Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seair InFlight: 5 Days in Cebu, Part 1

If you love the beach life and the convenience of the city, this island in the south is for you, says Andrea Pasion.

WHY GO NOW.  Cebu City is Manila without the mayhem, offering the conveniences of city living with its upscale shops and restaurants, and the joys of beach life, with many resorts just a few minutes drive away from the city center.  April is perhaps the best time as any to go when the summer season is just beginning to peak. You get to avoid the tourists, crowds, and heavy traffic during the frenetic January Sinulog street-dancing festival season and you can still get good deals in resorts and hotels. April is also the season for Philippine mangoes, reputed to be the sweetest in the world.

GET YOUR BEARINGS.  The very hub of the Visayas, Cebu is an economic center second only to Manila. An hour’s flight from Manila, Cebu is the gateway to the islands of Visayas, and the kick-off point to the islands of Bantayan and Malapascua, both diving destinations. On a clear day, it is possible to see Bohol from your hotel room, while Dumaguete and Suiquijor, like most other places in the Visayas, are just ferryboat rides away.  Designer Kate Torralba calls this city “the Milan of the south”, a center for international quality furniture design and fashion.

The city is home to such designers as Kenneth Cobonpue (www.kennethcobunpue.com), Customwood Fine Furniture (+6332/ 236 8603, wavi@pldtdsl.net), Butch Carungay of Avatar accessories (www.avatar-style.com, and 2/L Greenbelt 5), fashion designers Jun Escario (www.junescario.com) and Kate Torralba (www.katetorralba.com, 2/L Greenbelt 5).

CHECK IN.  If you’re feeling like the high roller, the 561-room Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino in Lahug, with its two casino floors open for 24 hours, is your kind of place. The hotel’s castle-like architecture stands out in the city’s skyline, and there’s no mistaking the Vegas-like ambiance upon setting foot in its grand lobby. For both locals and tourists, the hotel’s duty free shop is also a draw. All rooms here are fully equipped with cable TV, IDD, mini bar, fridge, broadband Internet access (there’s free WiFi but it’s a bit spotty on some floors). • Rates start at about US $100 (about P5,000) a night for a standard room to $950 for the Penthouse suite, once booked by a foreign dignitary for all of 219 nights, at a discounted P40,000/night. • Location: 1 Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City  Tel: 1-800-10-WFRONT8 (for PLDT lines), +6332/ 232 9000, +632/ 687 0888 • Email: msro@waterfronthotels.net, wcch@waterfronthotels.net • www.waterfronthotels.com.ph 

• The 329-room Marco Polo Plaza Cebu is built on a hill, with a view second only to Tops, Cebu’s famous hilltop lookout site. Check out the hotel’s Blu Bar and Grill, an open-air churrasco bar at the penthouse level, where having a drink a thousand feet above sea level is complemented with a breathtaking view of Lahug. The hotel is a favorite of the city’s affluent families, including Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia and Amparito Lhuillier. It is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. • Rooms start at P5,200 per night, including breakfast. • Location: Cebu Veterans Drive, Nivel Hills, Apas Cebu • Tel: +6332/ 253 1111; Manila toll-free 8888-168 • Email: mpplaza@marcopolohotels.com • www.marcopolohotels.com

• The Plantation Bay Resort is about 30 minutes away from the city center, making it ideal for holidaymakers wanting a weekend or short break. Its 11.4 hectares of seawater lagoons and fresh water pools make it popular for families with kids. It’s also known for its spa, Mogambo Springs. Designed like a Japanese village with its own water falls and a rejuvenating hot spring Mogambo completes the illusion of a complete getaway. Plantation Bay is the only Filipino resort included in the Conde Nast Traveller’s Reader’s Choice Award Gold List for 2009 for one of the best places to stay in Asia. • Rooms rates start at $200++ on peak season, $150++ on off-peak, with breakfast for two.• Location: Marigondon, Mactan Island • Tel: +6332/ 340 5900, +632/ 844 5024 to 25 • Email: rsvns@plantationbay.com • www.plantationbay.com

• The resort of choice of honeymooners, celebrities and politicians, like Manny Pacquiao and the ASEAN heads of state, is the 547-room five-star Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa, which has the longest stretch of beach on the island at 350m, multi-level pools, the famous Chi Spa Village, and service you’ll remember long after your stay. It’s hats off to the concierge here.  When we asked for a box to pack a couple dozen packs of Shamrock Otap biscuits, danggit dried fish, and 7D mangorind candies from the 7D factory, the concierge sent three different sized boxes to the room for us to choose from. The concierge also made sure the lechon or roast suckling pig we ordered, which arrived just in time for us to catch the shuttle bus, was appropriately packed and tagged. • Rates at Shangri-La start at P13,500/night. • Location: Punta EngaƱo Road, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu • Tel: +6332/ 231 0288 • Fax: +6332/ 2311688 • Email: mac@shangri-la.com • www.shangri-la.com

Rico’s Lechon, reportedly “Cebu’s best,” sells lechon at P2,500-P5,000. It’s on Hiway 77, Talamban, Cebu. Call +63917/ 407 2033 or +6332/ 344 0119 or email ricoslechon@yahoo.com to order.


 Culled from the Seair InFlight Magazine article, "5 Days in Cebu", April 2010 Issue • Words by Andrea Pasion, art direction by Jocas A. See, photography by Oggie Ramos • Many thanks to our insider, designer Kate Torralba for her insights on her hometown of Cebu

Next: Part 2 - Historical Cebu
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