How time flies when you are having too much fun in the Philippines. I’m back after a one-month visit to my home sweet home in Moalboal, Cebu, where I survived daily temps of 90 degrees with 96% humidity. Whew! It felt like being in a sauna 24/7. So where the heck is my hometown of Moalboal? The Philippines is situated in south-east Asia in the South China Sea, between Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia. My country is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands, and Moalboal is located on the southwestern tip of Cebu island, in the central part of the Philippines. The flight from New York – where the overseas portion of my flight originated – to Cebu took 14+ hours, including a stopover in Incheon, Korea. Yes, that’ s a lot of sitting on airplanes!
Despite the heat and humidity, I played tourist in my town, hanging out with old friends and bonding with family. My blog would be far too long If I related all the fun activities I did while in the Philippines. I will spare you by giving just the highlights, or I might put you to sleep.
The main reason for my visit was to celebrate my mom’s 95th birthday on May 4. She is an amazing mother who raised her dozen kids alone, as my dad passed away early. I am #11 in the family hierarchy, and I certainly hope her longevity is passed on to me. Her birthday celebration began at 4AM when she was awakened by a dawn serenade given by family and friends. The day ended with a family tribute to her, as she was surrounded by her ever-growing big happy Sandalo family.
Every town in the Philippines celebrates a fiesta in honor of a patron saint. My hometown’s fiesta is every 15th and 16th of May, when we celebrate our patron saint, San Juan Nepomuceno. The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture, the roots of which go back to before the Spanish arrived in 1500. Fiesta is the time of eating, drinking, and revelry all over town. But due to the regional elections during the month, fiesta activities were somewhat limited. A fiesta would be incomplete without lechón, or slow-roasted suckling pig, the Filipinos most beloved dish. Anthony Bourdin of No Reservations hailed it as the best pork ever!
If you like scuba diving, my town is home to one of the best diving destinations known globally as Pescador Island. The diving spots there offer an amazing “sardine run” and various underwater creatures. The coral you see underneath is one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, I have not seen it first hand, but Steve had an amazing time when he dove there a couple of years ago. On this trip, we hired a boat and went to Pescador Island where my friends and I swam in the crystal clear waters and watched divers and fishermen around the island.
Although my town is mostly known for diving its coastline’s multiple reefs provide, there are many more natural wonders to explore. The mountains inland offer spectacular vistas and the area is covered by dense tropical rain forests and rice fields. One is the Busay Cave and Spring, which is an underground spring where the town gets its potable water supply. Once I dipped into the cool fresh waters it was difficult to get back out into the sun and sauna again.
We used to have beautiful long white beaches, but because of a typhoon in 1984 much of Panagsama Beach (Basdiot) has been blown away. The typhoon damage and poor coastal development have led to the sand being washed away. Today Panagsama beach resorts cater mostly to divers, and diving schools and dive centers dot the area. The many dive shops in Panagsama beach are mixed with a lot of bars and restaurants, and you can find both luxury and budget-friendly accommodations.
About 7 kilometers north of Panagsama is White Beach or Basdako, meaning ‘Big Sand’, a nice white sandy beach lined with a beautiful coral reef about 30 meters out. This is a very popular beach among the locals as well as tourists where accommodations are pricier. My mom, who seldom gets out of the house, was so happy when my sister Becky and I took her there for relaxation away from the family. During our bonding time with mom, I observed that she may not be a spring chicken but she is still very mentally sharp.
Our small town has a burgeoning economy and has grown amazingly fast since my last visit. Because of that, it seems to me that our town has shrunk and is getting very crowded. However, I was also pleased to see many visual improvements. The town now has a Heritage Park and a to-be-completed multipurpose building. Our “Tulay” (wharf), of which everyone has fond memories, had been extended. I was even more glad to know that one of the leaders credited with these improvements is my childhood best friend, Asuncion Palmitos. Kudos to you my friend, I’m proud of you.
These and many more fun outings made Steve jealous – he is going to be sure to go home with me next time!
Finally, be sure to click on the pictures below to see scenes you only see in the Philippines: