The Philippines, Part I: Greasy Suckling Pig at Alona Beach – Bohol

I know I just started this blog in August 2014, but I simply have to include some pictures and food experiences from my business trip that took place about three months ago. (Plus, today is BC Day – the final day of the long weekend – which gives me some time to organize my photos and videos, as well as my thoughts and memories.)

From May 22 to May 28, 2014, I was away on a trip in the Philippines for an advertising business conference, and the flight took me from Vancouver to Incheon, Korea, for a two-hour layover before landing in Cebu, Philippines.

Cebu was really hot and uncomfortable for me, and I was sweating everywhere I went. (Thank goodness for the air-conditioned hotel room!)

The first part of the trip saw me staying at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino on Salinas Drive, Lahug Cebu City. The hotel food was all right, with a lot of the Western cuisine that I am accustomed to – which unfortunately meant I probably had too much bacon with sausages. Eggs, too. Hotel food. Of course, I did manage to eat some fruit and salad too.

Here’s a picture from breakfast at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino.

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Overall, I was satisfied with the food at this hotel. There were other options in the hotel other than the complimentary breakfast, but being stuck in the conference I didn’t have time to check them out. (We were served buffet-style Chinese food during lunch but I didn’t take pictures or truly enjoy the meals because I felt like we were rushed.)

I should mention on the first night, we arrived just after 1:00 a.m. and because of the heat and time difference compared to North America, my buddy and I didn’t want to just call it a night – though we had to be at the conference the following morning at 8:30. We decided to explore on foot to see if there were any local pubs or bars within walking distance from the hotel, but no luck. It was hot and busy on the streets even at 3:00 a.m., and after walking around for 30 minutes we finally found a 24-hour convenience store where my buddy could buy a couple of beers.

We were actually given incorrect information too. We came to this busy part of the city – Cebu I.T. Park – and yeah, it was still busy at 3:00 in the morning. We walked into a business-like building and my buddy asked someone if there was a pub open. We were told, “seventh floor.” So we walked into the elevator and a few people with employee ID badges followed. They got off on the fourth floor and we took a peek out of the elevator. We concluded that this must be the equivalent of Microsoft for the folks in Cebu. Of course, when we go to the seventh floor, we found nothing. It wasn’t till we left the I.T. Park and walked for a bit before we found the convenience store.

The view from the hotel room wasn’t great, by the way. All I saw when I looked out was houses and kids running around because it was part of some residential area. Didn’t think it was worth taking pictures of the view.

After a two-day business conference, my fourth day in the Philippines finally saw me have some time for relaxation. I went on this two-hour boat tour that was booked through the travel agency which included a local tour guide accompanying us. Destination: Bohol Island.

Some of the highlights on this tour included a lunch buffet on the boat (which also featured a live song performance), visiting a small island where some tribal groups live, the smallest monkey in the world (or so I was told) on another part of the island, and the oldest church in Asia.

One lowlight that came to mind was the ferry ride, that also took two hours, from Cebu. Why was it a lowlight? There was not enough space between the seats for me to comfortably use my laptop, so the fact that I had prepared some movies on that computer beforehand became moot. To make things worse, the TV mounted at the front wall had picture but no audio. (Some people spoke to the staff about that but nothing happened.) So much for relaxation for these couple of hours.

At least I had my iPhone to take a selfie:

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After the ferry ride, we got onto a tour bus that took us to our boat. My iPhone was once again useful during this part of the trip:

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It was time for more pictures and videos once we got off the boat onto the island with the indigenous ethnic groups. (I’m sure the tour guides explained where we were, and the names of the tribes, but I didn’t take notes and it was some time ago. Apparently, though, they have no contact with the outside world.)

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If you understand Chinese, you will hear at the end of the following clip that while I was trying to shoot this video, someone asked me to help take pictures. I was caught off guard so I ended the video right away.

On this island, there was also a small booth selling coconut water for 50 pesos (C$1.25). What you get is this huge coconut with the top part cut off, and you simply drink the water through a straw they provide. Very sweet! (Unfortunately for some other people who also bought the coconut water, theirs were sour. Since the coconut was so huge, I just drank a little bit and then gave it to them to share. 😛 )

More videos:

Soon it was time to say goodbye and go back onto the board en route to see the monkeys.

On to the monkeys: We had to hike up a small trail before we could see them. They are not called monkeys, actually; they are known as the Philippine tarsier.

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It was here right after I saw the tarsiers that I decided to buy a souvenir shirt that is a copycat of the Starbucks logo. It cost me 300 pesos, which was around C$7.50. Not bad, I thought. (The furry creature at the bottom right corner of the picture is a tiny souvenir backpack that I also got separately.)

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Unfortunately, when I went down the slope to where the tour buses were, I saw another shop which had a sign that made my jaw drop. The sign was proudly advertising that same shirt that I had just bought….for 99 pesos. That would be around C$2.50, but anyway, I could have bought three shirts for the same price had I seen this shop first.

Just a silly video I made on the bus to have some fun at another buddy’s expense – one who couldn’t make it to this business conference because of exams.

The bus tour around Bohol saw us finally arrive at the local Alona Beach at around 6:00 p.m., but the ride was so exhausting for me – and the temperature so hot – that I don’t think I really enjoyed myself. Some of the people on the tour went for a swim in the water but there were sea urchins that scared them off. I know there were at least two people who got stung on the foot by sea urchins, and the suggested remedy to them was to immediately urinate on the puncture wound.

The highlight on Alona Beach, though, was the food, of course. Restaurants there set up candle-lit tables right on the beach – I was afraid to lean back because several times (let’s say at least four?) I almost fell out of my chair because we were on the sand, not on even ground – and it was great to eat with your group and listen to live acoustic music.

I was too tired to wander around or take more pictures, but from what I remember there were a variety of restaurants on the beach including Italian, Swiss, Thai, and native dishes. I do remember too that my group wondered out loud how often it rained there – and what would happen if it suddenly did.

I had a little of the roasted suckling pig (known as lechon in the Philippines), but it was very greasy. That’s the biggest thing I remember about that. The taste was all right, and I would give it a 7 out of 10.

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That’s all for now. “The Philippines, Part II,” will be posted shortly.

UPDATE: Part II of the Philippines story can be found here.

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