Roughly a year ago I had my first meeting with the Philippines, through a bleary eyed early morning arrival in Cebu. Clearly this was not the ideal way to enter the country, but cheap flights caught my eye and thus I found myself in a taxi, hoping to even make it to my accommodation. I didn't make that mistake again, well not exactly, this time I arrived at 5am after a red eye from Incheon aboard which I got a few not so comfortable hours of sleep. Thankfully I didn't have to deal with the taxi headache as my friend Jan was kind enough to pick me up from the airport. *Background story: I met Jan and his friends on my last day in Coron last year at which time he was my angel in disguise, saving me from a sketchy hotel situation* It's been a year since our meeting and I kept promising I'd come back for a longer visit, which I finally delivered on. Jan promised that if I returned to Cebu he'd show me the better side, seeing as I wasn't exactly blown away last time...
True to his word Jan was waiting for me bright and early (after apparently waking up at 3am) so we were both on the tired side. Delivering on his second promise of my trip he proceeded to drive me to the Radison Blu where he scored me a free room for my two night stay in the city! I was worried I wouldn't be able to check in until at least noon but Jan took care of this as well and arranged an early check in for me. I spent the morning sleeping while Jan went into the office (that hardly seems fair). After my nap I did what was only natural, took advantage of the hotel pool and spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun. I also managed to fit in a quick session at the hotel gym before Jan came back to pick me up for dinner with his friends. My first day was drastically different than my visit one year ago, and much improved I must say.
The second day I was up early to do yoga before Jan arrived to join me for breakfast (buffet included with the room). Unfortunately my appetite was lacking so I didn't take advantage of all there was to offer (much to Jan's dismay) but there was always the next day. Full of food and ready for the day we made our way to Mactan Island (where the airport is) to tour some resorts. Our first stop was at Plantation Bay which had an impressive swimming area (partially under construction) and a meager beach, we decided not to stay and headed instead for Blu Waters resort (where Jan so happens to be a member).
The resort was nice and so not what I'm used to when traveling, so it was a nice change of scenery. Jan thought I was crazy for pulling my beach chair into the sun but c'mon this girl hasn't seen the sun in a few months! I had been texting my mom that morning about the plans for the day and her only advice was "don't get burnt", which it looked like I may have been en route to breaking promises. It was HOT but again, I'm not one to complain about that, I rotated between the water and my chair for an hour or two while Jan dozed in and out of sleep. People watching was one of the highlights of the afternoon while simultaneously playing 'guess the Asian', that might sound racist but I don't know how else to describe it. Jan and I were guessing which country all of the hotel guests hailed from, surprise surprise, most were Korean - according to Jan they're invading The Philippines!
I should've listened to my mom (or Jan) and got out of the sun a little earlier than I did because my skin showed off a nice shade of pink by the time we were set to leave, oops. The day ended with a feast of fresh seafood from a nearby market, shrimp, fish and squid, service with the standard heaping pile of rice. Although the sun had set and I was tired (too much sun?) Jan wanted to stop by one more resort before heading back to the city, Shangri-La, which was the icing on the cake. We almost crashed a beach side dinner party but decided against it and grabbed a drink at one of their bars instead.
Unfortunately my grand tour de Cebu ended there, with my plans taking me to Bohol the next day and Jan's business taking him north to Manila. I can't express enough how grateful I was to Jan (and his friends) during this brief visit. Knowing me for only a few hours (well a year in cyber world) but wanting me to appreciate his hometown the way he does he went out of his way to show me a good time. Comped hotel room, good food, resort beach access, no hassle rides and the list goes on. He has plans to, one day, visit the US so I told him to definitely stay in touch and that I'll do all I can to make his trip a memorable one. He pointed out a really good point though, that would require me to actually be there! One day, I'll be back, one day....
Over 7,500 islands of pure bliss. I've been twice, both times arriving with a "what am I doing here" hesitation, but weeks later resisting my departure. Forget about being on time, or eating lots of vegetables, but welcome beautiful sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and welcoming, friendly locals.