Philipino-philes in Cebu and spotting E.T. on Bohol

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Asia » Philippines » Bohol
September 16th 2011
Published: October 6th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Well, after a drama filled day in Singapore, we were finally heading to the Philippines…just not to Manila right away like we had planned. As you can imagine, we were only half awake when we got to Cebu and went through immigration. Good thing they were so friendly there. This was actually the first time we’ve seen someone from immigration SMILE since we’ve been on our trip. Usually it’s all business with a serious no nonsense, strict, hard ass look on their faces. Even the taxi driver was genuinely NICE to us, which was so shocking to us that we nearly passed out in the back seat. Ok, so that was because we were beat… We had him drop us off at a place we had found in the LP and online that looked pretty decent and couldn’t wait to crash for a while. But, when we got there, the room was a little more sketchy and run down than the pictures we saw online (not like that really surprised us all that much). So, we hopped another cab and made our way to a hotel downtown, the area of Cebu City that the guidebook says is somewhere you never want to stay unless you absolutely HAVE to. It was way too early in the morning to even see what they were talking about, other than a few homeless people sleeping on the streets covered by cardboard and newspapers, and all we could think about was sleeping! I think we passed out in mid-collapse onto the bed before our heads even hit the pillows!

When we woke up, we weren’t really feeling up to doing much, which was probably good since Cebu City doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Nate went for a walk down the street to get some water, not realizing he would have to fend off a few hookers just to walk 2 blocks. “I go home with you yes?” Nate: “Uh, no…you not go home with me.” “You like fun girl?” Oh boy… If you’re looking for a quick way to contract a venereal disease, spend a couple days here with the ladies on the street! You’re guaranteed to pick up and STD! Even though there were dirty little kids begging, hookers galore, and plenty of poor homeless people sleeping on the streets, the city itself wasn’t really all that dirty in terms of litter and garbage…which was kind of surprising to us. After braving the whore gauntlet, Nate was just relieved to be back in the room. So what do you do in a city like this anyways? Enjoy the precious air-con and cable TV for a change! And that we did, only leaving the room to find ourselves a SIM card for our new cell phone and some food. It was pretty easy to tell that people weren’t very used to seeing white people here, but it was different than Indo. Sure people stared at us as usual, but it seemed like they lost interest faster and just let us be. Whew!

There weren’t a whole lot of food options in Cebu City, and in the end we would wind up eating at trusty old McDonald’s just for some familiar food, well familiar in Asia standards, fried chicken breast and rice. Could we have eaten some street food? Sure. Maybe from the lady with the little cart in the empty lot across the street who was serving up what can only be described as what looked like a combination of diarrhea and cat vomit. Mmmm, yummy! Call us crazy, but McD’s sounded much more appetizing to us! Haha! On our way there, we noticed that we couldn’t even cross the street without being spotted from every corner by the kids living on the streets, rushing over to beg us for money and doing their best to not take no for an answer. There’s a big part of you that truly feels bad for these kids and your heart breaks a little bit each time, but you know you can’t keep giving them money when, unfortunately, you’re encouraging their parents to continue putting them on the streets all day to get money from people. Jessie: “God, I feel like such a cold-hearted bitch when we ignore these kids, they break my heart, but what else can you really do?” Very true. Ok, so 99% of the time Jessie is able to walk away BUT these two little girls really got to her and she very discretely placed 1 peso in each of their hands. There was no one she could bear to look at their sad little faces and although we would rather have gotten them food, a peso would have to do this time around.

The kids we definitely felt sorry for, but the hookers, not so much. Even the guys were in on it! At one point, Nate had gone to get some more water just down the block again when a man ran up to him and grabbed his arm, “You good. You good. You need young girl? I have young girl for you, very cheap my friend.” Nate: “No thanks. I’m good.” He quickly pulled his arm away and sped up his walk as the man actually got OFFENDED that he said no. As he was walking away, the man yelled, “Hey! You are in the city for fu**ing!” Um, ok buddy that doesn’t mean I need to pay to get laid. After spending another day here while getting some research done with our free wifi, we could see what he was talking about. One night when we were coming back to our hotel, we saw 3 old, nasty Western men with a group of very young Filipina girls around them, and you just KNEW what was going down. So gross! You can tell that’s one main reason why they come to the Philippines. Ok, we know it’s just business to the girls and they just wanna make some quick money, but when you’re a young girl, how do you get busy with a 70 year old man whose skin is hanging off his face and balls are probably dragging on the ground? Oh hell no!

We’d have to agree with what pretty much everyone else says about the city…it’s not really worth spending any amount of time in. On another note, there’s one really big difference we’re already noticing about the Philippines vs. other Asian countries, and that’s the security guards that seem to be at the entrance to every mall, store, hotel, and restaurant…even McDonald’s! Not to mention, when you walk into a mall here, every guy gets patted to see if he’s carrying a gun. When you’re looking around and seeing a couple guys holding shotguns with pistol grips on them, one would assume you would think twice before doing anything stupid. After recovering a couple of days from a whirlwind trip in Singapore and a mental beating from Indonesia, we were more than ready to start making our way out of this pedophile and prostitute infested city!

I guess you could count Cebu City as our first stop in the Philippines, but to us it almost didn’t even really count. Bohol was going to be the first place we would spend any significant amount of time exploring. This also meant we were about to take our first ferry ride in this country. With it being so insanely hot and humid out, we decided to be really lazy and take a cab for the whopping 40 Pesos ($1) to get to the pier, even though we could have walked there in probably 20 minutes easily. As usual, we went with the cheapest option we could find, which happened to be a shipping company called Lite Shipping. We’ve heard plenty of horror stories about ferries sinking here, but we have to say, there were MORE than enough life jackets on board and even safety rafts in case of an emergency. Well, now that we think about it, maybe that wasn’t such a good sign. It’s nice that they have them, but that could also mean they’re used to having to USE them. Shit, let’s hope not! Considering we had paid for one of the cheapest seats we could get, we were pretty surprised to be able to lay down in bunk beds and chill out for the whole ride, which was actually pretty smooth. We arrived in Bohol just fine and without any near death encounters, so how could we complain?

We could tell before we even got off the boat that we were about to get hammered by tricycle drivers as soon as we got to the end of the pier. I mean, you can almost see these guys salivating from the dock, yelling over each other as to who gets to take the white people. Sorry guys, no ride for us. We decided to walk past the 30 men pining for our attention and asking every question they could think of to figure out how to get us to go with them and walk into town. We made it to the local tourism information office where we were again pleasantly surprised by how incredibly nice and helpful the woman at the front desk was, telling us exactly how to get to the cheapest transportation in town (the jeepneys) and even looking up where the cheapest accommodation was in Panglao. We were just about speechless! You mean, no “Oh I’m sorry, you have to take a tricycle for 10 times the locals’ price”, or “Well, the cheapest place is actually fully booked today but I have a friend who has a place…” It was pretty refreshing for a change, and we walked out looking at one another as if to say, “Was that lady for real? Was she actually being genuinely helpful? There MUST be a catch.”

We made our way to where the jeepneys were waiting for people to take them to Panglao, and even got directed by a couple of the locals as to which one to get on right away. We knew they were going to pack it tight, but little did we know just HOW tight. They filled every possible foot of space on the inside, including people sitting in the aisles where people were trying to put their feet and things they had purchased from in town. On top of that, we had a couple of guys on the roof and about 10-12 more hanging on by one arm off the back. Now THAT’S how you capitalize on a passenger ride right there! It wasn’t the most comfortable ride and even the locals were sweating like pigs, which meant we were…well, just plain dripping, but in the end it was super cheap and we paid the exact same amount as all of the locals around us. Amazing! We got dropped off right in town and made our way to the resort that was supposed to have the cheapest rooms in town, a dive resort at that! Obviously the rooms were about as basic as possible, but in a place full of resorts and people with money, it was about all we could afford.

We took a stroll down the beach and it didn’t take long to realize that we probably weren’t going to spend a whole lot of time here. One of the problems we were running into was how expensive the food was just about everywhere we tried to eat at. At least we were able to find ONE place that served up some good food with decent portions, even though it was overpriced as well. We haven’t eaten that much pizza in MONTHS! But let us tell you, after 9 months without, pizza and beer night was nothing short of amazing! Our days here were pretty much spent grabbing something to eat and hanging out at the pool in the resort we were at. Obviously we couldn’t really complain about that! Although the diving is supposed to be great, word on the street was not enough people were around to even fill up a boat to go out. The one downside to traveling in the low season.

On a side note, Nate finally made his contribution to Jessie’s butterfly collection. He spotted a near dead butterfly that Jessie made quick work of mounting on some Styrofoam we found by the beach. Now if we can manage to get it home in one piece we’ll be lucky!

After just a couple of days, it was time to make our way back to Tagbilaran. We decided to make this city as our central point to do some exploring around the rest of the island, so we again took a jeepney back to the city. We stopped in the same tourist information office where a man was kind enough to call and make us a reservation at a cheap hotel in town. He also told us where to get the ticket for the ferry we wanted in a couple of days and where we could rent a motorbike. It was so nice to have someone genuinely help us without any other motives, and he was spot on with all of the advice he had given to us as well. We highly recommend stopping there if you are in Bohol and looking for some advice. We made our way to the hotel, checked in, and set out to get a bite to eat at a mall down the road a little way. Little did we know there was going to be a dance contest going on in the middle of the mall. It was a full on live Filipino version of a best dance crew show on TV. Some of them could really move, too! We were almost in shock after being in a country where the women don’t even show their hair and then seeing girls with skimpy outfits pelvic thrusting into the air.

After our fun outing at the mall it was time to hit the sack and get some rest before an early morning and a full day on the bike, so we got back and ready for bed. Jessie, “Oh shit!” Nate, “What?” Jessie, “I just saw a rat run across the floor.” Nate, “ You gotta be kiddin’ me.” Not more than 5 minutes later did he see another one for himself. Now, Nate HATES rats more than anything and for Jessie the best show of the night was the one Nate put on when he saw the rat. There was some screaming and yelling and definitely some dancing done by Nate as he jumped from the floor to the bed shaking his arms and legs the way Jessie would when she sees a centipede. Nate, “OK, that’s it. I’m going downstairs to see if we can switch rooms.” The funny part is the man working the front desk probably thought two things: one, buddy, this is what you get when you pay for the cheapest room in town and two, your girlfriend must be petrified of rats! Little did he know it’s Nate who was NOT sleeping in the room with the rats. Luckily we were able to move rooms, and to the best of our knowledge, we didn’t have any more dirty little disease infested demons running around in our room that night.

Morning came early as usual and we rented our motorbike (what a piece of shit THAT thing was) and set out to see the tarsiers first. Considering we had a crap map to go by, we found the tarsier sanctuary pretty easily. Better yet, there were no tourists there but us. It took us a whole 10 minutes to pay for tickets and be led into the jungle with a guide who showed us 6 different tarsiers right away without even having to walk more than 2 minutes. Those little guys are so damn cute! With it being day time, they were really sleepy and not very active, which made it easy to get pictures of them. We were even lucky enough to get to see a mother with her baby. After snapping about 100 pictures, we watched a short video on tarsiers and learned about how endangered they really are. It was nice to see that someone had stepped in to try and save these animals and the government actually supports them as well. We were very happy with choosing to see the tarsiers at the sanctuary and not at one of the tourist traps along the road on the way to the Chocolate Hills. We learned that in captivity most of the tarsiers die after only a few months due to being handled by humans and insufficient food. The sanctuary we went to only has 10 captive tarsiers that the tourists can view and those 10 are used to breed. All the babies are released into the wild, which we were happy to find out. The other thing we learned was that the cute little primates had apparently inspired the look for E.T. We thought that was kind of interesting.

Even though we heard it was nothing too special, we figured we would check out the Chocolate Hills since we were on Bohol and already had the bike with hours to spend. The ride there was really nice and the scenery was amazing. Honestly, the Philippines look like what we thought Indonesia would be, green and lush jungle. When we finally arrived at the Chocolate Hills, it was pretty much the tourist trap that we thought it would be. Sure it was kind of nice to see them from the view point, but really, it’s just a bunch of hills and no they weren’t brown like chocolate either. The ride on the bike was more enjoyable than actually seeing them. All we did was take the typical tourist pictures and take off, making our way back to the hotel. Bohol , had been a great start and we were looking forward to see what the other islands were like. We made our way from the hotel to the pier, and boarded our ferry to the next destination that night.

Traveler Tips
Getting There
Cebu- We flew in from Singapore on Cebu Pacific. You are able to buy a flight less than 24 from departure on their website. We paid well under $100 USD each.
Bohol- You can take the fast ferries if you like for a lot more money, but we opted for Lite Shipping. We got basic economy tickets with beds for 220 PHP per person from Cebu City to Tagbiliran on Bohol. You can pay slightly less for a wooden bench, which we learned after getting on the boat.

Cebu- We stayed at Cebu Century Hotel for 700 PHP per night for a double room with private bathroom and wifi.
Bohol- In Tagbiliran we stayed at Casa Juana for 600 pesos, we wouldn’t recommend it. In Panglao, we stayed at Bohol Dive Resort and paid 600 PHP for the room but were able to use the pool which was awesome since the ocean was pretty churned up. It was nothing special but was also the cheapest place we could find.

Cebu- You have a few options at the mall if you’d like, but we didn’t see much that looked very appetizing. We ended up eating mostly at McDonald’s and having chicken and rice, or going to the grocery store and making our own sandwiches.
Bohol- While in Panglao, we ate at Powder Keg. There really aren’t any cheap options as far as food goes here, but at least this restaurant had good portions for the money and some pretty tasty pizza. In Tagbiliran, McD’s or the supermarket are your best bet.

Cebu City- A cab from the airport to downtown will cost you 275 PHP. If you’re staying where we were you can walk to the pier easily, but you can take a cab for about 60 PHP.
Bohol- When we got to Tagbiliran, we walked into town from the pier instead of taking a tricycle. You can take a jeepney to and from Panglao for only 25 PHP each. A motorbike rental in Tagbiliran will run you 500 PHP per day. We would end up walking again to get to the pier when we left.

Additional photos below
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7th October 2011

Hi, from Argentina
I am planning my future trip to Philippines and Indonesia. That´s why I am searching. I know there is little information. I am planning to go to Manila, Banaue (to see the rice terraces) and perhaps some beaches. I see you enjoyed Bohol. What else would you recommend? Thank you. Love from Argentina. Graciela. (
25th November 2011

Hello Argentina!
Hi Graciela, Our apologies for not getting back to you sooner. Wifi has been hard to come back in the past month for us. We hope your trip planning is coming along. We would highly recommed spending some time on the beaches in both Indonesia and the Philippines they are just beautiful. You might have to tell us more of what you are looking for. A lot of the places we have been hit both extremes...very touristy and very off the beaten path. We know that most people prefer one or the other. If you could let us know we'd be more than happy to narrow it down for you and give you some other places we enjoyed along the way as well. We will be in the USA for 2 weeks so we'll be able to get back to you asap. Talk soon! Jessie
12th October 2011

Sad to say you went to the wrong part of Cebu City.. Mactan itself could just be the only place where you wont be bogged down. And for the food, you sure are picky eaters eh?
13th October 2011

Cebu City
Hi Arnold, Thanks for the comment, at the time didn't have much time to explore anywhere outside downtown Cebu City. Which, we know isn't an accurate assessment of Cebu or the city really. Normally we aren't such picky eaters, we've eaten everything from bugs to mystery meat. Although we do try to eat vegetarian and that, as I'm sure you know, is easier said than done in the Philippines. Filipino people love their meat. Mc D's isn't a place we frequent often and to be honest we hate fast food for the most part. What it really came down to was the price. A meal with a drink for 50 Pesos. We absolutely love the Philippines as a whole and we have plans to come back as soon as possible. We hope we'll be able to further explore the places we missed. Take Care, Nate and Jessie

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