People have something against revisiting places. When I ask why, they say that it’s because there are so many other destinations to go to – you could use that time to go to new, exciting places instead of returning to the same old location. I totally get that and I’m all for exploring and experiencing foreign lands, but the beauty of going back, aside from discovering something new, is learning to view things from a different perspective. American writer Henry Miller said it wonderfully in his book Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch: “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things.”
So Cebu. Again? I went there with an officemate last January for the Sinulog Festival. Truth is, I had my sights set on Bohol. But there were no available seat sales and schedules were hard enough to arrange as it, since my uncle and aunts from the States were staying in the country for only a few days, so we decided to go with the best option: Cebu. On both trips, I stayed for a duration of three days and two nights. I visited pretty much the same places and ate the same great food (except that the second time around I was able to taste the famous Cebu Lechon!! Woot woot!).
The difference? The first time I went to Cebu, my friend and I didn’t know what we were doing. We got lost a lot, ended up walking in circles with no food for several hours, passed historical monuments without pausing to appreciate them, and missed some of Sinulog’s best events (check out our hungry faces here). Things didn’t go exactly as planned but good news is we learned a lot from that experience and it wasn’t all bad – we made a lot of nice little discoveries and made new friends along the way.
The crazy thing is, on the second trip, I was the tour guide! Upon dropping our bags on the carpeted floors of our spacious hotel room, my uncle, aunts and cousins – all eight of them – looked at me expectantly and asked what our plan for the day would be. Of course it made sense since I had been there just recently but I was not prepared to take on the role of tour guide. And I felt pressured because I knew that for all of them, this was their first time to be in Cebu. I rushed to the front desk, asked for a map, and booked a van big enough for the group (and at a discount, thanks to Ate Anna’s negotiation skills) so we could go on a tour of the city.
At night we went to the top of the Crown Regency Hotel for the skywalk tour, which I missed the last time. I wish I could say that that didn’t frighten me at all. I’m usually fine with heights, but we had to walk so slow (to maximize the fifteen minutes, I guess) and our guide kept pretending to slip and stumble; I couldn’t help but imagine myself doing the same thing and plummeting to my death. He kept stomping his feet and making loud noises while the photographer took our group photos, which is probably part of the whole act, but that made the experience all the more nerve-wracking. I couldn’t take photos because cameras weren’t allowed on the walkway but I at least I have this picture as a souvenir.
At the end of the first day we were all beat from the tour. But there was the second day to plan out. This ilink site proved to be very useful; the tricky part was convincing everyone to wake up at 3:00AM so we could catch the bus to Oslob.
In the end, the spirit of adventure prevailed. At 4:00AM we left the hotel room and took a three-hour bus drive to Oslob. The waves were strong that day. We clung to the bamboo outriggers of our tiny bangka with all the strength we could muster as we sunk our heads under the water to see the spotted whale sharks. They came pretty close to our boat, which was scary but our boatman reassured us over the sound of the wind and waves lapping the side of the boat that they were harmless. The water’s movement made some of my cousins dizzy so after a few minutes, we boarded our bangka and headed back to the shore. From there we squeezed into a cute mini-van and rode to a nearby port where scheduled boat trips took visitors on a 10-15 minute ride to Sumilon Island.
High tide covered up the beach’s white sand and big, scary waves crashed heavily on the shore. We were afraid of getting stranded there (and consequently, incurring additional costs), but that didn’t dampen our mood. Even as the winds whipped at our backs and rain drops fell, we ran around the shore like fools in the middle of a storm, explored what part of the island we could, and created happy memories.
After a couple of minutes, the winds died down and the rain stopped. We arrived at the port safely and hopped on a bus for a five-hour ride to Cebu City. We had dinner, bonded over coffee at Bo’s and then headed back to the hotel with drooping eyelids. We plopped on our beds, exhausted but happy with the day’s adventures. The next morning, we packed our bags and left Cebu grudgingly to get back to ordinary, everyday life.
For some of my cousins, it was a trip of firsts – first airplane ride, first tour outside of Luzon, first real adventure. What was great was getting to watch the expression on their faces as they tried things for the very first time. As their “tour guide”, I was more than happy to recreate the trip I had last January (with some additional stops) with them and make their Cebu experience truly memorable. I don’t mind going back to the same places over and over again. After all, same doesn’t have to be boring. It’s all about seeing things with new eyes. Whether it’s because of the company, the food, the mistakes, the wrong turns – whatever, I know it’s always going to be fun and exciting and crazy.