Hey, y’all! It’s been a while, I know.
Since graduating from university last year, it was my goal to write more often and I managed to publish at least a couple blog posts every month for a whole year. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself struggling to write. I needed to step away from the blog for a little bit and allow myself to be inspired to write again. Which brings us here.
I’ve been visiting family in the Philippines for the past few consecutive years, but a couple months ago, I took another trip to the Philippines with the intent of venturing farther out than my parents’ hometowns and exploring more of the islands, specifically Cebu and Bohol.
After landing in Manila and spending a day with family there, we took an early morning flight to Cebu. We briefly stopped at our hotel, Vacation Hotel Cebu in Cebu City, before going off to lunch at STK Ta Bai! Paolito’s Seafood House. A recommendation from our driver, the restaurant provides a wide array of seafood prepared in a variety of ways. The sweet chili shrimp was my personal favorite.
Once we finished eating our delicious lunch, we set out to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was Magellan’s Cross and the Santa Nino Church. Personally, it was strange to see crowds of Pilipinos and other tourists flocking to a relic of colonialism, but regardless, it has remained an important monument for devout Catholics.
Our next stop was Fort San Pedro, located in Plaza Indepedencia near the pier. The current structure dates to 1738, but the first version of the fort was built under Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in the early 17th century, serving as the center of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. During the Philippine Revolution in the late 1890s, Pilipino revolutionaries took over the fort and used it as a stronghold.
Guided tours of the fort are available, which I highly recommend to fully understand the history of the structure and of the city overall.
The great thing about Cebu City is that all the main historic sites and famed tourist attractions are located close to one another. So, we drove a little ways away to the Heritage of Cebu Monument.
Begun in 1997 and completed in 2000, the monument features sculptures made of concrete, bronze, brass and steel showing scenes from Cebu’s history, including a Spanish galleon, Magellan’s Cross, the Battle of Mactan, and Sergio Osmena Sr., third president of the Philippines.
Our last stop of the day was Lapu Lapu Shrine, which, with traffic, was over an hour away from Cebu City in Mactan.
Datu Lapu Lapu was a ruler of Mactan and is regarded as a national hero for leading the first documented resistant against Spanish imperialism, defeating Ferdinand Magellan during the Battle of Mactan. (During our tour of Fort San Pedro, we learned that it may not have actually been Lapu Lapu who killed Magellan himself, but as Datu he received the credit. Not sure of the validity of that information, though.)
I was surprised to find that the first shrine we came across upon arrival was not Lapu Lapu’s, but Magellan’s. To me, it seemed incredibly disrespectful to Cebuanos and Pilipinos in general to have a shrine dedicated to the colonizer, especially with the inscription “Glorias España,” but I digress.
The next day, we took a boat from Cebu City to Tacloban and from there drove to Bohol. Our main goal was to see the world-renowned Chocolate Hills, but upon seeing how many stairs we’d have to climb in order to get a good view, we stopped about midway. But if you’re up for the hike, I’d definitely suggest climbing to the top of the staircase to get the full experience.
Passing by the Tarsier Sanctuary on the way to the hills, we made sure to stop by on our way back. My aunt had visited Bohol years ago when tourists could hold and pet tarsiers in private exhibits, but since then, the tarsiers have been relocated to this sanctuary due to their endangered status.
It was a little difficult to see the little creatures, as they were hidden in the shadows of the tree branches, but there were attendants on standby ready to point them out to visitors.
As we drove back down the mountain, we pulled over on the side of the road to marvel at the Man-Made Forest, two kilometers of Mahogany trees located between Loboc and Bilar.
For lunch, we embarked on the Loboc River Cruise. It appeared to be a very popular tourist attraction, as there were many people visiting from China, Japan, and other countries, but there were also a few Pilipinos as well.
Lunch was served buffet style and offered Pilipino favorites such as lechon kawali and pancit. There were several stops along the river where children performed traditional song and dance, including the tinikling.
After the cruise, we were in a bit of a time crunch to catch our boat back to Cebu, so we made a quick visit to Loboc Church, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2013 and has since been rebuilt, and the Blood Compact Monument, which wasn’t all that interesting to me, to be honest. From there, we headed to the pier and arrived just in time to board our boat.
Our last day was dedicated to buying pasalubong before flying back to Manila. It was a really quick trip, but over the course of two and a half days, we were able to hit all the well-known historical sites and tourist attractions.