Camote, Cebu City, Tacloban
February/March 2009
Part II - Cebu City, Tacloban

Cebu City

This is the second part of our trip and will cover Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, and from there going all the way back to Northern Samar while skipping Camotes Island this time, but only passing by. We didn't go any other places on the island of Cebu this time (we have been at some places before and to the upscale and overpriced Mactan Island Coast with dirty seawater I shall not return).

As soon as we disembarked at Pier 1 in Cebu City at around 8 a.m. I called up the
Montebello Villa Hotel
Banilad, Cebu City
Tel.: 032-231 3681 (- 89)
They had ample available rooms still to choose from as soon we arrive. We took a taxi a little way away from the pier because the touts are really a nuisance. The taxi fare to the hotel in the northwestern part of Cebu City was 2.00 Euro.

What a lovely place almost in the middle of the city. The Rough Guide mentioned that this is too far from the center having to take a taxi every time to get there. But even staying in the city you have to take a taxi mostly, because there is no real center. It does not matter whether you pay 70 cents or around 1.00 Euro for a taxi ride, which we mostly did. By the way, this hotel is just behind the third largest shopping center, the Gaisano Country Mall, with many good restaurants in and around.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Montebello with bella piscina Montebello with bella vista
Montebello with bello parco Montebello with bello stagno
Montebello with bello ponte Montebello with bella palma
The hotel had rooms starting from 40.00 up to 88.00 Euro. We decided for a Superior for 48.00 Euro, including a sumptuous breakfast buffet. The cheapest room just happened to be in front of a new roof construction going on. But the Superior was nice and quiet and had all the four star amenities.
Every morning breakfast buffet and then swimming off the calories
Ok, but we are not here only for relaxation or retirement (some almost hundred years old guys with a caretaker were creeping around; Joy called them turtles).

The main reason was shopping more or less, beside some sight-seeing, and last not least: eating (many very good restaurants including the one in the hotel.)
Then going on a shopping spree at the huge Ayala Shopping Center
The Ayala Shopping Center (with a nice ambiance and landscape) and the SM-City (where you can get lost) are the largest shopping malls in Cebu City. Name it, they got it.
From the shopping temple we went to the Tao Temple
This Toa Temple on a hill to the west of Cebu City is the nicest and richest Chinese Temple I have seen in the Philippines. No wonder. Many rich Chinese live around that hill: Beverly Hills.
High up on Beverly Hills there lives no movie star but a Chinese dragon
A Chinese fisherman and many Tao deities
In a well kept landscape with a beautiful fountain
Some temple towers to look up
A beautiful view down to Cebu
From the modern temple of the old Taoist philosophy to the first introduction of the Christian religion to the Filipinos by the cross Magellan has planted when he stepped on Cebu in 1521. He claimed that newly discovered land for Spain, who continuously baptized, colonized and ruled the Philippines for the next 377 years.

Remnants of that original cross are supposed to be encased in that hollow cross displayed in a pavilion in the middle of the old quarters of Cebu City.
The Magellan's cross ceiling shows beautiful paintings
Depicting the planting of the cross and baptizing the first Filipinos
Next came the conquistador Legazpi in 1565. He founded Fort San Pedro to fend off the Moros, the Muslims of Mindanao, etc. If the Spaniards would not have come and converted the Filipinos to Christianity, the Muslims would have, but to Islam. The conflict in Mindanao between Christians and Muslims would have never occurred. But the best would have been if the Chinese would have converted all the Filipinos to the Taoism or Confucianism philosophy (the Chinese came much earlier but never had the intention to conquer and convert; they were only interested in trade).
Down and back in history Fort San Pedro founded by Legazpi
One of the three towers One of the many cannons
"Our" cannon is still there same cannon six years ago
Not very much has changed during the last six years: inside the Fort. But from the outside you almost can't see the fort: surrounded by new high buildings too close to the wall. The restoration and renovation of the Fort has been kept on a low level. It's a pity. The last of the very few really historical sites is being neglected and may someday fall apart. The churches seem to be more cared about.
This canon should hit the water tank and all the constructions around
But no renovation of the Fort has been done Only inside the church keeps you stunned
The Basilica del Santo Niño houses the most sacred icon in the Philippines: A statue of Santo Niño supposed to be presented to Juana, the wife of chieftain Humabon, by Magellan after her baptism. You have to queue up if you want to see it. In front of the church you can buy all kinds of religious stuff supposedly helping to overcome any of your own misery, not necessarily that of the whole world.
The church court with fountain looks very well maintained
Ok, the outside of the Santo Niño Basilica should be cleaned or better: painted
Ok, that's all of the interesting sites we saw. And that was already almost all. Only some museums might have been worthwhile (maybe another time). We rather had a relaxing evening with a final dinner at the restaurant of the Montebello Villa Resort.
Final dinner at Montebello Joy's favorite: beefsteak
We choose the best from the menu and it was very good. We paid 11.00 Euro just for the two meals: filet mignon in bacon wrap with pepper gravy and grilled tiger prawns with garlic sauce. Rice, ice tea and a beer were another 2.10 Euro.
Filetto alla pepe Longostinos alla aglio
Next morning we went by taxi to the Pier 4 to leave at 11 a.m. with the Supercat to Ormoc. They leave every day, also at 5:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. The fare was 10.50 Euro per person. No reservation was necessary. For inquiry just call 032-233-7000.

Leaving Cebu City with the Supercat
The ride was smooth and after two hours we glided into the harbor of Ormoc. Few steps to the mini-bus terminal where we left at 1:30 p.m. and arrived in Tacloban just before 4 p.m. We had already announced our "new arrival" to Ron and Fire at
Ron 'n Fire's Place
Block 23, Lot 47
Kristina Heights
Tacloban City, Leyte
Tel.: 063-053 321 6033 or 0918-511 0770 (Firie) or 0917-599 0035 (Ron)
where we stayed before. They have a dormitory with aircon and one extra room with a king-size bed, which we occupied for 9.70 Euro the night.
Ron and Fires's cozy little house With a long and cozy veranda
There is one bathroom for all. Coffee or tea is availabe all day and the couple don't mind if you would also use their kitchen. Not RoFi but WiFi is also available all day, too. Their computer including internet access may also be used for a small fee.
Nice plants all around Nice place to relax
Everything else can be looked up at their internet site. What is worth mentioning here and now: Ron is an orchid fan and Joy fell in love with his orchid collection.
Admiring Ron's orchids along the bamboo wall
We really enjoyed staying with them and we had a lot of fun. It also was convenient to the New Terminal (5 minutes by foot) or to the city center (5 minutes by minibus or trike). If their place is fully occupied or if you want to stay in a hotel, then I would recommend the
Hotel Alejandro
P. Paterno St.
Tacloban City, Leyte
Tel.: 053-321 7033
in the middle of town with middle range accommodation rates starting from 16.00 to 26.00 Euro. Even if you don't stay there you may want to look at their gallery with changing topics. What I cannot recommend at any price it's the
Leyte Park Hotel
Magsaysay Blvd.
Tacloban, Leyte
Tel.: 053-325 6000
The accommodation rates range from 34.10 to 45.20 Euro for the Supreme Cottage. Since this resort probably thinks that it has to be classified as a prime luxury hotel it charges 12% tax plus another 3% service charge on top. But this place is not top. It's a nice location (though no beach but waterfront) but the buildings looked run down to me. Just take a look yourself at the following photos.
The Leyte Park Resort had seen better days
The restaurant at the wharf looks nice But you must walk around garbage to get there
A long way down of and from the resort No Mabuhay again: I shall not return
If General MacArthur would have said "I shall not return", the Philippines would have been liberated from the Japanese one year later anyway. And if he would have kept his promise to return, he could have still fulfilled his pledge one year later. But still, he fought all the way back from Australia (where he escaped to from Corregidor in 1942) and finally waded ashore at the red beach at Palo, 5km south of Tacloban, on October 20, 1944 as the first step to push out the Japanese from all over the Philippines. The Leyte Landing Memorial commemorates this dramatic event at this very same location.
MacArthur said: "I shall return". And he did Welcomed by all Filipinos and Filipinas
A little bit farther down south from this memorial is another resort I also cannot recommend, it's the
MacArthur Resort
Palo, Leyte
Tel.: 053-323 3015
The accommodation rates from standard to deluxe are between 24.00 and 30.00 Euro. Also here the location is ok with a golden (or red?) sandy beach, but the buildings are also run down. I have just read before I came here, that the resort has been taken over by the government because of bad management and that 11 million Euro are needed for renovation. Maybe I shall return after it has been done, but I don't believe that the government will be able to do a better job.
The beach of the MacArthur Resort which is also rotting away, like the boat
But one of the best places we have visited was the Raffael's Farm, maybe 20km up north from Tacloban. It has no accommodation but a restaurant in a beautiful surrounding landscape. You can order delicious meals from the menu. They offer a daily set meal including a drink for 3.50 Euro, which we took. The ingrediences are supposedly from eco-agriculture.
Nothing compares to this idyllic place The beautiful garden of the Raffael Farm
With a restaurant And a place to rest
Pond with fish Palms and plants
Well, an old well Good old wood
A huge nice landscaped park In a nice surrounding countryside
Get up, no more rest We must leave now
On the way back we passed and stopped at the longest bridge in the Philippines, 2.16km long, connecting the island of Samar with the island of Leyte.
Take a look at the San Juanico Bridge The longest bridge in the Philippines
However, the unmatched superlative but of waste was found in the Santo Niño Shrine ordered to be built and stuffed by the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos (yes, the one who also owned more than 20,000 shoes). The two photos below gives only a small example of that place, where Imelda and her family actually never lived, not even during her last five years reign. If you want to see more, then just hit Imelda's Shrine
Santo Niño Shrine built by Imelda Where we relaxed in her boudoir
Just next to the Shrine is the People's Center. The huge building looks like a Greek Pantheon. It also houses a huge library. It was also ordered to be built by Imelda. Not for herself this time but for the people, as the name implies. The difference is that it is still being used for its original purpose but unfortunately not very well maintained as the Santo Niño Shrine.
Books, books, books and more books in the classicism Library building
This library is an antiquarian's delight But the catalogs may not be up to date
Some rooms are being used for garbage The function hall is used for all kinds of parties
The junior and senior high school promo This is some kind of a graduation ceremony
This was the end of our round trip in and around Tacloban. We had hired a trike (tricycle motorbike) with driver (as recommended by Ron) for 8.10 Euro for six hours.

What else to do in Tacloban? Eating in good restaurants, like the Japanese Tempura House (salmon steak meal for 2.50 Euro including ice tea) or the Italian Giuseppe's (fantastic fishplate for two for 11.30 Euro) or the Filipino restaurant Stefanies (the best we ever had of all-you-can-eat for 3.20 Euro), all on Avenida Veteranos.

The best cafés with all kinds of brewed coffees and cakes are Café Urbana in Santo Niño street (delicious chocolate cake) or the Jose Karlos Café in the Juna Luna street (huge assortment in a nice ambience).

After indulgence, a massage is recommended, for example at the Suk Wan Massage Center beside the Tempura House. A 60 minutes combination Swedish and Shiatsu massage for 4.00 Euro (with a 20% discount in the afternoon for 3.20 Euro).

Also, Tacloban is a good place for shopping, not necessarily the Gaisano Department Store but the many smaller shops all around. And last not least the garden center after the Santo Niño Shrine. Joy couldn't resist buying a couple of orchid plants.
Back to nature as shown Joy is buying some orchids to take home
With these Hibiscus blossoms I will close my travel report

One morning we walked to the New Terminal and after a five and a half hours minibus ride for 5.60 Euro per person we arrived in Catarman.

Ok, that was our trip to all these destinations mentioned. We could have easily stayed longer either to relax or taking a look at some of the other interesting places. There is actually much more to explore in Leyte and Southern Samar. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more about the places we have visited then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

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