At the San Francisco Wharf
The United States is now our official home.
Going back to my country of birth was an experience to treasure. My son and I decided spontaneously to pack our bags and boxes and take the much needed vacation we have denied ourselves for many years. One reason was that we haven't completed our 5 year's stay in the United States for us to be granted citizenship. This year we filed for citizenship and went through all the process. I just had a gut feeling that everything will be done in time for our departure. Before my interview/exam date I already had contacted a travel agency and booked our flights to Cebu. I knew I would have to have our passports expedited so we can leave on schedule. Got over the interview/exam and moved over to waiting for the Oathtaking Ceremonies. I couldn't apply for passporting not until after I take the oath and formally become a US citizen. That was the longest 2-week wait I ever had.I was just kicking to have our passports processed so we can go home.
Home. It gave me a mixed feeling of excitement and sadness. Because after I swore in, technically speaking the Philippines ceased to be our home. The
Window seat please?
For the brave of heart, a window seat gives you a spectacular view of the ground
United States is now our official home. We did get our passports six days before our flight. We boarded on the Cathay Pacific Airlines flight to Mactan, Cebu at 1:10AM at the San Francisco Airport. We were scheduled to stop over at HongKong to change plane on our way to Mactan,Cebu. It was a 14-hour flight from San Francisco to our final destination. We were on the Economy class and although we got to our destination at the same time with those in the Business class, I am quite sure they had a more comfortable flight. The economy class was just packed. Going to the restroom proved to be a problem if you got a window seat because you have to wake up two other people before you can actually move from your seat. So if you're a frequent "goer", I definitely suggest you get an aisle seat. One lesson I failed to learn on my return trip unfortunately! I guess if you don't travel long distances that much this tiny but important detail can easily slip your mind. And when you're just excited.
Our flight took a side trip to Seoul, Korea because we needed to refuel
Take your pick of fresh seafood
for us to reach HongKong. For me that announcement was rather weird because they could have refueled full tank in SFO to ensure there was no delay in our flight schedules. We stayed in the plane for an hour almost while refueling and taking a few minutes to defrost the ice on the plane's wings since temperature was below freezing. Finally off ground, I was excited to reach HongKong. I heard it had a very nice and modern airport. In Hongkong we deplaned with instructions that Cathay Pacific ground staff are waiting to assist passengers who have connecting flights to other destinations. Indeed there were agile and friendly staff waiving sign cards for the different connecting flights. We were rather quickly brought to the boarding area for our final flight on the 2nd floor. When you travel, be sure your handcarry baggage is light because there might be a need to run or walk briskly to catch your next flight. Also airport security are very strict in terms of carrying liquid or gel substances. Your deodorant stick/gel, lotion should not be in your handcarry or else you will have to buy one when you get to your final destination. For
It takes 4 people and 8 hours to build this Sandcastle
ladies, lipstick and compact powder are okay as long you place them in a 1/4 ziplock. Ground staff in Hongkong are always ready with their ziplocks in case you need one.
Boarding another plane, we were nearing home. It was a good thing that the planes had individual tv's where you can choose to hear music, watch movies, play games or just be tuned in to the course of your flight. You can even shop duty free onboard. Cool!
Finally, I saw from the window the familiar landscape of the islands of our home. Beautiful Philippines! That was the reason why I wanted a window seat. I used to travel by air throughout the country before so I was familiar with which island was there below. If you're not afraid of heights do take the window seat because the view is just spectacular. Even if you just see clouds, you might get the feeling that you're in heaven!
We've finally arrived. Went through lines for document stamping and got our baggage claimed with such ease as there were friendly and able porters waiting for you. Now that's what I call "Only in
FRIDAYS Resort, Boracay
Beach Lounges of different resorts line the island during the day
the Philippines". For a buck or two, you don't have to wrestle getting ur luggages. Save your strength for more adventures.
One thing that's cool when you return to your country, service is excellent. Your welcoming party is there on time, even ahead of time! Surprisingly so because Filipinos are known for being tardy almost always. Oh but not in times like these! We are known for our "Balikbayan boxes" where we try to fit the whole of america in if posssible or the whole of wherever Filipinos returning home come from. You know all the good essential stuff that your family and friends need and want. They appreciate every little thing that is made or comes from the USA. Owe it to the country's history of being a US colony. Even the educational system is patterned after the US's.
So while in the Philippines, feel free to speak English and ask information in English, even the taxi cab driver and porters or the old lady selling fruit in the streets can speak and understand the language. You'll be surprised. People here are very friendly and hospitable.
As soon as we got out of the airport
These pillows remind me of my Zen sessions
we were greeted as warm as the weather by my sister, her husband and my brother. It is warm to hot here. The temperature stays the same from sunrise to sunset so you can take a swim in the pool or beach any time of the day. While in Cebu, we stayed at an inexpensive hotel that has a regular sized pool. There are lots of hotels and pension houses to choose from all at different rates depending on their amenities and location. For those who are on a limited budget, and who would only need a cool and clean place to rest for the night budget-hotels abound. Transportation in Cebu are mainly jeepneys (public) and taxis (private). All taxi cabs in the city are air-conditioned, thank heavens for that! The air isn't really clean and it irrritated my throat when we took the jeepney ride to the mall. But I guess your lungs get a little shocked at first but it adjusts in a couple of days. (LOL) But don't let this deter you from experiencing the jeepney ride. I tell you it's a different experience and take note of how the driver multi-tasks yet manages to keep us
Beach lounges transform into cozy bars to hang out for a drink during the night
all safe. Traffic in Cebu is worse than it was when we lived here. I won't suggest you do your own driving here if you have not had extensive previous local driving experience. Traffic is ruled by the horns and it just got on my nerves 'til I got used to it. You know how you only got buzzed or you buzz other drivers if you or they make the wrong move here. In major cities, traffic is very congested but virtually free of accidents. An irony! I guess it is only in the Philippines that in its traffic situation, there is harmony in chaos.
In Mactan, there is a place where locals and foreign nationals love to dine for seafood. The place is known as "Sutukil" pronounced shoot-to-kill. No you don't actually shoot your lunch or dinner. (LOL) You simply look at all the fresh seafood and point with your fingers which you would like them to cook for you and how you want them cooked. If you don't have the slightest idea how to have them cooked, they'll tell you. Trust them, they're the experts. They charge you a cooking fee per kilogram of whatever seafood
An ideal place for a romantic getaway
you choose. For locals, this place is an expensive lunch or dinner but for tourists they are cheap-eats. The city has lots of restaurants. Check out South Mall (SM) or Ayala Center for more dining shops.
BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN
My next island visit was Boracay. It is known for its powdery white sand beaches. I have been to the island twice when it was prestine and had only a few resorts. I have heard it is now heavily commercialized. We took the 35-minute flight from Mactan International Airport to Caticlan Airport. There are two choices one can take in going to Boracay Island. Option 1: take a flight to Kalibo, Aklan and take a 2-hour bus ride to Caticlan and then take the ferry to Boracay. Option 2: take the plane to Caticlan and board the 20-minute ferry ride to the island. If you chose
option 1, you get better deals with the hotels and airfare. Option 2, gets you there faster but is more expensive. So if your budget is tight and you have time to spend on a bus ride, see some hills and greeneries along the way, do take Option 1.
A quick course in Scuba Diving
"Remember the Hand Signals and don't forget to breathe."
island welcomes you with its sparkling crystal clear waters. Resorts and restaurants line the whole stretch of the island. Beach-front resorts cost an arm and a leg during peak season which is from March-August. There are non-beach-front resorts that offer amenities like pool, spa, massage parlors at a reasonable price. These are just a few minutes walk to the beach. I recommend the Boracay Tropics for its friendly and hospitable staff. For information visit boracaytropics.com. One can lounge at whichever resort of your choice all day long for a reasonable charge that is consummable for food and drinks. There are various watersports one can engage in like water-skiing, para-sailing and oh, a quick course in scuba diving and the actual dive to meet Disney's Finding Nemo. Or you can just take a leisurely walk along the beach as the sun sets. The beach transforms into a bustling night hub with bars and restaurants, live bands and all-you-can-eat buffets. Got a few songs you want the band to play? Give the waiters the list, a tip included for the band and it's guaranteed they will play or sing it for you. It is indeed a wonderful place for a romantic getaway
A watersport to experience
Staff will gladly take your souvenir picture as you enjoy a watersport of your choice
or simply just a place to unwind, enjoy and cater to yourself. Afterall, you deserve pampering for all the work and stress you put up with and will put up with after this vacation.
My heart ached leaving the island. I have had beautiful memories of my earlier visits but this visit surpassed them all. Commercialized or not, Boracay is still one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country, if not one of the world's.
AVAO CITY & CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES
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