Do You Cebu? I Cebu Too.

I’d been wanting to visit Cebu for quite some time. It is one of the premier tourist destinations in the Philippines and there is much to see there. I was however hoping to see Cebu ‘when I wanted to see Cebu’ and, more specifically, ‘as I wanted to see it’. My three day plan to visit the American consulate there turned into a six day journey that was, to put it politely, memorable.

Sunset, Panay Island

Sunset, Panay Island

Only one document stood in the way of Jen and I obtaining our marriage license: the Legal Affidavit in Lieu of Legal Capacity To Marry letter. There was two places we could obtain the said letter, one was at the embassy in Manila and the other was at the American consulate office in Cebu. Since the form is a necessity, not going wasn’t an option. We had obtained our birth certificates, Jen’s photo id and the letters of her parents consent from the attorney and we just needed this one last bit of paperwork to get our marriage license. Thus, with great enthusiasm, we opted to travel to Cebu since it was closer to us (and cheaper).

Port of Cebu

Port of Cebu

Planning the trip was a bit cumbersome. Here in the provinces of Sara, we are about 3 hours from Iloilo. Any significant journey we undertake must account for that. Complicating the trip was the fact that the Consulate will only processes our said document from 9am-11am; we had to be in Cebu and at the Consulate by nine so we could guarantee a successful (and quick) trip. With only two available options, flying or taking the overnight ferry boat, we opted for the ferry boat as it would give us a more comfortable time-frame to work with. Armed with all the information, we made a plan: take the 7pm ferry from Iloilo to Cebu, arrive the next day at 8am, head immediately to the consulate office and then catch the evening ferry back. It was a perfect plan.

Boat Beggars

Boat Beggars

The bus ride to Iloilo exhausted me and the subsequent taxi ride to the port caused Jen to puke from too much motion sickness. When we finally checked into the ferry that Wednesday evening, we pretty much passed out. I was happily staring at the back of my eyelids while dreaming about God knows what when Jen shook me awake. “We forgot the envelope”, she exclaimed. I sat up immediately and glared at her, “Tell me you’re joking.” The look of horror on her face assured me this was no joke. We were on our way to Cebu without our birth certificates, her parent’s letter of consent, my passport and every other bit of documentation that we had so carefully set aside. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or scream.

Shooting Hoop At Ayalla Mall

Shooting Hoop At Ayalla Mall

I am thirty-seven years old. I’ve learned by repeated experience that doodoo occurs and so I try to roll with the punches. This particular punch hit me below the belt and my arrival in Cebu was accompanied with a less than pleasant attitude. I did my best to contain myself if for no other reason, I needed to keep Jen thinking positive. She’s my better half, if she snaps then I’d probably snap. If that happened, Cebu would probably kick us out (and/or deport me).

We are fortunate that the Philippines has a convenient courier service via LBC. We would simply have our forgotten envelope shipped to us here in Cebu. We located an LBC, made arrangements with her parents back in Sara and then proceeded to drive around via taxi while looking for the Cebu R Hotel (a cheap but nice hotel I had located previously in my internet research). We would get our package Friday (hopefully early) and then finish our task.

Cross of Magellan

Cross of Magellan

No such luck on our hotel choice. The hotel is new and the taxi driver
was clueless. To tired to hit the internet and look it up, we opted for the only other hotel I knew off the top of my head: the Diplomat Hotel.

I remembered the less than stellar reviews for the Diplomat and that’s why it was my second choice. It’s a 2nd rate hotel with nothing going for it but a decent price in a decent location (don’t be fooled by those pretty lobby pictures). For one or two nights it’s an adequate choice but longer stays will leave you a bit dazed from the monotony of the rooms. They’re basic to say the least; the linens were clean but that was about it.

We arrived from the Ferry to LBC and then to the hotel at about 9am. Customer Service (and I say that with sarcasm) was unable to check us in until 2pm. No problem, we’ll just kill 5 hours in town with our backpacks in tow. Adding insult to injury, the hotel desk would not match their internet rate as advertised through Agoda. To obtain a savings of several hundred pesos per night, we left the hotel, found an internet cafe and booked the room online.

Animal Cages, D'Family Park - Cebu

Animal Cages, D'Family Park - Cebu

After our booking, we headed towards Ayalla mall. Being the premier mall in Cebu, this should have been a fun mall trip but we were exhausted. We wanted nothing more than to unload our bags and pass
out. I’m not sure how many rounds we made in the mall but suffice it to say we took window shopping to whole new level. When 1:45pm rolled around, we were on the brink of collapse. We checked into the hotel and crashed out.

Ayalla mall, though extremely nice, left me with a weird feeling. It was packed full of tourists (mostly Americans). I haven’t been around that many white people since I left the states and seeing so many of them gave me an awkwardness I can’t describe. It made me want to leave Cebu as quickly as I left Texas. For some strange reason, I see white people and I want to head the other direction.

Lunch At Ayalla Mall

Lunch At Ayalla Mall

Thursday evening passed without much fanfare. We ate in the hotel Lobby Cafe (triple the price of the street cafes outside) and watched TV. The whole time I kept my hands folded, praying that we would receive our package early enough in the morning to hit the Consulate and leave Cebu (saving both time and my wallet). God saw fit to extend my patience; our package arrived at 2pm.

With no choice but to kill time over the weekend, we decided to make the best of the situation by playing the tourist game. Our first destination would be the Cebu Zoo (if it could be found that is). Most of the taxi drivers we spoke with (and the hotel staff) knew of no zoo in Cebu. Many of them mentioned D’Family Park. After losing faith in the existence of the phantom zoo, I hopped onto the internet to do a bit of quick research. From what I could gather, the Cebu Zoo was shut down in the early years of 2000 for what amounted to animal abuse and all the critters were relocated. I was unable to ascertain if it was ever reopened. Since everyone kept mentioning D’Family Park, we headed that way via taxi.

D’Family Park would have been a typical (and nice) park were it not for the small collection of animals housed there. Rabbits, monkeys, birds and a few other critters sat in cramped and dirty cages. I’m an animal lover; seeing the condition of the animals was an extremely depressing scene. Jen was equally put off by the place. We completed our tour in and around the cages and then, as quickly as we could, we left. To my amazement there was a small billboard proudly declaring what congressman had established the park. I forget his name but I’d highly recommend he put his competitors name on the billboard instead.

Tankers in the Water

Tankers in the Water

To cure the newly acquired depression, we hopped onto a random jeepney for the fun of it. To our surprise, we ended up back at Ayalla mall; we hit the arcade and cheered ourselves up with a few games basketball and some air hockey.

Saturday morning we headed out to see one of Cebu’s most famous relics: The Cross of Magellan. I had seen numerous photos and read often of the cross. The Philippines is very proud of that landmark [planted by Magellan in 1521]. It was less than a five minute taxi ride from the Diplomat hotel and we were there.

The enthusiasm I had after seeing the cross was much the same enthusiasm I had after leaving D’Family Park. All the pictures and stories of the cross leave you the impression that the cross is inside a grand basilica of sorts. The reality is a bit disheartening: the cross is in a small dome in the middle of a public courtyard. Old ladies stand outside selling candles to lay at the foot of the cross; when the tourist leave, they reclaim the candles and sell them again. You’d think such a historic monument would be given a better presentation by the Philippine government.

I’m often harshly critical of things so I bit my lip on this one when Jen was viewing the site. I didn’t have to bite long, she was equally disappointed and held my same opinion. The relic needed a much better presentation to convey both the history and its significance to the Filipino people. At least it was free to view. We snapped a few photos and decided to take off for walk around town. If you’re a tourist, it is certainly worth seeing the site, just don’t expect that “wow” feeling when you get there.

With no destination in mind, we spied a crowd going through an archway and decided to follow. We landed in the courtyard of the Santo Niño catholic church and found our first museum. All said and done, we would hit 4 museums that day. Some had better collections than others but it was a nice (and cheap) way to kill the time. Late into the afternoon we ate lunch and returned to the hotel, escaping both the heat and our growing fatigue.

Sunday was a very lazy day. We located no baptist churches near the hotel so we stayed in, read and watched TV while eating some oranges and mango we picked up at the market. It was a nice, quiet day and neither of us felt the need to head out for any site seeing or entertainment. We had already spent more time in Cebu than we had budgeted for.

Monday arrived with great anticipation and I made it a point to be at
the consulate office early. To my surprise, when we arrived at 8:55am they let us in. We were in and out in less than 15 minutes. They did not ask for my divorce paperwork or the letters of her parent’s consent. I didn’t object to that fact. We got our 1,410 peso affidavit and left with a very renewed spirit: our task was completed.

Time doesn’t permit me tell you about almost getting stranded another
day because Cokalion Ferry has a false schedule on their website or the numerous stories of Taxi drivers and cafe owners who tried to cheat me out of my hard earned pesos (and let’s not mention all the movie attendants that kept reminding me cinematic choice was in Tagalog). Some of the stories are worth repeating but suffice it to say the trip to Cebu was no vacation. We had budgeted 6000 pesos and spent over 12,000. I’m still feeling the pain.

Big Statue in Cebu

Big Statue in Cebu

One day I hope to get back to Cebu and see more of the city with a happy attitude. It was a miserable trip not because Cebu is miserable but rather because of the circumstances surrounding the trip and the unexpected stay we had there. I don’t know when another trip will be. Right now, I am just happy to be back in Sara; I kissed the ground in front of the nipa upon our return. As the saying goes, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

2 Responses to Do You Cebu? I Cebu Too.

  1. catcherintherai

    March 18, 2010 at 10:57 am

    hi, i dunno how i stumbled upon ur blog, but it lead me to this cebu entry.

    i am from cebu and i know how lackluster can our “tourist spots” are. and how crowded and polluted it can be. i am sometimes bored here ^__^ and i also know how it feels when u are doing something important that involves the government. but it’s nice to hear something from someone who is not from cebu/philippines that is not so touristy. good thing u are surviving the philippines. i applaud u.

    btw, how long have u been in the philippines? and it’s nice to know u have a nice girlfriend, treat her nicely, make her feel special. and dont fool around with her. filipinas from the province are so innocent and gullible. hehehe

    when’s the wedding? ^__^

  2. Jon Kokko

    March 20, 2010 at 2:37 am

    No date on the wedding but soon!!! I really do hope to get back to Cebu to get a better feel for the place. Been in the Phils since last Sept. It’s definitely hard for me in some ways but, all in all, I love it here.

    Jenn is VERY dear to me. I will forever cherish her.

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