Cebu’s Secret Gems
One of my favorite things to do in Cebu is to head off to the Shangri-La's Cowrie Cove on a full moon. The bar is set right on the water's edge, overlooking the vast ocean. Here you can socialise in pure bliss. Your conversation, dotted with the occasional sound of a wave gently lapping up to the shoreline below.
To secure the best location (and take advantage of two-for-one happy-hour) I arrive there just before 5pm. This also provides the magical hour when the sun is boasting a kaleidoscope-of-colors that grace the sky, pre-sunset. The bar's DJ – who naturally has a great sense of music and timing – is just commencing to permeate my soul with slow latin lounge music and I sip-on an ice-cold, zesty Bloody-Mary surrounded by friends. I could be anywhere in the world. By the time the moon has taken command of the night's sky, my abode for the next few hours is rocking, and it is almost time to make the next most difficult decision of the day; choosing somewhere yummy for dinner.
At that point, surrounded by all the natural beauty of the ocean, with distant views of Olango Island, I am inspired to choose seafood. Kaishu is a magical Japanese restaurant – only a few minutes down the road – in Punta Engano that has some of the best sushi and sashimi I have tasted anywhere. With a stunning view across Magellan Bay, through to the Cebu mainland draped with a theatrical like backdrop of mountains. I am already in bliss and not-one morsel has been served. Crack-open a cold sake, a bottle of San Miguel light to compliment it, and I am ready to let the first tuna-sashimi melt-in-my-mouth. Lots of Salmon, Squid, Uni and other ocean delights will follow. Even given the copious amounts of alcoholic liquid I have soaked-up like a sun-dried sponge, regardless of what one chooses to dine-on, Kaishu will not dissappoint.
By now it is around 10pm, and the sponge is almost ten times its original weight. I've sunk copious amounts of alcohol and devoured bountiful-amounts of ocean-fresh seafood. All carved and presented in a manner, which only the Japanese artiseans can perform.
It is now time to move to yet another blissful experience. This time a few minutes back towards the Shangri-La is the Hilton. Hidden at the end of a long boardwalk fifty-meters from the ocean shore is Manny O's.
Its rotunda shape, large balcony gives one another opportunity to enjoy the star's flickering and glimmering to an imaginary orchestra's sounds in the night's sky. Not to forget our star of the evening – our voluptuous full moon, who by now, is radiating its magnificient warm-glow that lights the calm seas surrounding our new locale. We choose upstairs on the balcony to park our alcohol infused utopia. The location is truly surreal: Waves-whipping against the structure, the flame-of-a-candle dancing at the will-of-the-wind and music tastefully balancing the senses. With an appropriate night cap in hand, to round-off an evening packed with the best of nature and man's offerings, I couldn't wish to be anywhere else. Well, err, maybe bed after this drink!
Facing East, my apartment is blasted with the first piercing-cracks of light. Like a bolt of lighting, my room is quickly filled with the joys of a new day. Today, I have errands to run. My apple computer has decided to magically transform itself into a lemon! It has decided that my output of work, doesn't justify me having a working apple. Time to discover a new gem in town – The Apple Store at B.T.C. (Banilad Town Centre on Banilad Road).
Walking into this tiny hole-in-the-wall but spanking new store, I am like a kid surrounded by all the candy in the world. Brand spanking slick furniture accessories; disguised as computers. Yes! All different shapes sizes, speeds and prices… Well, talk about a distraction to keep you busy whilst you get your lemon of an apple fixed. Unfortunately – or fortunately for me, my computer was going to take a few hours to fix. Without any need for motivation I slipped out of the Apple Store quicker than a Michael Johnson 100 meter sprint. My destination: downstairs to Brother's Burgers. MMMMM, good old fashioned burgers that take 15 – 20 minutes to make. No plastic food being re-heated here McDooonald's style! Nothing but pure-100% beef-patties, fresh onions, tomatoes, cheese and a piping-hot oven-fresh bun. Drizzling with lashings of ketchup and mustard, I am about to eat it with my eyes!
My burger was demolished as quick as a lion strips the flesh off a gazelle. Post burger, I decide to walk 50 meters down-th-road to visit one of my favorite watering holes, Badgers. No idea where the name came from but this place is an oasis-in-the-desert. A modern sports-bar, with more brews than you can shake-a-stick-at and more plasma TV-screens than most electrical-appliance stores. This is testosterone heaven. Sport-all-day and most of the night. Much better than a poke-in-the-eye-with-a-sharp-stick and hey, I still have an hour to kill before the old lemon is transformed back into a slick apple.
After downing a few thick black Guinness Stouts, watching the NBA (repeats), and trying to amuse the waitresses (not hard), I'm done. It's time to make my way back to Disneyland for Adults… Upon re-entering the Apple Shop, I can see my old work-horse waiting for me. The only difference, is that the good folk at Apple, have magically turned it back into a real apple, that actually works!
It is now, 5:00pm so I am thinking of heading down the road to the Tinder Box. This is Cebu's answer to all-things-good when it comes to food, wine & cigars. Here in downtown Cebu, 5 minutes from B.T.C., you have an outlet, that is the epic-centre of the world's finest produce. For me, it is time to grab my latest paperback, pop my posterior onto a comfy chair in the wine cellar and enjoy a buttery chardonnay from Marlborough, New Zealand.
Feeling good about life, I immerse myself into my novel and get stuck into the grape! The Tinder Box is one of those wonderful places, with more nooks and crannies than a rabbit warren. Each area with its own unique charm. From the cellar, to the cigar divan's comfy dated leather sofas, to the restaurant and private dining facilities. You can literally do a simple world-culinary tour without the effort of travel.
A few hours in the cellar and I'm almost as toasted as a Caucasian after a day under the sun. The wines are tasting better by the sip (err, gulp) and I see that as an indication to sign-off. In order to get back in the good books of my friends – who are playing black-jack – I make my way back to B.T.C. and order the large, "with-the-lot" pizza from Yellow Cab Pizza. The pizza at Yellow Cab is good enough to get you out of jail when your late for your mate's… black jack competition.
After a long night of showcasing my alcohol infused Black-Jack skills, I head back to Mactan Island and realize that it is almost 5am. Wow! Just in time for a sunrise special. Without wasting anytime, I dissect the island in my mean-machine, burning up the road and head straight for the unique 5 star resort: Plantation Bay. Not so sure why they call it Plantation Bay with the largest man-made swimming pool on earth but with a not-so-cool wink and a delirious-shuffle past the security-guards, I head down to the resort's man-made beach and jetty.
Fortunately, a bunch of friends had rented a couple of rooms for the night so on my way to the beach, I coerce them into joining me for the sun-rise. With the knowledge that they had only a few hours sleep – despite the constant complaints whilst meandering down to the jetty – once they had witnessed the incredible experience of the sun-peering over the horizon for the first time in a new day; all was forgotten and we marveled at the beauty.
It was now time to say goodbye to my friends, let them get some sleep and "do the off" to do just the same. I jump into the large cockpit of my vehicle and head back home. Fortunately, home is not-far-away and once there, I would hit the sack like a rock-falling from the sky. Comfortably in the fact, that after some well earned rest, I could do it all over again in the Queen-in-the-South. For she, is definitely a fair Queen. One that has many jewels in her crown. God bless the Queen.