Sunday 30 November 2014

Cebu, Philippines I: Around Cebu City

Finally had time to write about my recent trip to the Philippines, was super busy and tired after I got back. Anyway, this Blog Awards trip was the first time I travelled with a group of strangers. I had no idea how it was going to turn out but it turned out SO well, I can't wait for another trip with them haha.

We were lucky to be sponsored by SilkAir which is a regional wing of Singapore Airlines! I never knew. So I had high expectations when I stepped on board. When I saw that there was no screen behind our seats, my heart sank. But then when I dug around the seat pocket, I discovered an information sheet that taught you how to use the wireless on board to watch movies, listen to songs and even do some shopping.

It's really easy to get connected too!
1) connect to SilkAir WiFi
2) open your browser
3) Android users have to download this app in order to watch movies
4) And you're done!

After touching down at the airport in Cebu, we were welcomed by the Philippines Tourism Board staff with mango necklaces :) we took the mini bus to our hotel, Radisson Blu Cebu Hotel and were again greeted extremely warmly. I know people said the Japanese are very polite, I feel that Filipinos are not far behind! Wherever we go, the staff are always so courteous and full of smiles! Something Singapore should learn from, especially since our customer satisfaction level has fallen recently.

Anyway since we were all starving, we headed straight for the international buffet at the hotel restaurant which just opened the day before we arrived! Lucky :) there was a huge spread but not many vegetarian options unfortunately.

Went up to check out our rooms after the late lunch and say hello to my room for two days! It was lovely to take a break from hostels and backpackers and sleep on fluffy beds. The only problem was that I had trouble detaching myself from the room...

When I eventually did, we headed to Basilica del Santo Niño. We went to the chapel beside the church to see the famous Magellan's cross first. It is a Christian cross planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu. The original cross is encased inside the wooden cross that is found in the center of the chapel to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross for souvenir purposes or in the belief that the cross possesses miraculous powers.

There were a lot of old ladies holding candles trying to get you to buy them. If you buy one from them, they will ask you for your name and then dance which chanting a prayer. The dance routine of the “sinug” is said to be an imitation of the “sulog” (current) of Pahina river of Cebu City. While dancing and waving candles, the women chant: Pit Señor! Pit Señor! which is short for “Sangpit sa Senyor” or loosely translated as “Hail the Lord!”Then you can touch the base of the cross and make three wishes before putting the candles under the Cross. Different colour of the candle has different representations, green for wealth, yellow for health, red for love, pink for happiness and blue for work. Guess which one I picked? ;)

There was a Mass going on at the courtyard so we weren't allowed to take photos but we could do so inside the church. The church was damaged during the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 2013 (just a year ago!) and its bell tower collapsed but it is set to be restored by 2015, in time for the celebration of 450th year of the finding of the image of the Senor Sto. Nino.

Then we headed to Crown Regency Hotel for our skywalk! At 140 metres, it is one of the tallest hotel buildings in the country. I was pretty excited but look at Kenneth's expression in the first group shot! HAHAHA. I felt very safe with our guides and an unhindered view of the city at sunset welcomed us.

When we were given the opportunity to try to Edge Coaster, I jumped at the chance. It was SUPER thrilling and fun!!! When the seat tilted forward and started moving along the track, I could feel my stomach going haywire in a good way. You can adjust the degree of the tilt, the maximum being 55 degrees (some say 65 on Google :/). We got a lovely view of the city lights while screaming our lungs out since the sun had already set by then.

Ended the first day with dinner at Lantaw Restaurant up a hill. The atmosphere of the restaurant alone was worth the trip up. The way the food was cooked is very similar to Chinese and the vegetarian noodles was fantastic, I had multiple servings heh.

Behind the scene of all the food photos you see. 台上一分钟,台下十台机。

Fern suddenly pointed out that there was a bright glow in the sky. We were speculating that it was an UFO but nope, it was the moon rising! I've seen plenty of sunrises but this is the first time I saw a moonrise. We were pretty excited to see the moon slowing popping out from behind the hills and it was huuuuge! Then it was back to our hotel to call it a night, first time spending a night alone in a hotel room and Smith had to go spook all of us right before we went into our own rooms. >:(

This trip was made possible by the lovely people from Philippines Tourism Promotions Board, SilkAir, and Singapore Blog Awards 2014.

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