Snapshots of Cebu – Day Two

Continued from Day One… after grabbing a quick breakfast, Ed and I hopped into a taxi and headed to Mactan Island. I was determined to get in the water and do some snorkling on this trip, having been thoroughly tempted by all the shiny brochures about the beautiful reefs around Cebu. We hadn’t done any planning beforehand, so we picked out a dive shop on our tourist map of Mactan and hoped for the best.

Snapshot of Cebu - Snorkeling!

The dive shop we went to was small, but bustling – a group of Korean scuba divers had just returned from their dive. We held our breath and asked about availability and rates. The staff informed us that none of the boats were available for the day (generally do people book in advance, oops), but they could commission a boat from another resort to take us out to the marine sanctuary at Olango Island, and we could have the boat for the entire day. Ed and I ended up forking over around P3,500+ for the boat, or about $75 USD for the two of us – not too bad, considering that we walked in last minute. I also summoned enough enough courage to attempt haggling – we ended up getting our snorkeling gear, water and towels thrown in for free. Plus, the boat turned out to be a massive beast that could easily (and probably usually) fit 10, 15 people. Ed and I got on the boat, lounged, read, snorkeled, and felt like a million bucks.

Snapshot of Cebu - Private Boat for the Day

After jumping in the gorgeous clear water and admiring the swarms of fish that had gathered, I climbed back into the boat and was greeted by a mysterious man holding coconuts and shell jewelry, who had apparently boarded our boat while Ed and I were snorkeling. He offered me fresh coconut juice and I made the big mistake of accepting without first asking for the price and assuming that it’d be pretty cheap. So he hacked off the top of the coconut and while I sipped the fresh, sweet juice, he said “And that will be 700 pesos.” And I was like WHAT!? NO. That coconut is not worth $15 USD, even in the States! And I had spent enough time in the Philippines to know that the local going rate for fresh coconuts is under 100 pesos. He insisted that he had muttered the price at me before he opened the coconut for me, but I angrily countered that I hadn’t heard a thing. I was mad enough to really bargain him down hard without feeling my usual pangs of embarrassment, and in the end I think I forked over around P200 for the coconut. He left, shaking his head, and the boat crew that were sailing us around looked at me with… respect? It wasn’t a particularly happy experience, but it did reinforce an important lesson – always, always settle on a price first and never make any assumptions until you know what the agreed upon price is.

Slightly rattled by the experience, I asked the boat crew if they could take us someplace where we can get lunch (as the staff at the dive shop had suggested). They nodded, and we were taken to this row of five or six restaurant-shacks on stilts standing in the ocean, just off shore. So we literally climbed out of the boat, up a ladder and into the restaurant. I wish I had gotten some pictures of Restaurant Row, as it was really quite picturesque.

Unfortunately Ed and I quickly realized that we had fallen from one tourist trap into another. After looking at an impressive array of live seafood in various plastic crates, we picked out some fish, some clams, some scallops. This time we were smart enough to ask for the price first, and got quoted a ridiculously high price – 3,000+ pesos. Ed and I looked at each other and grimaced. I told Ed that apart from not wanting to pay that much money for a meal, especially when we’d been spending around P300 to P400 on fairly posh meals in Cebu, I didn’t have enough cash on me anyways. Ed agreed that the price was ridiculous, and we started to head out. One of the restaurant waiters rushed over to us, lowering the original price quite a bit but still not enough to tempt my slim wallet. So we walked just outside of the restaurant where our boat crew was happily digging into fresh plates of rice and seafood (Ed speculated later that they were probably related to the restaurant owners), and told them we’d decided to not eat at the restaurant – but they should still finish their lunches, since there’s no point in everyone going hungry. To our slight embarrassment they followed us back into the boat fairly quickly, and we motored back to the marine sanctuary again.

After a bit more swimming and lounging, Ed and I decided that we’ve gotten our money’s worth and asked to be taken back to shore. We paid the dive shop, and decided to walk to Magellan’s Shrine, which we had passed on our way over in the taxi. We grabbed a quick bite at a cheap burger stand to satiate our hunger…

…and after an hour of leisurely walking and spontaneous detours, we arrived at Magellan’s Shrine.

Snapshot of Cebu - Magellan's Shrine

Most people know of Magellan’s exploits as a famous explorer, but the fact that he died at the hands of a Philippine native right in Mactan is far less popularized (outside of the Philippines). Both Magellan’s Shrine and Lapu Lapu Monument offered interesting insight into Philippine history and nationalism.

Snapshot of Cebu - Lapu-Lapu Monument

Not only is the park surrounding Magellan’s Shrine filled with aboriginal sculptures and busts –

Snapshot of Cebu - Aboriginal Bust in Mactan Shrine

But Magellan’s death is recorded in detail (and dare I venture, celebrated even) on this marker. The front celebrates Lapu-Lapu’s defeat of Magellan: “Here on 27 April 1521 Lapu-Lapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan. Thus Lapu-Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.”

Snapshot of Cebu - Magellan's Marker

The back of the marker acknowledged Magellan as a great explorer while (not so subtly) pointing out that Magellan was hindered from completing the circumnavigation of the globe because of Lapu-Lapu and his soldiers.

On this spot Ferdinand Magellan died on April 27, 1521 wounded in an encounter with the soldiers of Lapu-Lapu, Chief of Mactan Island. One of Magellan’s ships, the Victoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, sailed from Cebu on May 1, 1521 and anchored at San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522, thus completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

Snapshot of Cebu - Battlefield of Mactan

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Cebu – the landmarks, the history, the modern amenities. But at the same time, Cebu was the one place in the Philippines where I felt horribly conspicuous as a foreigner – someone who’s very rich and could be easily taken advantage of by almost any local, from taxi drivers to restaurant owners. Maybe this is because Cebu is a big tourist hub for wealthy foreigners, but I had gotten used to blending into the crowd in Cagayan de Oro – generally not too difficult for me as a Taiwanese person. So while I’m glad to have experienced Cebu and would definitely recommend a visit to anyone who hasn’t been there yet, there’s no denying that Cebu dealt me both ups and downs on this trip.

Snapshot of Cebu - Mactan Shrine

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