Day1: Jan 17, 2019 Departure from Honolulu
We checked in at the Philippine Airlines counter, which had a dedicated line for our group. The airline provided us with a “gold line” at TSA, which made our inspection so much faster.
The flight (PR#101) was 10hr45min nonstop to Manila. We were served with two hot main meals and a snack with a choice of pork barbecue or kung pao chicken and pancit & pork or beef lasagna. We enjoyed our special meals.
Day2: Jan 18, 2019 Manila – Cebu
We arrived safely in Manila at 4:45 p.m., then went through the entry process and down to the baggage claim. Our bags were tagged to Cebu for the connecting flight and we proceeded to the domestic gate.
We arrived in Cebu after a slight delay. Upon arrival, we were greeted by staff from the Dept. of Tourism holding a JTB sign and leis, a pleasant surprise!
We were met by our Cebu tour guide with leis and checked into the modern deluxe Hotel Bai, which was conveniently located across from a shopping mall.
Day3: Jan 19, 2019 Art and Deli Tour
The buffet breakfast at Cafe Bai was out of this world! It included Western, Asian, Japanese and local food with a live cooking station. You name it, they had it! After the sumptuous meal, we went off to a factory tour. Our first stop was at Pro Food Dry Mango factory with a high standard and strict quality control, where we observed the process of producing dried mango. Cebu is known for mango, but at this factory they also produces dried bananas and coconuts as well. We also learned that the factory does not waste anything — seeds are used for steaming and fermentation and rejected mangoes are processed into animal feed. After the tour, we had some time to do shopping at the factory gift shop.
Our next stop was United Jewels Fashion & Accessory where the intricate jewelry are all handcrafted. From tiny specks of beads to large pieces of leather, the finished products are all very beautiful.
For lunch, we drove 20 minutes on a scenic road to arrive at garden restaurant Chateau De Busay. The restaurant sits 1,000 feet above sea level with stunning views that are popular among locals for wedding receptions. We were served a full course meal starting with soup, salad and main dishes — calamari, chicken, beef, pork, rice and vegetables — and fruit for dessert.
After the sumptuous meal, we headed to Ayala Mall to do some shopping before visiting a chocolate factory.
At the chocolate factory, we learned the traditional method of making chocolate from cacao beans. This was a rare opportunity and everyone was very grateful. We had a chance to taste fresh, pure chocolate at an elegant table setting. We were fortunate enough to meet chocolate queen, Ms. Raquel Choa (founder). She shared her very touching life story with us.
We returned to our hotel around 5 p.m. and had a chance to watch the Pre-Sinulog Festival with a traditional Filipino dance in the hotel lobby.
Day4: Jan 20, 2019 Sinulog Parade-Festival
We left the hotel at 9 a.m. to attend the annual the Sinulog Festival, a highlight of our tour! Due to the festival and road restriction, we were divided into 3 separate vans instead of a coach bus, which was great since we were able to drive through small alleys where we were exposed to local living and lifestyles, a big contrast to city living. The hotel prepared a sack lunch for us since it was impossible to dine at a restaurant during the festival. We had an assigned area where we could enjoy the performance.
The Sinulog Festival is the ritual prayer dance honoring senor Santo Nino (the child Jesus). The annual cultural & religious festival is centered around the Santo Nino Catholic Celebration. It is held on the 3rd Sunday of January in Cebu city and is one of the grandest & most colorful festivals in the Philippines, attracting one to two million people from all over the country and around the world. The festival is also famous for its street parties starting the night before through the night of the main festival. Many clubs and organizations participate in this festival and compete in a dance contest with colorful & elaborate floats. Dance is categorized as Sinulog based, freestyle or street dancing.
We left the festival at 1 p.m. and continued on our tour.
The next stop was Cebu Taoist Temple. On the way to the temple we drove through an area called “ Beverly Hills,” the rich area with gorgeous homes 360 feet above sea level with stunning views.
The temple is the center of worship for Taoism and was built by Cebu’s Chinese community in 1972.
We returned to the hotel around 3 p.m. and was free for the rest of the day. Some of us had a chance to view a fireworks competition from the rooftop of the hotel.
Day 4: Jan 21, 2019 Cebu/Bohol
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and left at 9 a.m. for the continuation of our Cebu tour.
We visited Basilica Del Santo Nino (honoring the holy child Jesus). It was founded in 1565 and is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, built on the spot where the image of Santo Nino was found during the expedition of Miguel Lopez De Legazpi.
Next we stopped at Magellan’s Cross, which was planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers and ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon his Cebu arrival. It is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica of Santo Nino and is protected from the public. Their belief is that the cross has miraculous power. Visitors will throw in candles & monetary gifts for blessings.
Next we made a quick stop at Yup Sandiego Ancestral House. The house was built around 1675-1700 and exudes a long forgotten era. You can feel it in the creaking sound of the floors and staircases. Its roof and walls are 95% original and the current owner and his family still live in the house on special occasions. The house is one of the oldest homes in the Philippines and filled with many priceless hand-carved furniture and antiques.
Next we visited Ft. San Pedro, a military defense structure in Cebu built by the Spanish. It is located in an area called Plaza Independencia in the pier area of the city. The original fort was built by wood, but was rebuilt in stone in the 17th century in order to repel Muslim raiders.
Next we headed to Ferry port for Bohol Island. Sack lunches were provided for us at the pier. We were met by our Bohol tour guide and she sailed with us to Bohol, which was very comforting.
Our ferry departed at 1 p.m. for a 2-hour sail to Bohol and we were seated in business class, which was big plus! We were on the upper deck and assigned reclining seats, which were very comfortable. Some of us watched movies and some just took short naps.
Upon our Bohol arrival, we collected our luggage and headed to our resort hotel, Bellevue hotel. We checked into our hotel around 4 p.m. and had enough time to freshen up for a 5:30 p.m. pick up for our fireflies tour.
The hotel is very gorgeous and sits on a white sandy beach with breathtaking views.
Our dinner was at Bee Farm, which offers buffet style organic homemade local cuisine. Many of us took the opportunity to shop at the gift shop for organic merchandise produced at Bee Farm. For example, pure honey, a variety of dressings and much more.
Next was the Firefly tour. We boarded a boat at 7 p.m. for a 1-hour boat tour on Abatan River which took us to an amazing light show of fireflies that looked just like Christmas tree lights! It was a unique cultural adventure to see the natural beauty of the Abatan River. According to our guide, the lifespan of fireflies is 2 weeks to 2 months. They are the size of rice and feed on pollen and nectar. We also learned that only male fireflies produce light. We learn something new everyday.
We returned to the hotel around 9:30 p.m. for a good night’s rest.
Day5: Jan 22, 2019 Bohol countryside tour
We visited another highlight of the tour in this eco-friendly island of Bohol.
On the way to Tarsier Sanctuary, we drove thru a man-made mahogany forest that stretches out to 2 km of green lush, carpeting the slope of the ground. In 1960, volunteers planted mahogany trees to prevent soil erosion and it is now protected by law with no cutting of trees allowed. Because of the beauty of the forest, it has been used as a backdrop for films in the past.
Our first stop was Tarsier Sanctuary, one of the highlights of the tour where tarsiers live in the wild.
Tarsiers are very tiny animals. The animal’s body is no greater than the size of the human palm and it has huge eyes that are heavier than its brain. Their long hind legs enable them to leap up to 5 meters between branches. They feed on insects and drink only juice from trees or rain water. They resist captivity and will not drink from any container and are very suicidal. Tarsiers will have 1 birth a year.
We were lucky enough to see this cute tiny creature up close to take some photos, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
The next stop was another highlight of our tour, Chocolate Hills.
Chocolate Hills are a geological formation. There are at least 1,260 hills and maybe up to 1,776 hills spread over a 50 km area. During the dry season, the hills will turn color to brown like chocolate, hence the name. We saw green hills, so we called them mint hills.
Chocolate hills have been declared the country’s third National Geological Monument and proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Some of us climbed 220 steps to the top of the viewing point for breathtaking, panoramic views of the hills.
Nowhere in the world can you have this experience except in the Philippines!
The next stop was our river cruise lunch. We had a reserved boat all to ourselves, which was very nice.
We were served a local food buffet lunch, which was very ono, and on top of this we had live entertainment on board. Some of us enjoyed dancing to the music. It was a very relaxing, serene cruise to enjoy the beauty of the river and surroundings. During the 1-hour ride, the boat made one stop at a grass hut where locals performed a traditional dance and some of us joined them to participate in the bamboo dance.
We also made another stop at a Butterfly Garden.
Carefully and uniquely created, this garden houses over 20 species of local butterflies fluttering inside the enclosure along with caterpillars feeding. An open portion of the butterfly garden with plants and flowers attract the butterflies, even though they are free to go into the wild.
We had an opportunity to see gold and silver butterfly cocoons on plants, which resemble Christmas ornaments.
We were guided by very knowledgeable staff with a wonderful sense of humor. With a creative photo technique, we grew wings and became like butterflies. It was very educational, yet fun!
We made a quick stop at the Blood Compact statue. Around mid-March 1565, General Miguel Lopez De Legazpi & the chief of Bohol Datu Sikatuna entered into a blood compact for the purpose of ensuring friendly relations between the Spanish and Filipino.
On the way to our hotel, we made a roadside stop at the Tire Craftsman’s workshop, where they create various household items, including beautiful decorations and practical furniture from old tires. It was very skillful and creative. Nothing got wasted on Bohol’s eco-friendly island.
We had time to freshen up for dinner at 7 p.m. and had the 2nd floor all to ourselves for a private dinner. We had an 8-course dinner with a mix of local, Chinese and Western dishes. We had a birthday girl on tour and the live band played a song for her. After the dinner we went down to our reserved table in the courtyard to enjoy live music and dancing. Many of us really danced the night away and had a great time.
Day6: Jan 23, 2019 Bohol – Manila
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and departed for Tagbilaran Airport, a brand new modern airport that cannot compare to the old airport.
There was a slight delay for our flight but we arrived Manila in time to complete our tours. Upon arrival we were met by our tour guide.
The first stop was an anxiously awaited buffet lunch at a nearby hotel.
Then we were off to St. Joseph Church in Las Pinas just south of Manila city, for a viewing of a bamboo organ which is still in use. The Bamboo Organ, a pipe organ made mostly with bamboo, has 1,031 pipes, 902 made of bamboo. The annual International Bamboo Organ Festival where you can enjoy the unique sound of the organ is very popular and attracts many visitors from all over the world.
Next we visited Sarao Jeepney Factory.
This factory has no automation with everything built by hand. Jeepney is the most popular means of public transportation and you will see very long lines of passengers at the Jeepney stop.
Jeepney was originally made from US military jeeps left over from WWII and is known for its very colorful design and overcrowded seating. Mostly Isuzu engines are used, while the body is made with galvanized steel or stainless steel.
We had an opportunity to witness and learn about Jeepney, which you cannot experience anywhere else in the world.
We checked into the Dusit Thani hotel and the rest of the day was at our leisure. The hotel is conveniently located near 3 shopping malls where most of us had dinner.
Day7: Jan24, 2019 Manila City Tour
Our first stop was at Ayala Museum, located in Makati. Ayala center is in walking distance from our hotel and you can visit on your own if you are interested in learning more about the Philippines.
It is privately owned by the Ayala Foundation established in 1967 and it was moved to its current six-story modern building in September 2004. The museum offers sixty handcrafted dioramas & ethnographic & archaeological exhibits on Filipino culture, art & history. Very educational!
The next stop was Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. It was dedicated in 1960 to honoring those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. It occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau visible at a distance from the east, south and west. It contains the largest number of graves of military dead from WWII. On the premises: Wall of missing, The Memorial, The Chapel & The Altar.
Next we visited Rizal Park, a historical park in the Philippines. The execution of Filipino patriot Jose Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896 fanned the flames of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The monument enshrining his remains is guarded 24/7 by a soldier.
The next stop was the Walled City of Intramuros/Fort Santiago. Intramuros is the historic walled area within the modern city of Manila. It was the seat of government and political power when the Philippines was a component realm of the Spanish empire, and also the center of religion, education & economy.
It leads us to Ft. Santiago, a citadel built by Spanish conquistador for the newly established city of Manila. The defense fortress is part of the structure of the Walled City-Intramuros and it is one of the most important historical sites in Manila. Some lives were lost in its prison during the Spanish period & WWII. Jose Rizal was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896.
We transferred to Robinson Mall for lunch by JEEPNEY!
We split into 2 Jeepney for 20 minutes, an exciting ride we will never forget! It was awesome and so much fun being like a local, riding through the noisy and very lively streets of Manila. This is another experience you cannot get anywhere in the world.
We returned to the hotel with enough time to freshen up for our dinner at Barbara’s.
We arrived Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant located in Intramuros just in time for the dinner show. The restaurant offers authentic Filipino cuisine inspired by colonial times with a variety of ingredients & flavors to enjoy with a quaint old-world ambiance.
The cultural show was fantastic. You are entertained with a variety of Filipino traditional dances & folk songs from all areas of the Philippines. At the end of the show, guests can participate in a traditional bamboo dance. We returned to the hotel around 10 p.m. for a good night’s sleep.
Day 8: Jan 25, 2019 Shop till you drop at Green Hills
Green Hills Mall is located in San Juan Philippine, and opened in early 1970. It is among the first shopping centers in the Philippines. It houses more than 2,000 shops/booths and offers everything from pearls to electronics, clothing, shoes, accessories, knock-off brand name bags, you name it, they got it. And you can still bargain, which makes shopping more fun.
After all the shopping we were pampered with a 1-hour full-body massage which was needed badly.
The spa was able to accommodate all of us at the same time, which was very nice. Some members enjoyed a foot massage instead of a body massage. It was very relaxing and soothing, making us feel like we just wanted to sleep.
After the massage, some people continued to explore the Green Belt Mall within walking distance from our hotel, and the rest of us were dropped off by bus at the hotel.
The rest of the night was free at our leisure.
Day 9: Jan 26, 2019 More shopping and Casino visit
Today was another shopping day and casino visit. On the way to the mall we made a quick stop at the Manila International Air Terminal which used to be the airport runway. It was converted into a fine-dining restaurant.
Our next stop was the SM Mega Mall, the 2nd largest in the Philippines & 7th largest in the world. It is so huge that you literally can get lost.
You can find anything you need with a variety of shops that fit your budget. The mall has many restaurants to dine and relax after all your shopping.
From one mall to another, our next stop was the MOA (Mall Of Asia) for additional shopping. Four buildings are interconnected by walkways for convenience. The entertainment building houses the 1st IMAX in the Philippines. Of course, there were many shops from large department stores to boutique shops, a paradise for shoppers.
The next stop was the City of Dreams Casino.
This resort consists of six hotel towers which include the Nobu hotel, Nuwa (formally Crown Tower), & Hyatt Regency. The casino offers about 2,000 slot machines, gaming tables and electric table games to try your luck. The 2nd floor has many restaurants & coffee shops to satisfy your hunger.
We returned to the hotel around 4 p.m. and spent the rest of the day at our leisure. We needed to pack for departure the next day.
Day 10: Jan 27, 2019 Departure day!
After breakfast, we had some time to spare before our hotel check out. Some did last-minute shopping at the mall across the street, while some of us just relaxed and prepared for the long flight home.
We checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport for our flight home. On the way, our guide pointed out the low-income houses that you often watch on the news. It was heartbreaking to see.
The airport has a new process that requires an extra baggage check, but other than this new process check in was smooth.
We asked for senior citizen check in which allowed us to board before the public.
Our return flight was shorter at 8hr40min. We were served two main hot meals and a snack in between. Some of us enjoyed the movie and some just took a nap.
We arrived home around 9:30 a.m.
The Philippines has so much to offer … shopping, dining, golf, sports activities (on land & sea), gambling, eco-tours and much more.
Please join us on future JTB Philippine tours for a first-hand experience!
By Sumie Consillio
Please contact us anytime for information about future tours around the world!
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