2016 Cebu nightlife guide

This blog post was written on 2016.

For a lot of travelers, nightlife is ineluctably part of their itinerary. Sure, sightseeing and tours are a great way to see the city–but how do you truly know a city unless you’ve seen the night lights… unless you’ve mingled with the locals?

To upcoming tourists and travelers to Cebu, this is a comprehensive-as-possible guide on nightlife in Cebu, and on how, where and when to party when in the Queen City of the South.

party in cebu

Mind you, this guide features bars and clubs that I personally frequent–bars great for socializing, drinking and just having clean, good fun. So, this isn’t exactly the guide on bars that can help you ‘score’ some girls… sorry, not an expert in that department. Although

How to Drink and Party in Cebu?

There’s this widely known credence that Asians ‘can’t drink’… but this does not apply to Filipinos. The men have beer as drink accompaniment with their meals–breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether you are in the city or the province, you can walk around and will see groups of men huddled in a table, drinking together. They will often invite you to drink with them.

Filipinos love their beer and alcohol. Beer is the poison of choice for most Filipinos. In more formal occasions such as family gatherings where the titas and titos are sure to make an appearance, then they will take out their wine glasses. Otherwise, gin, rum and beer are a safe bet. Filipinos drink to get drunk. Period.

It’s amazing to see how many activities Filipinos can do intoxicated–they can drive, cook, go to work, and do their errands while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not something we’d recommend though.

Tagayan‘ is popular especially among Vis-Min area, a manner of drinking wherein instead of separate glasses for every drinker, only one cup is used and passed around. I know, it sounds very unsafe and unsanitary, but this is how Filipinos bond and show camaraderie.

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Filipinos like to drink with some food, known as ‘pulutan‘. These are often fatty deep-fried foods like chicken skin, sisig or nuts.

Karaoke is another popular nightlife activity, as majority of the Filipino population aspire to become famous singer-celebrities someday.

In Cebu, EDM or electro dance music is the preference of most partygoers, although the hiphop/r&b scene is slowly gaining momentum lately. A lot of visitors complain that Filipino bars and clubs tend to be ‘too loud’, where you can barely hear or speak to each other.

Cebu parties start late and end late. The clubs start getting packed by midnight. The party usually starts to subside by 3AM, although on high peak season party could last until 5-6Am.

It’s customary for partygoers to eat after-party, to regenerate some lost energy. Cebuano’s favorite post-party food of choice is bulalo. Other favorites include siomai and puso, ramen or noodles, silog (breakfast) food at Gian’s or fast food like Jollibee or McDonald’s. Cebuanos don’t care much about eating healthy…

When to Party in Cebu?

There seems to be an annual trend in the party scene in Cebu, with a high peak and low peak season–plan your trip accordingly. The night scene is pretty dead during the summer school break, around on April time, before it starts to pick up again during July when school season starts and tourists coming in. It gets even busier during ‘-ber’ months, peaking on December and January, before winding down again on February.

The best time to come to Cebu to party is during December to January, which is holiday season leading up to Sinulog season. Cebuanos are on ‘party mood’ during this time, as many balikbayans and overseas relatives come home during the holiday season. This means an endless string of christmas parties, reunions, homecomings, family parties, and more. Lechon, lechon, lechon. And plenty of Jose Mari Chan.

Sinulog is a different experience on its own that i would like to immortalize in a separate future blog post. But it’s definitely something one needs to experience, to get to know what Cebu party life and hospitality is all about. I met the best people and had the best experience every Sinulog!

 

Off-peak season is a bit trickier. Unlike major Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong or Manila where something’s always happening every day of the week, Cebu City still has some sleepy days. Nightlife is pretty good on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Saturdays being the busiest time of the week.

On Wednesdays, the most popular activity is Salsa Nights at MAYA, a Mexican restaurant of the Abaca Group in Crossroads, Banilad. Salsa night is every Wednesdays from 9PM to 12PM every Wednesdays. The crowd is hip and international, sharing the same love for latin music.

Where to Party?

Cebu nightlife is colorful, lively and loud. Filipinos  always have energy to go out and mingle.

  • LIV Superclub

LIV is the biggest nightclub in Cebu offers a club experience set at international standard. Famous local and international EDM DJs have played here, including Otto Knows, Dirty South, EVO-K and more. Even the Maria Ozawa has graced her presence here!

LIV Superclub is located at The Times Square, Mandaue City, Cebu. There is usually an entrance fee of Php300.

(photos grabbed from the LIV Superclub FB page)

  • Distillery

distillery crossroads cebu

Distillery is the default drinking place of choice for the people within my crowd. Distillery is located in the Crossroads, Banilad Cebu City. I could easily go there any day of the week alone, not make plans with anyone, and still find a friend or acquaintance lurking by (looking at you, Jedd and Alvin…).

The problem with Distillery is it can get a bit… clique-ish, because everyone knows everyone in here. It’s still a nice place to have drinks and listen to good music though.

 

  • The Sentral

The Sentral is Cebu’s first all-hiphop bar and lounge, providing the best of hiphop and R&B music in Cebu.The Sentral is located at Norkis Cyberpark, AS Fortuna, Mandaue.

  • Maya

Maya Mexican Restaurant is part of the Abaca group of restaurants and located in The Crossroads, Banilad, Cebu City.

Come to Maya at Wednesdays, when the second floor transforms into a salsa dance floor! Wednesday salsa nights attract a lively and international crowd. Maya Restaurant the best mojitos in town–which is 2-for-1 on salsa night! Starting mid-2016, Maya also has Salsa Sundays with 2-for-1 margaritas!

maya mexican restaurant cebu philippines

  • The Social

The Social is a restaurant and cafe by day, and a bar lounge by night. A lot of expats and foreign tourists prefer The Social because of its location and convenience, located in the 4F Ayala Center Cebu. They have Havana Nights on Tuesdays and one can also easily make friends by just chilling on the bar and watch football.

  • Ibiza

Ibiza Beach Club is a chic bar and lounge located in Movenpick Resort, Mactan. Modeled after the actual Ibiza in Spain, it offers a unique drinking and dining experience with a breathtaking ocean view. They have happy hour everyday from 3-5pm where drinks are 2-in-1, and have a lovely view of the sunset too.

Ibiza is one of my favorite spots in Cebu and would be here more frequently if it wasn’t so far away from the city central.

  • Morals and Malice

Morals and Malice is a posh and stylish lounge bar located about the Tinder Box, and right beside The Crossroads, Banilad. The interiors are a work of art, masterfully crafted by the famed Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue himself.

The bar’s interesting namesake is based on the two-part, yin-and-yang concept nature of the establishment. Half of the place will be serving coffee and brunch (Morals), whereas the Malice part serves drinks and cocktails.

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Image from The Inquirer
  • Mango Ave

I am not an expert when it comes to the party scene in Mango, but I’ve stumbled here on rare occasions when I already had that much to drink to make it ‘okay’ for me to venture out here. Something’s always going on in Mango–popular bars are J-Ave and Alchology. Things always seem to get weird here, one way or another… It’s definitely not boring though.

  • Other Chill Drink Areas

For wine nights, La Vie Parisienne and Ampersand are personal favorites. La Vie is affordable, while Ampersand is the more high-end choice with great food choices. Marriott Hotel offers unlimited wine on the evenings for only Php699/head, and is conveniently located beside Ayala Mall. Gusto Urban Deli + Cafe, District 53rd and Planet Grapes are also good choices.

Cebu has a growing number of pubs around the city to accommodate the growing population of expats and foreign visitors coming in. Aside from The Social, Marshall’s Irish Pub and Emerald Isle are recommended pubs to watch football or rugby (or your sport of choice).

For cocktails, I think Bellini is beautiful and underrated-this champagne lounge is located beside Anzani Restaurant in Nivel Hills, Lahug and offers a nice view. I’d recommend this place if you want some privacy or a quiet date night.

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Bellini (image source: Zee Lifestyle)

Other Nighttime Activities

Not really a party animal? There’s still tons of activities to do in Cebu when the sun goes down. If you enjoy singing as much as most Filipinos do, karaoke is a good nighttime activity. There aren’t many hookah bars in Cebu–although I’ve seen some in IT Park (Figola) and in Times Square, Mandaue City.

If you’re a self-proclaimed geek, you will enjoy trivia nights, slogos nights and board game nights which happen on various days of the week. Cebu Trivia Night is every Wednesdays at Alejandro’s and every Thursdays at Politics. Slogos Night is every Wednesdays at Monkey’s Belly and every Friday’s at Handuraw Kasambagan. Tabletop Nights allow you to play board games with fellow enthusiasts, held every Mondays at Bubble Bee Tea House Escario Central.

 

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What if I lose my Philippine passport?

Losing a passport is one of the most stressful things that could happen to a traveler, especially when abroad. In fact, it is also one of my biggest fears (gasp!)–I can imagine the headache and the hassle you have to go through, as well as the change of plans and expenses you will incur. Losing a passport is not very fun.

Even if you haven’t lost your passport, some preparedness and knowledge will come in handy in case the event arises (we hope it won’t!). This will help diminish stress levels. Read on if you want to know what to do in the case that you, or a loved one, lose a Philippine passport.

First, How NOT to Lose Your Passport

First of all, let’s talk about deterrents–how NOT to lose your passport.

Your passport should be the first and last thing you check when leaving or arriving at all times.

Most hotels have safe boxes–use them. Leave your valuables and passport when not needed. You’re less likely to lose your passport if you kept it safely locked in your hotel room than bring it with you everywhere. I don’t carry my passport unless I have reason to.

Granted, there are countries that do require mandatory identification checks. If you do choose to carry it around when touring, just make sure your wary of your valuables and keep your handbag close to you at all times.

Also, carrying a passport when clubbing is a bad idea.

Finally, always bring a photocopy of your passport when traveling. Leave a copy to trusted family and friends too, or even keep a digital version of your passport so you can easily print it when the need arises.

Losing Your Philippine Passport at Home

If you already lost all hope and resign to the fact that you have indeed lost your passport, you need to file an Affidavit of Loss and a Police Report. Get the Affidavit of Loss from a lawyer, where you will have to state all the details on how you lost your passport: when, where, how, etc. This document must be notarized.

For the Police Report, go to the nearest police station that covers the area where you lost your passport. Even if you lost your passport by sheer carelessness and not through criminal activity like theft or arson (hey, it can happen), you still need to file a police report.

Apart from these two requisites, you need the usual documents to passport application: your NSO birth certificate, valid Government-issued ID, etc.

Just go through the same process of applying for a passport, just pay an additional Lost Passport fee of Php200. To learn more about the new passport application process in Cebu, read my blog post here!

Losing Your Passport Abroad

If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, you need to act fast. The first thing you need to do is to file a Police Report. You’ll also need the police report for travel insurance claims and declaration of lost passport. Immediate action will also prevent anyone from using your passport illegally.

The next step is to locate and contact the nearest embassy or consulate (For a list of Philippine Embassies and Consulates around the world, refer to this link). You need to make a personal appearance, so book an appointment (as walk-ins are generally not allowed). The Philippine embassy or consulate or normally available for appointment on weekday mornings, so let’s hope you didn’t lose your passport over the weekend!

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Bring your police report, passport photos, itinerary, flight details and proof of citizenship.You will need to pay some fees in cash and should be able to get your temporary passport within 24 hours. The embassy or consulate can either give you a replacement passport that will allow you to finish your trip or an emergency travel document that will get you back home ASAP.

 

 

Aeroflot review: the good, the bad, the ugly

Looking for cheap flights to and from Europe? Then during your bargain hunting you have probably heard of Aeroflot. My first flight to Aeroflot was from Hong Kong to London and while admittedly I was a little scared after reading online reviews, I actually survived the flight.

I’ve flown quite a few times via Aeroflot and every time I say: Never Again. Still, a few days back I flew Aeroflot for the fifth time. So how bad is Aeroflot–or a better question, how can one survive Aeroflot?

Aeroflot is a Russian airline and one of the oldest in the world, founded on 1923.. During the Soviet era, it was the national airline and then the largest airline in the world. Following the USSR dissolution, it became semi-privatized with 51% still owned by the Russian government.

The Good

Aeroflot offer among the most competitive prices when it came to international flights to Europe and Asia. From HK, you can get to Europe for 25,ooo PHP to 30,000 PHP (around 500-600 USD) round trip.

While Aeroflot is known for having a poor safety record, it is worth noting that Aeroflot now has a modern fleet, with among the newest in London. Gone are the Soviet planes such as the Tupolev’s and Ilyuschin’s, as their fleet now consist mostly of Boeings and Airbuses.

A bulk of their fleet are Airbus 320s which they got in the last five years, making it among the youngest 320s in the world. Aeroflot also has brand new 777s and A330s to their fleet.

Aeroflot flies to 129 destinations and 49 countries worldwide covering all major continents except South America and Antarctica. Booking a flight on their website is very easy and convenient.

Their long-haul flights (HK-Moscow) often offer in-flight personal entertainment system with a decent media collection, but shorter flights (Moscow-London, Moscow-Paris) often don’t. The baggage allowance for Economy class flyers is 23 kg.

aeroflot russian airline

 

The Bad

While I did say that booking a flight is very easy, changing or canceling your flight is a completely different story. Most of the time you don’t have the option to do this online. You will have to call them, which requires you to talk to a Russian call center agent and is almost useless.

The flight crew in Aeroflot are very attractive, with their seductive names Anastasia, Alicia, Olga…but being a Russian airline, Aeroflot is not best known for their customer care. Russians are culturally known to be rude, but they really don’t mean to–they are just abrupt and brief like that. They will tell you ‘no’ simply, without any hint of apology. It takes the flight attendants a while to attend to your requests and even take out the food after meals. Politeness is not part of their system, as is smiling.

Food is actually decent, although their bread always tastes a bit like cardboard–moldy and hard to chew on, but I suspect that that’s how the Russians prefer their bread.

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The Ugly

If you don’t watch your flights carefully, you could end up like me: with a 16-hour layover to the Moscow Airport. It was probably one of the worst layovers of my life—As I am a Philippine passport holder, I needed a visa to leave the airport and explore Moscow (which I didn’t have).

Moscow Shermetyevo International Airport is the hub of Aeroflot, and is one of the three major airports in Moscow. In my opinion, this airport is just like a bigger NAIA. There is not much to do, wi-fi is slow and doesn’t work most of the time, and the terminals can get packed with people. Staff and crew in this airport can speak English, albeit limited. I did enjoy my vodka shopping at duty-free shops there, very cheap! (300PHP or 6 EUR for Russian vodka? Not bad!)

They do have a capsule hotel in Terminal D where you can sleep and shower while waiting for your flight. They charge you per hour use. Aside from long layovers, Aeroflot is also notorious for having almost always delayed flights. Not cool especially if you need to catch a connecting flight. I guess that’s why they have long layovers!

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The Verdict

In fairness, Aeroflot always exceed my expectations.. mainly ’cause I don’t really keep my hopes up every time. Flying Aeroflot isn’t that bad, but it isn’t great either. I would actually fly Aeroflot again for their attractive rates.

If you have an option to fly an Asian airline with a less than 5,000 PHP (100 USD) price difference, I recommend you fly the latter. You will get much better customer service. Moreover, I would not mind a layover in Dubai International Airport.

Other Alternatives

I saw China Southern and Air China offering really cheap flights to Europe too! I tried to book a China Air flight but it seems a lot more complicated on their website than Aeroflot’s.

 

How to Travel Green: Responsible & Sustainable Travel

We travel for a number of reasons: to escape, to live, to love. We travel to be reunited with nature, to rekindle my hope in humanity, to get in touch with the world. It’s all for the sake of love for self, for mankind and for planet. Personally, this connection is priceless: hence I will always decide on getting that one-way ticket over a Prada handbag.

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And yet, travel isn’t the most environment-friendly activity. I travel for the purpose of appreciating the world, but I’ve come to realize how much my travels have affected the environment: e.g., my boat trip to Surigao was spewing so much pollution that I could see the black smoke visibly on a starless night sky. I witnessed an increased algae growth in the shoreline during my last Boracay trip.

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The Cokaliong boat trip to Siargao. 😦

And I can’t just blame other people. I don’t want to wash my hands off the problem, being guilty myself as well. I can’t finish my food sometimes. I drink water from plastic bottles. I drive a gas guzzler. I fly–a lot.

Air travel has a significant harmful impact on the environment. Airplanes emit heat, noise and carbon emissions, thus a major contributor to climate change and global dimming. In fact, New York Times has referred to airline travel as ‘the biggest carbon sin’. Despite the recent improvements in aviation efficiency and reduction of emissions, the rapid growth of air travel still offset the technological advances.

It’s a bit too extreme to reject travel altogether for the sake of the planet, so instead we think about how we can reduce our carbon footprint. A green traveler should adhere to responsible travel practices that support environmental sustainability.

Often, these are things that we already knew but forgot along the way. A few reminders are always helpful. These little steps add up especially if more people do it. By being environmentally responsible, we ensure that the places we love to go to will last for a very long time, and hopefully our future grandkids will enjoy it as much as we did during our prime.

Here are some pointers on how you can travel green.

  • Pack light. When we can’t avoid flying, travel light. The more weight cars, trains and planes carry, the more fuel they consume, and the more carbon emissions they produce.
  • Choose the most environmental form of transport available. On shorter trips, travel by land instead of flying. When flying, you emit 3 to 7 times more greenhouse gases than when you take the car, bus or train. If you can avoid land transportation, walk or bike to your destination when possible.
  • Fly the most direct routes. Take off and landing consume the most energy.
  • Fly economy. First class seats take up more space, and thus more energy, up to 9 times larger than economy! Not only is it more budget-friendly to fly economy, but it’s environment-friendly too.
  • Offset your travel. We can’t avoid transportation–that’s a bit extreme. But why not offset your carbon emissions by doing something good for the planet. Plant trees, do cleanup drives and support environmental programs.
travel light
Travel light! Bring only what you need

During the trip:

  • Order what you can only finish. I know that Pork Medallion looks really good, but you can’t probably finish it anyway. Order what you can only finish, and take away leftovers. Advocate zero waste consumption for the good of the community.
  • Use reusable bottles. Cut down wasteful water bottle purchases by using reusable plastic bottles and refilling in water fountains when you can.
  • Reuse hotel sheets and towels. Conserve water and take shorter showers.
  • Skip the groceries, head for the local market. They probably sell the same thing,  but the grocery products are just placed in wasteful branding and packaging.
  • Take or leave your trash back home. Most developing countries don’t have proper recycling centers or proper waste disposal. Old gadgets, batteries and other synthetic items could be tossed in a landfill that could remain for hundreds of years. Pack them and Take back your trash. Recycle the cardboard boxes of toiletry products before your trip. Delimit your environmental footprint and encourage zero waste.
  • Switch off and unplug unused electronic devices and appliances when not in use. Limit your A/C, thermostat and hot water use only when necessary.
  • Support local. Support locally owned accommodations, eat at local restaurants, get local tour guides, buy locally grown food.
  • Be responsible with souvenirs. Don’t buy products that potentially endanger local treasures such as endangered species and cultural artifacts. Try not to pick up and bring home natural resources including shells, animal bones, plants and other artifacts.

 

 

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Eat local. Hahahaha. But seriously, this was an interesting try in Cambodia

 

  • Before doing volunteering efforts, do your research. So many scams and fake charity efforts have sprouted to fool do-gooders. Be responsible and know when and when not to volunteer.

 

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Travel quotes to inspire you to see the world

I’d like to share with you some of my favorite travel quotes that inspire me every day to go out there and appreciate the world. Enjoy, and share your favorite quotes too!

  1. “Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

    oh-the-places-youll-go-dr-seuss

  2. “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman

    Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.jpg

  3. “Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” – Ray Bradbury

    'Half-the-fun-of-the-travel-is-the-esthetic-of-lostness.'

  4. “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
    i-am-not-the-same-having-seen-the-moon-from-the-other-side-of-the-world

  5. “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

    traveling-leaves-you-speechless-and-makes-you-a-storyteller

  1. “The world is just awesome.” – Discovery Channel

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  2.  “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

    life-is-either-an-adventure-or-nothing-helen-keller

  3. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

    benjamin-disraeliLike-all-great-travelers,-I-have-seen-more-than-I-remember--and-remember-more-than-I-have-seen

  4. “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell

    “Travel-far-enough,-you-meet-yourself.”-

  5. “Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn

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  6. “Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

    Our-happiest-moments-as-tourists-always-seem-to-come-when-we-stumble-upon-one-thing-while-in-pursuit-of-something-else

  7.  “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai

    wherever-you-go-becomes-a-part-of-you-somehow

  8. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s deadly.” Paulo Coelho

    paulo-coelho-If-you-think-adventure-is-dangerous-try-routine.-It’s-deadly

  9. “Travel teaches toleration.” – Benjamin Disraeli

    travel-teaches-toleration

  10. “You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t choose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference.” – Anita Septimus

    “You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t choose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference.”

  11. “Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.” – Carol Pearson Heroes-take-journeys,-confront-dragons,-and-discover-the-treasure-of-their-true-selves

  12. “Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” – Isabelle Eberhardt

    _sun-drenched-elsewhere--Isabelle-Eberhardt-

  13. “Not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkein

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  14. “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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  15. “We travel to do everything, and to do nothing.” – Postcard Pretty

    we-travel-to-do-everything-and-nothing

How to fly with baby in tow

This blog was written on 2015.

As a wanderlust-turned-new-mother, I had to come to terms with the responsibility of motherhood and constant appetite for travel. ‘The world is your oyster’, they say–but what happens when you have to share that oyster with your little version?

Having your baby travel can touch a nerve to some. ‘He’ll hate travel when he grows up with all those tiring trips’, ‘he’ll get sick and you’ll regret it’, ‘he won’t remember much of it’, etc. These sentiments do come from others who really care. In retrospect, I am not trying to raise a global nomad of sorts; I just want him to spend as much time with me as possible, to nurture the same passions—in travel, art, history, cultures, languages, the world.

Caleb and I in Battle, Sussex, United Kingdom

Make the world their extended classroom, and nourish their love for travel while young. When I found out that Caleb has the same restless temperament, I knew we were going to be T.B.F.s (true best friends / travel buddies forever!). Travel will make him a confident decision maker, adventurous eater, multi-linguist, culture connoisseur—or not. (I will come back to you in a couple years time to confirm).

Thankfully nowadays for motherhood and traveling, you don’t need to choose one over the other, or sacrifice one for another. Travel is made more easy and accessible for the little ones. But I can’t lie and say traveling with a baby is easy, but it’s not impossible either. You need to be physically and mentally prepared to be airborne with a baby. Here are 7 things you need to know with baby air travel firsthand.

1. Stating the obvious: babies and planes don’t go too well together. travel

A long-haul flight with a baby can be an ordeal.  Take it from someone who’s been on a 14-hour flight with her 11-month-old. Airports are very stressful environments, and babies aren’t geared towards sitting for hours on a cramped airline seat. On top of that, airline passengers are not the most tolerant kind when it comes to crying babies.

To be fair, most of Caleb’s flying experience has been positive. He’s flown 10 times and mostly slept through it all. Still, a few set strategies can help make your flight experience more pleasurable.

First things first, forget about getting some rest or in-flight entertainment on air, else you might get a little disappointed.

2. Bring necessary documents.

Nowadays, even a newborn requires necessary travel documents such as passport and visa to travel around. At any time during check-in or immigration, personnel may ask for your child’s NSO birth certificate to prove parentage or legal guardianship.

Minors traveling abroad without their parents, even if they are traveling with relatives or older siblings, need to secure a DSWD Travel Clearance. In the Philippines, individuals under the age of 18 are considered minors.

3. Tire him out before the flight.

Before your flight, tire him out at the airport. Have him people-watch, run around, do activities—seriously, don’t tell him to behave! Better to get that toddler energy ball completely exhausted so he can sleep soundly later on the entire flight.

caleb at 5 months old, macau to cebu flightOn long haul flights, stopovers serve as a good break for you and your kid to stretch your legs, change clothes and exhaust that tiny energy ball again.

4. Pack well and strategically.

 Upon having Caleb, I quickly learned that he’s taken over my luggage space (little travelers need a surprising amount of stuff!).  Try to pack lightly and organize well. On our flight from Hong Kong at 5 months old, and we were sat at my favorite spot; the window seat. But my pleasure turned to horror when I had to annoy my neighbor quite a few times to get some things in the diaper bag throughout the flight. I made sure we get the aisle seat at all times after that.

Dress him in clothes that make for quick-and-easy nappy changes. A onesie and pajamas are always convenient, wherein you don’t need to take his clothes and shoes off for a change.

 5. Bring in the necessary entertainment.

No shaming on using technology, but a tablet with his favorite apps and videos will keep a toddler distracted for the time being. Babies might not have the attention span to appreciate technology for an extended time, so pack in a few portable toys in his diaper bag. Don’t take them all out at once–introduce a new toy until the novelty fades and he’s ready for a new one.

If you don’t want to pack too many things, don’t worry. The plane has plenty of stuff that Caleb found entertaining as well—the seatbelt, headphones, inflight magazines, and the cute flight attendant who would make funny faces with him.

6. Avoid ear pressure.

Ear pressure can cause unbearable pain for babies and children. Reduce ear pressure by having him nurse, suck a pacifier or drink from a bottle during takeoff or landing.

7. Be polite to the neighbors. 

Your infant can’t apologize for his actions, but you can. A crying baby is understandable, but an indifferent parent who act like nothing’s wrong, a parent who looks the other way while his kid is kicking at your seat. Be the polite parent and at least smile apologetically and say sorry.

Teach them the love for travel while young

Cebu Pacific travel hacks

This post was written on 2015.

I’m a frequent flyer of budget airlines including Cebu Pacific, but I’m not gonna lie: I had my own share of Cebu Pacific horror stories. I’ve waited six hours on the airport because of delays. I’ve been left by the plane (even if I was on time). A rude Korean passenger had constantly kicked my airline seat because he didn’t appreciate the plane’s legroom, so I decided to recline my seat to annoy him further. Because I can be nice like that sometimes.

Despite all my bad experiences, I still fly Cebu Pacific, because, why the hell not? No one can beat the CebPac rates. I’m a Cebu Pacific trooper since 2006 and I have seen great improvement on service and support throughout the years.

If you can’t beat Cebu Pacific, what can you do? Do damage control and mitigate (a word I just learned and so badly want to use!). Read through this blog to have future pleasurable flights through some important travel hacks and tips I’ve learned from my constant flights.

  • How to Avoid Delayed Flights

Per my experiences, domestic flights across all local airlines are almost always delayed from 15 to 90 minutes. That’s perfectly normal and something expected in the Philippines due to air traffic congestion, late arrival of aircraft from origin, among others.

The simplest solution is to take the first flight. The first flight is an originator flight, meaning it begins at your specific airport, meaning you won’t be waiting for your aircraft coming from another destination to arrive. A few minutes delay in the first wave of flights will mean delay in subsequent flights throughout the day.

Flying earlier in the day provide a lot of benefits. Sure, waking up before sunrise is hard, but that’s the only most difficult thing. I normally fly between 4am to 6am, or the first wave of flights for a number of reasons: to bypass traffic on the road, less people on the flight, flight crew still on a better mood (not yet sapoton), on-time flights, and these first flights often offer the cheapest rates.

  • How to Book Promo Flights

I’ve heard a lot of people whine that Cebu Pacific piso fares as scams or deceptive marketing strategies. Here’s what I got to say to the skeptics: the piso fare deal is real. I’ve booked piso fare flights countless times. Piso fare flights seem elusive to more people than others–you need to be smart and quick to get these flights!

Piso fares do get sold out quick. I constantly check Cebu Pacific’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts just to be ahead of everyone. The Cebu Pacific website is on my browser’s main web pages. What disorder do you call ardent stalking and an obsessive need to find promo flights? Because, I probably have that.

BTW, piso fare is only the base rate, and does not include other additional fees such as tax, VAT, web admin fee, baggage allowance, etc. It is still cheap however. To give you a good overview, here’s an estimate of roundtrip flights I’ve bought or seen during Cebu Pacific promos:

  • Cebu to Manila: Php 1,500
  • Cebu to Hong Kong: Php 3,000
  • Cebu to Singapore: Php 3,500
  • Manila to Sydney: Php 6,000
  • Manila to Dubai: Php 9,000
  • Manila to Siem Reap: Php 4,000

As of 2015, Cebu Pacific has also removed the fuel surcharge on all promo flights, in line with decreasing fuel prices worldwide.

No one knows when a promo fare comes out, but based on observation I often expect them to come out on Philippine holidays, and they usually make the promo announcements on ungodly hours like 12am-3am.

Sometimes, I could get the promo on a flight to a destination, but have a hard time getting the same promo offer on the return flight. If I can’t find a good return rate, I just buy a one-way ticket and worry about buying the return flight on the next seat sale.

Another tip: when I travel to Europe, I normally book a promo flight from Cebu to Hong Kong and then find another budget airline that can take me from HK to European cities for cheap (as low as 25,000php round trip!)

  • Check in Luggage or Hand Carry?

Prepaid baggage is a wise option to get as excess baggage rates are steep (especially for international flights). I’m a light traveler, so I can normally just backpack and skip check-in luggage. Most airlines allow a carry-on maximum of 7kg. To be safe, I sometimes purchase luggage on the return flight because my carry-on weight increases– dirty laundry is always heavier, plus additional shopping and pasalubong items add to the pile.

Trust me, I’ve begged another Filipino to place my excess items to his check-in luggage. I was refused and the nerve of him because he did not even look anything like JM de Guzman. Won’t work, it only happens in the movies.

(Additional note: Although to be fair, if someone asks you to place items in your luggage, it is wise to refuse, else you could be the next trafficking victim)

  • How to Avoid Missing a Flight 

You’re not a true traveler if you’ve never missed a flight. So far, I’ve missed one domestic flight (Cebu-Cagayan) and one international flight (Dubai-London) for different reasons, both which I traveled with family. I never missed a flight when traveling solo, probably because I’m more aware and accountable for myself when I’m alone haha.

Missing a flight is inconvenient, expensive and annoying. Missing a flight can get you stranded at the airport for several hours to a day. It’s something I never want anyone to experience, so here are tips on how to avoid missing a CebPac flight:

  • The most obvious tip: don’t stay too far from your gate. After going through check-in, immigration and security checks and once you’re inside the terminal, don’t get distracted about getting food or looking at duty-free shops. The first thing you need to do is to locate your gate number. Once you’ve found it, you can probably do your own thing if you still have extra time. But don’t stay too far away from your gate and be wary of any intercom announcements.
  • For connecting flights, allow at least 4 hour time allowance in between flights. Domestic flights are notorious for delays, and you need at least two hours to check in for international flights, go through immigration and security checks.
  • 5J vs TG. Know your Terminal number–especially when in NAIA. Most Cebu Pacific flights are in T3, but since the TigerAir and Cebu Pacific merger, you will now have to check if your flight is a 5J (Cebu Pacific) or a TG (TigerAir). TG flights are in NAIA 4.
  • Should I Get a GetGo Card?

GetGo is CEB’s newest rewards program for frequent fliers where you can earn GetGo points when flying Cebu Pacific. Through the points you can also earn free flights.

Those who were already signed up for CEB Club become automatic GetGo Members. Non-CEB Club members can become GetGo members by paying the initial membership fee of P150.

I am now a GetGo member but still waiting for my card to arrive via mail. I haven’t converted points for free flights yet, so I’ll reserve judgement as of now (but I will update you soon). It’s worth a try to get a GetGo card, there’s nothing to lose. Currently, they are still on beta mode and improving the system and partnering with more merchants to create a more pleasant lifestyle program for their members.

getgo-membership-card

So there you go–some CebPac Travel Hacks that can improve the quality of our flight experience. Let’s make every flight count!

(DISCLAIMER: These insights are based on my personal experiences and may not reflect the experience of other travelers.)

30 travel tips for the wanderlust on a budget

This article was published on Sunstar Weekend around March 2014 (I think). I don’t have the hard copy so I’m publishing the soft copy on my blog instead. Thank you fellow travelers for your wonderful insight on traveling on a minimal budget. Rest in Peace, dear big traveler Jethro Estimo who also shared his tips in this article.

A wanderlust has a passion—and almost animalistic lust—for travel. That need to ditch our desks and hit the beach is all too familiar to us–but while we all love travel, most of us don’t get to travel as much as we hope. And with summer just around the corner, we’re all starting to feel that travel itch again.

So what do you do if you don’t have enough capital to cure a bad case of wanderlust? You don’t need to forgo that dream vacay– The key is to travel more, spend less; finding ways to stretch your money’s worth.

Gone are the days when travel was only a luxury for the rich and famous. Budget airlines, promo airfare and Internet booking have provided a wider window for travel opportunities. A limited budget is no longer a hindrance to travel—in fact, it can be a challenge to see ‘how low you can go’. Part of the adventure is going out there and having some sort of money limit. Spending less lowers the barrier between you as tourist and the culture you traveled so far to experience.

Here are 30 tips from backpackers and seasoned travelers in Cebu for the fellow thrifty wanderlust:

On Booking Tickets, Planning an Itinerary and Packing:

carla adlawan

‘Keep your eyes peeled for cheap flights. Subscribe to airlines’ newsletters, visit their websites religiously. As soon as you see that seat sale, book it! Your dream vacay starts by booking that flight.’ – Carla Adlawan

hannah katrina lim

‘These days there are heaps of good travel advice everywhere. From websites to personal blogs—good and bad reviews alike assist you in every step of travel planning’ – Hannah Kate Lim

honeylette to chip

‘For tickets, check local budget airlines. You can do this by going on Wikipedia and searching for the airport of your destination. It’ll list the airlines that land in that place. Compare rates and book the best price’ – Honeylette To Chip

chacha mercado lee

‘Read airline policies beforehand, especially with budget airlines. Know their restrictions when it comes to baggage allowance, check-in instructions, printing boarding passes, etc. in order to avoid unnecessary penalty costs – Chacha Mercado-Lee

‘Sometimes if you go back to an airline website multiple times, the price gets higher. It’s a technical thing… they remember your computer so it offers higher rates each time you come back’ – Honeylette To Chip

dj tudtud

‘Never forget to bring an extension cord so you don’t have to think about buying lots of travel adaptors. All you need is to plug all your devices in the extension cord, attach a universal travel adaptor and you’re good!’ – DJ Tudtud

‘The obvious is to book your flights in advance. Their promo rates are available around three months ahead if you book it online’ – Atty. Janjan Perez

jon cabiles

Staying in hostels is a great way to save money and meet other travelers. Check websites like airbnb—the places are cheap and these places often have the added benefits of doing your laundry and kitchens where you can cook your meals for free’ – Jon Cabiles

hannah bacalla

‘Travel off-season to find better deals, budget rooms and cheaper airfare. Explore like a local—ditch the usual tourist spots and explore the city’s hidden gems’ – Hannah Bacalla

audi villa

‘Never have your currencies changed at the airport’ – Audi Villa

On Touring and Getting Around:

bait nicart

‘Your itinerary serves as a guide. You don’t need to follow it to the dot but it’s usually more expensive to be spontaneous (albeit certainly more fun) – Bait Nicart

johnn mendoza

Foursquare is a really useful app with various tips especially for a newcomer in a certain place. ’ – Johnn Mendoza
patricia zosa

‘Wear your most comfortable shoes! Saves you transpo allowance. Let’s you take your workout on the road too.’ – Patricia Zosa

‘Think like a video game character. Establish savepoints & waypoints. Learn and research subway and commute routes, so you can get lost worry-free and easily retrace and load from last save’
Victor Villanueva, film director

jethro estimo‘Go in groups of two or more so you can save a ton, especially in accommodations and commute fares’ – Jethro Estimo

karlo pacheco

‘As much as possible, take an overnight train/bus/boat to your next destination—it saves you money on accommodations.’ – Karlo Pacheco

danielle aballe

‘Museums usually have high entrance fees; but do a little research beforehand—there are usually entrance-free days. To save you some buck schedule your visit on those free days’ – Danielle Aballe-de los Reyes

sam despiSave yourself some time by knowing the local name of the places. Keep them on your phone or write them on a piece of paper. This is especially helpful in places with their own alphabet. When I was in Thailand 90% of the cab drivers didn’t speak English well and we couldn’t pronounce names of the destinations properly. That wasted a lot of time. It surely helped when we looked up the names online and in the Thai alphabet’ – Sam Despi

On Food & Shopping:

celeste rodriguez

‘Hit the groceries, find a park in the city and have a delicious picnic with a gorgeous view. Saves you a whole lot of dough’ – Celeste Rodriguez

janjan perez

‘Avoid the tourist-y restaurants and cafes because the prices are sure to be jacked up. Look for eateries frequented by the locals—that’s where the good food and good value is found. – Atty. Janjan Perez

victor villanueva‘Check out food areas near universities. They have tasty food on a student budget. Plus get to know the students for possible true love’ – Victor Villanueva

paolo manalac

‘When challenged with the language barrier, I just use the mighty pointing finger and point at whatever that guy’s got. You will have a sample of local flavor and an extra bang for your buck’ – Paolo Mañalac

radel paredes

‘Pack some instant noodles. They make great emergency food. Some airports, like in China, provide free hot water. You can also ask from stores’ – Radel Paredes

hanz libato

‘Make sure to start early and eat breakfast before you leave the hotel. Never go out hungry or else you’ll end up spending more in restaurants’ – Hanz Libato 

homer mediciDon’t hoard on pasalubong or souvenirs. You will just have a hard time packing them, and might even end up paying for additional baggage fees.Homer Medici

And Others:von jovi jover

‘Learning a few local street words help a lot, especially in Asian countries. Usually protects you from getting ripped off by locals or charging a crazy amount of money ‘ – Von Jovi Jover

Always be nice, try to make conversation. One time, I got upgraded to business class just because I made the check-in counter girl laugh, like she really lol’d. I wonder how that worked because I thought it was a really corny joke. This and many other things I wondered while sipping my wine in business class.’ – Victor Villanueva

‘Research on prepaid plans for internet and phone if you want to be constantly connected. Your phone will serve as your navigation device too and you’ll never get lost’ – DJ Tudtud

honeylette to chipTripAdvisor is helpful but not all restaurants and hotels that are rated highly are as good as they seem. Some people are paid to give good ratings and reviews to places’ – Honeylette To Chip

10 Moments of Culture Shock in Europe as a Filipino

This post was written on 2014.

Traveling to an unfamiliar place is always full of surprises. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and urges you to leap unto the unknown. That’s why traveling can be so liberating and beautiful. Seeing the world gives you a whole change of perspective. The customs and beliefs you’ve learned since you were young suddenly get challenged when in a strange and new place. venice-italy-gondola-europe-ride Europe has always been a place of wonder and romance for me–a place from dreams of a little child. I thought I’ve read enough books seen enough Downton Abbey to prepare myself on what Europe is like. But, just like marriage, you can never be fully prepared for what’s to come. Here are 10 moments of culture shock you’ll likely experience as a Filipino traveler!

1.  Sparkling Water

The first culture shock I experienced was in Venice after a long-haul flight & three stopovers from the Philippines. Thirsty and famished, my family and I found the first restaurant we could find in Venice. I ordered one bottle of water, and when it arrived I drank it up immediately, only to spit it out in shock because it tasted like gas.

People, why do you drink this.

In Europe, they serve two types of water but Filipinos are only used to drinking the still water kind.In some other areas, they serve two types of iced tea too–the still and carbonated kind. So be specific if you want your drinks without the bubbles.

2. You have to do a lot of walking.

You’ll get to do a lot of walking. A lot. One time, I was told we were going to visit a friend’s place and not to worry because it’s ‘just a five-minute walk away’. To me, a ‘five-minute walk’ meant walking to the next block. To them, it means a 1-km walk. I wasn’t prepared with layers so was not happy freezing to death.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 2.08.16 PM
Lovely view, but it’s been a long day!

The Philippines does not have the ideal setting to nurture the pedestrian culture. Blame it on a combination of climate, politics, urban planning and discipline (or lack thereof), but we grew up in a car-priority society. To get from point A to point B, we mostly ride the jeepney or taxi, we drive our cars (and get our licenses without taking any driver’s test). The option to walk is very limited in the Philippines, mainly because our cities are built to discourage walking. There are no safe place for pedestrians on the road, and walkers have to run for their lives even when walking on pedestrian lanes. Doctors say that walking is good for the heart, but how can we eliminate the risk of dying every time– either by getting run over or developing a pollution-causing terminal illness?

3. Sorry, we’re closing.

While in Europe, I’ve been refused by shops a number of times because they were going to close in a few minutes. I was appalled at first (the businessman in me wanted to scream: but don’t you want my money?!?!). 

We are so used to the 24-hour convenience of Asia that the idea early closing times is distressing. What if I crave for 7-Eleven ice cream or Korean instant noodles in the middle of the night? What if I suddenly want to work out at Citigym Waterfront because I feel fat at 3am? In Cebu, many shops, restaurants and even gyms are open 24/7. In Europe, shops close early at around 5pm-7pm.

Many shops close on Sundays and holidays (museums close on Mondays, by the way). On some occasions, you will find your favorite store suddenly closed for the whole summer because the storekeeper is on vacation. Or closed for winter because no one really wants to work on winter. Did I mention that they don’t have 24 hour drive-thru? Nor a pizza delivery service? Tsk.

4. Don’t they feel just a little bit claustrophobic?

For such tall people, the Europeans seem to like everything tiny and cramped. All over Europe everything feels like it’s specifically Asian-tailored–their hotel rooms, wardrobes, toilets, cars… While I don’t mind, being Asian and all. But I wonder, If I’m a six-foot-tall European, I would probably feel just a little claustrophobic.

I wish Europeans would better take care of their cars though. Drivers would bump on to other people’s cars just to squeeze in a tiny parking space. But just as one Italian friend put it: ‘what’s the use of the bumper but to bump on it?’

5. Thinking about Clothes.

Dressing in the Philippines is relatively easy. You put on a shirt, shorts or jeans, snickers (slippers if you’re feeling more casual), and you’re good to go. Some people choose to suffer for fashion and put on boots and suits in this sweltering 30-degree weather. Dressing up in a place with four seasons is fun at first. Later on, it gets tedious. Dressing up takes at least 30 minutes for me on winter. I hate the fact that I have to wear five layers of clothing–and make sure all the clothes match together. I hate the fact that it adds 5kg to my weight. I hate that I couldn’t look cute if I wanted to. Nor the fact that clothes and shoes I got for UK would be impossible for me to use when I’m back in the Philippines.

5.1 …or the lack thereof.

I’ve seen a lot foreigners in Philippine beaches and it’s easy to tell which one’s American and which one’s European–their swimwear. Americans settle for the long swim shorts that Filipinos wear too. Again, Europeans seem to like everything teeny-weeny. (If I were male, I’d probably feel claustrophobic inside those Speedos too)

To illustrate my point…

Nude beaches are all the range in Europe. They are laissez-faire when it comes to public display of personal goods. However,  if you’re a little squeamish about nudity, do research on which beaches are ‘family-friendly’. All other beaches that aren’t family-friendly will most probably give you some degrees of a good boob show. I’ve been to a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea and have seen women go topless by the pool or on beaches in Greece. I have no problem with that but… based on my experience, most women who don’t go topless, should. Most women who go topless–really shouldn’t. I’m talking about you, Grandma.

6. Feels like you’re back in the past

It still amazes me how people in Europe still prefer to read a book in the subway, or sketch outdoors in the park, or actually talk to people and make actual eye contact. In cafes you’re forced to talk to your acquaintances because wi-fi is mostly not available (or horrible).

Sketching new ideas
Sketching new ideas

I remember coming back to Hong Kong from London and the moment I stepped out of the airport– each face is glued to their respective screens–and I’m suddenly reminded that I’m back in Asia. Technology hasn’t escaped Europe though, and you’ll find some people in their mobile phones. They aren’t as selfie-crazed. The kids still prefer to play in parks rather than stare down at tablets all the time.

I'm trying to take a selfie as subtle as possible or I might embarrass myself
I’m trying to take a selfie as subtle as possible because I don’t want to embarrass myself

7. Nothing ever costs like peanuts.

I remember exchanging my months’ worth of savings to euros–a thick wad of peso bills changed into five notes in the euro currency. Five notes–all my months’ salary worth and my confidence down the drain. Coming from a third world country, I can’t help but convert everything to local currency. Shopping in Europe means I would mentally convert it in peso and think really hard if I really need it. Who wouldn’t feel bad if a cup of nuts in the UK would be able to be feed you lunch and dinner in the Philippines?

Smile and pretend you didn’t regret buying this, Rachel…

8. PDA

Everywhere in Europe, especially Paris, I am forced to watch soft core porn–whether it’s on the romantic lock bridge by the river Seine or while queuing up for a crepe.

Even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.
Even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.

Yes, even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.

9. European smiles take a bit of effort.

Filipinos are generally cheerful– we love to laugh and smile. We give it openly and freely. We laugh when we’re happy, excited, embarrassed or even when we’re a little annoyed. In fact, even when I’m chatting with friends, if I don’t put a ‘hahaha’ at the end of every sentence they would think something’s wrong with me. That’s how we take our jovial attitude seriously.

Europeans look more stern and very serious. They keep a straight face when telling a joke. I thought at first that it probably hurts for them to move their zygomaticus major muscle. Or,maybe they have poor dental care. hehe. Kidding aside, Europeans aren’t really aloof or miserable, as is the common misconception– but they just don’t like to smile without reason. They are generally more reserved and somber compared to Americans or Filipinos.

10. The churches are empty.

I come from a country where it’s dominantly Catholic, people are very religious, and the church is still relatively powerful when it came to people’s and government’s decisions. Most Filipinos from middle to upper class studied in a Catholic institution where we were taught to memorize our prayers and observe religious practices strictly. Going to church every Sunday is part of every Filipino’s lives. So to get to Europe and to see all these beautiful churches and cathedrals–and to find their Sunday service almost empty–feels a bit weird. Most of Europe’s churches now work as museums for tourists to gawk at. While some churches still hold Sunday mass, attendees are sparse and few. Even the shoddiest chapel in a Philippine barangay get more attendees–and observers are willing to pack in like sardines just to observe mass.

Beautiful Florence Cathedral
Beautiful Florence Cathedral
Sunday Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Sunday Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

What are your personal moments of culture shock while you’re in Europe, or Asia, or other parts of the world? Share your own experiences in the comment box and let me know!