Posts Tagged ‘Minor Basilica of the Santo Nino’

After five enjoyable days on Panglao, it was time for us to pack up and leave for Cebu preparatory for our flight back to Korea. We’d dropped off some laundry at a place in Alona a couple of days earlier, but the following day they were closed due to torrential rain. That left us with an anxious morning on the final day wondering if we would have to leave without most of our clothes. I went to the laundry service office – and it was closed again. But then someone arrived and told me our stuff had been delivered to our hotel.

The taxi driver who took us to Tagbilaran to catch the ferry to Cebu was quite chatty and told us a little about the country. A lot of Korean kids, if their families can afford it, spend a few months in the Philippines to learn English. The driver described his puzzlement that the Koreans he meets never speak English.

The ferry trip was uneventful, but once we arrived back in Cebu we had to get a taxi – which was an unnecessarily stressful process. The first driver offered us a price that sounded far too much. I flagged down a taxi and then Habiba didn’t want to get in as it basically stopped in the middle of the road beside other stationary taxis; I shouted at her – something I never do – and we ended up taking it even though it was also not on a meter (which is illegal).

The hostel we stayed at, Cebu Guesthouse, was not the nicest. The ground floor bathroom had no light the first night. Our room was right next to the kitchen and dining area, which were housed in a large, shed-like annexe.

The first evening, concerned about our funds we headed out to a supermarket to buy groceries for our next few meals. On the way up the road, we passed a family camped on a small patch of ground by a bridge over a miserable trickle of a river. There was a naked baby boy who, when he caught sight of us, flung up his arms with an expression of joy on his face. Cute, but desperately sad – the family probably rely on the child’s cuteness for their income. We hurried past.

The following day, we decided to get some more money. Banks were closed so we went to a moneychanger with some Korean won. As we waited for our pesos – the guy had to check with someone on the phone – a group of young children gathered outside. One small girl came in, stretching out her hand. Once outside the kids wouldn’t leave us alone. They were constantly touching us trying to get our attention and sympathy – and when that didn’t work, their hands started reaching into our pockets and bags. One girl nearly had my camera out of my pocket. Habiba scolded them to no effect, then she hailed a taxi and we escaped with our money and possessions intact.

We went downtown to Magellan’s cross – a replica of a cross set up by the explorer, and which apparently contains frangments of the original. The place was literally just a cross inside a little building in the square opposite the city hall. Behind the cross was the Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño. We went into the compound – through a security checkpoint – and had a look in. There was a mass on and the place was packed, so we couldn’t really look around much. From there we explored the nearby Carbon Market (not ‘carbon’, the English word). The area was pretty crowded, dirty, smelly, hot. Habiba wasn’t terribly happy in the wake of the earlier child-mob incident, so we went back to the hostel.

There were a couple of other places that we could have visited – a Spanish fort and a Taoist temple – but, on the whole, what we’d been told turned out to be true – Cebu wasn’t really worth visiting.

In the evening – it was the 31st of December – we went out with some acquaintances of Habiba’s. As we walked back up the road past the supermarket, we were accosted by the same group of kids again. This time, we were travelling light – all our money was in a pouch hanging under my top. They didn’t bother us so much. We had a mediocre meal on plastic tables and stools on a car park outside a bar next to what was apparently one of the best places in Cebu to hang out – a mall. People let off bangers all evening.

Then, around eleven o’clock, we went to a nightclub. I didn’t enjoy this part of the evening. Awful, thought-drowningly loud dance music played, and I was feeling a little tired and sick and didn’t want to drink too much alcohol. The others seemed to enjoy themselves dancing. There was a countdown at midnight, introduced by a yelling cliché of DJ. Then, with the formalities out of the way we headed back to the hostel.

The next day, we took a taxi to the airport with one of our companions from the previous night. Once there, we – Habiba especially – bought piles of packets of dried mango and similar souvenirs and gifts. Then we got slightly screwed as we tried to head through Security and Immigration – we needed an exit fee and none of us had the money. So we had to change more cash.

The flight back to Korea went a little more smoothly than the one on the way out. When we got our bags back, we all put on extra layers of clothing. It had snowed while we were away – and that snow is still on the ground nearly a month later.

So the Philippines was fun – lots of sun, sea and sights. Even coming under attack – mild as it might have been – by street children in Cebu was an interesting adventure. In a couple of days we’re off to Malaysia for the Korean holiday of Seollal – aka Chinese New Year.

Read Full Post »