Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Cebu, Philippines
The domestic terminal in Manila is very small, much like a minor Australian town. It is certainly not of the size that I expected considering the size of Manila. There are not that many flights in and out each day. We board Philippine Airlines new Airbus A320 and find it absolutely full. We are on the way to Cebu City, about an hour's flight away. A surprise awaits our arrival in Cebu City (actually Mactan Island, for this is where the airport is located). The airport here is much larger than that at Manila and is also in far better condition.
After leaving the airport we travel the 10 kilometres to our accommodation, the Tambuli Beach Resort. Despite the very expensive looking airport and the dozens of hotels and resorts on Mactan, the area between the airport and main resort area is very shabby and dirty, certainly not an attractive introduction to you holiday. As you would imagine from the name, the Tambuli Beach Resort is located right on the water with a nice beach that extends in each direction. The resort is very popular with Japanese tourists and was well equipped with large pool, sauna, water sports (hobbie cats, jet skiis etc) as well as their own in-house dive operation. The rooms are also comfortable and clean.
The food and drinks at the resort were not too bad considering the location ($7 for excellent club sandwich, $2.50 beer and $1.80 soft drink) although dearer than mainstream Philippines. After our mid-afternoon arrival, we decided to go into Cebu City for a bit of sight-seeing and then dinner.
It is a 45 minute drive to our distination, a huge shopping centre the size of which I have never seen in Australia. On the way we pass through the city centre and get caught in an almighty traffic jam. What a mess! Incredible pollution and noise are overwhelming. The shopping centre is amazing, with a huge shop dominating the centre. The number of staff is absolutely amazing, with more than 30 people staffing the jean's section which would have had two people in a similar Australian store. They did not have anything to do and were just talking to each other. The real need was about two people. All the other sections were similarly overstaffed. The labour costs are obviously not high but the goods were much the same as back home. No bargins here. The centre also had its own indoor amusement park, a mini Luna Park.
After the here we caught a taxi to a seafood restaurant. This was, without a doubt, the most frightening car trip I have ever had. The driver did not seem to care about red lights, he drove most of the way on the wrong side of the road and went like he had been trained by Peter Brock. Despite this, we arrived alive and at the same time as the others in our group who left at the same time. The restaurant was very different. You selected the fish, prawns and vegetables and then they were cooked to your direction. I am not a seafood eater and three of us had an excellent Chinese-style meal which cost us $15 including three beers. The others had a massive feed, with prawns, fish, mussels, crab and extras (including beer and wine) for under $30 each.
Outside this place we were harassed by men and children trying to sell us everything from guitars to lighters. Despite telling the children (as young as seven) that I did not smoke, they would not give up. From here our big night out continued at the Casino. This is located on a ship called the Philippine Dream which is moored at the wharf at Pusok. The casino was not overly crowded when we arrived (it was already almost midnight) and we set about playing blackjack. With the exception of one person in our group (bad luck Steve) we really cleaned up on the night, with profits of $150 to $300 each. It made up for the $8 beers!
The next morning we were up early to go diving off Cabilao Island over 50 kilometres away. We load our gear aboard the banca and we are soon off on our way to what will be the dive of our life. However, this is another story and you can read about this amazing dive in the article linked above.