Philippines: Cebu City & Bohol

After a quick hop back to Puerto Princesa, I was off on a flight to Cebu City, the country’s second biggest city. It’s so much more chilled than Manila and my journey from the airport to my hotel (Sugbutel, really close to the ferry piers) was much more painless than Manila could ever hope to be. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of Manila-bashing.

I was only using Cebu as a quick stopover too as I intended to go over to neighbouring island Bohol. It had been quite badly damaged by the recent storms but I decided to take my chances anyway as the weather had improved. I spent the day in Cebu doing not very much at all. I got my ferry ticket with some difficulty as all of the company’s computers were offline. Luckily the SM City Mall near the ferry terminals has a travellers’ lounge and they can sort out the tickets for you, so if you’re struggling head over to there. I got the 12pm Transasia ferry for 275php, though it’s one of the slower ones (4 hours). The faster ones are more expensive.

After that, I dodged the rain showers and headed down to Fort San Pedro for an hour. The old fort isn’t blow your socks off good but it’s only 30php entry (20 with student ID) and the walk round the small fort is quite nice, especially as the sun came out. After an evening eating Cebu’s signature lechon (roasted pig) dish, I got an early night and readied myself for braving another Philippines ferry port.

Fort San Pedro, Cebu City
Fort San Pedro, Cebu City

My second ferry journey couldn’t have been more different from the first. Chiefly because I actually caught this one. The Cebu ferry port was much more chilled, even if the terminal building had been abandoned a few months prior and now looked like it could cave in at any second. Pier 4 passengers have to wait underneath a marquee opposite and wait for a free shuttle bus. Everything went smoothly and at 12pm my practically empty ferry set off for Tagbilaran. I had almost the whole tourist suite to myself. I guess it’s because I was on a shoestring and taking the 4 hour ferry rather than the 2 hour one. Despite the emptiness, someone still set up camp in the bed right next to me. People here obviously aren’t as obsessed with personal space as I am.

I arrived at a rainy Tagbilaran and struggled to find a jeepney to Panglao so I could reach my accommodation. Apparently the Tawala jeepneys which ply this route stop at 3pm and I got there around 4.30pm. Other jeepneys had Panglao written on them but the ‘terminal’ was chaos with all of them either full or just not stopping. As it was chucking it down, I paid a bit more and got a tricycle. I paid 250php for the ride over to Panglao which was pretty long.

I was staying at Bohol Coco Farm which had a similar vibe to the guesthouse in Alaminos. It’s a fully functional farm which serves delicious home-grown food in their reasonably-priced restaurant. They also had Red Horse beer for 39php, the cheapest I’d seen in any restaurant. It’s a bit of a maze and there’s plenty of mozzies about but it’s a great place to stay and their restaurant is a good place to socialise. It’s also ideally located 4km from the famous Alona Beach, though getting to Tagbilaran is a bit more hassle. Dorm rooms are 350php a night.

I had originally planned to tackle Bohol via public transport but given I was staying on Panglao, I opted for the easier option of joining a tour held by the Coco Farm which took a group of us round Bohol’s main sites in a van for 500php (excluding entrance fees). I’m not a fan of group tours but it was the easiest way to see the spread-out sites and I saw more than I otherwise would have done.

A wide-eyed tarsier
A wide-eyed tarsier

We started out by seeing one of the largest pythons in captivity (40php), before heading to an Eco-park where you can do zip lining over the Loboc river for a fee. This was followed by the famed Tarsier sanctuary (60php, 50php for students). I got to see more tarsiers than I thought I would and the cute little monkeys were quite a sight with their wide eyes and tiny hands. I wasn’t able to get great pictures since the camera flash can kill them but it was great to finally see the little animals. After this, we went to the butterfly farm (30php) which was better than I thought it would be, mostly as the guides are pretty good.

Finally, we made it to the big destination – the Chocolate Hills (50php to access the viewing deck). They really are a sight to behold and there’s loads of them going off into the distance. I don’t know if you can hike round them but I’d have loved to. They definitely looked like something lifted straight out of Super Mario. We stayed here for a while taking pictures before heading back to Panglao. This is why I’m not a fan of group tours – I could have stayed longer with my headphones in just appreciating the amazing hills.

Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills

After too much social interaction for one day, I took the next day for myself and walked the 4km down the road to Alona (Danao) Beach. It was here that I realised my hatred of beach resorts since every road I tried to go down was blocked off by one hogging the beach. Finally, I got to the main public entrance. This beach felt like my first proper white sand beach. The sand was quite hard and thin but the sun was finally out and I had a little too much fun sunbathing which is why I resemble a lobster as I write this. It’s a nice beach though and I’d definitely recommend walking down to the end so you can avoid the touts and other tourists.

Alona Beach
Alona Beach

The next day was my third ferry trip and it almost ended in disaster again. I had met a Dutch couple who were also heading to Dumaguete on the ferry. There are some conflicting times online but the ferry from Tagbilaran to Dumaguete is at 10.30am, as per the Ocean Jet website. We hadn’t got our tickets yet but the owner of Coco Farm said we only had to get there 20 minutes before. Thinking this was pushing it, we asked for a 9am tricycle which never showed up, despite the owners telling us it was here and that the driver had got in touch.

We still hadn’t left Panglao at around 9.45am as flagging tricycles on the road proved fruitless. Finally the owner tried to rectify his mistake by giving us a lift to the ferry port in his car. We arrived at around 10.10am and just about got on the ferry (700php each). However, the owner then charged us for the ride despite him having messed up in the first place. On top of this, there’s a neat money-making scheme you can fall victim to at the ferry terminal. Straight after buying your ticket, you’re ushered over to a luggage area where you deposit your bigger bags for 100php. What we weren’t told is that this isn’t really necessary. If you just have a standard rucksack (as I do) you can take it on board no problem and save money.

The important thing was that we’d made the ferry (which was a very big deal for me!). It was now time to see what life was like in Negros…

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