Surviving a Typhoon (Sort-of): Cebu/Negros/Bohol Philippenes

With a couple weeks at the beginning of december to travel, it was a difficult choice where to go.  At this point after a year of living in Asia, I have been to most countries, not nearly seen everything, but still feeling like getting a taste of somewhere new would be nice.  For that reason, me and my travel companion Aidan decided that the Philippines would be a great place to explore.  Plus, it was the beginning of the dry season, and the end of the typhoons which rarely come in December.
Sunset in Moalboal
We flew into Cebu with no plans at first and figured we would make our arrangements when we hit the ground since we had ten days.  Within 5 minutes of arriving at our hotel, we were informed by staff that not only was a Typhoon en-route, but that it was a super typhoon, Hagupit (locally known as Ruby).  If you aren't in tune with the international news or living under a rock, super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November killing roughly 7,000 people and doing an enormous amount of damage.  Hagiput at this time was about 1,200km east of the island of Samar in the North of the country, but was moving slowly so wasn't going to make landfall for at least 2 days.  We figured we would head south out of the way for a couple days and enjoy the weather and hopefully miss the worst of it.

Yeah, this looks bad...
Cebu City however, was a bit of a nondescript big city with not many sites to see, but gave us a quick glimpse into Filipino culture which is the opposite of most of my Asian experience and is closer in line to Latin America than its Asian neighbors (not surprisingly given its history).  The food we had in Cebu City consisted mainly of meat or fish on sticks (not very many veggies in the Phil).  The street Barbecue at Larsian on the first night was probably one of the best meals of the trip.  We had about 10 skewers, and a whole fish, and 2 beers for only about $10USD.  The marinade on all the skewers was reminiscent of a standard US sweet barbecue sauce but delicious none the less.  The barbecue also comes with little steamed rice triangles to help fill you up if the meat isn't enough.  Aside from that we saw a couple sites but then crashed out at 7pm because of Jetlag.

Choose your poison
In the morning we took the bus to Moalboal, a small beachside town about 200km south of Cebu City on the West Coast of the Island.  Still no rain, and clear skies abound.  The "village" is a diving resort area consisting mostly of small guesthouses and resorts, so the food options were all geared towards tourists.  But the view and sunsets were some of the best we had on the trip.  On the second day in Moalboal it started down pouring, and we figured it was time to batten down the hatches and get ready, but the rain lasted for about 2 minutes and the cleared up again for a beautiful day.  While Moalboal is mostly a backpacker/tourist town serving almost exclusively western food, we did manage to have one of the best dishes of the trip, "sizzling sisig."  Sisig is a dish made of mostly pork jowl (or face) mixed with liver and then stirfried with spices and served on a sizzling platter with an egg.  It was delicious, albeit we didn't know that it was pork face, it was delicious nonetheless.

mmmm Face...
After 2 nights in Moalboal, the storm was slowing down (to about 15km/hour) and still hadn't made landfall, so we figured we would head further south while we could to Dumaguette on the island of Negros for some trekking.  On the bus down to the ferry terminal in Lilo-An we were informed that the Ferry wasn't running, but met a very ambitious Italian woman who assured us it would be and that if it wasn't there was someone we could bribe.  Upon arrival however, this was not the case.  Ferries nationwide were suspended because of the typhoon, despite the actual weather (see images).  There was also no one to bribe since the coastguard was patrolling.  This was even more infuriating given the short distance of only 5km across to Dumaguette which Aidan and I could have swam in our swimming days.... This wouldn't have bothered me, but the reception at our hotel in Moalboal assured us that the ferries would be running if the weather was fine.........
Water-level in Lilo-An...not the best place to ride out a Typhoon...
Alas, we had to find a place to sleep, so we listened to a tricycle rider who took us to a hotel that for the life of me I cant remember the name.  But it was at water-level, with a typhoon en route.  Not to mention it was dirty/dusty, and had no wifi, no restaurant, nothing.  It was also the most expensive place we looked at at $40/night.  We agreed to stay there but immediately regretted that decision in case we had to ride out the storm there.  Fortunately, the staff gave us our money back and we headed to Oslob, a small beach town on the south renowned for Whale shark diving.  Unfortunately again, this was suspended for fear of the typhoon.

The hotel we stayed at in Oslob (Sascha's) though was great, and had amazing views of Siquijor Island.  Oslob was a sleepy town where we killed two days hiking to the Tumalog falls and finishing all the beers in the one bar in town, which closed at 7:30 P.M. we indulged in a lot of meat of sticks again, for half the price had in Cebu City.  After the 2nd night in Oslob, it had been 5 days since arriving in the Philippines, and the storm made landfall in the north, but we still only had those 2 minutes of rain.  Sure it was a bit windy, but the sky was clear and the water was calm.

On the 6th day of our trip we decided to make our way to Bohol and spend our last 3 nights chilling on the beach and exploring the nature sites there.  We got on the ferry to Dumaguette early in the morning from Lilo-An and walked our way to the ferry terminal, only to find out that the ferry wasn't running!  I don't believe that there was a ban as much as the Typhoon was an excuse for the ferry operators to have a few extra days off, especially given the inconsistency of information, timetables, and cancelations.

Fortunately, at this point the storm was downgraded to a Category 3/4 storm and the Filipino government did a great job with evacuations in the north so there were only 2 unfortunate casualties in the end.  But for us, the storm only acted as a hindrance.  On day 7 of our trip, we made it out of Dumaguette to Bohol (finally!) and settled into our resort on Alona Beach on Pangalao Island for a couple days of relaxation.  Alona beach is a tourist town filled with German/Italian/Korean restaurants and a lot of bars serving cheap beer.  The beach is nice enough for a couple cocktails but is full of seaweed.  Unfortunately, it was only after coming to Cebu and Bohol that I learned that these places were more intended for diving rather than beach-goers.   Fortunately on Bohol though there are a plethora of other outdoor activities to keep you occupied, and we spent a day seeing the sites on the island including the Tarsiers, Chocolate Hills, and a not so enjoyable Loboc Lunch/River-tour filled with Filipino karaoke...

After Bohol we headed back to Cebu City for one night for our flight out.  Overall, it was an interesting experience with a few hiccups but gave us a chance to experience a the way the Philippines works/functions.


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