Cebu & Malapascua Above Water

by Michael

In order to get to Malapascua from Bohol for more scuba diving, we needed to transit through Cebu City on Cebu Island. Since Elizabeth is describing the diving in another post, this post is about food, transit, and running away from dogs.

We only used Cebu as a transit connection, so we didn’t take in any of the city’s (or island’s) cultural sights.  Instead, we focused on eating and drinking (surprise!).

Eating and Drinking in Cebu

On our first stop through Cebu, we stopped at Zubuchon, which apparently has good pork (lechon). Anthony Bourdain said so, and Elizabeth agreed. I can’t really comment since I don’t eat pork. I know that, as a vegetarian, I am “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, p.70 (2000).

So here are some pictures:

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Kitchen within view. A good sign.

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Plated.  Elizabeth enjoyed the crispy skin.

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Paper place settings with a critic’s review.

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These guys aren’t cooking for Zubuchon; they’re on Malapascua. I just figured I’d put all of the pig in one part of the post.  This is lechon in the making.

I had the shrimp. They were good. In any event, the dessert was fantastic.

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Looks like a blob, but really it’s an amazing sweet rice thing.

When we passed back through Cebu for a few hours (on the way to the airport), I found beer. Andrew at Sagada Cellar Door recommended Turning Wheels Brewing in Cebu. The beer was really good (real IPA and double IPA), and they had good grilled cheese sandwiches so we didn’t need to go elsewhere for dinner. The owner (who hails from California) and some friends were there and we had fun chatting before a late flight.

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They had growlers!

If you visit, contact the brewery before going, either by text or sending a message to their Facebook page. The owner responds pretty quickly. But you need to let him know you are coming. The place is hidden behind the Sentinel Hotel (maybe condominiums?) through a green gate, in a dark alley near some barking dogs. This is not the kind of place that you can accidentally stumble upon.

Getting to, from, and around Malapascua

Malapascua Island is just north of the northern tip of Cebu Island. It is a scuba diving destination. It does have beaches — better beaches than Alona beach near Bohol — but given all we heard about great beaches elsewhere in the Philippines, I would only visit Malapascua in you’re interested in diving. And, as I’ll explain later, you should stay near the southern end of the island.

It’s also time-consuming to get to Malapascua. From our hotel in Cebu City, we took a taxi to the bus station, then a five hour bus ride, then hopped on a very small boat that took us from shore to an anchored mildly small boat (banka). In typical fashion, the ticket price for the banka to Malapascua doesn’t include the fee for the small boat necessary to get to the banka. A fact we didn’t learn until we were already on the small boat (totally felt like extortion the first time). Go figure.

Note: the mildly small boat is a called a banka, with pontoons on both sides. Filipinos use the same type of boat as dive boats — they are clearly interchangeable uses since our boat to return from Malapascua to Cebu Island had “I Dive With God” painted on the side. 

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How much diving weight did Jesus need to use before he would sink?

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Bankas on turquoise water off the coast of Malapascua.

Speaking of God, the tricycle taxis usually have Bible verses painted on them. Some are meaningful alone (“Love thy neighbor as thy self.” Mark 12:31). And if you know the context, (“Jesus wept.” John 11:35). But some just seemed random, especially Old Testament verses. And some tricycles had Golden State Warriors logos rather than Bible verses. Because same thing?

But I digress.

It’s also tricky to get around Malapascua. It’s about 2.5 km to walk end to end, but there are no cars. There also aren’t really roads. Our first attempt to get around on the various paths was a huge struggle. Paths that showed up on maps.me didn’t exist or didn’t connect and some of the paths didn’t show up at all. There are motorcycle taxis, but they are really just guys with motorcycles who will give you a lift for money. They don’t wait at established taxi stands, and there is no Uber or Go-Jek.

We initially booked at Thresher Cove “Resort” — 1.5 km from town. We shopped around between dive shops to go to the sites we wanted on the days we wanted, which meant we were walking (or catching motorcycle rides) back and forth to town a lot. The hotel’s location basically meant that we had to use their dive shop for early morning dives because there was no reliable way to get to town for a 5:30am boat. After our two booked nights, we had found Thresher Cove’s location inconvenient enough to switch locations during our stay. We ended up staying at “Romantic Place” in town for our last few nights. It was the cheapest spot we could find (about $12 per night), and was decent, but I’m not sure that the name was particularly fitting…

Malapascua Food

Not being a meat eater, I found food that was ok in the Philippines but rarely anything fantastic. One exception was the Kare Kare in Bohol. Another was fruit smoothies. We found our go-to smoothie shop tucked away a couple paths inland from the beach on Malapascua (also had food, ok quality, great price).

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Our smoothie lady.

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The shop.

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This golden cat lived near the shop and walked around tables asking for food (though he didn’t ask too much — he went on his way if  you didn’t feed him).

 

Malapascua Running

I tried to fit in some running on Malapascua. My routes were limited when I was blocked by barking dogs. And I haven’t been running for a while — let alone on sand — so the exercise kicked my ass.

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It looks like a nice beach until the dogs run at you growling.

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Elizabeth holding a cute puppy that will grow up to bark at runners.

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Puppies with mama dog. Notice that dog photos are of nice dogs; I tend to not pull out my photos when under threat.

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Not a dog. Just the sunset our first night in Malapascua.

After Cebu and Malapascua we were off to Coron via an overnight stop in the Manila airport. Fun!

[This post describes our above-the-water travel in Cebu and Malapascua Islands, Philippines, from February 24 through March 1, 2017.]

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