It's been a long time since my last visit to Cebu, or Sugbu to old timers, so I wasn't even surprised to see so much has changed as I took the taxi from Mactan Airport to the Waterfront Hotel & Casino where I've booked my family to stay for two nights (I could have stayed in a hostel but when you're with the parents, you want them to stay as comfy as possible). There's plenty of construction going on and the pace is increasingly that of Manila, traffic included. Thankfully, the metered airport taxi (yellow ones waiting at the right side of the airport terminal) isn't dreadfully expensive - I only paid 250 pesos for the trip to the hotel.
|Waterfront hotel lobby|
As is now customary in major hotels in the Philippines, my luggage got a sniff from Fido and I have to enter through a metal detector. Check-in was swift as I was the only one that time - my parents and my sister who've arrived much earlier were already in their rooms. When I got to my assigned room on the 14th floor, I was disappointed. I booked a deluxe premium, not their superior room. A call to reception rectified the problem - we all got moved to the correct room category which is located on the 6th floor but on a different wing.
|Of all the goods on the buffet table, dried danggit and native tsokolate helped fill me up|
Our rooms are of course way better than what we were initially given. The bed is bigger, the bathroom is larger (with a separate shower and tub) and there's a 32-inch flat screen TV. Standard amenities like toiletries, bathrobe, slippers and complimentary bottles of water and newspaper were available. Overall, the hotel itself appears in need of a makeover as some of the furnishings have smudges/scratches and the carpeting have obviously seen better days. One area I certainly can't fault is the hotel staff - very friendly and helpful.
|Earth Hour during dinner|
That night, we were treated to dinner by my Cebu-based cousin at Cafe Laguna, a busy Filipino restaurant in the swanky Ayala-owned mall The Terraces. In observation of Earth Hour, the restaurant turned off its electric lights and we dined with votive candles instead, making our feast of kare-kare, crispy pata, pinakbet, camaron rebusado and nilagang baka even more memorable. We moved to Asiatown, a business & technology enclave where the night is seemingly always young (including a crowd of mostly call-center agents) and had coffee at the Coffee Bean.
|Someone didn't travel light this time|
The next day, we had free breakfast at the hotel's Cafe Uno. Our party of five was immediately seated and found the buffet spread really very good, with different kinds of food served on three different serving stations. Even the choices changed on our last day, which clearly shows that they offer a variety on a daily basis.
|Holy Mass at the Basilica|
After breakfast, we went to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño for Sunday mass. Hordes of Cebuanos and the odd Caucasian tourists filled this 16th century church even while the actual mass was conducted outdoors. I was so glad to be back here, remembering that during my first and only Sinulog many years ago, I was a part of that huge crowd. At the Magellan's Cross, an iconic symbol of Cebu sandwiched between the church and the City Hall, old ladies selling candles offered to do their petitions on my behalf while "dancing". I just kept staring at the cross even as Korean tourists jostled for better view with me.
We got back to the hotel just in time for my mom's graduation ceremony from her doctoral studies - the very reason why I'm in Cebu. Like most graduation ceremonies, it was a long but solemn affair held at the hotel's Pacific Grand Ballroom. The ceremony was followed by a formal dinner at which time I did battle with drowsiness - my body clock is after all still adjusting - that I could barely sit down for another program of activities right after that. I excused myself, went back to my room, packed my stuff - we're leaving for Bohol the next day!