Deciding to give the couples a chance to have some quality time together and for reasons that I couldn’t join the canyoneering activity, I went on a solo trip.
And here was how it went…
We arrived at the airport at around nine in the evening. After grabbing some dinner at Jollibee, we went ahead to get our boarding passes and checked-in.
After an hour plane ride, we arrived in Cebu at around one in the morning.
And then we went straight ahead to Oslob. I didn’t get much sleep on the van, as I’m the type of person who hardly gets any sleep unless resting on a bed. But it didn’t even matter (at least for the first few hours), as I was used to staying up since our internship days back in college.
We arrived in Oslob at around 4:30 in the morning. The stars were bright. It was still early and the whaleshark watching activity started at 6:00am. While they were sleeping inside the van, I talked with our driver and the tour guide. They told me about the places I should go to during my solo trip and a few things about Cebu itself.
It was 6:00 am and the place was filled with people. I didn’t expect to see that much people for an activity, considering that it was early morning. There were around 100+ of us there at such an hour. Wow. I got stressed out for the whale sharks/butandings. Too many tourists for these sea creatures.
After some briefing, we paid for the activity (Php 500/snorkeling + gears) and waited for our schedule. I think we were the fifth group to go there. Rules were sunscreen was not allowed (w/c probably explained the early goers) and no flash photography and no getting near the butandings.
After thirty minutes, it was our turn to get on a boat. There were around twelve of us in a boat. Someone was feeding shrimps to the whale shark to make it come closer to our boat.
It didn’t take long until we’d seen the beautiful sea creature. It wasn’t as big as the others, probably a little smaller than a jeep. But the whale shark was so gentle you didn’t really have to panic when they were around, even if their mouths could probably swallow you whole. Maybe.
Underwater picture taking ensued. It was exhausting, since we had to let go of our life vests. You wouldn’t necessarily drown, but the waves kept on crashing on you. My greatest worry at that time was my glasses. I put it inside my shirt and I didn’t want to lose it. Why, why, why didn’t I leave it on the boat? I truly wonder. It made things so much harder for me.
Either way, I found the whale shark intimidating at first, but then it was so gentle. A friendly sea creature. There was nothing to be afraid of… unless you were probably seeing one as large as three-storey building.
After the whale shark activity, we went back to the shore and hunt down some breakfast. I didn’t have appetite that day (for the entire day, actually), so I only had coffee.
Taking a shower after, my friends and I parted ways. They were going to Sumilon and I was headed for whatever the day would bring.
To be honest, I didn’t do any island hopping activities for this tour. My heart is still in El Nido, Palawan. Like I close my eyes and I remember the beautiful beaches of El Nido. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not ready to see other beaches anytime soon. 😌
So yes, my itinerary consisted of going to unusual places and whatever the time permitted. My friends’ tour guide arranged a habal-habal ride/motorcycle for wherever I would like to go.
I wanted to see the Tumalog Falls. I’d seen pictures of the different falls there near Oslob, but Tumalog had the appeal that I was looking for.
My habal driver didn’t want to take me there at first, because it was almost summer and the falls didn’t have that much water at the time. He said that there were other falls with, perhaps, stronger water current, but I wasn’t interested with them. I didn’t want to see the current. I wanted to see the cascading water of Tumalog Falls. And it was a wise decision. Tumalog Falls was the prettiest falls I’ve seen in my entire life.
Speaking of habal-habal ride, it was an experience in itself. I loved it. The thrill-seeker in me overpowered the one who told me that it was dangerous. Without anything but the motorcycle and a pair of sunglasses (courtesy of my kind driver), we went up the mountain and down. I enjoyed the habal-habal ride up and down the mountain the most for this Cebu trip.
After Tumalog Falls, I headed to the ruins of Oslob. I went around the ruins and inside the museum. The baywalk was such a breathtaking view. If only it wasn’t 10 in the morning and the sun was right out in the sky, it would have been nice to just sit there and watch the ocean.
My habal-habal driver offered to take pictures of me, as it was what the place was known for. But I told him that I was satisfied with taking pictures and going around. I don’t know. I’m not the one for posing in front of a camera, but I would gladly be the one behind it.
We went to Boljoon after upon my request. I saw it on our way to Oslob and the place looked so inviting. My habal-habal driver dropped me off at Boljoon. (Php 400 for the habal-habal ride)
I went around the church and saw something that looked like a cemetery. I had goosebumps at this place and that distinct heavy feeling that you couldn’t explain. It was later on that I’d found out why… or perhaps why.
The tour guide/curator was the best one I’d encountered while in Cebu. She was so knowledgeable and had an answer to all my questions and even more. And the way she delivered the tour was so entertaining. She didn’t even mind that I was alone and she was only doing it for me.
Pictures were not allowed during the tour. But it was fascinating. The artifacts were composed of pottery from ancient times and how they buried their dead relatives before. It turned out that there were settlements around the church in the past, and they buried their deads just beneath their slightly elevated houses, a few meters below the ground.
And together with their dead relatives, they placed ceramic pots and other things. Their guess was it was related to what that person did when he was alive. I saw one skeletal remains (a picture of it) with a seashell right above the heart. I wonder why.
What stood out during my Cebu museum trips was that they used to bury their deads with a ceramic plate covering their head, believing that the spirit would escape the body through the mouth. Interesting.
The excavation started a few years back after one accidentally found some skeletal remnants just a few meters below the ground. When they started their careful digging at the church’s front yard, they’d found all these skeletal remnants scattered around.
And that probably explained the heavy feeling I had for the entire tour and near the locked cemetery.
But the living is to be feared rather than the dead, as the saying goes. So I was hungry at that point. It was almost lunchtime. And walking a few meters back, I saw the public market. I ordered a meal at a carinderia (eatery) and ate while looking around the small market.
Since it was a two to three hour ride back to Cebu City, I was trying to find a CR. They pointed me to one, but then I felt something unusual behind me. And true enough, my backpack was open. Much to the dismay of the one who opened it, he saw sanitary pads and shampoos. But then, much to my dismay, it turned out that he wasn’t done with me yet and I was being followed.
My hunch was that he was the one wearing a faded red shirt behind me. A man around forty. I looked at him and wondered if I was right.
I saw the CR and was about to head inside when I saw him right in front of me as I was on my way to the cubicles. He was going for me. I got so afraid. I was still a few meters away from him, so I headed straight back where there were a lot of people. I focused on getting out of the market and back to the streets. It was a busy street and it was much, much safer there.
After that, I totally ditched using the CR and just waited for the bus near the road. My heart was pounding as I waited for the bus going back to Cebu City. It passed by every thirty minutes. Thankfully, there was a teenage girl who was also waiting for something near the road. At my back was a computer shop and there were plenty of kids and adults there. I felt safe standing here. The man stopped following me.
The wait for the bus was excrutiating, because I feared that I would see the man again. I wanted to get out of that place right away. The teenage girl made it bearable for me. She was kind enough not to leave right away and waited with me. It might just be a coincidence, but it might also be her kind heart. Or it might be God sending me a form of comfort.
So the lesson was this: don’t go to public markets in Boljoon or I would say for Cebu in general with a large backpack. I would be frank here, as a warning to other wanderers like me, Cebu wasn’t as friendly as other places I’ve been to. I’m saying this based on experience as a tourist.
I’d never experienced such a thing, say, in Ilocos. The people there were so kind for words. You could leave your things in one place and go back for it and it would remain untouched. Even in other places. I never felt so scared and unsafe in my own country.
If you’re not part of a tour group (or maybe even if you are), be very, very careful when in Cebu. Watch your surroundings. Pay attention to those who seem to be following you. When you feel like you’re being followed, go to where there is a lot of people. Don’t go to the CR or any place where he could get you alone.
When I saw that my backpack was open, I should have left the public market right away. I shouldn’t have risked it. He almost got me near the CR. I could have just imagined what he would do, but it surely would involve me being robbed.
For solo backpackers, safety is truly the first concern. But I didn’t let that man ruin the trip for me. There are people like him in this world, but I believe in the kindness of humanity in general. And truly enough, I’d met a few kind ones during my trip.
So after that heart-stopping experience, I was finally able to ride the bus. After paying for the trip, I instantly fell asleep. Exhaustion. Relief. Safe.
A short nap and three hours later, I finally arrived at Cebu City. I went straight ahead to the port. Pier 1 was where I would get my tickets to and from Tagbilaran, Bohol.
One thing that I really appreciated in Cebu City was the taxi ride. It was cheap, usually ranging from Php 60-70 for one ride. That was a relief, because it was confusing learning the jeepney system of Cebu City. And safe. Given what just happened to me, I became the safety freak from this point on.
After getting the tickets, I headed to Sugbutel, where I made a reservation. It was actually a nice place. The comfort rooms were clean and well-maintained. It was a dormitory type of hotel wherein you got either the bottom or upper part of a double-deck bed. I got the lower bed, priced at Php 315/night.
After fixing my things and such, I went to SM Cebu, the one near Sugbutel. It was a walking distance from the hotel, but I wasn’t sure if I would recommend walking at night. Maybe not. I did walk and it was okay, I guess. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it.
There in SM, I ate the recommended large clams soup. Sooooo delicious. I didn’t have much appetite for anything else that day, probably because of everything that had happened and the lack of sleep. But the soup was really something. Must try.
And then that was Day 1. A very long day.
It was an hour and a half fastcraft ride to Bohol. I was on board the 8:45am trip and had a 5:25 pm ticket back. That was a mistake, as it turned out that Bohol had so much to offer and one day might not be enough. If it would be the case, better get the earliest ticket and the latest one back. Like 6am and 8pm ones. I should have, could have, would have if I had known.
Because… from Tagbilaran Port, you need to go to the terminal (Php 25 via tricycle). Then from the terminal, you have to go on board a bus going to Carmen, Bohol. I was heading to Chocolate Hills first.
The thing about Bohol, it was so straightforward. Like there was only one road leading to almost all the tourist attractions. You wouldn’t get lost. Or it would take a lot for you to get lost. Plus, I found the people here friendly and nice.
So going to Chocolate Hills… it was a 2hour bus ride. That was what I didn’t expect. I arrived at Tagbilaran Port at 10.30 in the morning. Then the terminal at around 11 am. The bus left at 11.30am. I arrived at Chocolate Hills at around 1.30pm.
Then imagine that there was a ride back.
So where did that leave me? No extra time at all.
But it was enjoyable. That 2-hour bus ride (Php 60) was really something. I would personally recommend riding the ordinary bus. The air was so fresh and the weather was so good. You’d enjoy it more than an airconditioned bus ride.
Plus, when you get to pass the Bohol Forest, a man-made forest composed of mahogany trees, you’d feel something weird about the sudden drop in temperature. It was cold there, for some reason.
It was so majestic and breathtaking. I’d never seen anything much more beautiful when it came to mountain formation. You see it on textbooks, but seeing it in real life was something else. There was no word for it. Chocolate Hills captured my heart.
I wished I could have stayed longer, but I was on a tight race against time. Tarsiers first, before anything else. I wanted to go to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, Bohol, but I wouldn’t be able to make it to boarding time. So I had no choice but to go to the one in Loboc, Bohol.
It was a conservation place. The tarsiers were confined instead of out there in the wild (like in Corella). I didn’t want to come here if I had the choice, but then I didn’t have any. It was the only place where I could see tarsiers if I wanted to arrive before boarding time.
The entrance fee was Php 60.
And so I want you to meet the cute little guys here at the Tarsier Conservation Area:
Awww, cuties. They didn’t look alike at all. Like every single tarsier had a distinct quality and even perhaps personality.
- The name tarsier was taken from its extremely long tarsus bone. Its hind limbs are twice as long as its body!
- Their third finger has the same length as their upper arm.
- Tarsiers are able to rotate their heads 180 to compensate for their immovable eyeballs!
- -The second and third toes of their hind limbs bear claws instead of nails used for grooming.
- Tarsiers are the only extant entirely carnivorous primates.
- Tarsiers are amazing jumpers able to jump 40 times more than its own weight.
- Young tarsiers are born furred and with open eyes. They are able to climb within a day of birth.
- Tarsier exhibits the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking 6 months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams.
- Scientist differentiate tarsier species through their song and singing styles. Tarsiers do sing in high-pitched voice.
I could have stared at them all day. And if only it wasn’t against the law to bring them home… 😂
I went back to Tagbilaran City and back to the port. I made it right on time, with just a few minute to spare in between. So yes, next time, get an earlier ticket and stay in Bohol for the night. That would have been better.
But I think I’d be back to Bohol someday. That place that captivates your heart, it makes you want to come back often.
It was past seven in the evening when I’d arrived at Pier 1 in Cebu City. With only several minutes to be spared for dinner, I went to Robinson’s Galleria. There I ate at Chicken Deli and had the tastiest Honey Milk Tea from a stall which name I forgot.
Back to Sugbutel, and that was the second day.
The city tour. I was supposed to do the tour with my friends, but they were late. I felt like I could do more instead of just waiting for them, so I went ahead and did the tour on my own.
A city walking tour. Under the sun. It wasn’t easy, but it surely was a great experience.
I was warned by the taxi driver that I hired to go to the different attractions near Busay (Php 800) to be watchful for snatchers. He told me that there was plenty of them around, but the numbers lowered down after Duterte became the President, which he said was a good thing. But nevertheless, he warned me about this and than, since he was worried because I was travelling alone.
The funny thing about being alone on a trip, people thought it was lonesome and such. But for introverts like me with such personality, I liked it. My being needed it. Some time alone away from everything.
First concern would always be my safety, being a woman, alone and all that. But quick judgement and like what the drivers told me, just be mindful of my surrounding. I used the taxi to go around Cebu City instead of riding the jeep. Just a precaution, I guess. And it was easier haha. I barely had time to eat, so that left me none to learn the jeepney system.
I also have a firm belief that God takes care of our every move. I trust Him.
I’m a pretty brave person and not your damsel in distress. Plus, an adventure seeker. I take experiences as something that I could use to describe the right feeling when writing. See the things I would do just to get a first-hand experience? 😂
For one, experience makes a great writer. You could express it better if you have felt it yourself or seen it yourself.
So yes, back to the trip. I first went to view up the mountain to get a view of the city (Entrance fee: Php 50) and then to the Temple of Leah (Entrance fee: Php 50).
The Temple of Leah was a husband’s tribute to his late wife. It was still unfinished up to this point. Some of the things inside…
My favorite was this Japanese figurine. It was still confined in a room and was not out for public display yet, but I stared at it for so long. There was something so captivating about it.
After that, I went to the Taoist Temple. It was a nice place.
And off to Museo Sugbo, a one-of-a-kind, air-conditioned museum. They showed the pre-colonial Cebu, the Spanish invasion period, the Japanese invasion, then the American invasion. For lack of better term, I would just call them invasion. 😂
It was a very nice museum. Good thing the taxi driver took me there. I almost missed it.
Next was the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House. Entrance fee: Php 50. All kinds of antique.
A little way from it was the Casa Gorordo Museum. It was little bit expensive (Php 120), but you get to have an instant souvenir.
After the earthquake that hit Cebu and Bohol a few years back, they had to shut down the museum for two years. It recently opened again, and hola! it was so interactive and millenial. Like you could use headphones in certain places and such.
Casa Gorordo was an ancestral house owned by a rich and influential family in Cebu. It started with the marriage of a Spanish merchant and a Chinese woman. After that, there had been intermixed marriages.
The tour of the museum and then the house displayed the culture and lives of the people during the past, especially the Cebuano culture. The curator explained the different parts of the house and their purposes. At one point, when we entered the dining room, he showed us a cup with an engraved face of a geisha when placed underneath a light source. It was one of a kind.
This was also where I’d seen the first edition of Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal. It was kept by the family inside their library.
After Casa Gorordo, I went along and saw the Heritage Monument, Obelisk, the Basilica…
…and then I got lost. I couldn’t find Magellan’s Cross. And while getting lost, I accidentally saw AA Bbq (Php 90 for a meal). And the food was so good.
After that, upon consulting my friend, Google Map, I found the Fort San Pedro and then eventually, the Magellan’s Cross.
Later, I went to Taboan Market to buy pasalubong. So many dried fishes.
And that was about it.
Cebu City was too much of a city for me. I preferred the countryside in order to relax, rather than the hustle and bustle of the city life.
Bohol was my favorite part of this trip. There’s something about that place that warmed my soul. Like a form of serenity emerging from within.
When you travel, it’s truly about the people and the culture and the place.
So far, my current top 5 favorite places out of all the places I’ve been to are:
– Ilocos Norte
– El Nido, Palawan
– Ilocos Sur
Hopefully, it would be somewhere in Benguet. Sagada. Mt. Pulag. We’ll see. ☺️
p.s. vlog coming soon on my Youtube channel.