Picture a man born in the city, growing up there and knowing its every nook and cranny by heart. He speaks its language with utter proficiency that it has become second nature to him. One day, he goes to a different place located many miles from his hometown. He experiences fear, not knowing the place and not being understood by the locals. Yes, the all-too-familiar feeling of displacement; I wasn’t exempted from this last month, being a stranger to travel.
Last month, CJ and I went to Cebu to celebrate our eighth month together. I initially had my doubts—not being a jetsetter myself, in addition to hearing a story about someone’s eardrums getting busted due to the cabin pressure inside airplanes. But thankfully, the girlfriend made everything smooth – from booking the tickets up to the pre-flight preparations. (If you’re reading this, thank you!) I took a leave the day before our flight to buy additional things I needed for the trip: toiletries in sachet packaging, a pair of slippers, and a set of quick-tie laces for my shoes. Originally, I was to drive from our house up to the airport and leave my car for three days at the parking lot of Terminal 3. However, Dad told me that he will use the car for the weekend so I didn’t push through. CJ and I just decided to download a taxi booking app to bring us to the airport.
Fortunately, her mother drove us to Terminal 3 and we arrived three hours before our departure time. We explored the duty free shops and walked around to pass the time, stopping by Kopi Roti for some snacks. The plane left rainy Manila at about 12:20 in the afternoon and, after more than an hour, the plane’s public annoncement system blared: “We are now approaching Mactan-Cebu International Airport.”
As soon as we went down the plane and out of the terminal building, a white sedan picked us up and brought us to The Henry Hotel in Banilad. Located within the One Paseo compound along Gen. Cuenco Avenue, the hotel’s quirkiness makes it stand out from the rest. As of this moment, it has another location in Manila’s Malate district. We just left our things at the hotel room and headed out to eat at Zubuchon; she was craving for Cebu lechon (roasted suckling pig). But things didn’t go our way; it rained hard, most people didn’t understand us given that we don’t speak Cebuano, and we failed to find Zubuchon.
I was personally frustrated at this point. Waking up early, finding out that Cebu wasn’t exempted from the showers, the language gap, and being lost in an unfamiliar place; these stacked up and almost brought me to the boiling point. Landing at the Queen City of the South was a different experience. Here was a prosperous island in Visayas, with a far more efficient transport system. It has produced famous personalities such as Philippine president Sergio Osmena, actress Kim Chiu, and fashion blogger Kryz Uy. Cebu can actually stand on its own without “Imperial Manila”, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong—I like the place. Problem is, the majority speak Cebuano which I am not familiar with – given that I’m from Manila. I guess the Junior Kilat lyrics didn’t help.
However, fate has the tendency to turn things around when they don’t go right. Seeing Ayala Center Cebu was near, we decided to head over to the mall for our dinner. It was already 5:30 in the afternoon and we were originally considering CnT Lechon, but we didn’t push through as it wasn’t fresh. We chose to have our first Cebu dinner at Casa Verde. This restaurant has a branch at UP Town Center along Katipunan, but it was always full. We’re already here, so what’s stopping us from trying it out? What I loved about this restaurant was their retro-themed wall decor—mini jukeboxes, old license plates, and vinyl records all around. Even their music is retro!
CJ and I walked around the mall to let our meal go down. If you ask me, Ayala Center Cebu combines elements of Ayala Malls in Manila—Trinoma, Greenbelt, Glorietta, and the new Fairview Terraces—and brings them to the south. She mentioned that the items here cost cheaper than the ones in Manila after buying body bath and facial wash. We then took a cab to our hotel and, after freshening up, headed to Lady Jane Dessert Cafe beside our hotel for some after-dinner drinks. Once we finished our lattes, we called it a day.
That wraps up our first day in the Queen City of the South. Stay tuned for Days 2 and 3; until the next post.