As we left Hanoi last night, we land in Manila in the early morning. We will be in the Philippines for about three weeks. Dreaming of beaches, islands and new adventures, we decided to skip the big city of Manila and fly straight to Cebu.
Our connection flight Manila-Cebu with Cebu Pacific airline gets us to the central island of the Philippines by midday.
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL AT BOLJOON, CEBU
The place we are staying is called La Bella Beach House, beautifully located on a cliff facing the sea. As the owners are away, we are greeted by the kind Ana. We still have a couple of hours of light, so we decide to rent a scooter and visit the nice village: as in the whole country, the Spanish were in Boljoon for more than 300 years, between centuries 16th-19th.
The effects and remains of this domination are very interesting, varying from names and words in the language to religion and architecture. Nuestra Señora de Patrocinio Parish Church of Boljoon is a clear example, built in a pseudo-baroque rococo style.
At the end of the mass, we take a walk through the houses, encountering the surprised faces of locals: we are definitely an attraction here, literally every kid says hi and adults ask us many questions too. Later we move together with half the village to the indoor gym, where a basketball game is taking place.
We already understood that religion and basket are the main beliefs in this country!
DAY 2 – TUMALOG AND AGUINID WATERFALLS
In the morning we meet Marcial and Melisa, the owners, who welcome us with a delicious Filipino breakfast. La Bella is their family house and they recently decided to rent two rooms to travelers, since they live in Cebu city. Marcial and Melisa give us many info about what to do and where to go, we immediately fall in love with Filipino hospitality. They also lend us a waterproof bag which will be essential in the next days. The position of La Bella Beach House over the sea is stunning, hopefully we will get nice weather to enjoy it fully.
Since the Philippines have over 7.000 islands, and they’re spread over thousands of kilometers, the weather is not easy to predict. The dry season normally goes from November to April, so we are almost at the beginning. Unfortunately these days’ forecasts say showers every day.
As we can’t enjoy the sun, we decide to go and see some waterfalls, there are so many around Cebu. Tumalog Falls are very popular here, they show off a very high waterfall: when we get there the rain has just stopped, there’s a lot of turbid water, although the view is still impressive, we only stop for a while.
We eat lunch in a typical Filipino eatery: different pots are showcased on a shelf put towards the street, everyone is free to open the lid, check the content, and order their meal. We get some rice and beef meat for an incredible cheap price, 50 pesos, less than 1€!
So we decide to stop at Aguinid Falls, recommended by our hosts at La Bella. We are welcomed by happy faces who will be our guides: the entry costs only 40 pesos, but it is compulsory to hire a guide (and later tip them) as the Aguinid waterfalls come down on 5 different levels and you need to hike them up to get to the top. It is a very exciting experience, also quite an effort but absolutely worth it!
The way up includes walls to climb, dives, natural slides and pools, all in turquoise cold waters. Our photos and videos were taken by the guides with a waterproof “gopro” camera. After almost two hours we get back to the base, we are so pleased and leave 1000 pesos to our great guides. We return to our La Bella Beach House, exhausted but happy.
DAY 3 – OSMENA PEAK AND RELAX @LA BELLA BEACH HOUSE
A heavy thunderstorm hammers Cebu island all night long, so the day after we can’t head to Kawasan again. We try to go north and inland, looking for Osmena Peak, the top of the island. The road is beautiful, as we take a left turn from the town of Dalaguete and start to gain altitude, we leave the coast road and the landscape starts to change, with charming green hills taking the stage. Unfortunately as we go up, the wind increases and fog becomes more and more dense too. We surpass 700m height as we ride through some characteristic villages. Kids are getting out from schools, everybody walks back to their home, stopping by bakeries or fruit stalls.
Actually when we reach the coast we realize that the weather has never been this nice so far, so that we can enjoy the sun back at our La Bella Beach House. Marcial and Melisa kindly set up a small corner of paradise for us, long-chairs, coconuts (buko in Tagalog language), and access to a private beach.
We can relax for an hour before the sky becomes grey again. We can imagine this places must be heaven in dry season, we just had a glimpse and it was wonderful. The owners are planning to extend their property in the future. They show us the upstairs accommodation too (we are staying downstairs), with a gorgeous sea-view. Waking up like this really makes you feel good!
Also the name La Bella had attracted us (meaning beautiful in Italian), and Melisa explained us that actually comes from Spanish, which gave many words to Tagalog. And they named their cute daughter Arabella!
Before sunset we reach Boljoon town one last time, to enjoy the view from its high-point, have some barbecue grilled meat, and attend another basketball game at the gym. Tomorrow we will be leaving, but not before having the chance to watch the iconic whale sharks. We left this activity as last, hoping for the weather to improve.
DAY 4 – WHALE SHARKS!
On our last day we wake up at 5.30 and see a faint ray of sun, so we quickly hop on our bike and head to Oslob. The whale shark feeding takes place every morning at 6 am, and only lasts for about an hour. When we get there it is slightly raining already, but the place is packed! We pay our ticket (1000pesos), follow the briefing (the sharks must be respected and absolutely not touched, despite their size of 10-12m and 20tons, they aren’t dangerous to us, they are very docile), and wait in line to get on one of the many bangkas (boats). While tourists stand in a boat line and are only allowed to swim close to them, a man on a boat some meters away throws food in the sea to attract the sharks.
This kind of show is considered unethical by many because the whale sharks are lured close to the coast with different food including reportedly shrimp and tuna, so that they don’t need to swim far to get plankton which normally constitutes their diet, and always know where to find it easily, which of course will modify their habits. The species is nowadays officially endangered, but that’s because of the fisheries and vessel strikes that used to happen in the past. Now they’re protected, and as long as humans don’t touch and ride them (we saw some pictures like that), they shouldn’t be badly affected. From what we saw (we don’t know what they are fed), the organisation seems to care about the whale sharks, they make sure nobody gets too close to touch them. At the end of the day, at least in Cebu they are in their natural environment and not confined inside an aquarium. Check our video to see Ambra getting a close look to a huge whale shark!
We get back in time to enjoy another delicious breakfast with our hosts, then we must catch a Ceres bus to arrive in time at Argao Pier, from where a cargo ferry boat will depart at 12.00 and bring us to Tagbilaran, Bohol, another major island east to Cebu.
We say goodbye and many thanks to Marcial and Melisa, they’ve been amazing hosts. If you want to explore Cebu, La Bella Beach House Boljoon is a perfect base to stay: in Cebu you always need a vehicle to go around, and from Boljoon you have lots of attractions nearby, both north and southbound. And if you don’t ride, Marcial and Melisa will organize tours and vans pick ups all around the island. If you are a big group you can contact them here on AirBnB, and also on their Facebook page, you can rent the whole house! Otherwise check the photos of the double rooms here on booking.
WHERE TO STAY:
- La Bella Beach House Boljoon, Cebu: beautiful house located on a cliff overlooking the sea, wonderful view, sweet hosting family; swimming & snorkeling available on location, tours & transfers can be arranged to all Cebu attraction.
AirBnB: La Bella Beach House, Facebook @labellabeachhouse or Booking
HOW TO GET AROUND:
- Hanoi-Manila flight, 4h50m, Cebu Pacific starting from 60$/1way;
- Manila-Cebu domestic flight, about 1hour, Cebu Pacific or Air Asia, from 20$/1way;
- Cebu airport to South Bus Terminal taxi, 30 to 60 mins, 200-300 pesos;
- Ceres Bus from South Terminal to Boljoon, 3h, 140pesos/person;
- Cargo ferry boat from Argao (Cebu) to Tagbilaran (Bohol), 3h30, leaving reportedly at 4am and 12 daily; 200pesos/person; check more info here.
- Money exchange: 200usd=10.050 Philippine Pesos;
- Motorbike rental: 500pesos/day; fuel: 200pp/full tank;
- Aguinid Falls: 40pesos each+free tip to guide (500pesos);
- Tumalog Falls: 40pesos each;
- Osmena Peak: 40pp;
- Whale Shark watching, Oslob: 1000 pesos/person, 30 minutes.
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