Philippines – Cebu – Manila – 14th June ~ 19th June 2012

14th June

Took a Cebu Pacific flight out and reach Mactan International Airport at 0400hrs. Fortunately the kids slept through the flight.

Immigration clearance is pretty fast but the luggage took a while to be out on the carousel. Once we exit the terminal, we get an airport taxi through one of the attendants. After getting into the taxi, he requested for a tip which I gave it to him.

On the way to the hotel, I can see that one lane of the bridge has been closed. However, it is in the wee hours, so the traffic is very light and we reach our hotel in 20mins.

We decided to stay in Island Stays Hotel which is just a 5 min walk to Ayala Terrace. The hotel is located on the second floor and there is no elevators. So you have to walk up a short flight of stairs.

The staff is obviously sleeping when we reach there as we can see their sleepy eyes. Check-in is quite fast if their printer did not jam and destroyed the check-in slip that I have filled up.

We book an extra large room which consists of two double beds.The room is simple but spacious enough. They try to make the room look lively by using bright colours. The toilet is actually pretty big. Room is clean and decent. The Wi-Fi signal is strong though our room is located at one end of the corridor and the furthest away from the reception. However, the water pressure is a little weak and you cannot control the hot water by a mixer. Instead, the temperature of the hot water is controlled using the water heater installed under the basin.

There is no hot water making facilities in the room. If you need hot water, you can go to the front desk to ask for it. The staff is friendly during our stay. One negative about this hotel is that there isn’t any convenience store located nearby. You will need to walk to Ayala Terrace for any shopping needs.

After settling down, we left the hotel at around 0715hrs for Supercat Ferry to catch the 0830hrs ferry to Bohol.

After purchasing the ferry tickets, we check-in into the terminal. Supercat has changed their name to 2GO and their ticketing office has undergone some renovations.

I then SMS Miss Lilette of Bohol Travel Buddy about our schedule. To my surprise, she actually called me and sounded very enthusiastic about my arrival. I was actually a little taken aback because on my previous visit, we actually just text each other.The ferry ride to Taglibaran is smooth and on schedule. Though we can see some dark clouds hovering but it did not rain during the ferry journey.

We were greeted by Miss Lilette’s husband, Bert. I recognises him as he was the one who pick me up on my previous visit.

He showed me the vehicle that is assigned to bring us around Bohol. To my surprise, it is actually a mini-van though there is only the four of us. Bert mentioned that they specially get their son, Keith to drive us around. I was pleasantly surprised.Before we start our trip, I bought the return tickets as I do not want to take chances. I bought the 1800hrs by Oceanjet which turn out to be a mistake.

The first stop is Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan. Since i have visited Chocolate Hills in Carmen, this will be a good change.

The journey from the pier to Sagbayan is about an hour. When we are near to the destination, Keith actually stop the vehicle at a point where we can take a photos with the hills in close range. I don’t think you can do that in Carmen. I really appreciate Keith for letting us to have a chance to take the picture of the hills in close range.

When we reach Sagbayan, we paid an entrance fee to P50 per person. You will have to walk a bit up and is a little steep for the first 50m. On the way, you can see some decorations which frankly speaking it is not appealing.

We walk to the viewing deck and see the view. I must say that the number of hills is not many, just a few compared to Carmen. However, the hills here in Sagbayan is closer to you where Carmen is a little further.

I cannot say that Sagbayan view is better than Carmen’s view. I feel that both are different.

For Sagbayan, on the way, you really can see some of the hills in close range where in Carmen you can’t. Carmen have more hills to see from the viewing deck but not Sagbayan.

Also Sagbayan has fewer visitors due to the distance. Carmen will have more visitors as it is on the way from other attractions.

So the best is to visit both if you have the chance.

My kids wanted to play at he Kids Town in Sagbayan Hill which is just a simple playground.

Our next stop is the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. I have been here before so it does not excite me as before. The thing that is different is actually I paid the entrance fee in one of the house before the Sanctuary. Then we took the van to the place where the tarsier are kept.

Another difference from my previous visit is that there is actually a video for us to watch. There isn’t on my previous visit. However, as it has started to drizzle, we skip the video and visited the Tarsier instead.

To my surprise, the two tarsiers that the guide show us is located near to the ground. This is really easy for my kids to see them.

Unfortunately we cannot get a good shot in any of them.

We keep our visit brief as the drizzle started to get heavier. My kids run to the van and Keith who is chatting with my wife at that time, run to the van to open the door for my kids so they would not get wet. We hop up the van and proceed to our next destination.

When we reach the hanging bridge, the rain stop and we thought it is alright to cross the bridge without any umbrella.

However, when we reach to the other end, it started to pour. I was thinking that we may be stuck at this side of the bridge for a while.

Before I notice, Keith actually brought umbrellas for us! He is really thoughtful and I really appreciate it. We slowly make our way back to the other side. We actually slip a few times and a small part of the bridge has a small hole. So please be careful when crossing the bridge.

By now it is pouring cats and dogs. Keith told us that a typhoon is at Suriago and Bohol is affected by it.

Our next stop is actually the man made Mahogany forest. However, we have to skip it due to the rain. So we just do a drive pass. There is actually a trail we can walk but the driver in my previous visit did not highlight it to me.

As the rain is still pouring and by now it is already 1500hrs, we decided to give up Bohol Bee Farm, Alona and Dumaluan beach. Instead we ask Keith to drive us to Island City Mall where the kids can get something to eat.

Ironically, the rain stop when we reach the mall. We just do some shopping and we leave the mall at 1715hrs.

By the time we reach the terminal, it is already 1735hrs. We bid Keith farewell and check-in into the ferry terminal. For Oceanjet, you cannot choose the seats where Supercat you can choose where you want to sit.

We really like Keith as our driver. Though my previous tour is also handled by Bohol Travel Buddy, but the driver is actually outsourced. Keith instead is an employee of Bohol Travel Buddy (Granted, Keith is the son of the owner but he is still an employee). So I guess this makes a little difference.

After paying all the terminal fees, we enter into the waiting area but the passengers actually have started to board.

When we reach our seats, we are surprised to see that the seats are very cramped. The seat pitch is just like Cebu Pacific seats! The ferry is full house as many passengers board the boat even after the scheduled departure time.

We reach Cebu around two hours later.

Once we exit the terminal, there are taxi drivers offering their service. One of the drivers quoted me P300 to go to Ayala Terrace!

You just need to walk further down the road and you will see many taxis there. We took one that is willing to run by the meter and the trip cost us about P90.

So be careful when any taxi drivers offering you their service.

By the time we reach Ayala Mall, it is about 2030hrs. We have a quick dinner at Harbour City Restaurant where they have Chinese food.

By the time we finished our food, it is about 2145hrs. I thought we are done for the day. My kids saw an amusement arcade and wanted to played there. I was dead beat then but well, it is a holiday for them. So I allow them to play for about an hour.

We then look for our way back to the hotel but I really do not know where is it. We then decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. The driver was shocked when we told him our destination. He told us that the hotel is actually very near. We apologize to him that we really do not know our way and he has waited for 2 hours in the queue. Thankfully the driver did not get angry.

The fare in the end is P50 but we gave him P100.

That end our first day in Cebu.

Tired but enjoyable.

15th June

Woke up early today for our island hopping trip.

We took a taxi to Island Banca Cruise located at Mactan island.

The taxi ride took about 30mins and I can see that even the lane directions towards Mactan Island on the bridge has been closed off. Thankfully the traffic is light and we reach the boarding point around 0915hrs.

When we are there, we saw some boats that are owned by Island Banca Cruise boarding passengers. I think of all my trips to the Philippines, their bancas are the most well maintained and furnished.

On their bancas, there are bean bags, toilet,  life vest for both adults and children and an iPod docking station.

Unfortunately, the iPod docking station is out-of-order in our Banca which is a disappointment to me.

To make it even worse, our banca failed to start due to some battery problems. I was pretty upset at this point where nothing seems to go right about this trip.

However, to the credit of the crew, they did try their best to fix the problem. One of the crew even swim to another Island Banca boat, put a battery onto one of the bean bag and swim it over. I was actually impressed by this. Finally the engine begins to roar and the same crew bring back the faulty battery using the same method back to the original boat.

Finally we are on our way!

There are only two places that we will be going.

The first stop is Talima Marine Sanctuary. There is also an entrance fee of P50 per person. This is actually a place for the kids to snorkel and feed the fishes. Unfortunately none of my kids know how to swim. So I am the only one who went for the snorkel.

The snorkel experience is actually a little disappointing. There aren’t a lot of fishes. I would prefer to do this activity in Balicasag island.

We just stayed there for 30mins and we move on for our lunch which is about another 30min ride away.

We travel to one of the seafood restaurants located in Cao-uy. For some reasons which I do not know why, we have to transfer to a smaller boat to reach the restaurant. I can see some other restaurant allow banca to dock directly at the restaurant.

We actually ordered two sets of seafood lunch and two sets of packed lunch for my kids.

The packed lunch is actually just a chicken drumstick, rice and chicken.

For the seafood lunch, to me it is pretty sumptuous. I asked the staff what are the names for some of the food. Surprisingly they could not answer and they just simply say shell seafood.

The drinks here are not cheap either. For example, a small bottle of coke cost me P100!

I also noticed that the restaurant that we are in is empty. As a matter of fact, we are the only customer where I can see other seafood restaurant is bustling with people.

Well, I actually enjoy it as we are away from the crowds and we can have our meal in peace.

Do note that the restaurant closes at 1500hrs as there isn’t any electricity supply at night.

After the meal, we proceed to our next destination, Pandanon Island.

It is about another 40min ride to the island.

When we reach the island, it is low tide and the banca cannot go near to the beach. So we have to go into the water and walk to the beach.

The crew carry my kids up to the shore and I waded in the water.

There are kids waiting at the beach to welcome us. I hope they aren’t expecting any material things from me. If I know there are kids on the island, I would have maybe brought some biscuits with me.

There is actually nothing much to do on the island. There is one corner of the island which is more appealing. I think there is even a sand bar.

The crew advice us not to stay in the island for too long, maybe 30mins. The reason is because the wind is getting strong and there may be a storm nearby.

So we just stayed for about 15mins and left. Again, the crew carry my kids up the boat and I just walk in the water.

The crew quickly start the engine and speed back to Mactan.

True enough, halfway into the journey we saw dark clouds in front of us. Though there isn’t any rain but the wind is strong. There is a period where the boat is tilting towards the right. So two of the crew have to stand on the outside of the boat (if you get what I mean) on the outrigger to balance the boat. We were also told to sit on the left hand side to help.

The wind is so strong that life jackets are flying off from the boat. I quickly wear life vest for my kids but the kids seems to be oblivious of the situation. They seem to be even enjoying what we are going through!

After 20mins, we are out of the storm area. However the sea remains choppy and there are a few times that the captain have to slow down the boat to navigate the waves.

We finally reach the pier at 1500hrs.

Again, we reach the pier at low tide and we have to walk into the waters to get up the shore.

At the pier, there is actually a small shower room and toilet for you to use.

We just clean ourselves up and we bid farewell to the crew.

I would like to say is that though the trip is a little disappointing, but the attitude of the crew and the lunch made up for it. Though the trip is not cheap, but it is still a little cheaper than I get a quote from some of the private operators. Also when you do a booking, check the entire clause written in the contract. I spotted some mistakes but the reservation staff quickly corrects it.

When we reach the road side, we found that it is actually quite difficult to get a taxi. We saw a taxi parked about 100m from us so we wave at the driver and he drove over to pick us up. So I would advice you to arrange your transport to pick you up. We may be plain lucky that we can get a transport.

Another fortunate thing is that the traffic from Mactan to Cebu City is not that heavy. So despite one of the lane on the bridge is closed, we stare still able to reach Cebu City in 30mins.

We went to SM Mall to do some shopping and also to Ayala Terrace for some kids fun.

When we are finally ready to go back to the hotel, we try to orientate ourselves.

If you are staying in Tune Hotel or Island Stays, just find out where if the Public Utility Vehicle terminal. Once you find the place, walk along the road and walk towards Tune Hotel. Between tune Hotel and Island Stays, there is a KTV in between. Just walk towards the direction and you will be alright.

16th June

Today is our last day in Cebu.

The journey to the airport is clear and we reach Mactan Airport 2.5 hrs before our flight which is too early. So we loiter at the airport for a while.

Finally the check-in counter open and we check our luggage and waited for our flight. Flight is on time and we reach Manila within an hour.

When I am in Cebu, I have requested airport transfer from NAIA to our hotel in Manila. We contacted someone who is recommended in TripAdvisor (09216268118, naiatsc_2008@yahoo.com). So I was thinking that the transport from NAIA has been settled.

When we leave the departure area, I cannot find the airport transfer that I have requested. I then text the contact but there is no reply from him. I am disappointed and in the end, we took a yellow airport taxi. We go by the skyway with a toll of P20 and we reach New World Hotel in 30mins.

Before we enter the compound of the hotel, there is a security that will check underneath the vehicle and the boot. Upon clearance, the security will lift up the barricade and then the vehicle can enter.

Upon alight from the taxi, our luggage is taken out and scan by the security at the entrance of the hotel. A sniffer dog is also deployed. Upon clearance, they will hole your baggage and we proceed to check-in.

Check-in is fast. The staffs are very friendly. They gave us two card keys and by then our luggage is waiting for us at the lobby.

We are assign a room on the 11th floor.

The room is clean and spacious for us. Water pressure and hot water is good. TV selection is also good and there is something for the kids.

There is also a safe in the room. Toilet is clean and all the amenities are working.

After we settle down, it is already 1600hrs.

We leave the hotel and make our way to Mall of Asia.

Upon reaching EDSA, the road is jam and the driver suggested we go by Roxas Boulevard passing by Gil Puyat. I am fine and it was this time that he driver found that his meter is not working. The fare did display but it is not moving. He apologetically ask me how much do usually pay for a trip from Makati to MOA. I ask him back the question and he quoted P200. I know is it a bit too much but factor in the traffic jam and longer journey, I agreed.

The driver knows the way and we are in MOA in 30mins. By then it started to drizzle and we just walk around the mall.

My main aim to come to MOA is for the fireworks at 1900hrs. Unfortunately, it rained and I remembered in one of my previous visit, the fireworks display proceeds despite the rain.

Fortunately the rain stop by 1830hrs. I brought my family to Sunset Boulevard for a walk while waiting for the fireworks display.

It seems like SM has put in more kiddy rides to this place. There are also more restaurants and the place has become very lively. Now the place has even zipline!

I wonder when did the Ferris wheel has been built. I don’t remember seeing it on my previous visit. I can also see Microtel from Sunset Boulevard.

Just before 1900hrs, SM dim the lights and the fireworks displayed followed. It is a short 3 min display but it is good to us as it is not easy for us to see fireworks here.

In the supermarket checkout counter than I realise I left my money belt on the hotel bed which has about P7000. I was thinking that I will be not be seeing my money again.

After that we do our usual supermarket shopping and call it a day.

When I reach back to the hotel, I am pleasantly surprised that the money belt is still on my bed and they did not take it when they are setting up our bed for our night.

The hotel staff has also changed all our towels. Since my kids make a mess in the bathroom by spilling water all over the floor and we have to use face towels to place it on the floor, the staff clean it up and gave us a heavy-duty floor mat in the bathroom.

It is really thoughtful of them.

17th June

We have our first breakfast in Hotel New World. I would say that the breakfast is good though they are not the best that I have. There are enough selection. Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and standard American.

If you want mango but cannot find it anywhere in the restaurant, just ask any staff to prepare you some mangoes. They will slice it for you.

Our priority destination today is the Mind Museum in Taguig and the first slot for visitors is 0900hrs. By the time we reach there, it is already 0930hrs.

We quickly bought the tickets and we are expected to leave the museum by 1100hrs.

Since the museum only opened its doors in Dec 2011, I would expect all the exhibit still looks new.

It did not disappoint me. So far most of the exhibits are still working except for a few where you can see the wear and tear and also not functioning.

I would say many of the exhibits are very interesting. My kids love to explore all the things inside the museum.

When we leave the museum, there is actually another outdoor park for the kids to explore. You will need to present your entrance tickets to gain free entry to the park. It is a very small park but enough to keep the kids occupy an hour or so.

After the kids have their fun, we walk towards Bonifacio High Street.

Along the way, we can see that there are many construction going on. I believe Taguig City will rival Makati in a few years time.

Bonifacio High Street is actually a collection of restaurants and shops along two buildings. They are more on the high-end side where you can see shops like Puma, Nike and more middle to high-class of dining options.

When walked further down, you can see Market Market Mall. The developer really named this mall aptly because inside and outside the mall, it really looks like a market!

The Mall is just like Greenhills. It really caters to the masses. Outside the Mall, there are stalls selling things from Ilocano food to cars!

My wife wanted to have lunch at Hup Chan but it is just too crowded! I am getting demo-phobia here.

So I just grab my family and hop into a taxi. I told the driver “Malate please.”

I told the driver to stop us at Gen M Malvar. This is where another Hup Chan restaurant is but without the crowd. As a matter of fact, we are the only customer!

We ordered our food, eat peacefully, no rush and just enjoying our food.

Another reason I brought my wife to Malate is to show her the place that I usually stay. I have honestly told her that it is a mini red light district in the night but you do not see many girls prowling the streets but it is filled with bars and clubs.

After our idyllic lunch, we hop into one of the trike to bring us to Saint Andres Market. The trike driver quoted us P60 and I wonder is this the usual rate.

We reach there in less than 10 mins. We do a brief shopping in Puregold Supermarket and later we walk across the road to Saint Andres Market where I usually stock up my mango juice, dry mangoes and mango fruit.

This time the stall owner quoted me a higher price giving me the excuse of wet season, blah blah blah…….. A half-gallon of 7D mango juice has increased from P170 to P220! I bargain down to P200 and it was later I found that Landmark Supermarket is selling for P172! 200g 7D dry mango maintained as P100 and this is the cheapest I can find in Manila. Mango fruit has increased from P70/kg to P85/kg.

After we bought all our stuff, hop into a taxi and return to the hotel.

Our night is spent at Makati shopping but it was raining cats and dogs. We took a cab from Landmark back to our hotel.

After the kids slept. I was thinking about going for some people watching or have a drink. I was thinking since it is raining, Cafe Havana should be pretty quiet.

When I reach there, I was surprised that it is still very crowded at 2300hrs and I even saw a group of ladyboys! I quickly turn back and return to the hotel.

18th June

It is raining this morning. I told my wife if the rain persists, she will have to give up the place she long wanted to go and we have to leave by 0730hrs.

Surprisingly, the weather clear up after breakfast and the kids are able to wake up early for the trip.

When we board the cab, I told the taxi driver where we wanted to go. As expected, his face expression changed immediately.

He tried to get us to top up the fare a little but I refused. I told him that we will go by the meter.

The taxi drops us outside Divisoria near to Mall 999. I did give him a tip and he is quite happy about it.

In Divisoria, we do the usual thing; shopping and bargain.

After my wife has accomplished her “mission”, we left for Mall of Asia, again! Yawn!!!!!

We just let our kids play at the playground and what surprised me is that they can play 4 hours non-stop.

My wife and me just wander the mall aimlessly.

19th June

Finally, the day we left Philippines.

We have purchased 45kg of baggage and with 2 x 7Kg hand luggage, we are still overweight by 3kg.

The Cebu Pacific check-in staff is very impatient with us while we re-pack it immediately. She told us we are allowed up to 45.8kg.

Finally we manage to re-pack our luggage and the Cebu Pacific staff issue our boarding pass with a sour face.

Flight is on time but as usual, they changed the boarding gate at the last minute.

This trip has always been for my kids and wife.

Finally, I honored my promise to my wife that I will bring her to see the Chocolate Hills.

I brought her to sit in a banca, though it is a more luxurious one than the one I usually use.

I brought her to sit a tricycle, though it is a short journey.

I also manage to bring her to the place I usually stay to let her understand why I choose this place.

Also, my kids have a great time and they have a deep impression about Manila. Well, it is the playground that they actually remember.

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3 thoughts on “Philippines – Cebu – Manila – 14th June ~ 19th June 2012

  1. It is a sweet of you to your wife and kids and Thank you for you trip advised. We are also travelling with 2 kids they both under 5 yo. I am now looking for the Car and Driver of 3 cities there which you have been. (Manila, Cebu and Bohol) How much I expecting to pay for Car and Driver with all include a day? We have booked everything else but now I still looking to get transportations.. thank you.

    1. Hi Phoebe,

      Never expect you to find your way here from Tripadvisor!

      For Manila, you can look for Arnold. His contact is arnoldvsanchez@yahoo.com or 09277169750.

      For Bohol, look for Bohol Travel Buddy. http://www.boholtravelbuddy.com/btbmain/. I would advice you to decide which sights do you want to visit and ask for a quote form them. I have used them twice and I have no complaints.

      For Cebu, I personally have not engage any taxi service for trips. However in the forum, Danny is recommended. http://www.cebutaxiservice.com/reliable_cebu_taxi_driver.htm

      As for prices, just write it to them to ask for prices. For Arnold, just tell him that I recommended you (you should know my nick in TA). 🙂

      Book them early especially Danny and Arnold. Arnold has his schedule filled up to Jan 2013!

  2. hi
    1 have a 3days2nights time, not very sure whether i shall transit at manila or cebu, what do you suggeest (we are a family of 2adults and 2children age12 &13).
    thank you
    choy

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