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I’m selachophobic, I’m afraid of sharks. I have never seen a shark before. Oh, wait, I had seen sharks but that would be around 2 ft and less, but even those little big-eyed monsters scare the hell out of me!

I admit, my phobia was influenced so much by the movies depicting goliath sharks as human-eaters. When I see even a picture or a drawing of a shark, I instantly flinch and move my body away from it. When I swim especially if I’m alone, I panic just by thinking about sharks and I instantly forget all my strokes and end up choking up a lot of water.

In my 23 years of existence, I never thought I would even see a gargantuan shark up-close and personal. That’s not even part of my wildest dreams!

But when I heard about a certain kind of shark that is totally harmless, I immediately thought “what the heck, is this for real?!”

I researched and found out about the gentle giants, the whale sharks. They grow up to 40 feet or the size of a big bus. Whale sharks are monstrously big but here’s the catch, they only eat planktons and some small fish that goes with it. Amazing, right?

When I knew that these gentle giants are just 130 km away from where I am staying, I definitely rounded up my friends to see them with my own two unbelieving eyes.

We stayed overnight at Oslob and early the next day we lined up to see the whale shark. It is 300 pesos per head or just 8 US dollars for the banca ride that will take you to the spot where the gentle giants bask in the sun.

As early as 5 in the morning, tourists swarm the place. As soon as you pay the fee you will be taken to a small tent wherein you will be briefed about the rules and regulations of whale shark watching.

After the briefing, I can’t hide my excitement already. I still have to endure the longest 30-minute wait of my life. And when the boatman signaled us to aboard the ship, my spirits went sky high. At last!

my snorkeling buddies

my snorkeling buddies

Meet my giant friend :)

Meet my giant friend :)

the gentle giant

the gentle giant

Who would have thought that I would, one day, swim with the very specie that I’m afraid of. I even chased its tail (I didn’t hold it, I just chased it). I took a lot of blind shots with my disposable underwater camera but due to its monstrosity, i cannot fit its whole body in the frame.

The feeling was so surreal. Amazingly, I didn’t feel any trace of fear. I just enjoyed the water, the mild heat of the sun, and the big friendly whale shark.

i chased its BIG tail (Photo Courtesy of my disposable underwater cam)

i chased its BIG tail (Photo Courtesy of my disposable underwater cam)

Whale shark watching is available in Oslob, a small town in the southern tip of Cebu Island, Philippines. You can book a flight from Manila to Cebu and from Cebu City you’ll have to take a bus or a hired car to take you to Oslob.

its sooo BIG! (Photo Courtesy of my disposable underwater cam)

its sooo BIG! (Photo Courtesy of my disposable underwater cam)

It’s been a year and I’m still living in the busy streets of Cebu City. And what better way to celebrate this occasion than to relive the things that I love in this big city.

So, first stop would be McDonald’s in Jones Avenue. I know this restaurant is already the most overrated fast food chain in the world, but who cares, I love their food for breakfast especially their Longganisa with Egg paired with a cup of Super Hot Choco. Aside from the food, McDonald’s was strategically placed in the corner of one of the busiest streets in Cebu – Jones Avenue, and they have this little veranda where you can eat your food together with the morning sun while watching the busy morning people passing by.

After breakfast, I rode a jeep, which is the primary means of transportation in the city, to the oldest church in Cebu, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño. It is located in the heart of Colon Street, which is the oldest street in the Philippines. As I arrived at the gates of this massive stone church, I bought red candles and sincerely thanked God for the fruitful year He had given me. After praying, I also visited Magellan’s Cross, a small chapel adjacent to the church, which is home to the first Christian cross given by the first Spanish explorers in 1521. Cebu City has a lot of old places simply because it’s also the oldest city in the Philippines.

Basilica Minore del Sto.Nino (oldest church in Cebu)

So much for history class, I decided to visit another famous landmark and that’s the Cebu Taoist Temple. This time I got myself a taxi since the path to the temple is quite remote. Less than half an hour later, I already walked down the temple’s own version of the Great Wall of China. Before I lose myself in the picturesque view, I honored their gods first and prayed inside their temple with incense sticks in hand. After all my incense sticks burned down, it was now time to check the commanding view of the city and the nearby island, Mactan. If you’re lucky you can use their telescopes to observe big airplanes landing on and departing from Mactan International Airport. The heat of the sun is already scorching hot signaling me for lunch.

Cebu Taoist Temple

For lunch time, I met up with my friends and I asked them to eat with me at “pungko-pungko”. So where exactly is “pungko-pungko”? Answer: Anywhere on the sidewalk. In Cebuano dialect, “pungko” is to sit or squat, and this is what you do – you eat street foods bare-handed while sitting in the sidewalk with a lot of people and jeeps passing by. Sounds challenging, right? But I bet you’ll be surprised how delicious the hanging rice known as “puso” and the fried “ginabot” (pig’s intestine) are. At 50 pesos your tummy will be so full you will not have any more space to for another bite. And if you’re not convinced, you can try it for yourself next time.

Pungko-Pungko

After our sumptuous feast of street foods, we headed to Rainforest Park to shake off our sleeping fats for a jungle adventure. They have this jungle adventure worth 250 pesos per person and you’ll have to do 8 rope-obstacle courses. It is one good way to test your backbone and guts, and to enhance your agility and balance while injecting an adrenaline-filled thrill. And if you’re not ready yet to conquer your fear, you can relax and give yourself some refreshments inside the Oceanarium Restaurant which is encased with aquarium walls.

Jungle Adventure at Rainforest Park

When the one-hour jungle adventure is over, the Kartzone is our next destination for an 8-lap go-kart session for only 300 pesos. If you don’t know how to operate this thing, no need to fret because a marshall will give you a mini briefing on how to use the kart. But it’s really hard to pay close attention to someone if you’re mind is already excited, so, right after he said we can start, we were already on our way racing against each other. Next thing we knew, the 8 laps was already over.

Go-Karting at Kartzone

Go-Karting at Kartzone

The sun was about to settle in the horizon so we decided to go to Crown Regency Hotel and Towers for the Extreme Sky Challenge. Edge Coaster and Skywalk would be the best way to spend sulking and watching the sun’s glorious last rays of the day. Just imagine sitting and standing on a ledge outside the 37th and 38th floor, isn’t it stomach-wrenching? But as soon as you see the vast scenery from the top floor all the butterflies in your stomach will be evaporating like steam. At least you get to be like superman with the bright orange jumpsuit hovering outside the building for an hour or so.

Sky Adventure at Crown Regency Hotel

Sky Adventure at Crown Regency Hotel

“Puso” and Pork Barbecue

After our sky adventure was up, we decided to skip the jeep and we strolled over to our last destination and that would be Larsian, one of the most well-known eating havens in Cebu. Its intentional location is in uptown area close to the famous landmark Fuente Osmeña Circle. This haven has barbecue stands lined up offering barbecue selections ranging from chicken, pork to seafood. And again you’ll get to eat “puso” together with your ordered barbecue. Compared to “pungko-pungko”, Larsian is much more organized and cleaner. Thank God for foods like this, you get to eat a lot without damaging your pockets.

My itinerary could go on and on but one day here would be so short a time. Aside from the places and foods, it’ll be too hard not to love the people here. It’s a neutral ground for the rich and famous, the poor and meek, the young and old, and the like.

And maybe I’ll stay here for a couple of more years. Or maybe, just maybe, forever.

Cebu is a province in the Philippines where the famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first landed way back in March 1521. The funding for his planned expedition heading east was repeatedly denied by the king of Portugal so he went to Spain and got an approval from its king.

His expedition under Spain’s name was the first to circumnavigate the earth. But only his crew completed it because he was killed in Mactan, Cebu by Lapu-lapu who is now regarded as the country’s first national hero for resisting Spanish colonization.

Question: Enough with History, where are the beautiful women?

Answer: We’ll get there don’t worry. (Or you can scroll down)

So my wife and I decided to go Cebu and see some of its landmarks. It was a 45 minute fly from Metro Manila which is the country’s capital. One cost-effective hotel you can try for a short stay there is the NS Royal Pensione hotel where we stayed for just one night.

Our first stop was The Lapu-Lapu Shrine. This neat place is surrounded by lush gardens with a lagoon in its front.  It feels nice to stand near the edge of the lagoon because of the cool and gentle breeze blowing at you while enjoying a great view.

It has an office with a veranda where we’ll see a painting depicting the Battle of Mactan and a tablet with an inscription about Lapu-lapu’s resistance of Spanish invaders. After a relaxing stroll, we decided to go to our next stop, Fort San Pedro.

The Fort San Pedro which was built in 1738 is a structure used by the Spaniards to repel Muslim raiders. What we’ll find inside this fort are some sketches of Ferdinand Magellan, an illustration of the founding of Cebu City and the most beautiful women on earth. You’ve read it right—they are the Miss Earth Candidates of 2011.

That was something unexpected—we went there just to see the province’s landmarks but got a bit more than that. These beautiful girls we’re very friendly. Most of the visitors were asking to have a picture taken with them and they always do it with a smile.

So while checking the whole fort, I’ve imagined myself defending it by handling its cannons and other weapons. I’ve also checked what’s below it and saw myself dodging the enemy’s arrows. We’ve checked old Spanish items in its museum then decided to head on to our next stop, the Magellan’s Cross.

The Magellan’s Cross is a Christian cross placed by Ferdinand Magellan and his crew upon arriving in Cebu. It’s housed by a small concrete chapel. The cross is standing in a marble base with an inscription saying “This Cross of Tindalo Wood Encases the Original Cross Planted by Ferdinand Magellan On this Very Site April 21, 1521.” My calculator said that it’s celebrating its 491th anniversary this coming April 21, 2012.

So we got there and wait, the beautiful ladies are also here!? It looks like we have the same itinerary. Feeling like a paparazzi, I shot a photo of them from afar with the Magellan’s Cross. It’s tough to get inside to have our own pictures taken with the cross so we had to wait for most of the people leave until there’s enough space. Goodbye to the beautiful ladies.

Our last stop was the Taoist Temple. We got a hint of what it’s like in ancient China after getting here. It even has its own Great Wall. People are not allowed to take pictures inside the shrines and I even saw some teens getting reprimanded by the security guard for doing some jump shots.

The dragon, lion and other statues were really awesome. I’ve enjoyed looking at these beautiful works of art that defines a nation’s culture and its uniqueness.  If you guys were reminded about the beautiful ladies and is expecting them here as well, sorry but they went somewhere else.  Cheers! 

Taoist Temple