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Philippine: God's own islands

The lore goes: When the gods created a Philippine island, they liked it so much that they created 7,000 more.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 19:28 IST
Piyush Roy

The lore goes: ‘When the gods created a Philippine island, they liked it so much that they created 7,000 more.’

Stop by Cebu, one of the Philippines’s most popular islands and you can see why. Its topography packs in the might of the mountains with the bounty of marine life and the fun of water sports.

Plus, history and religion are thrown in in equal measure. If this concoction is not heady enough, try the local Tanduay 65 Rhum (rum that costs Rs 25 for 500ml).

My first stop was the serene Maribago island resort in Mactan island, off Cebu, from where I would crisscross Cebu and Lapu-Lapu City.

It was in Cebu City that the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted his famous Cross, introducing the native people to Christianity.

Things to see & do

Fort San Pedro: The fort, once the base of the island’s major foreign rulers — the Spanish, the Japanese and the Americans is now a favourite site for weddings and big dinner receptions.

Colon Street: Named after Christopher Columbus, it is the country’s oldest street, in Cebu. The flea market would be a hit with budget shoppers, while brand enthusiasts can visit the sprawling SM City Mall.

Taoist Temple: Fortified within a replication of the Great Wall of China, it provides lovely city views and a serene break.

Heritage of Cebu Monument: Off Colon Street, a tour round the sculpted marvel is akin to a walk around the nation’s historical high points.

Maribago’s guitar factories: World-class acoustic guitars, Filipino mandolins, banjos and ukuleles are made here. The dedicated work of art can cost up to 50,000 pesos, but if you have to take one memento from Cebu, then it has to be a guitar, the show ones starting at 100 pesos.

Water sports: Mactan and other islands are a water lover’s paradise. Fine white sand beaches dot the islands. You can indulge in sports with hired kit and gear (as low as 150 pesos) for diving, snorkelling and speed boating.

Food tips: A must-try as is the ‘cooling’ Filipino dessert Halo Halo. Korean cuisine seems to be a hit here, followed by Thai, Chi nese, Japanese and Italian.

Festivals: Cebu has at least 12 major festivals, the grandest being Sinulog in January. It has huge processions and the Mardi Gras dance prayers, expressing devotion to the Holy Child or Sto. Nino.

Kadaugan Sa Mactan is a week-long celebration marking the natives’ first win against foreign invasion in 1521.

Money & travel On Cebu, one can move around in cabs, tricycles and jeepneys (five peso every 5 km). Economy class Mumbai-Singapore-CebuSingapore-Mumbai return flight on Singapore Airlines costs Rs 29,725 (morning) and Rs 32,625 (evening). One dollar is roughly equal to 50 pesos.

FACT FILE

1 The 1521 war scene of Kadaugan Sa Mactan is reenacted every year

2 The Heritage of Cebu Monument. A walk round the sculpture is like a walk around the nation’s historical sites

3 Guitars at Maribago’s factories. World-class acoustic guitars, Filipino mandolins, banjos and ukuleles are made here.