Philippines, Part 10: Luxury Travel, Filipino Style (Cebu)

We spent last week doing research, on stage at a Manila night club and on the catwalk at the Manila Sports Club. If you missed that episode or any other, you can find them here:

Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel
Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?
Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)

Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy (Baguio)

Philippines, Part 5: Hanging Coffins! (Sagada)

Philippines, Part 6: Voyage of the Icebox (Banauae & Batad)

Philippines, Part 7: Revenge of the Cockroaches (Manila)
Philippines, Part 8: Please Don’t Feed the Sharks (Anilao)
Philippines, Part 9: “Sexy Chic” at the Playboy Fashion Show (Field Study Research)
Philippines, Part 10: Luxury Travel, Filipino Style (Cebu)
Philippines, Part 11: Nuts to the Huts (Bohol)
Philippines, Part 12: If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island . . . (Panglao)
Philippines, Part 13: The Chocolate Hills (Bohol Again)
Philippines, Part 14: Trouble in Paradise (Malapascua)

With our wildly successful research project out of the way, we were ready to party it up in the Visayas, a group of beautiful islands south of the main island, Luzon. Because we were both cheap and adventurous (why do those two always go together so brilliantly?), we decided not to fly. Instead, we opted to take the Superferry. Some people were even cheaper and more adventurous than we were, and they bunked in large dorms with strangers during the 24-hour journey. We, on the other hand, booked Suiteroom #1, the most luxurious cabin on the ferry, and still a great bargain. Relatively speaking, it was indeed luxurious. For one thing, we were the only ones in it. For another, it had a private bathroom. Our baby was sleeping with us at the time, and we had a lot of experience in pushing furniture up against walls and strategically placing the bed so that she couldn’t fall out. So we had no trouble fixing up the bed so nobody would roll out of it, even when the sea was rolling under us.

There were only two problems with luxurious Suiteroom #1. First, there was a fairly bright light on the ceiling, which had no switch. We called in a member of the crew, who searched for the switch for a while, and finally told us that it needed to stay on for safety reasons. Fine. We settled down to sleep again, but were suddenly startled awake again by loud singing. It sounded like someone was in our cabin, performing an off-key serenade for us. Was this some extra perk for traveling in Suiteroom #1? We got up and traced the sound to a speaker located near the light. Again, we rang for a crew-member, and asked him how to turn off the speaker, which by this time we realized was broadcasting late-night karaoke from the ferry restaurant. Karaoke is a national passion in the Philippines. In fact, as we left Manila we were pleased to also leave behind the booming karaoke machine next door to our hotel. However, it looked like now we might just be out of luck when it came to avoiding karaoke. Our ever-helpful crew informed us that the speaker had to stay on, in case the captain needed to broadcast a safety message. He did show us the volume control, so we turned it down as low as it could go, and eventually went to sleep.

The Superferry docked at Cebu City, where we had been invited to stay at ACE (The Academy for Creating Enterprise). ACE was founded by the entrepreneur-in-residence at BYU (the Business School’s answer to the humanities department’s poet-in-residence). It is a school that teaches Filipino returned missionaries basic business skills and helps them to set up their own small businesses. Tony had a day there as a visiting professor, and gave a presentation about his research to the current class of students. That afternoon, we visited historical sites in Cebu City. We had already seen the miniature replicas of the Santo Nino in countless taxis throughout the city, so we stopped in at the Basilica Minore to see the Santo Nino himself, famous as the oldest Catholic artifact in the Philippines. He turned out to be a royally dressed little statue housed in an ancient stone church that has burned three times in its five hundred year history.

Just down the street from the Santo Nino we found Magellan’s Cross, planted when he first set foot in the Philippines and claimed it for Spain. Magellan’s conquest of the Philippines was ill-fated, and came to an abrupt end some time later. His last brilliant idea was a plan designed to impress the local tribal leader, Lapu-Lapu. Magellan hired a thousand Cebuano mercenaries and set off to attack Lapu-Lapu with some sixty of his own troops. When it actually came to the point of battle, Magellan decided he was more than capable of taking on Lapu-lapu himself. So he ordered the thousand Cebuanos to stand back and watch as he stood against Lapu-Lapu with only his own men. When Lapu-Lapu failed to flee, the Spanish beat a hasty retreat back to the ship. Ponderously backing away in his heavy armor, Magellan was wounded in the foot by a well-placed poisoned spear. He had to be unceremoniously carried back to his ship, where he died of several wounds, the largest having been inflicted on his pride. Lapu-Lapu became a national hero, and had the national fish named after him.

But our favorite place in Cebu City was the Butterfly Sanctuary, housed in the residence of one Professor Julian Jumalan, a 19th century scientist. Jumalan’s passion was butterflies, and he collected them, both in intact and fragmentary form. One doesn’t need to leave the Philippines to find an exotic array of beautiful butterflies, but Professor Jumalan did anyway. During his worldwide butterfly expeditions, he also collected various oddments from around the world. In the museum that was once his house, we enjoyed perusing his collections, ranging from insects to coins to musical instruments to cheap tacky souvenirs.

As well as being a well-known naturalist, Jumalan was an accomplished artist, of a genre I have never seen before or since. Adjoined to the museum was a small gallery of fabulous mosaics completely composed of butterfly wings. Each mosaic also had a matching watercolor painting, executed by the artist. Our favorite was an impressive portrait-mosaic of Lapu-Lapu. Outside was a beautiful and extensive tropical garden inhabited by a community of butterflies. We arrived on a fairly wet day (the rainy season had begun in force, which would lead to more interesting adventures later), so only a few butterflies were out. However, we did see representatives of each stage in the life-cycle, including a female butterfly flitting from leaf to leaf and laying an egg on each one. Our companions on the butterfly tour were a nice Australian couple who had come to have dental work done in the Philippines. They tried hard to sell us some Australian fire opals, but even though we didn’t buy, they were kind enough to drop us off downtown after the tour.

To finish it all off, we thought we would see some Chinese temples. We took a snazzy purple jeepney up to the Philippine-Chinese Religious Center, a charming little place with lovely tiered gardens watched over by a dozen or more dragons. Since the Center is in the heart of the city, the gardens are actually quite small, but they looked like they went on forever, thanks to the gardens and winding paths painted all over the walls. We were told that another jeepney ride would get us to the Taoist Temple, but they jeepney dropped us off somewhere in the middle of what we were informed was the “Beverly Hills” of Cebu. However, after a long, muddy uphill walk (no sidewalks in this Beverly Hills), we did finally make it to the Temple, a dramatic affair overlooking the city and the bay. From the top, we could see what looked like another ornate religious edifice, but was actually the Casino Filipino, which could compete with the most garish offerings in Las Vegas.

Stay tuned next week as we visit a hippy Belgian at a resort that’s just a bit too “authentic” in Philippines, Part 10: Nuts to the Huts.