Backpacking Solo in Southern Cebu (A 3-Day Itinerary)
Cebu is a top tourist destination that offers a variety of things to do for both local and foreign visitors alike. I had been there countless times, but unfortunately, not to the southern part where more adventurous activities await, from swimming with the whale sharks to being in the midst of a sardine run. I’m extremely happy then to present a three-day itinerary to Southern Cebu written by Lakbay Diva, a Cebu-based travel blogger.
Here’s the secret how to experience Cebu in depth – travel down south.
Swim with the Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu
It would be early dawn that you would wake up to your 4:30 AM alarm; from wherever you’re staying in Cebu City, head out to the South bus terminal and take the bus going to Oslob/Santander. Choose the aircon; it’s much more comfortable than the ordinary buses given that travel time to Oslob is over three hours.
You’ve read about the controversies of whale-shark feeding in Oslob, Cebu. You’ve seen pictures of your friends – both online and offline – having a great time swimming with the gentle giants. You’ve weighed the pros and cons but heck, you want to experience it for yourself. You want to face your fear. You want to connect to that which you are afraid of. Besides, you know you will be responsible anyway – no touching, no riding, and no feeding these wonderful creatures.
The bus stops at the popular whale-shark watching area. After paying hefty sums of money to the tune of about 600 pesos that covers barangay clearance, police clearance, NBI, and heck, maybe even the CIA, you get permitted to experience for 20 minutes the priceless opportunity for you to face your fear of the depths, of whatever giants or monsters lurking in the sea.
After getting back to the shore, you might get tempted to eat right there for you’ve remembered that in your excitement, you didn’t have had breakfast. A few more bites and you’ve finished, now you’re bound for Boljoon.
Marveling at the 18th century Church of Boljoon, it being declared as a National Cultural Treasure as it’s the oldest remaining stone church in Cebu, you feel the breeze coming from the sea. Nostalgia and tranquility sweeps in, as if you became connected with the olden past. Inspecting the church’s structure, the cemetery beside it, the robust belfry, and the old house nearby, you say a prayer in silence. People have lived here, and people have died here.
Climb the Highest Point in Cebu – Osmeña Peak
It is past eleven now, better get going. The next stop on your itinerary is the highest peak of Cebu. Riding a jeep from Boljoon to Dalaguete would not be more than fifty pesos and less than an hour of your time. Stopping at the Mantalongon crossing, you can look for karinderia right beside the street.
Afterwards, a habal-habal driver can bring you to the Mantalongon public market. This is your jump-off point for the two-hour walking to the highest elevated area in the whole of Cebu. You fear getting lost, but later on realize that it’s unfounded. The path, though rough, is well defined – jeeps even ply the very route you’re taking. Asking the people along the way is a good idea; sometimes they point you to a shortcut, but you would want the longer route. Trust me.
Somewhere along the way, your one liter of water ran out as the sun is still up in the 3rd hour of the afternoon, beating you down thirsty. Stopping by the refilling water stations, in the form of poso or just a plain pipe, you get to replenish your water supply, drink, and cool yourself. Then you continue to trudge on.
Being alone, kids may tag along with you, asking you questions as if you were an answering machine. They are just being friendly, no need to ward them off. Though later on, they’d be expecting something from you. A little token of thanks, like 20 pesos perhaps. That, on top of the 15 pesos you would have to pay for the Osmeña peak entrance. But of course, watching the beauty of the waning sun is worth more than money, so small expenditures like this wouldn’t dent your thankfulness to bear witness to the Prime Mover’s creation.
With your camera, you want to capture the sunset – the golden hour. Dramatic hues of pink, orange and gold splash the sky like some colors giving life to a canvass – each of them jealous of one another. These lively colors then fade slowly to golden brown, then to gray, and before you witness the sky go totally dark, you should have shoved your ass to the path back to Mantalongon market.
With your cat eyes if you forget to bring your flashlight, and with the aid of the same kids who thought you were an answering machine, you make your way down in the dark. Cricket sounds and the silence seem to envelop you; the thick blanket of fog and cold adds to the eeriness of the night trek.
Reaching somewhere at the foot of the peak, the habal-habal driver you negotiated earlier at the Mantalongon public market is waiting for you. Another fifty pesos and you get back to market. If you find the house that rents beds is full, you can opt to sleep at the barangay hall for a minimal fee. At least, it’s safe. You have the barangay tanods as your guard.
Enjoy the Sardine Run in Pescador Island
A night’s rest, an early morning ride back to the town proper and a bus ride to Carcar would start your second day. Less than two hours, you’ll reach Carcar and stop at their market. Going straight inside, vendors would shove to your face crispy skins of lechon – they vie for your attention by offering you free taste of their lechon’s best parts. You’re tempted to grab some puso and make a meal out of the freebies but no, you shouldn’t do that. And don’t accuse me of giving you the idea.
It’s almost ten in the morning, time to head out to Moalboal. You see buses near the rotunda and ask around what bus can take you there. Off to Moalboal – a trip crossing Cebu from east coast to west coast.
Arriving there around noon didn’t make you go hungry, because you brought with you Carcar’s best chicharon as snacks and your brunch of Cebu’s best lechon.
You’ve contacted Nong Dodong (+63 923 937 6699) already and he’s expecting you. He offers you Pescador Island for 800 pesos more but you only allotted 1,200 for snorkeling in the Tuble sanctuary. But he insists and gives a discount, it’s now less 400 pesos. You count your money and decide to go for it; you will just eat noodles for a week in exchange for having a chance to see the sardine run in Pescador Island. You tried to look around for other people who wants to go island hopping but no, it’s only you. Bearing the brunt of the expensive island hopping, you begrudgingly said yes and moments later, you’re on your way to the fisherman’s island.
You don on your snorkeling mask after putting some toothpaste in it and washing it afterwards to avoid fogging. Jumping into the water, you yelp in surprise. There are thousands upon thousands of fish! The sardine run! Every centavo you paid was worth it!
Nong Dodong happily guides you underwater as he points to the different corals and marine creatures, and explain everything to you in fish language. After all, you are both under water. You tried to swim to those sardines but they’re just too fast for you. They group together and act as if they are one, making you want to become one with them. They just don’t want you, though.
It was already around three in the calm afternoon that you head back. You spot some dolphins playing at the distance, and feel happy. A spout from a whale would complete it but no, it’s not the season for the whales to cross the Tañon Strait. Nong Dodong suggests a stopover at Tuble Sanctuary as he spots turtles as big as basins heading that way. You wear your mask again and swim. These docile, lonely creatures seem to hurry away when they spot you taking pictures of them; they want a PF that’s why.
After more taking pictures of the amazing corals that look like underwater flowers, you head back to Basdako Beach. A 700 peso fan room is ready for your tired body after a whole afternoon of swimming. Soon after, you eat at the karinderia and spend 40 pesos for the dinner, you lie on the comfortable bed and pillow and within seconds, snore to sleep.
On the third day, you head back to Cebu city but make a stopover at Barili’s Milk Station. Eating their ice cream reminds you of your childhood; happily licking the sweet, milky cold ice cream away. Then you buy some of their goat’s cheese, a salty but tasty cheese, and decide to give it to your mom. But since it goes bad after a day, you decide to eat it that night.
In this three-day/two-night backpacking, you’ve experienced the culture and the past, you’ve seen the controversial giants of Oslob, conquered the highest peak, and basked in the sands of arguably the best beach in Cebu.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lakbay Diva is the author of an online travel mag, Lakbay Diva. Obviously, Diva likes to dive, snorkel, skim, and other sports activities like watching T.V. and listening to the radio. If you like this guest post, please visit Diva’s site!
Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!