Monday, April 13, 2015

Cebu'ing it, Cebu'ing, Cebu'ing it well....

Two weeks ago, plans were put into place to visit Manila, Philippines. We would be flying over via Seoul and staying there for a couple of days. Of course, I had a couple of things to do already in the advanced planning stages. Unfortunately, someone else had designs on the Philippines during the same time frame,  Super Typhoon Maysak.  Not sure what was so super about it but it continued its' westerly crawl at an uncomfortable rate of speed.  There were questions as to whether we would cancel our trip or merely delay it.

In the end, we did neither.  Instead, we made a last minute re-route to Cebu, Philippines, which is in the southern part of the country and outside of the super trajectory.  Under the new itinerary, we would only have one full day there but from the last minute googling I did, it appeared that we were going to a beachy wonderland.  Added bonus, our hotel looked like it was only blocks from the water.  Grab the sunscreen, everybody, this should be good.

We arrived late at night so we would have to wait until sunrise to appreciate the crystalline blue waters that adorned the Cebu google images page.
I had a corner suite with two large picture windows so I was in for a magnificent show.  Finally sunlight began to creep into my room and I ran to the window to soak it all in.  The result was less Pacific Paradise and more Scene of a Late Night Drug Deal.


This is when I learned that Cebu itself is a major port city that happens to be within three hour boat rides from some very spectacular beaches.  We had only one day so we would have to take them (and Google's vague definition of the Cebu city limits) at their word for it.

We created and activated Plan B.  A driver for hire would show us around for a couple of hours.  To see what, we had no idea, but I was pretty sure I did not need my underwater camera anymore (that is unless Super Maysak decided to make a sharp left somewhere along the way).

Our first stop was Fort San Pedro, the oldest and smallest triangular bastion in the country. Built in 1565 by the Spanish, it shows the effects of both time and an intervening earthquake, but is currently undergoing renovation.




I qualify for at least half of that title.
Being that it is such a small fort, it was easy to stroll its' crumbling walls and see the few exhibits about the Spanish occupation in a short amount of time.







Also under renovation was our next stop, Magellan's Cross.  It is usually a large wooden cross containing remnants of the cross that Magellan planted on the shores of Cebu in 1521.  On this day, it was more a white base with a blue tarp over it.

It, along with its neighbor, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, were lively marketplaces on this Easter Sunday.

"Mister, you want a candle?"

"How about a Barney balloon?  Or maybe a Pan Am one, only those don't actually fly right now."



The church was built in 1565 and several times after that since it suffered from three fires.  I may have uncovered why this is.


The main attraction is a statue of the baby Jesus that is said to date back to Magellan's time and possess miraculous powers (although I would argue that his ability to protect from fire is somewhat questionable). There was an hour + line of people waiting for an audience with the little guy.



The mass itself was being held outside.  Baby J is also lacking in the 'providing cool weather for his dad's big day' skills so most of the parishioners sought shelter from the brutal sun whenever possible.




Having hit the highlights in Cebu city, it was now time to cross over to the busy Mactan Island. This gave us an opportunity to observe the madness that is Philippine traffic.

Traffic selfie
So far, so good.  We're crossing the new bridge, all seems orderly.
Ok, a lot of those cables don't appear to be OSHA approved, but not too bad....
Hold up?!  Is that four people on a scooter and why doesn't anyone under the age of ten get a helmet?  And why is dad carrying that fetching purse?
Screw it.  Who needs the adults? Let's hit the road.

Our first stop in Mactan was the site of Lapu Lapu's Shrine.  Lapu² was the native chieftain who was able to repeal the Spaniards (for 40 years of so) by defeating and killing Magellan, thus making him the first Filipino hero.



In exchange he got a nice little park, a statue titled "the Sentinel of Freedom" and the closest that we saw to a beach.


The final stop was the obligatory shopping stop, where I opted to sit outside and observe the traffic some more.



But the day was just beginning.  In my brief research, I had read about the Crown Regency Hotel. Not only is it (for now) the tallest building in Cebu, it also features a couple of thrill rides on its top floor.  We had our puzzled-looking driver drop us off here, at a hotel other than the one where he had picked us up.

Eventually, we made it up to the observation deck and examined our possibilities.  You could choose between a short zipline, a lame roller coaster or the SkyWalk.







The most exciting of the three was definitely the SkyWalk.  Before you could say "Is this really only $9, we were suited up and ready to go."


Accompanied by a Miami Heat loving photographer and an adrenaline seeking guide, we walked along an attached platform that is actually a bit wider than it appears in photographs.  Unless, of course, you walked right up to the ledge...


I'm certain Matt is only trying to honor el Pozo de la Virgin on this Easter Sunday.





It was both thrilling and hella-cool.  Where else can you tether yourself to a dubious cable and walk around a high-rise platform taking in the sights?

In the end, I never heard about typhoon Maysak hitting anywhere in the Philippines and the only casualty I am aware of it that of my plans to visit a midget bar in Manila but I'm actually pretty happy with our new and revised itinerary.  I would have loved more time to visit those picturesque beaches, but in less than a week, I'm heading out on a Caribbean cruise, so I will get plenty of those. However, no other place will have us dangling 39 stories over the city so for that and for our mini-tour, I'm grateful to have had a chance to do Cebu.

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