local buses). Like Bohol buses were plying the main road round. We took a 3 wheeler a short distance and within 5 minutes a bus had arrived. The bus fleets here tend to be very varied some modern, some with aircon, some without. We got lucky and got a modern one. We also got luck with the seats, the people that got on before us got the last ones so Emma was given the driver’s mate seat up front and Marie sat on the aisle steps. We had the best views.

The road was windy but with only standing room left and many people waiting for a bus not wanting to stand we didn’t stop much. Less than an hour and a half later we’d arrived at our destination, Dalaguete.

There were no tourists it was just a local beach town. The traffic on the main road through was chaotic and it was pretty hot going with the rucksacks on as we walked back down it.

We’d googled somewhere we might be able to stay. It had pictures to help you find it, as it was literally down a dirt path through a piece of overgrown land, past a wooden house, left in front of another past an old van that hasn’t moved in a very long time and then down another path. A backpacker hostel with country flags on the ceiling and walls it is run by a friendly Belgian guy, his Filipino wife and their three girls. The lounge was out the front of their house open air with a roof, the rooms were set round it in a U shape. It used to be a student dorm and these were the rooms they now let. Accommodation has been expensive, apart from the basic guesthouse on Mt Pulag. This was as cheap, at 600 pesos (approx NZ$17) we added to it an aircon for an extra 100 to cover the electric, making it NZ$20. There was a toilet in each corner of the U and a hot shower. The room was small but it was a bargain. The shared shower and toilets were no issue, there was no one else staying that night so we only shared them with the family.

We took a good break in their lounge and found some accomodation for our last 2 nights in Cebu city. The Belgian guy helpfully drew us a map of the town with the market and church and some options to eat.

The sun went behind clouds and the air had cooled a bit by the time we ventured out. We explored the market (which was awesome as it was market day) the church and the waterfront. We headed back to our digs as it got dusk and later caught a 3 wheeler to the noodle place recommended for dinner. After that it was showers and bed.

We left before 8am the next morning to make sure we could get a seat on the bus to Cebu city. There were heaps. It took 3 hrs and slowly the heat started to beat the air con, we were happy to have got up early.

We took a taxi to our new digs. A new hostel it was nice and clean and had comfy beds. We were stoked it was a good size and we had some space.

Emma finally admitted she has full on cold, so we decided to take it easy and headed to the Buddha Light Temple. For the first time there were no 3 wheelers in the city so we used Grab.

The temple was like a calm oasis in what felt like quite an industrial area. They don’t get many tourists, there was just us and a few people that caretake the place. Just 2 monks were there (others come and go) and 1 showed us round the different halls and then offered us tea. In no rush we accepted and had a long chat to the woman who looked after everyone as she speaks good English (the monk had some but not heaps).

She recommended a visit to the Taoist temple, with a warning there would be many other tourists there. We had no plan for the day so decided to head there next. It was interesting and in the foothills of town it had a nice view and importantly a slight breeze.

We walked down the hill and got some street snacks, then got a Grab back to our digs.

The snotty one had a nap and with no food options nearby for dinner we got a Grab to a nearby mall. It’s not a city you walk round at night there are lots of homeless and like Manila there are slums intermingled within the city.

It was massive and obviously where all the middle-class Filipinos hang out. We found a reasonably priced Thai place that served food on banana leaf plates. The food was great and we rolled back to the taxi stand.

Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines and with Cebu island being the first colonised by the Spanish, Cebu City was the first Spanish capital during their more than 300 years of colonisation. All of the main tourist sights are located close together so our plan for the second day was to get a Grab to the nearest and then explore them on foot.

We got dropped at Casa Gordono Museum where the first bishop resided. A nice building the entry fee was steep as you have to take a tour. We passed as it didn’t look interesting enough to us to pay the fee. A short way further we found Yap Sandiego ancestral house. Built in 1675-1700 it is one of the oldest in the Philippines. A mix of Chinese (because the owner was a Chinese trader), Spanish and Filipino designs, it’s walls are made from coral and egg whites.

Next we walked down Colon Street, the oldest street in the country, established in 1565 and named after Christopher Columbus (his real surname was Colon). On it is a large monument portraying Cebu’s major historic events. It’s made of brass, concrete, steel and bronze.

We wandered to the Cathedral but weren’t impressed. A big white building its inside was nothing special compared to others we’ve seen, particularly on Bohol. The nearby Basilica del Sto Nino was heaps better and was teeming with life and almost a street party around it. Founded in 1565 it is also the oldest Christian church in the Philippines. The image of the child Jesus brought by explorer Ferdinand Magellan who was sent by the Spanish to find the Spice Islands is enshrined there. Close by is Magellan’s Cross. Ferdinand Magellan planted it to symbolise Christianity. The original cross is now encased in timber to protect it. Across a nearby park is Fort San Pedro, again built by the Spanish. It was pretty underwhelming, but there was a nice breeze sitting up on the walls.

By just after lunchtime we’d seen them all. We hadn’t expected just how close together everything is so we hadn’t expected to see them that fast. With the afternoon still to spare we decided to head to the hills behind the city to Tops lookout to see the view. From there we wanted to walk down to a temple. The taxi driver outside of the Fort wanted big money because they can’t get fares back. We understood this but knew we could do it cheaper by walking and that we’d find some form of transport back to the city. He tried telling us there was no phone signal up there to get a Grab and there was no transport. The fare came down and we tried Grab and had the same issue, the driver that accepted wanted more than the stated fare because he’d have to come back empty. Another taxi driver wanted the same fare as the first but when we started speaking to another the price suddenly nearly halved. It was a fairer price so we took it.

He thought we were crazy for wanting to walk back and kept muttering about how far it is and how fuel will be expensive (because we were going up a hill). It wore thin so when he again pushed a fare to wait and bring us back we refused more out of principle than really wanting to walk. He also messed us about at the top with paying the entry fee, by involving himself. It was only when the guards harassed him to pay the fee and then came to over to ask us to pay it that they understood he wasn’t our driver but a persistent cabbie that he finally buggered off. The view was good and the walk down the road to the main one across the ridge line was really nice. The main road was pretty busy and the road steep so we took it slowly. When we found the turning for side road to the next temple we cursed that it was a steep uphill. It was humid and legs were no longer fresh.

The Temple of Leah was built in 2012 by a guy to symbolise his undying love for his late wife of 53 years. A big building inspired by Greek and Roman architecture it wasn’t the most interesting to look at but there were heaps of people there. We had a drink and a wander round then headed back. We’re barely left the temple to start the walk back to the main road when a Ute stopped and asked if we’d like a lift (we figure they just have seen us walking up). We jumped in the tray faster than rats up a drain pipe. Riding in the back of utes is one of Marie’s all time favourite modes of transport. At the junction the driver shouted back “we’re going to the city if you’re headed there?” We were super stoked. In the end they dropped us only 1km from our hostel. They wouldn’t accept any beer money and instead wished us a Merry Christmas. We’d got back for free. Rip off taxi driver up yours!

Dinner was at the mall again. We tried somewhere different and it was overpriced and crap. A bit of a shame given it was our last meal in the Philippines.

Click any photo to enlarge and scroll through


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