The article first appeared in ITSPAUSLIFE, written by Pauline Mae De Leon.
Cebu, one out of the 7,107 islands the Philippines has to offer. The land in which Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, set foot on and put our beautiful country on the map.
Within just three days, my family and I ventured out into the south of Cebu where we got to swim with the most gentle giants, Whale Sharks. Climb for our lives at Aguinid Falls, and witness the famous Kawasan Falls.
A trip to Cebu would be incomplete if you don’t try their famous Lechon! So, after dropping our bags at our hotel (which is located right in front of Ayala Center), we made our way to the House of Lechon which was just a 5 minute walk away from where we were staying.
I wanted to try everything on the menu, but my stomach has its limits. So, we ordered lechon (of course), baked scallops with cheese, crispy chicken skin (must try) and lechon sisig.
By the time our lechon arrived, the skin was sadly not as crispy as it should have been. Apparently all the “good” parts were given to the customers who came in early (we arrived around 1pm), as a result we were given the not-so-good parts. Which to be fair shouldn’t be done to any customer. However, the waitress was kind enough to give us a fresh new plate of crispy skin.
Their dessert… was… the BOMB. To your left is their Pandan Tapioca and to the right is their Oreo Mango Float. I highly recommend both (although I did favor the Oreo one more). Honestly, no words can describe how good they were. You just have to try it for yourselves.
FULL DAY 1
One of the fairly new tourist attractions in Cebu is the Sirao Garden: Little Amsterdam, owned by former CX flight attendant, Maria Elena Sy Chua (Hi Tita!). She first bought a piece of land in 1989 and had no idea what to do with it!
With the passion for gardening and the love of flowers, Elena decided to make use of her 8,000+ square metre land and plant the most beautiful flowers to the human eye. One in particular, the locally acclaimed celosia.
The entrance fee is just PHP 50 (HKD 7.81) per head! You’re free to take as many selfies and photos as you want. It’s practically bait for you Instagrammers out there (i.e. me).
Tip: the best time to visit is in October where everything blooms to its peak.
If you’re feeling parched or hungry after your photoshoot, they do serve local snacks and drinks! From avocado ice candies to the most delicious banana ques.
After our little pictorial around the garden, we made our way up to a restaurant called “Lantau” which has a full view of the city.
FULL DAY 2
3:30am. Yes, we had to get up bright (not really) and early so that we could start our 3 hour road trip to swim with the Whale Sharks! It’s actually the norm to start your journey that early (or earlier) because for one, it’s a long drive. Two, the lines can get really long and the Whale Sharks are only there from 6am to around noon.
We hired a driver and his van (which was good for 10 people) for PHP5,500. That amount includes the whole day.
Below are details of two drivers you can hire for the day from “Flamingo Rent A Car“, in which they’re licensed to operated under the Department of Tourism in the Philippines.
Price: PHP6,000 (HKD935.96) (van good for 10 people)
Price: PHP5,500 (HKD857.96) (van good for 10 people)
The south side of Cebu was stunning. Locals get to wake up to crystal blue waters every day, and I envy them. Their life seems so simple.
Once you arrive the Whale Shark watching entrance, you’ll have to pay a general fee.
If you decide to just stay on the boat, it’s PHP300 (HKD46.84).
If you decide to swim with them, it’s PHP500 (HKD78.07) for locals and PHP700 (HKD156.13) for foreigners. The fee includes a life jacket and a snorkelling mask.
Extra equipment such as flippers and an underwater camera are available prior upon request for a small fee.
You get in total of 30 minutes with the gentle giants.
The experience was quite surreal. At first I felt a bit anxious just because they were enormous and this wasn’t an every day thing for me. But, it was quite the encounter i’ll never forget.
Afterwards, we dried ourselves up and made our way to Aguinid Falls.
Aguinid Falls has five basic levels that ascend. The rocks in which you walk on during your journey are limestones (they’re not slippery), but do wear beach shoes as there will be climbing involved. In addition, there are 3 other levels for the more “adventurous souls”. We told ourselves that we’d decide on that once we reached level 5.
During your excursion, you’ll have fully experienced guides to help you along the way!
The first two levels were insanely breathtaking and the water was so fresh.
The images above are level 3. It isn’t as scary because they’ve made steps for you so that you’ll be able to climb easier and your foot grips in better. It’s completely safe as long as you listen to your guides.
As soon as we reached level 5, our guides asked us if we wanted to continue onto the last three levels or make our way back down. At first we thought going down would be easier; however, we didn’t realize how much harder and tiring it would actually be especially at level 3.
Our guides recommended going up, and that the only hard climb was up to level 6 (the image above). So, we decided to be “adventurous” and continue our journey.
If only my gopro could have captured how high it actually was and felt. I was absolutely terrified at the fact that I might slip (which I wouldn’t because the rocks aren’t slippery) or lose my grip somehow. At one point I had to let go of the wall and put my life in the hands of a guide who was skinnier than me (LOL). But, I had to trust him.
We all made it up safe, but it was one hell of a climb.
What greeted us at the next level was not fun. It was yet another life or death climb (I’m exaggerating). I don’t have a photo of it but I did film it which is in my vlog above this post. Again, the gopro doesn’t show how high it was and felt. As well as the curved rock not having any steps for us to grib our feet into. Which was why one guide pushed and the other pulled.
All in all, it was quite the adventurous and daring experience in which none of us saw coming. Although, it was absolutely exhilarating!
Our final destination of the day, Kawasan Falls!
You can either have a guide take you or make your way on your own. It’s roughly a 15 to 20 minute walk (1.5km), depending on how slow or fast you are.
And yes, that is what you see on your way to the falls. Amazing right?
I’d say the hype is 70/30. The view behind the camera wasn’t so pleasant. They’ve opened up stalls and put out a number of tables (which you have to rent for PHP300 (HKD46.8)). It’s completely crowded and you can’t exactly take in the view while having selfie sticks in your face and children running around.
It isn’t ideal, but I’d say it’s worth it.
Also, another option other tourists like doing is canyoneering (PHP1,500 (HKD233.99) all inclusive) their way to the falls. It’s a 4 to 5 hour trail that includes a lot of jumping and sliding into the water! Sounded fun, but we were beat from all the climbing at Aguinid.
Another 3 to 4 hour journey back to the city, and we could not wait to get in bed and pass out.
The following day we had to get up bright and early againfor Bohol! Only a 2 hour ferry ride away.
So, stay tuned for that!