Sunday 2nd Jan: Cebu
As we had to wake up early to catch our flight to Cebu, we had breakfast in our hotel room. Green tea muffin filled with red bean paste and custard, custard cornet and more nonya sweets. I know, not at all nutritious but it’s not every day that I’m in Singapore!
Silk Air provided our lunch – spicy fish noodles, which wasn’t bad for airplane food. When we arrived in the Philippines, I experienced culture shock. I didn’t really know what to expect; Cebu and Singapore seem worlds apart. Our drive from the airport to our hotel was a stark jolt to reality; we passed roadside shacks made from corrugated metal, drove through noisy crowded streets swarming with people, and hassled by a group of local kids wanting the rich foreigners to spare them some change. I also spotted ‘Julie’s Bakery’, street venders selling exciting looking snacks, and pyramidal mountains of luscious fruit. There was definitely a vibrant atmosphere here.
Spicy fish noodles
After arriving at the hotel, we decided to go on a walk in the rain. Little did we know how difficult it is to walk anywhere – the pavements are rubbish and the traffic is manic! It wasn’t much fun so we gave up on that idea and tried to find somewhere to eat. Our hotel was on top of Robinson’s shopping mall, next to a big round about. Fed-up and tired, we went for convenience – Chowking. We had laurite orange chicken (sickly sweet), Kang Kong (thank goodness for vegetables!), Siapao (comforting bun, like char sui bao without the msg), buchi (sesame coated fried sweet glutinous rice – tasty). We ate locally baked treats – Sweet Heart (ube sponge cake) and Cruncher (chocolate cookie) for our dessert.
Dinner at Chowking
Snacks in the hotel room
Sweet heart cake (purple yam)
Monday 3rd Jan: Leyte
Our hotel breakfast was really exciting; there was so much to choose from! Fruit salad, cereal, toast & sweet chewy buns, pancakes with maple syrup, a selection of cooked vegetables, meat & egg dishes, boiled rice and rice porridge. I didn’t try everything but definitely stuffed myself.
We had a very rocky ride on the supercat to Ormoc; passengers were throwing up on either side of me and I felt really sick myself. Anyhow, I managed to eat lunch at the Sabine Hotel – fish & vegetables, and lots of flies…
On our way to Visca we stopped at a shopping mall. We were instructed that this would be are final chance to stock up on snacks, so we’d better make the most of it. I went a bit crazy and bought all sorts of intriguing things – ube otap & children sweets amongst healthier offerings of dried fruit & nuts.
Philipino snacks – ube filled oreos
Evening was a buffet hosted by the bride’s family. We were touched by their kindness but had not all recovered from motion sickness, so left the party early. It was an exhausting day.
Tuesday 4th Jan: Baybay
It took some time getting to sleep as we were kept awake by falling coconuts banging on the roof of our guest house. A morning walk along the beach was a nice introduction to Visca, I felt relieved to escape from the hustle & bustle of the Cebu City, and looked forwards to a day of sight-seeing around Baybay. Breakfast was kellog’s cornflakes (in my opinion are far superior than SE Asian cornflake varieties), toast, bananas and mango. The fruit was DELICIOUS!
After finishing our lovely breakfast, we were informed that lunch would be in half an hour at Aunt Alice’s house. Not wanting to be rude, I picked at the salad & fruit – more mango, bananas and watermelon. We then walked very slowly around Baybay town. We were a bit of a spectacle as it felt like everyone stopped to look at us. Groups of school children screamed and waved at us, it was very strange.
Food stall in the Baybay shopping Mall
Dinner – pizza, philippino style. I’ve noticed how food here is often served warm, not hot. This pizza was no acception. The un-melted cheese sat on top of a dehydrated base, I decided to eat vegetables instead.
Wednesday 5th Jan
Today the rain didn’t seam to stop…Breakfast – cornflakes, bananas, papaya and toast. There wasn’t a great deal to do in the guest house, and the rain made it impossible to go anywhere. When it eased off, David & I went on a short walk to the local food market in Visca. Here I saw barrels of banana ketchup, string bags filled with citrus fruit, food huts serving all sorts of snacks, and rather dodgy looking meat stalls – a whirring plastic strip rotating above the uncovered meat to keep the flies away.
When we returned to the guest house, our travel companions had gone ahead and ordered lunch, and we had the remains of what they hadn’t eaten. I was glad that no one seams to be big on their vegetables – something that I find hard to understand, so lunch was a big plateful of greens!
After lunch, we hopped on a jeepney into Baybay. The rain just got heavier & heavier, despite our attempts at staying dry, we were both soaked to the skin! Rocky Road ice-cream in the shopping mall lifted our spirits a bit, before heading back out into the rain.
The rain eventually stopped in time for the wedding rehearsal that evening. We arrived early so decided to go for dinner at Jolly Bee. I went for the Palabok Fiesta – a tepid dish of vermicelli noodles, some hard crunchy topping & half a boiled egg. It started bad but got worse. David was intrigued by the Ube cheese ice-cream, which was ube ice-cream topped with grated mild cheese – as you imagine it was absolutely vile!!! We also had a Zert Pie, which was scorching hot & we all burnt our mouths. On top of all that, my stomach blew up 30mins later. NEVER AGAIN!!!
Thursday 6th Jan: Wedding Day
I had the usual morning feast of cereal, fruit & toast. Everyone was getting ready for the wedding – I was treated to a manicure & pedicure which was lovely! I also had a makeup artist do my face, though I found this rather traumatic when he applied a thick layer of smelly orange foundation to my skin, coral sticky plastic to my lips, and proceeded to draw clown-like ovals on my eyelids. As soon as I was out of the chair of torture, I wiped it all off…When we got to the church, I felt very under-dressed next to all the Filipino women who looked fantastic in their fiesta style makeup! The bride was gorgeously stunning. The wedding was full of interesting traditional & religious rituals, with an obligatory lengthy photo session at the end of the service.
We headed to the Reception venue – The Sabine Hotel. I cleaned my face properly & re-applied my makeup – I felt a hundred times better! The wedding buffet consisted of a variety of meat dishes & salad, the centre piece being a whole suckling pig. Chocolate cake & cupcakes were placed on each table, decorated with bright blue icing-sugar seashells (there was an oceanic theme to this wedding, hence all women required to dress in navy blue…) Unsurprisingly I was the first to retire – I was exhausted from the day and my mouth was aching from all the smiling.
The Wedding feast
Friday 7th Jan
The Sabine Hotel had a squiggly shaped swimming pool, surrounded by perfectly manicured grass, pineapple & coconut trees which overlooked the sea. The sun was shining & the view was gorgeous! However, in comparison, the breakfast was rather annoying…After an hour wait; I had a luke-warm plate of longganiza sausage, boiled eggs, toast, native hot chocolate & lots of flies. But we were with good company & spirit so didn’t mind the wait.
Wedding cake for breakfast
After breakfast, we headed back over the sea to Cebu. The fiesta procession had started – the streets were alive with vibrant colour, dancers swirled & marched along to the sound of drums & horns. It was exhilarating and inspiring, I felt relieved as I was initially dreading my return to this city.
Below the Midtown Hotel was Robinson Shopping Mall. We made the exciting discovery of the food hall. Our dinner consisted of a Sugabahan vegetable meal deal, grilled squid stuffed with vegetables, chorizo sewers, saipao & ice tea, chiffon cake, blackberry filled doughnut & watermelon juice to finish.
Chiffon cake & doughnut
Saturday 8th Jan
After a sleepless night (the Sinulog concert was taking place right outside the hotel & went on well past my bedtime) I was greeted by a huge array of breakfast choices at the Midtown hotel. I devoured the fruit salad, cereal, toast, pancakes, Philippino cakes, juice, tea & vegetables – it was a bit strange eating veg so early on in the day.
We decided to do some sight-seeing around the historical sights of Cebu. We visited the churches & monuments in the old town, before stumbling across Shamrock Bakery – ‘Home of the finest Cebuon Delicacies’. We tried the cookies, sticky caramelized dried bananas and hotyhoty (dense peanut fig-roll type biscuits).
David & I hopped on a Jeepney to the Ayala Centre – a huge modern shopping mall. I felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of high-end boutiques there were peppered throughout the mall. The Philippines didn’t strike me as being a particularly wealthy country, but there must be some rich people here.
There was plenty of choice when it came to restaurants & eateries, but we opted for the food hall. We ate comforting chicken lugaw (rice porridge) from Adobe Rice Heaven, tasty takuyaki balls, corn on the cob & a very large tray of super-fresh pineapple. I could just about manage the Double Dutch ice-cream & chocolate cake from Red Ribbon for dessert.
Sunday 9th Jan
Slept a lot better after changing rooms, though cheesy pop covers could still be heard in the distance…I decided to try the rice porridge for breakfast. I added some patis sauce, century egg & lime. It was interesting – the saltiness of the egg worked well with the sourness of the lime. I have to admit it was a bit unusual for the time of day!
We spent the morning spent wandering around a Taoist temple. It was lovely & calm, and was nice to get away from the hustle of the city, which was short lived as we then headed to SM shopping mall – the largest mall in Cebu.
Snacked on a ham & cheese bun, steamed adobo saopao, buko pandan shake (coconut), lemonade…
cute looking buns from Bread Talk
Dinner at Robinson food hall again – we had a pick & mix variety of things – fish balls, tempura, shanghai lumpia, puso (rice triangles wrapped in woven banana leaves) vegetable rice dish with soup. Everything would have tasted better had they been hot instead of the customary bacteria friendly temperature.
However, we had a really yummy dessert – mango-chiffon swiss roll from Red Ribbon. The sponge was feather light & complimented well with the deliciously whipped cream & famous Pilipino mango. We also shared a bag of chocolate covered marshmallows – ‘wiggles’ – I love the name!
Monday 10th Jan
It was unfortunate that our last day in Cebu was raining; we had the morning to kill & there wasn’t anywhere or anything much to do. Ended up eating in the foodhall & spending the last of our pesos….
Silk Air provided us with chicken & broccoli with pasta, crackers, watermelon & pineapple. The pasta wasn’t great but the rest was passable.
Back in Singapore for one night! Stranded in Raffles shopping mall as we were umbrella-less & it was raining heavily outside. We weren’t allowed to bring brollies on as hand luggage…I was so happy to be back in Singapore where the food was guaranteed to be good. We had laksa which was served over a portable burner to keep it bubbling hot. We also had duck & rice and fresh coconut which were delicious.
As it was the last night of our holidays, we thought we’d splash out & stay somewhere really nice. Our hotel of choice was The Residence, and somehow we managed to get a room upgrade. I was very impressed by our room – there were beautiful orchids in the bathroom, the wall was like a big cushion, there was a huge array of complimentary toiletries in the bathroom, and we had a fantastic view of Marina bay from our window. Unfortunately we hadn’t much time to enjoy it so we decided to skimp on sleep. We enjoyed a glass of red wine & a green tea muffin.
Tuesday 11th Jan
After very little sleep, I went for an early morning swim. I hadn’t swam for years – but I am pleased to say I wasn’t the slowest person in the pool! It was uncomfortably hot so I didn’t stay long. Breakfast was exciting – I think we tried almost everything that was there, and there was a lot to choose from: fruit salad, yoghurt (hooray!), steamed buns, muslie, roti & beef curry, and a huge array of different bread rolls & pastries! I don’t normally weigh myself but there were an abundant supply of scales in this hotel. I wasn’t surprised that I had put on 800g after stuffing myself at breakfast. Over the whole holiday I had put on about 1.5kg, (which was the amount I’d lost through pre-Christmas stress).
Back on the plane to London – Singapore Airlines provided us with Indian chicken korma with makkanna vegetables, salad & crackers. Impressively they served Kit Kat icecream for dessert. As we were following the sun, this made it hard to fall asleep.
Dinner was bangers & mash, prawn salad & a bread roll, snickers bar for dessert. I wondered why they kept serving us heavy food, possibly an attempt to send us to sleep. I was completely shattered when we landed in London – hadn’t slept much at all! However, it was nice being back home and not having to live out of a suitcase, and most importantly being reunited with my kitchen.