20 – 24 JULY 2015:
The Philippines has 7,107 islands, of which only around 2,000 are inhabited. I am proud to say that my family come from one of the most beautiful islands, Cebu. Considered ‘Queen City of the South’ and known for world class beach resorts, water sports and diving spots.
I often think of my family as very small since there are only 6 people in the UK that I strictly definite as ‘family’, but in reality my family is massive! A realisation that hits me every time I’m back in the Philippines. Perhaps due to the fact that my grandmother is 1 of 11 children so I have more cousins, aunties and uncles than I can count. I can’t imagine pushing one baby out of me, never mind 11 so hats off to my great grandmother!
I travelled to Cebu with my sister Jill and my cousin Justine who had joined me from England. Everyone in my immediate family has always been close to our cousins, the ‘Ting’ family and we got to spend a lot of time with them a few months back when they visited the UK. It was nice to see them again but this time on their home ground instead.
RADISSON BLU HOTEL
We stayed at the Radisson Blu which is a very luxurious hotel in the city. One of the most upmarket hotels I have stayed in during my whole trip this year and I have stayed in a lot of hotels over the last few months. The lobby was grand, the bedrooms were spacious and the breakfast was a seriously enormous selection of heaven on earth… Unfortunately I didn’t see very much of the hotel as we were out all day every day having far too much fun! 😉
TEMPLE OF LEAH
First stop straight after dumping our bags at the hotel was ‘The Temple of Leah’ which is known as the Temple of Undying Love.
A work in progress that’s due for completion this year, the Temple of Leah is located at the mountain top of Busay, Cebu City. It will definitely add a lot to the city’s already impressive tourism scene.
The temple has a modern day romantic story behind it as well:
Teodorico Adarna (grandfather of celebrity Ellen Adarna) commissioned it in 2012 as a tribute to his loving wife, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna as a symbol of his undying love.
As stated in the temple’s FB page: “This Temple was constructed in the year 2012 A.D as a symbol of my undying love for her and my ceaseless devotion to Leah Villa Albino-Adarna.”
I feel a little jealous of Leah – I don’t imagine any one will ever build a temple to declare their love for me! I can’t even get someone to buy me flowers!
The outside of the temple is an amazing piece of architecture however there is still a lot of work to be done by the looks of it. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside because there was some sort of celebrity photo shoot taking place; I imagine the temple will be used for many filming and photo opportunities in future. As a tourist, I would give them another year from now to finish construction before it’s really worth the visit.
A short walking distance away from the temple is a native restaurant at the top of a mountain overlooking the whole city. The restaurant had exceptional views and the food was reasonably priced which I was pleasantly surprised by as the area is so scenic so I expected it to be more expensive than it was.
My Uncle Oscar and my cousin Kandylyn joined us for dinner which was lovely as I hadn’t seen them in around 20 years. Good food, good company and a great view overlooking my family’s home island. All in all a good choice of venue for our first meal in Cebu.
The first full day in Cebu was spent visiting other family members as well as the cemetery to pay respect to our elders who are no longer with us. I was fortuitous to learn a little about my family history while I was there, as having such a large family means there are some interesting but also somewhat tragic tales to be told.
Later we met up with the rest of the Ting family for a Thai/Spanish fusion meal in Cebu’s new restaurant park. We followed that up with a Thai massage next door and kept getting told off for being too noisy. Having five females together is never going to be quiet!
OSLOB BEACH – WHALE SHARKS
The next day it was my cousin Justine’s 21st birthday so we wanted it to be a day she would always remember….and I think we succeeded. We were up at 5am for a long drive to Tan-awan Oslob Beach to swim with Whale Sharks.
‘Whale Sharks are a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species.’
You travel a short distance from the shore in a little boat. You can then snorkel and swim with these magnificent creatures! The guides will also assist and take photos underwater of you so you can capture the experience on camera. Initially it is scary being so close to such massive sea mammals, but they’re not actually scary at all…they have around 3,000 teeth but they are so small and therefore of little danger. They sieve their tiny food through their large gills.
An amazing experience, a 21st birthday that my cousin will never forget!
Next stop was Aguinid Falls; composed of five different tiers along the Tangbo River, with each level having a unique cascade. One can only reach the other falls by passing and climbing the limestone paths in the flowing waters up to the highest level.
This is why Aguinid is described as the kind of falls that get a visitor really wet; with its shallow waterbeds that also serve as the only pathway up, rocky terrain, and fast-flowing waters, you are bound to be soaked by the time you reach the top but it’s so worth it for the stunning views!
You also get to jump from certain parts of the waterfall into small pools of water. An activity I’ve always loved, it gives you some exercise and boy did I feel it in my muscles the next day. The guides were very helpful and one of them let me hold on to his hand very tightly during the trek. It may not come as a surprise to some of you that my shoes were not exactly appropriate for the activity, and I was scared to fall flat on my face so I stole the guide’s flip flops.
My cousin Doreen had a few male friends from Canada who were on their travels and they joined us at the waterfall so it was a fun group activity which meant I had many people to pick me up when I fell. They had to take turns!
GINZA JAPANESE RESTAURANT
In the evening of Justine’s birthday we went to a Japanese restaurant and she claimed it to be the best Japanese meals she has ever had, and she is definitely no stranger to Japanese cuisine.
We’re a greedy family so we ordered far too many dishes, and the portions were quite large. We also hate to waste money so we squeezed as much food in as possible! My belly weighed me down so much I struggled to get up at the end.
Later Doreen and Justine headed to a club with the Canadian guys. Jill and I felt a little too tired from all of the day’s adventure and went home to rest our weary heads instead. All in all, I think we can say that Justine had a pretty awesome 21st birthday! Swimming with Whale Sharks, climbing a waterfall, Japanese dinner and then clubbing with 3 young Canadian guys! It definitely tops my 21st which was so uneventful I don’t even remember what it was! I’m going to guess – dinner and a movie!
On our third day, the Tings decided to rent a boat which was a great choice because the weather was perfect and the whole family could enjoy the day together. We planned to go island hopping, but ended up staying on one island all day called ‘Nalusuan Island’.
It’s a relatively small island but has a place to eat and a beachfront so it was great for a bit of relaxation. We spent most of the day playing cards (Tongits, which is a Filipino card game) and relaxing near the sea.
We sailed back to Cebu island and went for drinks at Movenpick Resort which is another one of the islands 5 star resorts. The hotel has an Ibiza theme which is embodied by the strobe lighting, background dance music and mini hot tubs dotted around. We plan to stay at this hotel next time!
We had such a lovely time visiting our family in Cebu. I am extremely proud to say that my family comes from such a beautiful island. Big shout out to the Ting family who were extremely accommodating during our visit and especially Doreen who devoted all of her time to drive us around and make sure we had a great time!