Playing tourist in my hometown – Moalboal,Cebu, Philippines

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!

Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

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.

Busay Cave and Spring, Moalboal
Busay Cave and Spring

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.

Best Friends Forever
(l to r) Asuncion Palmitos, Gigi Page and I- childhood friends

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:




  1. Welcome back….you’ve been missed. Thanks for a wonderful tour of your homeland. As usual, I loved all your photos, and wow, what a large family. Looking forward to your upcoming travels in your “new” homeland. Hopefully the weather will be more to your liking. Happy trails.

  2. Beautiful pictures and story! I’m glad you got to visit with your family and friends. Happy Birthday to your mother. Now I want to visit the Philippines. When I went to Thailand I saw families with small children on motorbikes and trucks full of people in the back. I’ve also seen that in Mexico. Happy travels!

  3. What a great family reunion and a lovely setting in which to grow up . Your mother is such a beautiful lady and to raise twelve children, my goodness! Your photos as always are wonderful Mona. Welcome back! 🙂

  4. Oh lovely!! Makes me long to be back in the Philippines! We had so many wonderful trips there when we lived in Hong Kong. Nina

  5. Oh I don’t know … some of those scenes would fit right in with what I’ve seen in Turkey 😉 Welcome back. You’ve got quite the family gathering there. It sure sounds like you had a grand time on your visit. Your mom looks great for 95 … and that she’s mentally sharp is wonderful to hear.

  6. Very cool – thanks for the virtual tour. Welcome home and we look forward to following along on your next adventure. Travel On!

  7. Well said Mona. Thanks for sharing your profound thoughts and wonderful experience.

    • Hi,ms.mona.sorry for the late reply but the reality is i have just found the pages and read its contents with my full heart.not being an IT savy hence the consequence of a more than tardy comments.thanks for the visit of your very beginnings and the connectivity ignited.hope to have that same connectivity in the future years.thanks also for the attributes you bestowed on me. I really appreciated it.but ireally am amazed of the adventures you and steve are indulging.i have all the good wishes for your wonderful experiences in allyour travels.Godbless you both

  8. YES, when I returned and blogged about my stay in the Philippines, I spoke highly abou the sweltering heat there. Thanks for justifying it. :d

    Big fam! My dad’s side the same way. Nice to see all-together pictures of big families. Nice that you got there during fiesta! But not so much with all the election rukus. 😀 And look at the bright side, better than hurricanes and heavy rains.

    What more can I say, I miss Philippines.

  9. Kewl!! I am reading this in Cebu City. My wife is from Daanbantayan Provence. We hope to beback, after 3 years here in April 2014 & start RV’in again

Comments are closed.