September 14, 2006

Journey to Cebu

Friday, August 25
Yiu Yiu was extra clingy this morning, as if she knew I'd be away for several days. She refused to be carried by papa and kept whining softly as I smothered her with kisses. Hubby finally managed to persuade her to say goodbye to mummy as the KLIA taxi driver was waiting. After checking in at about 8.30am, I grabbed a quick breakfast at Café Marche, enjoying a cup of mocha with foccacia sandwich. I surfed a little as KLIA is now equipped with WiFi facilities. The flight to Manila departed at 10.50am, after a 30-minute delay. I spent the whole time on the flight reading the long overdue "What to Expect – the First Year". Yiu Yiu is approaching her 10th month and I'm just at the chapter of baby's 5th month!

After a pretty uneventful flight, my colleagues and I arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The airport is quite old, and such a far cry compared to our own KLIA. We were then transferred to the new Manila Centennial Airport for our connecting flight to Cebu. While waiting, I made my way to the washroom to express breast milk, which I planned to cart home for Yiu Yiu's consumption.

The flight to Cebu departed at 5.30pm and I could see the skyline changing from yellowish to pitch black, and it was just slightly over 6.00pm then. The plane touched down at Cebu Mactan International Airport at about 7.00pm. It was drizzling then and traffic was bad. The things that struck me on the way to the hotel were the old and rickety houses and lack of street lights. Many of the roadside stalls still used the rather primitive kerosene lamp as their source of lighting. It appears to me as if Cebu is trapped in a 50s time warp. Amidst the relative shabbiness of the surrounding, we found ourselves at the very posh Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort & Spa. We finally checked into our rooms slightly after 8.00pm, almost 12-hour since leaving home. Needless to say, I totally crashed out that night.

Saturday, August 26
Cebu was discovered by the Spanish explorer, Ferninand Magellan who, six days after having sailed into the harbour of Mactan, was slain by Lapu-Lapu, the chieftain of Mactan Island. Mactan Island is part of the Cebu province, which is made up of 167 islands, of which only seven are bigger islands. It is connected to the main Cebu Island by two bridges, the Mandaue-Mactan Bridges 1 and 2. The Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort & Spa is located on the east coast of this small island of 275,000 people.

I had a full day meeting today and didn't have a chance to explore the beautiful hotel grounds at all. In the evening, we went over to Cebu City for some shopping and dinner. We went to one of the major shopping malls in Cebu City, SM City and bought loads of dried mangoes, a popular delicacy from the Philippines. I was also impressed by the range and quality of children's clothing at SM City. All the Disney, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh dresses were so pretty and reasonably cheaper compared to Malaysia. I was disappointed with the infant clothing range though, and I couldn't find something nice to buy for Yiu Yiu.

Dinner was at Café Laguna, reputedly one of the best restaurants in Cebu that serves authentic Filipino cuisine. It started as a labour of love for the Urbina family. Coming from a long line of fine cooks, Lina Urbina started Café Laguna and served Filipino food with the distinctive taste which brought memories of homecooked meals shared with friends and family. Filipino cuisine has Malay, Chinese and Spanish influences. We had lumpiang sariwa (palm shoot spring roll), bulalo soup (beef shank with bamboo shoot and fresh corn), crispy tadyang (deep fried beef ribs), pandan chicken, crispy crablets, camaron rebo sado (fried shrimp coated with egg, flour and cornstarch), tangigue steak (grilled fish), kare-kare with bagong (oxtail in peanut sauce with fermented fish; very much like our own curry but not spicy) and seafood paella. The thick, ice-blended mango juice I had was so refreshing and satisfying.

Lumpiang sariwa

Kare-kare with bagong

Seafood paella

Sunday, August 27
I only had a half-day meeting today and decided to explore Cebu. The half-day city tour costs US$16 but the operator has a minimum requirement of two persons per trip. Since none of my colleagues are interested to explore the city, I went ahead with the tour on my own but had to pay for two. Michael, my guide for the afternoon, picked me up from the hotel at 1.45pm in a Toyota Vios. The tour took me to the Magellan Marker and Lapu-Lapu Monument in Mactan Island, followed landmarks in Cebu City such as the Heritage of Cebu Monument, Fort San Pedro, Basilica del Santo Nino, Magellan's Cross and Taoist Temple. Michael was a great guide who patiently explained the history and story associated with each sight so I guess the US$32 was worth paying. The tour ended at about 4.30pm and I asked to be dropped off at Ayala Centre for some shopping. I couldn't believe what I ended up buying! Maternity blouses…just couldn't resist even though I don't need any at the moment. They are a steal at between 150 – 200 pesos (RM 11 – 15) and the quality was really good.

My colleagues joined me for dinner and again we went to Café Laguna. Again, we ordered lumpiang sariwa and ice-blended mango juice. We also had sinigang hipon (shrimp soup with tamarind puree; tastes like tomyam minus the spiciness), crispy pata (deep fried pork knuckles), grilled spare ribs, crispy kangkong and pinakbet (mixed vegetables with salty fermented shrimp paste). We went back to the hotel tired, but very much satiated.

Crispy pata

Grilled spare ribs


Monday, August 28
I was holed up in the meeting room from 8.00am – 6.00pm today but managed to take a quick walk at the beach during lunch. The azure, clear water was just so beautiful. It's such a shame that I haven't had a chance to enjoy the beautiful beach. Mental note to self, wake up at 6.00am tomorrow to soak up the sun before meeting begins at 8.00am. Dinner tonight was at Buko Bar, which served a buffet spread of traditional Filipino food. There was also a traditional dance performance during dinner. Some of the dances are similar to those we see back home, not surprising considering Filipinos are descendents of the Malays.

Group photo with the dancers

Tuesday, August 29
Immediately after the meeting ended at 5.30pm, we quickly organized a taxi for a final trip to town. We had initially planned to do some shopping at Ayala Centre and grab dinner but one of my colleagues stumbled upon an ad for Thai massage, which only costs 200 pesos for one hour. Since we could not afford the spa at the hotel, we unanimously agreed that this is a viable alternative. We instructed the taxi driver by way of pointing to the map. We reached the massage shop at about 7.00pm due to rush hour traffic. Our initial plan of massage followed by shopping and dinner would not be workable as the lady at the counter told us that Ayala Centre will close at 8.00pm. So we changed our plan and headed to Ayala Centre instead, which is just 5 minutes walk away from the shop. After the shops closed, we had dinner at Café Laguna (again!). We ordered pretty much the same dishes we had previously with the new ones being tinola lapu-lapu fillet (soup with fish fillet), pancit palabok with puto (rice noodles with seafood sauce), and buko pandan (pandan jelly in coconut cream) for dessert. We took a leisurely stroll back to the massage shop and decided to indulge ourselves with the 2-hour package which includes one hour each of Thai and Swedish massage. The Thai massage was quite good, but still cannot compare to the real McCoy. The Swedish massage was quite a disappointment, but can’t complain as we only paid 380 pesos for the whole session. It was raining heavily as we boarded the taxi back to the hotel and we could see many of the roads were flooded. We heaved a sigh of relief when we safely reached the hotel at 1.00am.

Pancit palabok with puto

Buko pandan

Wednesday, August 30
I woke up at 6.30am this morning as I've made a pact with my colleagues to take a dip in the hotel pool and enjoy the beach before we head home. The sun was already shining brightly and we headed to the beach first. It was heavenly wading into the crystal clear water at the beach. Even near the shore, there were many fishes, albeit plain looking ones, swimming around feeding on bread given by hotel guests. We could also see many corals (dead ones, I assume, as they were all brown in colour) in the shallow waters. We decided to rent a snorkeling gear and venture further out the sea. Though the corals were still uninteresting, we were rewarded with the sight of different colourful fishes. I'm not an expert in marine life but could still recognize the sea cucumber, star fish, and many more. We also took a refreshing dip in the pool. Soon after, it was time to bid Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort & Spa a fond farewell.

Picture perfect

The inviting clear, azure, calm sea

Pool with a view

For the return trip, again, we had to transit in Manila. Nevertheless, the shoppers among us killed time by doing some last-minute shopping and frantically trying to spend off all our remaining pesos. Cebuanos are famed guitar makers so I bought a miniature one to remind myself of Cebu at the Cebu Mactan International Airport. At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I saw a handiwork of a traditional Filipino village scene assembled inside a glass bottle and thought it would look really nice in the display cabinet. The vain pot in me also couldn't resist the colourful woven clutch purse.

The entire journey was uneventful except that I practically slept the whole time. The plane landed in KLIA at about 8.15pm. As it was the Merdeka eve, I was told by the lady at the KLIA airport limo that the line for the taxi is very long as many drivers are stuck in the city due to numerous road closures in preparation for the Merdeka parade. As I braced myself for a 30-minute wait, I was pleasantly surprised that I got into a taxi after waiting for less than 15 minutes. As I stepped into my house, I was greeted by a very enthusiastic gummy grin. My little darling welcomed her mummy home with a big hug.


jazzmint said...

oohh that's a nice trip with lots of good food huh and the beach simply so inviting!!!

allthingspurple said...

just looking at the food makes me drool......