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Travel & Holiday

Crystal-clear in Cebu

Snorkel in the clear waters of Cebu or jam on handmade acoustic guitars and ukuleles at the family-run Alegre Guitars in Macgtan.
The Straits Times - June 21, 2011
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Crystal-clear in Cebu Straits Times

To the west of Bohol lies its more prominent neighbour, the province of Cebu.

Consisting of the main island of Cebu and 167 smaller islands around it, the 'Queen City Of The South', as it is known, is also one of the top travel destinations in the Philippines.

American travel magazine Travel + Leisure ranked it as the third-best island in Asia last year, ahead of Thailand's Koh Samui and Phuket.

Besides boasting charming beaches and crystal-clear diving and snorkelling spots, Cebu, which is the oldest city in the Philippines, is also home to several historical sites, such as Magellan's Cross, a landmark planted by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, and the Basilica of Santo Nino, a church which traces its roots to 1565.

Staying at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel ( on the main island, I am treated to a vantage view of the city as the hotel is located 183m above sea level in a district called Nivel Hills.

Beach lovers will feel right at home at Mactan Island, connected to the main Cebu island by two bridges, and the first stop for most international visitors as the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is located here.

It is home to several family-friendly and luxurious seaside resorts, such as the five-star Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort And Spa (, which boasts its own water park, complete with wave pools and water slides.

From Mactan itself, one activity I highly recommend is island-hopping. This can be arranged by tour companies such as Cebu Island Buffet (

For five hours, the company's 15-seater boat, or banca as they are called locally, takes my fellow travellers and me to several choice snorkelling spots off nearby islands such as Sulpa and Caohagan islands.

Snorkelling gear is provided and snorkellers can dive off the boat.

Lunch, which includes grilled fish and seaweed, is prepared fresh on the boat.

There is even live entertainment during the boat ride. We were accompanied by two singers and musicians, who, with an acoustic guitar and percussion, regaled the group with a repertoire that ranged from classics by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones to popular songs by alternative rock band REM and patriotic songs about the Philippines.

Cebu residents, known as the Cebulanos, are big on music and Mactan itself houses several local guitar companies such as the family-run Alegre Guitars, that produces handmade acoustic guitars and ukuleles.

And yes, the staff there were more than willing to indulge me in a little musical jam as they let me try out the stringed instruments.




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