Philippines – Cebu & Bohol

Celebrating Tet (Vietnamese New Year) in Vietnam is exhausting, so this year, we decided on a quick getaway to the Philippines. Cebu Pacific offers daily flights and after narrowing down our short list to include Cebu and Bohol Islands, we created an itinerary in Vietnamese (for our family of 9), packed our bags and were off. After landing in Cebu, we zipped down to Oslob, which has been on our radar for a while because of the whale sharks. While we much prefer to see whale sharks in their natural environment, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our Viet relatives to see these magnificent creatures up close and in person. After a thrilling 30 minute swim with the whale sharks, we boarded a Bangka outrigger boat to Bohol Island where we made our way to Tagbilaran City, our base of operations for nearly a week. Bohol was full of pleasant surprises, with some highlights including a visit to the elusive tarsier (one of the smallest primates in the world), zip-lining over the Loboc River, swimming at Mag-Aso Falls, and beach-hopping beautiful Panglao. From Bohol, we took a high speed ferry back to Cebu, where two days was enough to check out the city, indulge in yummy lechon, and squeeze in some last minute shopping. Traveling with our extended Vietnamese family was challenging at times but we had a blast. However, we did agree that our next visit to the Philippines will be just the two of us as thresher sharks of Malapascua remain on our bucket list!

The beginning of our 12 day Tet vacation; Ton Son Nhat airport A jeepney on display at the Cebu airport. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines (hot, crowded and cheap) Di Phuong, Di Tam and Chi Hong clinging onto our bangka while watching the whale sharks of Oslob First glimpse of a hungry whale shark at the 6 am feeding; Oslob Oslob is the easiest place in the world to see a whale shark and it is well established on the tourist trail. Get there early to avoid disappointment Becky admiring a whale shark A whale shark feeding on shrimp and krill Detail of a feeding whale shark Torrential rain as our bangka rows back to shore; Oslob Squeezing 5 passengers onto a single tricycle; Oslob Goodbye Oslob! Hitching a ride from Oslob to Bohol on a bangka Robby checking out the primitive toilet facilities on the bangka Getting ferried to Panglao Peninsula Alcohol in Philippines is dirt cheap...fancy some "Very Old Captain"? Calamaderas - a sweet, thick delicacy originating from Bohol that will stick to the roof of your mouth! Chowing down on our self-catered dinner; G&A Apartments in Tagbilaran Moth detail Seafood section of the Tagbilaran Public Market Eels for sale; Tabilaran Public Market Alona Beach - the most popular beach on Panglao Chi Hong and Becky posing with starfish General "Di Tam"; Alona Beach The perfect beach day Fresh seafood for dinner; Tagbilaran Catching a jeepney from Tagbilaran to Antequera.  Not recommended if you are in a hurry or value your comfort! Whale shark image on a 100 PHP bill At long last, we reach Mag-Aso Waterfall Anh Long makes a new Filipino friend within minutes of arriving to Mag-Aso Falls The boys cooling off at Mag-Aso Falls Chi Hong enjoying a soak; Mag-Aso Di Phuong braving the waterfall at Mag-Aso Rice paddy scenery near Mag-Aso Waterfall A simple shack; Antequera Di Sau and Chi Hong walking back from Mag-Aso Falls to Antequera after the tricycle mafia extortion ploy backfired The circa 1880 Antequera Church Posing with our awesome tricycle drivers who took us back from Antequera to Tagbilaran City Friendly cat at G&A Apartments; Tagbilaran Dried fish for sale; Tagbilaran supermarket Lechon pig roast; Tagbilaran City Spotting a tarsier (owl monkey), the world's smallest primates Tarsiers are nocturnal and are known to become suicidal if stressed (they will repeatedly bash their heads in) Becky smiling as she prepares to zipline across the Loboc River What a view! Next up is Chi Xuan and Di Tam! Looking down on the Loboc River Di Sau looking a bit nervous! Admiring the chocolate hills of Bohol Di Phuong and Di Tam at the Butterfly Garden Butterfly Garden; Bohol Optical illusion as Becky becomes a butterfly Group photo at the Butterfly Garden Bilar man-made forest Loboc river cruise Chinese tourists enjoying the Loboc River Cruise turnaround point Cannibal cage Posing by a massive crab; Loboc River Di Tam and Di Phuong strike a pose with Prony the Python (the biggest python in captivity at 27 feet long) Family photo with one of Prony's descendants Baclayon Church Robby tarsier; Aproniana Souvenir Shop Tarsier souvenirs everywhere in Bohol Statue depicting the famous blood compact of 1565; Bohol Hippie van; Tagbilaran City	Swimming in Hinagdanan Cave; Panglao Group photo inside Hinagdanan Cave We enjoyed our 2 hour swim inside the cave; Hinagdanan T-shirts for sale; Hinagdanan Cave Robby trying a t-shirt on for size; Hinagdanan Cave Chi Xuan and Robby; Momo Beach Doljo Beach Anh Long taking a nap; Doljo Beach Ship maintenance; Doljo Beach Hungry dog begging for lunch leftovers; Doljo Beach Pretty Libaong Beach Dung Sau befriending a dog; Libaong Beach Dauis Church Interior view of Dauis Church Dauis watchtower Tricycles are a cheap and fast way to zip around the island of Bohol Adriana's Place - our rustic beach bungalows near Dumaluan Beach Selfie at Dumaluan Beach Dumaluan - the prettiest of Panglao's beaches Starfish Yellow-lipped sea krait, a poisonous sea snake that we frequently spotted while snorkeling Panglao Underwater scene Eel Lots of good snorkeling around Panglao Another banded sea snake Black spotted puffer Anh Long playing with Tomato Anemonefish We spent hours snorkeling off of Dumaluan Beach Di Sau and Di Phuong enjoying Dumaluan Beach Sunset over Dumaluan Beach Sand dollar found on Dumaluan Beach Taking the SuperCat fast ferry from Tagbilaran to Cebu Heritage of Cebu Monument Colorful wall near the Heritage of Cebu monument Yap Sandiego Ancestral House Interior of Yap Sandiego Ancestral House Tattoo statue near Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral Painting the welcome sign to "Fort San Pedro"; Cebu Entrance to Fort San Pedro Detail on Fort San Pedro; Cebu Flags decorating the street next to Basilica del Santo Niño; Cebu Flower vendor outside Basilica del Santo Niño Magellan's Cross - erected by Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving to Cebu on 21 April 1521 Cebu street scene Colorful image of revered local hero Lapu-Lapu, a ruler of Mactan in Visayas who was the first native to resist Spanish colonization Statue of Lapu-Lapu Group shot at Fort San Pedro Interior courtyard of Fort San Pedro Statues of Basilica del Santo Niño Exterior view of Basilica del Santo Niño Courtyard of Basilica del Santo Niño Children fascinated by the fountain of the Church and Convent of Santo Nino Worshippers lighing candles; Church and Convent of Santo Nino Carving detail at Church and Convent of Santo Nino; Cebu Filming a tourism campaign near Magellen's Cross Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral Getting fresh coconut juice at Carbon Market; Cebu Busy Carbon market scene Coconut vendor; Carbon Market Vegetables for sale; Carbon Market Hanging rice or "puso" - a Cebu specialty of rice wrapped and boiled in a triangular casing made of woven coconut leaves Transporting goods; Carbon market Banana seller An overloaded jeepney; Carbon Market Young kids watching over jackfruit; Carbon market Egg seller Waiting for work at Carbon Market Philippines license plate Crispy lechon for lunch; House of Lechon The boys slurping up lunch leftovers; House of Lechon Chi Hong walking up the stairs to the Cebu Taoist Temple Taoist Temple; Cebu View looking back over Cebu city from the Taoist Temple Taoist temple detail Temple of Leah Anh Long taking a rest; Temple of Leah Fine views looking down on Cebu from Temple of Leah Di Tam, Chi Xuan and Di Phuong striking a pose; Temple of Leah Cebu's mountainous interior; near Temple of Leah Yay! Smiles all around after we caught our short transit outbound flight from Manila to Saigon foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

Misc details from our 14-26 Feb trip to Oslob, Cebu & Bohol.

Flight: Cebu Pacific ($276 round trip from SGN-MNL-CEB including check-in up to 20 KG). Be sure to book your flights early (at least 3 months in advance) to get the best deals. We had a late addition to our group and her ticket cost a whopping $535 without baggage allowance. On the return flight, Cebu Pacific delayed our CEB-MNL leg by 5 hours, leaving us with only 1 hour to transfer from the domestic to the international airport in Manila for our outbound flight back to Saigon. They did offer to change our return flight for free but made no offer for free hotel/food. Thankfully, the first flight departed on time and we made it to our outbound flight with minutes to spare. We were amazed that all our luggage arrived safely in Saigon with the super tight connection!


Oslob: Our group of 9 was split between 2 hotels, Casa De Estefania (2400 PHP for 4 guests in 2 rooms) and Guilly’s Place (1800 PHP for 5 guests in 2 rooms). Both hotels cater for budget travelers, with AC, hot showers, free wifi and an easy walk into town. Guilly’s was cheaper but just as clean/pleasant as Casa. However, Guilly’s did try to rip us off on the tricycle hire so we booked through the guys at Casa De Estefania instead (2 tricycles for 9 pax at 100 PHP each for the whale sharks and Tumalog Waterfall and return). Highly recommend leaving at 5:30 am as Oslob is well on the tourist map and was insanely crowded at 6 am!

Tagbilaran: G&A Apartments (3 apartments for up to 10 guests for 6 nights was 15,990 PHP) with AC, cold shower. Equipped with kitchenette including stovetop, rice cooker, water boiler, fridge/freezer and dishes, which was perfect for self-catering. Friendly caretaker on hand to address any issues/concerns. Within walking distance of Marcela Mall and Cogon Public Market, and an easy 10 PHP tricycle ride from ICM (Island City Mall) and the nearby massive Tagbilaran Central Public Market. No WiFi here so buy a SIM card with data to stay connected.

Panglao: Adriana’s Place near Dumaluan Beach. 3 budget double bungalows (5137 PHP) and 3 beds in a mixed dorm (2280 PHP) at a simple, rustic setting. Adriana’s is about 500 meters from the beach, which has a 25 PHP entrance fee (10 PHP for seniors or kids). In retrospect, we would have preferred to extend our stay in Tagbilaran and just done day trips to Panglao’s beaches because food in Panglao is limited and expensive, and it was better to self cater, plus G&A Apartments was way more comfortable and private.

Cebu: TeoFel Pension (5 rooms for 9 guests for 8082 PHP). Rooms were comfortable with AC, free wifi, lukewarm showers. Right across the street from a 7/11 convenience store and easy walking distance from Cebu’s old city highlights. Some great eats in this city…don’t miss the Lechon!


Oslob: Whale Watching – get there super early as this is deservedly popular and was crazy crowded, even at 6 am! 500 PHP to sit in the boat, 1000 PHP to snorkel, can rent GoPro for 500 PHP if you don’t have one. Combine a visit to the Tumalog Waterfall afterwards.

Bohol: We booked a van for several days through Sherwin ( Sherwin is a super nice guy who offers good value. Van hire to comfortably sit 9 pax for 8 hours was a reasonable 2500 PHP including gas and driver.

Bohol island highlights included: Tarsier Sactuary (60 PHP), Chocolate Hills (50 PHP), Loboc Zipline (400 PHP), Loboc River Cruise & lunch (500 PHP), Bilar Man-made Forest, Butterfly Garden (45 PHP), Python Wildlife Park (45 PHP), Blood Compact Site and Aproniana Souvenir Shop.

Panglao highlights included: Dauis Church, Hinagdanan Cave (125 PHP including swim), and beach-hopping: Momo (tons of seaweed, not well maintained), Doljo Beach (nice picnic lunch spot), Alona Beach (crowded but the family enjoyed it), Libaong Beach (beautiful and crowd-free).

Mag-Aso Waterfall: This was a DIY on the cheap using jeepney transport, which was quite the experience since we didn’t realize the jeepney will not leave until absolutely stuffed full of passengers! It was a hot, sweaty, long ride but cheap at only 30 PHP for the ride out to Antequera (departing from Marcela Mall). Our Jeepney driver even offered to drop us off at the waterfall for an additional 10 PHP per person…deal! Entrance to the waterfall was 20 PHP each, and we spent several hours here having a picnic lunch and enjoying our swim.

Cebu: Tripadvisor to the rescue! We booked a van (3500 PHP) for a full day tour through Danny Noy (, Tel: +63 906 153 4659 or +63 922 463 3757. Highlights visited: Lapu-Lapu Monument, Heritage of Cebu Monument, Yap Sandiego Ancestral House, Fort San Pedro, Carbon Public Market, Church and Convent of Santo Nino, Magellan’s Cross, lunch at House of Lechon, Cebu Taoist Temple and the Temple of Leah. We opted to skip Tops Lookout since the view from Temple of Leah was similar.

: Dirt cheap in the Philippines. We stocked up on rum ($1.5 per bottle) and gin ($2). Good deals on tequila, vodka and premium labels too. All 9 of us exceeded our alcohol allowance but luckily there was no customs staff on duty at 1 am in Tan Son Nhat International Airport so we breezed through without having to pay customs…yay!

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