Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kwentong Kaladkarin #25: Cebu Chronicles – the Church, the Caffeine, the Cholesterol and the Crazies

Da Where: Cebu, Philippines
Da When: July 5, 2011
Da Who: Vin and me! :)
Da Trivia: Cheesy. Mushy. Corny. Old-fashioned. Call it what you may but this trip was to celebrate our 3rd year anniversary together. ;D

Vin and I were a little forlorn in leaving Bohol as the past two days were just pure bliss. However, we needed to make an early SuperCat trip out of Tagbilaran so we can have a full day of exploring Cebu before our 2300H flight back to Manila later that night.

We had a bit of a taste of Cebu when we landed into the city a couple nights ago and went out for some barbecue. As soon as we docked at Cebu Port, we went straight to Banilad Town Center in Mandaue City so we can sample the Anthony Bourdain-recommended Zubuchon lechon de Cebu  but to our disappointment, a roving security officer informed us that their branch in BTC closed a couple months ago. Bummer. ;(

Dismayed and starving, we decided to just head SM City Cebu and left our heavy backpacks at the Traveler's Lounge, paying PhP30.00 for the safekeeping and had lunch at the food court where, yes, we had lechon  from Marina's Lechon. It tasted just fine for me, Mr. Bourdain. ;D

After getting our energies and endorphins back, we finally stepped out into the cloudy but warm city and headed out for the sights and thrills the Queen City of the South has to offer. :)

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño

This church, built in the 16th century, is the oldest church in the Philippines. It is believed that the church was built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus found by Spanish explorers in the late 1500s preserved in a burned wooden box which was left behind during the Magellan expedition.

For a Tuesday, there were still a lot of people going to the church, some to pray and wipe their hankies to several religious figures inside the church. Having been raised in a Catholic home, I wanted to drop by and say a prayer and light some candles.

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño from the outside
A Santo Niño devotee

A local enjoying the cool alley inside the church

Stately religious statues man the roof areas of the basilica

A prayer and some lighted candles for offering

Magellan's Cross

You know how they say you haven't really been there 'til you've been there? I got a taste of that when I finally saw the Magellan's Cross in person and just debunked a couple incorrect ideas about this historical artifact, which is a Christian cross planted by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu in the 1500s.

One, I didn't know that it's literally a few steps away from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. I've always thought it was in a different location. And two, I somehow expected the cross to be larger, much more imposing. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the colorful ceiling mural depicting the first Christian baptism in the Philippines and was surprised to find out that the original cross is actually encased inside the tindalo-wood cross that is found in the center of the chapel. It's to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross for souvenir purposes or in the belief that the cross have healing powers.

The cross, housed in a chapel next to the basilica

Candle offerings lay beneath the cross

 Ayala Center Cebu

The Ayala Center Cebu was not originally on our itinerary but Vin wanted to see what the place looked like. Honestly, after all the impressive Ayala-developed structures here in Metro Manila, I didn't think we'd find anything special.

But I was starting to feel a headache coming on so I thought an hour's break would do us good. We had some drinks at Starbucks and strolled around the area (the place was huge!) and enjoyed the lush greens, fresh air and the familiar Ayaland design. As expected from a mall, there were rows and rows of shops but of course, we weren't really there to shop. ;D

Some caffeine and an Advil and the world is alright again. :)

Crowne Regency Cebu Hotel Sky Experience Adventure

I think this was the part that Vin was most excited for during our Cebu detour. He's always wanted to try the thrills offered by the Crowne Regency Cebu Hotel, the first sky-rise hotel in the country.

We got there at around 1600H and immediately scanned the offerings at the 19th floor Sky Adventure lobby. They have added a few more attractions like Cliff Hanger (which I wanted to try but Vin has a bad shoulder and can't do much wall-climbing) and a 4D theater.

We were there, however, for the original SkyRides so we took advantage of the PhP1,000.00 3-Ride Combo that includes the entrance fee, Edge Coaster, Sky Walk Extreme and Tower Zip/Sky Lift. The package also included a couple ref magnet souvenirs but we still had to pay for the souvenir photos (about PhP230.00/each printed photo) as cameras and camera phones are not allowed in the actual rides.

We first tried the Edge Coaster in the 38th floor that goes around the edge of the building while riders are locked onto a rail seat. The two-seat platform has a control lever that can tilt the platform down up to 55 degrees to add to the thrill of seeing the Cebu landscape 130 meters above ground.

I thought it will be a pretty ordinary ride but it was getting cloudy and the chilly air whipped at us. After the automatic tilt at the first corner where I shamefully screamed at the top of my lungs and closed my eyes, I didn't want to do any more tilting. ;D The ride took about 4 minutes to complete.

No, that's not us. :D We didn't purchase our Edge Coaster pic.
Photo Credit: Sky Experience Adventure website

Next, we tried the Sky Walk Extreme in the 37th floor. We were first outfitted in safety gear and were grouped with other people. We had to walk around the steel and translucent glass flooring about a couple meters wide on the edge of the hotel tower strapped to an overhead harness.

The walk is supposed to take about 15 minutes only but the 'scare factor' moved up a rung when we found ourselves stranded on the ledge because it has started to rain. Imagine rain droplets pelting at you with the howling winds while the walkway was starting to get slippery from rainwater.

We didn't get to enjoy the photo-taking part as we were ushered back by the guides so we won't get drenched but I think the rain did make the experience better. It would've been pretty boring otherwise. :)

Rained in but having the time of our lives! :) This was one of the ridiculously-priced souvenir photo. ;D

Our last ride for the day was the Tower Zip/Sky Lift and since it was pouring, we had to wait it out in the Sky Park area, which pretty much reminded me of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Sky Park in Singapore, complete with a Sky Bar and an observation deck.

Earlier that afternoon when the sun was still out in the Sky Park observation deck

We were in luck as the skies cleared up again and the staff gave a go-signal to let us do the ride. We were again outfitted in safety gear and had to walk a couple more stairs to get to the hotel rooftop (about 460 feet above the ground) where we'd be strapped to the motorized zip line.

I thought this will be the easiest ride as I've done a couple zip lines in the past but when we were finally on the edge and preparing to zip to the next tower, my hands started to get clammy and my heart pounding. I didn't realize it would be this high off the ground!

As soon as my feet was off the deck and into the air, I started screaming again which was really mortifying. Halfway through, I started enjoying the Tower Zip which lasted only for about 7 seconds but felt longer. Then we took the Sky Lift back which took about a minute more as the motorized line slowly lifted us back to the other tower. I was very careful not to look directly down, I was pretty aware of all that space between my butt and the cemented road below. ;D

After our exhilarating rides, methinks we'd definitely be back, especially since they are constructing a longer zip line from Tower 1 to Tower 3 (currently under construction along Ramos St.), slated to open late 2012. We thanked the friendly staff of Crowne Regency Sky Experience Adventure and flagged a taxi down to bring us back to SM City Cebu to collect our bags and get some dinner before heading to the airport.

Lechon de Cebu

We were famished by the time we got to SM City Cebu so we opted to eat first. We were lucky enough to find a CnT Lechon (again, recommended by Ed of SoloflightEd) kiosk near the department store area so we hunkered down for a meal.

I was little surprised that even in the mall-food court set-up, they still served puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) and patrons had to eat with plastic-wrapped hands. Dig in! :)

This photo's making me crave for Lechon de Cebu again!

We finally made it back to SM Traveler's Lounge in the ground floor, facing Radisson Hotel, where we collected our bags and got on a cab. One thing I'd like to mention is the fact that Cebu cab drivers are generally polite and you can expect them to hand you your exact change. A lot of Manila cab drivers can take a leaf out of cab drivers' books from Cebu, Davao and Baguio.

SM had a very bright idea of coming up with this. Saved us a lot of time and effort. :)

We breezed through the Departures in Mactan International Airport and was able to board without a hitch. As the plane climbed up the sky, I sneaked a look outside the window and saw the bustling Cebu metropolis lights twinkling at me. For a city that made my heartbeat race, it would definitely be worth returning back to.

Wait for me Moalboal, Bantayan and Camotes Islands! And you too, newer, longer Tower Zip! :)

Au revoir, Sugbo!

Want more of our Cebu-Bohol trip? Check out these posts:

Kwentong Kaladkarin #19: Cebu Chronicles – Soaked, Skinned and Smoked in Sugbo
Kwentong Kaladkarin #20: Bewitching Bohol – Wildlife, Whatnots and Way Back When
Kwentong Kaladkarin #21: Bewitching Bohol – Life's a Beach
Kwentong Kaladkarin #22: Bewitching Bohol – Paragayo Resort

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