I've been anxiously preparing for it for months. It's my first time to be back in nine years and so much has changed! Don't let me talk about the traffic - at times it's absolutely horrendous - but everything else is nothing short of amazing.
Here's a quick overview of my short but sweet stay on this island paradise:
You would think that after a 21-hour flight I would get some rest once I arrive in Cebu. Hell no! Upon arriving at Mactan International Airport, my gorgeous girlfriends picked me up and whisked me off to commence our usual shenanigans!
Food trip started at Mr. A in Busay. This restaurant offers indoor and alfresco dining. It also provides an exceptional view of the city. We then went to Ayala Mall and had desserts at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, an American coffee chain. It was founded before Starbucks but I've never been in one prior to my trip as there's no branch in Canada.
As a mellow way to end the night, we decided to visit La Vie Parisienne, a supposedly French bar and boulangerie. However, the pink electric cherry blossom trees give off a serious Japanese vibe. After catching up over two bottles of Moscato, we decided to call it a night.
SM Seaside City is the third largest shopping mall in the Philippines and currently the eight in the world. When I arrived, the mall still has a lot of empty commercial spaces as it only opened two months before.
First order of business for the day: breakfast at Jollibee! Now let me just explain - Jollibee is an institution in the Philippines. If North American kids can't get enough of McDonald's, Filipinos are simply addicted to Jollibee. My ultimate favorite is the Chicken Joy. I'm also crazy about their spaghetti, creamy mushroom beef patty and peach mango pie!
That night, we went to have cocktails at Maya, a Mexican-themed restaurant and lounge. Although I love the decór, Maya does not deliver on their drinks! My friend had a really strong White Russian (perhaps the bartender felt a little too generous with the vodka), another friend had a very leafy Mojito (she almost choked on the mint leaves) and I had a watered-down Screwdriver. We were not happy campers.
I decided to pamper myself on this day. After all, I am on vacation. I took my cousin with me to Nail-a-holics at SM City to have our nails done with Shellac. Since they don’t have Shellac, we opted to try Orly gel. It was pricey and poor in quality. Fast forward three days and my nail gel polish start to chip. Not to mention, they didn't have a lot of colors to choose from. Something to keep in mind before visiting Cebu: have my grooming done in Toronto.
An hour of mani-pedi made us hungry and my cousin chose to have lunch at Golden Cowrie. We ordered the usual Filipino food fare with crispy pata - whole pork leg boiled until tender and deep-fried until golden brown. I was surprised when our garlic shrimps was served! I was expecting slightly bigger shrimps that have already been peeled and deveined, sautéed in butter and garlic. Nothing could have prepared me for this dish.
The Ibiza Beach Club at Mövenpick Hotel is the perfect venue for a romantic and flirty dinner as well as a great place to have a party or just hang out. Downside is it's in Mactan and driving from my condo in Lahug is an ordeal owing to the rush-hour traffic.
I had lunch at Red Kimono in Ayala. I opted for a light meal as I've been feasting non-stop since I arrived. I ordered a sashimi platter and found their tuna excellent, but their salmon mediocre.
This was my chance to walk around Ayala and marvel at the things that have changed versus the ones that remained the same. I was really amazed by their new wing and the Terraces. The Terraces conveniently gathers all restaurants in one location, surrounding an enthralling garden and performance stage.
My good friend and her family invited me to dinner at Parilya. This place has amazing seafood choices. As can be expected, the place was packed! Once again, I went crazy on the baked mussels with cheese, pochero and pork belly.
The most-awaited JACKET reunion! It's so heartwarming to see old high school friends a decade later and find out they're as beautiful as ever. Only difference is now, they're also successful in their chosen careers!
From an elegant setting, we hopped to Café Racer, a hip and rustic setting where the young crowd usually hang out. Judging from the leftover fixtures and overall structure of the area, I believe Café Racer used to be a gasoline station. The owners wanted to give a vintage vibe to the place by setting up upcycled oil barrels, gas pumps and vintage cars. Overall, great design concept, but the food was nothing spectacular.
The eve before Sinulog and you can feel electricity in the air! A lot of tourists - local and foreign - are in Cebu to revel in the festivities. The best way to celebrate Sinulog is to join the grand street parade and fluvial procession. Since it's a religious festival, observers also go to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country.
My best friend and I had brunch at Orange Carenderia in Lahug since it's only a few meters away from my condo. You simply have to try their fried tuna tail. Of course the meal wouldn't be complete without pork belly and tuna broth.
We then went to another rooftop restaurant at Harolds Hotel; their logo a complete rip-off of the swanky London department store. But we lucked out that night with the acoustic band. It put us in a relaxed and chill mood; the perfect place to unwind. It was also my first time to try San Miguel Beer in Apple - the perfect dessert beer that goes well with cheese and mocha-flavored pastries.