Despite my best intention to wake up early in the morning, I still found my body pressed against the warm blanket and soft pillows that started cuddling me the night before. And obviously, they didn’t want to let go.
The trouble with staying in a comfortable hotel room, getting out of bed is a challenge.
With my eyes still closed, I dragged my feet to the spacious bathroom that offers al fresco shower and bath. In the middle, there is a freestanding bathtub. I lounged there for a while and allowed myself to be completely awakened by the room’s skylit roof.
It was my second day in Cebu, our first-day itinerary was already packed. From the airport, our group was billeted in Bluewater Maribago Hotel and Resort, our warm and charming home for the next three days.
After having lunch, we immediately had a quick visit to Alegre Guitars factory, the Virgen de la Regla Parish, and Island Central Mall to view the Kadaugan Trade Fair and Art Fest before we headed to the Liberty Shrine to watch the special reenactment of Battle of Mactan.
And that was just a glimpse of what our group would experience on our second day, which was the official tour organized by the Department of Tourism Region 7, Cebu Pacific, and Lapulapu City Tourism.
“Our today’s itinerary is different,” our tour guide said. “We cherry-picked the destinations we included in this tour.”
Our guide wanted to show us the different sides of Cebu. In doing so, they had to show our group some places not usually frequented by tourists.
“We’re going to the Little Tagaytay of Cebu,” she added.
On our way to our first pit stop, our guide shared a little story about Typhoon Odette that ravaged Cebu and the nearby islands and provinces in December.
“As you can see, the damage caused by the typhoon is still evident,” she pointed her hand to the electric posts knocked down by the typhoon, including the houses and other establishments that are yet to be repaired.
The city looks normal at first glance as people are out and about. If a local did not point out the damage caused by Odette, one would think nothing tragic and devastating happened.
“We haven’t completely recovered, but we are back on our feet,” our guide beamed after reminding us that the mobile phone signal in some places we’re about to visit has not been fully restored.
After about an hour and a half on the road, we’re able to reach our first destination, the Bukawan ni Alejandra Garden.
Located in Brgy. Gaas, Balamban, this blooming 700-square-meter garden is home to a variety of flower plants and features approximately 200 kinds of flora and fauna arranged and planted in a way that each variety stands out and would create beautiful contrasts.
Since it is located on high land, the temperature is cooler. This allows visitors to be comfortable while taking pictures even if it is noontime.
The word “buwak” translates as “flowers” in Cebuano, the predominant language spoken and used in the region. Thus, “buwakan” comes to mean “flower garden,” I was told. A staff member, who became my instant photographer, also shared that this vibrant garden was wiped out by the Typhoon Odette and they had to start from scratch landscaping the entire area to restore its former look “and glory.”
Just before lunchtime, we headed to Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag situated on a hillside in the mountain barangay of Guba.
The destination offers an intimate place where one can pray while listening to the chirping of birds and the sounds of a brook downhill. The main attraction is a statue of Our Lady on a concrete altar surrounded by several concrete benches lining the hillside.
“Cebu is also a faith destination,” our guide said. “There are seven jubilee churches here that are popular among local tourists.”
Next on our list, was lunch at Kusina Luche at Adlawon Vacation Farm. It is located also on the rural side, just a few minutes’ drive from Our Lady of Manaoag.
Named after owner Dr. Melinda “Peluche” Ortiz, this on-site restaurant is located within The Lodge, the main structure on the farm.
Kusina Luche serves appetizers (like cassava crackers), salads, soups, and desserts, all made from healthy organic fresh fruits and vegetables newly harvested from the farm. The restaurant is famous for its chicken buko soup, bistek, binukadkad na tilapia, pandan chicken, and crispy pata, which were all put on the table during our lunch.
Now it’s time to drive back to the city for a different agenda – to meet the ‘chocolate queen’ of Cebu. Raquel Toquero-Choa, 46, whose main turf is The Chocolate Chamber Boutique located at Robinsons Galleria, is a staunch advocate of cacao farming in the Philippines.
Choa’s kingdom welcomes chocolate enthusiasts to sample a wide variety of cacao products locally made in Cebu. Her artisanal chocolate company sells tablea truffles, chocolate cake, hot and cold cocoa, chocolate high tea, cacao nib cookies, and more.
“We focus on transforming locally-produced cacao beans into internationally-acclaimed creations,” Choa, who introduced herself and Cebu’s rich chocolate heritage in a theatrical manner, said.
Before we had dinner at Marina Seaview Restaurant in Lapu-lapu city and head back to the hotel, he had a quick stop at the Cebu–Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), also known as the Cebu–Cordova Bridge. The massive and artistically designed 8.9-kilometer bridge is the country’s longest bridge-way structure.
“This is the third bridge here in Cebu and there’s another bridge, the fourth one,” the tour guide proudly said sharing that the structures and the development within the area well define Queen City’s progress.
Cebu’s newest landmark was inaugurated on April 27 coinciding with the 501st commemoration of the Kadaugan sa Mactan, which marks the victory of Mactan warriors led by Lapulapu over the Spanish army of Ferdinand Magellan.
“Speaking of Magellan, the tourism board is planning to introduce the Magellan Route,” our tour guide shared. “But it might take us one week to complete the entire tour.”
And as we head back to our temporary home in Cebu, I realized that one day is not enough to paint a beautiful picture that could possibly encourage other people to visit the Queen City of the South. But with one day, we can already gather beautiful stories, memories, and new experiences worth sharing with someone who would want to rediscover the province that is known for its beautiful people and colorful history.