Philippines: Bohol, Siquijor, Oslob, Moalboal

Following our time in Coron, we returned to Cebu so my friends could fly home. I had an additional week planned so I could check out some of the areas south of Cebu, specifically the diving.

Day 10 – Cebu to Bohol   Bantayan

I woke up at 4:30 am to get to the ferry terminal (catch an Uber to Pier 1) to try and catch the 5:50 or 6 am ferries to Tagbilaran. On the Thursday of Holy Week. With no advance ticket. Travel fail.

I was lucky enough to get a business class ticket on the 8:15 am ferry at the overcrowded zoo of a ferry terminal. If you choose to travel over Holy Week, book in advance!!! This is probably the busiest travel weekend in the Philippines.

I sat waiting for my boarding call for 2.5 hours, using the free wifi zone for SMART sim card holders (I told you, grab a SIM card for₱40) thinking about the dog we had met in Bantayan and researching ways to bring her home when they announced the boarding call for the ferry. I had waited 2.5 hours sitting on my backpack on the ground for this boarding call and instead of boarding the ferry, I turned around and walked away. I returned my ticket (for a 10% surcharge, not a bad penalty for a last minute decision) and grabbed an Uber to the bus terminal to head back to Bantayan to get the dog. The tarsiers and chocolate hills of Bohol and diving around the other areas south of Cebu could wait for another trip. I had to get to Mena, the dog who stole my heart when we had been in Bantayan the week before. I had planned to visit Bohol – Siquijor – Oslob – Moalboal with a potential stop in Apo Island for diving which would have been a fantastic itinerary if my heart hadn’t called me back to Bantayan.

The Cebu north bus terminal was also a zoo, and there was no place to purchase a ticket for the 10 am bus to Hagnaya ferry terminal. I ended up chatting with some other travellers and we decided to split a taxi van up to Hagnaya. There was no guarantee we’d get on that 10 am bus. This was the right decision. When travelling on a budget you need to balance your time, sanity, and comfort with cost and that means not always taking the cheapest option.

We were concerned about the ferry wait but managed to get on the next departure. I had inquired with a few places to stay while en route with no luck but when I arrived, Kota Beach resort had a room available for me (for double the price! Holy week…) As I was travelling alone at this point, it became significantly more than I had budgeted to spend on this trip, but I booked into it anyway. My Bantayan blog goes into details about travel on the island but this second visit to the island on this trip turned into a dog rescue mission. I spent a lot of time with Greg & Tina who run the Island Sanctuary for rescued animals (worth a visit, volunteer if you can spare the time) and trying to figure out the complicated process to export the beautiful beach dog Mena I had met.  I spent the next few days fighting with the airline, figuring out the export process, cruising my dog around the island of Bantayan to get her clearance from quarantine to leave the island, and arranging a temporary foster home for her. More info on that journey here. Between breaks laying on the beach of course.

Once I sorted things out, it was time for Mena and I to head to Cebu city to initiate the processes for her export. I’m not going to blog a play by play of this one as it pretty much centres around the dog. Below are a few Cebu tips.

– If you don’t need to visit Cebu, skip it. It is crowded, polluted, and the traffic is next level crazy! It can take almost an hour to go 10 km.
– Use Uber instead of taxis, and motorbikes instead of Uber or taxis if you are solo. The cheapest are tricycles but may not always know where they are going. Have Google offline maps downloaded on your phone to help navigate. More about that here. 
– There is a ₱750 fee to depart Cebu airport. Don’t forget to save this (it is tempting to want to spend all your foreign currency before you leave to not have to change it back). Bank machines in the airport charge high fees (₱250 plus your bank fee from home) and have a maximum of ₱10,000 dispensed at a time.
– The ferry from Mactan to Cebu Pier 3 seems like a great way to beat the traffic from the bridges off Mactan and save a few ₱ in taxi fare. But with the huge lines and delays, I don’t think it saved me any time at all. It is however a much nicer way to get around than traffic and takes you within a short walk to Pier 1 for ferries to Bohol and other nearby destinations.

– If like me, you like to stay within waking distance of places to eat and things to see/do, you may want to stay in Cebu City. I stayed in Mactan to be near the airport and found it difficult to find good food and entertain myself.
– Check out the MARO rescue in Cebu. If you have some time to volunteer, message them in advance to set this up. Otherwise, see if you can organize a visit (and perhaps bring them a donation) to see the amazing work they do.

Sorry I don’t have more to offer about Cebu. I always suggest checking Wikitravel to get more tips on this place as well as other travel blogs.

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