The planning of our trip to the Philippines was a bit vague to say the least. Being that the country is made up of over 7,000 islands, transit between places isn’t quite as simple as walking.
We had seen a few places online (see: Instagram), that had piqued our interest – El Nido, Kawasan, Siquijor. I vaguely mapped everything, and decided it was easiest for us to start Southern, in Cebu, and end Northern, in Manila.
We flew Tiger Air to Cebu from Singapore for around $US180— each, which in Asia terms is kind of expensive, but for what we planned to do, was the best way.
Cebu airport is nothing special – in fact, there is one tiny duty free shop there and that’s about it. Security was rammed when we arrived, so they just started ushering everyone through without scanning anyones bags (which, when you’re wearing a 20kg backpack is great!). We arranged our SIM cards at the airport for $US30 for 30 days with SMART mobile – you could also go with Globe, which I would actually suggest to do as they seem to have better coverage than SMART.
We took a cab from the airport to the city (white cab line is fine, and cheap, as opposed to the yellow airport cabs) to our hostel for P300 ($U6.40). We were really hoping that Cebu would be something different and exciting to most things we had seen during our time in Indonesia, however, from the cab, most things looked very similar – same road-side restaurants, same dirty streets, same crazy driving.
Our hostel was in the suburb of Mabolo, which is north from the main ‘Up-town’ area. The hostel itself was was cheap and cheerful, but the area wasn’t the best. We explored the port area, Fort San Pedro and the Basilica de Santo Nino.
During our stay in Cebu, the entire city flooded. Given that June through September is the rainy season, this was no unexpected. The massive storm that came through on the Sunday morning was one of the biggest I have ever experience, and everything imploded:
We were simply using Cebu as a base for our further travel around Cebu island, so from there we caught the Ceres bus to Moalboal. This is unbelievably simple – grab a cheap cab to the South bus station, and ask where the bus is the Moalboal! For P109 each ($US2.30), the air-conditioned, 3-hour journey flew by! The bus dropped us off in the busiest part of Moalboal town, across the road from the mall, and a brand new McDonalds! To get to our hotel down the road, we hopped a motorbike trike for P150 (you could get it for a little less if you feel like haggling):
Moalboal is a beautiful seaside village with some amazing snorkeling/diving to be done just off shore, accommodation is cheap and there are restaurants aplenty. The best thing about staying in Moalboal however, is the ease of access to Kawasan Falls. I had seen photos of this place before and it was a must-do on my list. The falls are about a 30-minute scooter ride outside of Moalboal, and there is a donation only parking area there too. Park up, and walk the ten minutes to the bottom falls:
As with any tourist attraction, if you can make it there early, that’s always better. We arrived at around 1pm, and it was packed full of tourists and locals alike all enjoying the beautiful blue, cool waters. There are a load of people trying to sell you things there also, from water/food, to a table to sit at, or even a raft that they will dangle out underneath the falls (a table or raft will set you back P300 each). We were so glad we saw a few people walking down some stairs to the left of the first fall, as if you head on up around, you are met with a bunch of other falls along the river. Each one became less crowded as we went, eventually finding a pool with only a few people swimming, and a couple of guys using a rope swing:
We spent the afternoon swimming around the falls, and then eventually had to pack our things to catch another Ceres bus from Moalboal to Bato. The buses left from the same place where we arrived in Moalboal town, and it cost us P70 each for a non-airconditioned bus for the 2 hour journey. In Bato, we switched buses for the one heading to Oslob (P45). Everyone assumed we were going to Oslob to see the whale sharks – however, there’s actually lots of stuff out there about how bad this tourism is for the sharks themselves, so we had decided not to. My main reason to go there was to visit Tumalog waterfall (see I have a thing for waterfalls!) – however, only once we arrived, did we find out that the entire Oslob area was basically in a drought, and there was no water at Tumalog. Not letting that stop me, I rode my scooter the 15-minutes from Oslob town anyway:
That afternoon, we caught the bus back to Lilo-An port, about thirty minutes south from Oslob to catch a ferry to Siquijor Island. I genuinely cannot believe what a great service Ceres buses provide for locals and tourists. Even though we were the only foreigners on the buses that we took, the conductors helped by pointing out our stops, and were looking out for everyone the whole time. As a massive bonus, the buses are super cheap too.
Cebu city itself, I didn’t love – maybe it’s that we stayed in a bad part of town, or didn’t have enough funds to “do it in style”, but it’s one of those places I wouldn’t return to unless I had to. Cebu island however, is lovely. There are some awesome beaches and inland areas to visit, and there is actually a lot else to keep the restless traveller busy. Use Cebu city as a base, as we did, but plan to get out of there ASAP.
Kawasan Falls has taken a spot on my ever-changing ‘Top 10 favourite places in the world’ list as well, so if you ever have the chance, make sure you say yes to heading there!
Have you been to Cebu? Looking to go? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂