Escorted Tour from Honolulu – Manila, Cebu and Bohol Sinulog Festival Tour 2020
Day1: Jan 14, 2020 Departure from Honolulu
We checked in at the Philippine Airlines counter at Honolulu Airport for our non-stop flight to Manila. Everyone was on time and excited to start our fun filled tour to the Philippines. We boarded the PR #101 flight with short delay and settled in to our reserved seats.
Our first meal was served approximately 2 hours after take-off. We had a choice of Pork Barbecue or Kung Pao Chicken. A turkey ham and cheese sandwich was served at mid flight and a third meal, with a choice of Pancit Guisado & Pork Barbecue or Beef Lasagna was served 2 hours prior to landing.
Day 2: Jan 15, 2020 Manila
We arrived in Manila safely at 5:00pm, followed by the entry process, and then down to baggage claim. At the arrival area, we were met by Jimmy (our local English speaking tour guide), then escorted to our bus for an overnight stay at Dusit Thani Makati hotel. Our luggage was transferred by van.
We arrived at the hotel around 7 pm, and after a quick check-in process, we all went to the currency exchange, then enjoyed the dinner at the SM mall, which is conveniently located right across from our hotel.
Day 3: Jan 16, 2020 Manila – Cebu city tour
Buffet breakfast at hotel, then check out of the hotel for a 90 minute flight to Cebu.
We arrived in Cebu at 10:00am, and we were greeted by our English speaking tour guide Mr. Neri and the local manager Jenny. Our first stop was at Chateau De Busay for lunch. This restaurant sits 1000ft high above sea level with stunning view, and it is very popular among locals for wedding receptions. We were served a 10 course family style meal which was so ono! We also celebrated a birthday for one of our lucky members with a birthday cake.
After lunch we visited Ft. San Pedro which is a military defense structure in Cebu built by Spanish. The original fort was built from wood, but in the 17th century it was rebuilt in stone in order to repel Muslim raiders.
Next, we stopped at Magellan’s Cross, which was planted by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers commanded by Ferdinand Magellan upon their arrival in Cebu. It is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica of Santo Nino and it is protected from the public to keep them from chipping away at the cross. There’s a belief that the cross possesses miraculous power and visitors will throw in candles and monetary gifts for blessing.
We then proceeded to Basilica Del Santo Nino (honor to the holy child Jesus), which was founded in 1565 and is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.
Next stop was at Yup Sandiego Ancestral House, which was built around 1675-1700 and exudes a long forgotten era – you can feel it in the creaking floors and stair cases. The roof & walls are 95% original and current owner and his family still stay in the house on special occasions. The house is one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and is filled with priceless hand carved furniture and antiques.
After our full day tour, we checked in to modern deluxe Hotel Bai for the next four nights stay. The hotel is conveniently located across from Park Mall which offers many restaurants and shops to satisfy our needs. After smooth check in, rest of the day was free at leisure.
Day 4: 17 Jan, 2020 Bohol Countryside Day Tour
Buffet breakfast at Cafe Bai was out of this world! Western, Asian, Japanese, local food with live cooking station – you name it they have it! After a sumptuous meal, we departed for Cebu port to take our ferry to Bohol. At Cebu port, we were met by Ms. Cecil – our Bohol English guide. The ferry ride was about 2 hours, and we were seated in business class with reclining seats, which was very comfortable. Some of us watched movies and some took a short nap.
Upon arrival in Bohol we started our full day tour. We drove by the Blood Compact statue, then lead us to Baclayon Church. It is a designated National Cultural Treasure and a National Historical landmark.
Next stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary, which is one of the highlights of our tour, a visit to see Tarsiers living in the wild. Tarsiers are very tiny animals – their body is no larger than a human palm and their huge eyes are heavier than their brain. Their long hind legs enable them to leap up to five meters between branches. They feed on insects, and drink only juice from trees or rain water. They resist captivity, will not drink from any container and they are very suicidal. To see this creature in the wild was a once in a life time experience!
After seeing the Tarsiers, we headed for our Loboc River Cruise lunch! The boat was reserved exclusively for our group and we really enjoyed the tranquil, calm, peaceful moments. We were served a local food buffet which was ono! Especially Halo Halo was everyone’s favorite. Entertainment was great with oldies but goodies music which suited our group.
Next stop was the Butterfly Garden, and on the way we drove by the man-made mahogany forest which stretches out to two kilometers of green lush forest and is protected by law – no cutting of trees is allowed. It has been used as a backdrop for many films in the past.
Upon arrival at the Butterfly Garden, we were greeted by very knowledgeable and humorous guide. The uniquely created garden houses over twenty species of local butterflies. The open parts of the butterfly garden with plants and flowers attracts butterflies to stay, even though they are free to go into the wild. We had a chance to see gold and silver butterfly cocoons on plants, which resembled Christmas ornaments.
Our next stop was another highlight of our tour, Chocolate Hills! The Chocolate Hills are a geological formation and there are at least 1260 – maybe up to 1776 hills spread over a fifty kilometer area. During the dry season, the hills will turn color to brown like chocolate, hence the name Chocolate hills. On our visit, we saw green hills which we called “mint” hills.
The Chocolate Hills have been declared to country’s third National Geological Monument and proposed for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Some of our members climbed the 220 steps to top of the viewing point for a breath taking, panoramic view of hills. Only in the Philippines, can you have this wonderful experience!
After the Chocolate Hills, we headed to Bohol port for our return cruise to Cebu. Again, with assigned business class upper deck we were very comfortable, and most of us took a short nap.
Upon arrival to port, we were met by Cebu guide and transferred to Bai hotel to enjoy rest of the night at leisure.
Day 5: 18 Jan, 2020 Art & Deli Tour
After another sumptuous breakfast our first stop was at Pro Food Dry Mango Factory. This factory stands by it’s high standards and strict quality controls, and we observed the process of producing dried mango. Cebu is known for mango, but at this factory they produce dried banana, and coconut as well. We also learned that this factory believes in Pro Green and they will recycle everything from seeds to rejected mango. For example, seeds are used for steaming and fermentation, and rejected mangoes will be processed into animal feed. After the factory tour, we visited the factory gift shop for omiyage shopping.
After a short bus ride, we stopped at Jewelry & accessory factory for locally handcrafted beautiful jewelry. The products were very colorful and beautiful, yet very reasonable.
Next stop was anxiously awaited lunch at West Hotel. It was a buffet lunch as good as a Bai Hotel breakfast. It had everything you can imagine! We all enjoyed the meal and took an advantage of one hour enjoyable moment.
After our sumptuous lunch, we headed to a Chocolate factory at Robinson’s Galleria in Cebu Mall for hands on chocolate making. We learned about the traditional method of making chocolate from cacao beans.
We returned to hotel around 3pm, and rest of the day was free.
Day 6: 19 Jan, 2020 Sinulog Parade
After breakfast, we relaxed until 9am departure for the Annual Sinulog Festival, which is the main highlight of our tour. Sack lunches were prepared for us by the hotel since it is impossible to dine at restaurants during the festival. Upon arrival at the stadium, we were escorted to our assigned seating area.
Sinulog Festival is a cultural celebration of Christian heritage, the ritual prayer, dance honoring senor Santo Nino (child Jesus) and one of the grandest and most colorful festivals in the Philippines. It attracts 1 to 2 million people from all over the Philippines and around the world. The festival is also famous for street parties starting the night before through the night of the main festival. Many clubs and organizations from the Philippines and abroad participate in this festival and compete in dance performances with colorful and elaborate floats. We left the festival around 2pm for hotel and enjoyed the last day in Cebu leisurely on our own.
Day 7: 20 Jan, 2020 Cebu/Manila/Body massage
After breakfast, we checked out the hotel and headed to Mactan airport for a short flight to Manila.
We arrived in Manila after 90 minutes , met our guide Jimmy and headed to the Holiday Inn Express for our late lunch.
Next, we proceeded to St Joseph Church to view the Bamboo Organ, which is still in use. The bamboo organ is a pipe organ made mostly with bamboo. Out of 1031 pipes, 902 are 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.
After the Bamboo Organ visit, we were ready to check in to Dusit Thani hotel for next 5 nights stay. In the evening, we departed hotel for one hour full body massage for relaxation. It was very soothing, and we needed it badly.
Day 8: 21Jan, 2020 Manila City Tour
After breakfast, we had a time to relax before late departure for our city tour.
Our first stop was at American Cemetery and Memorial with the newly opened museum. 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 in the world.
Next, we visited Rizal Park, a historical park in the Philippines. The execution of Filipino patriot Jose Rizal on Dec30, 1896 fanned the flames of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The monument enshrining his remains is guarded 24/7 by a soldier.
After the Rizal park, we drove to near by Walled City of Intramuros/Fort Santiago. Intramuros is a 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 and economy. It leads us to Ft. Santiago, a citadel built by the Spanish conquistadors in the newly established city of Manila. Some lives were lost in its prison during the Spanish period and WWII. Jose Rizal was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896.
Next, we were transferred to Bistro Remedios for our lunch. We enjoyed Filipino cuisine and entertainment.
After our lunch, we made quick stop at National Museum of Art to view the huge mural, then returned to our hotel to relax.
Day 9: 22 Jan, 2020 Shop till you drop in Greenhills shopping center/Casino/Jeepney
Newly renovated Green Hills Mall is located in San Juan Philippine, and opened it’s door in early 1970. It is among the first shopping centers in the Philippines. It housed 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! We had ample time to shop and enjoy lunch on our own.
After the fun shopping, we headed to Sarao Jeepney Factory. On the way to factory, we transferred to an authentic Jeepney for unforgettable once in a lifetime Jeepney ride!
This factory has no automation and everything is built by hand. The Jeepney is the most popular means of public transportation and you will see very long lines of passengers at every Jeepney stop. Jeepneys were originally made from US military jeeps left over from WWII and known for their galvanized or stainless steel with colorful designs.
Our last stop was at City of Dreams Casino. This resort consists of six hotel towers which include Nobu hotel, Nuwa & Hyatt Regency and more. The casino contains about 2,000 slot machine, gaming tables, and electric table games to try your luck. The second floor offers restaurants & coffee shops to satisfy your hunger. Also there are shops as well if you are not gambler. We returned to our hotel around 6pm and the rest of the evening was at leisure.
Day 10: 23 Jan, 2020 Corregidor Tour
We had an early hotel pick up for ferry, and bag breakfast was provided by the hotel, which we ate at the port. After a 2 hr ferry ride, we arrived at Corregidor Island. The island is located at the entrance of Manila Bay in the southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to it’s strategic location, it served as a focal point for the naval defense of Manila from enemy warship attacks. It is shaped like a tadpole and because of it’s rocky landscape and the fortifications of Fort Mills, it is also known as “The Rock”.
Corregidor played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces in WWII, and it is one of the important historic and tourist sites in the country.
Various sides of the island offer facilities from officers & enlisted men’s quarters, banks, movie theaters, officer’s clubs, golf courses, Tennis courts, swimming pools, hospital, PX, to school houses to meet the necessities of daily life.
The Malinta Tunnel was the last stronghold of the joint American and Philippine military forces and it was built as an underground arsenal and hospital during WWII. It is now home to a Light & Sound presentation of the events that took place on the island. Just to name one, the reluctant departure of general Douglas MacArthur.
The oldest landmark in Corregidor Island is the lighthouse and it was first lit in 1853.
It was a half day tour of island with English speaking guide on open air tram. We were very impressed with maintenance of island roads, monuments and ruins. Also we were surprised to see so many visitors from all over the world, including Canadians, Egyptians, many Europeans and Asians.
We had local cuisine buffet lunch at island hotel, and continued on to tour. The tour ended at 2:30pm and boarded ferry for Manila. Upon arrival, we were met by guide and transferred to our hotel, for the remainder of the day as at our leisure.
Day 11: 24 Jan, 2020 Shopping/Dinner show
After late breakfast and late departure, we headed to MOA (Mall of Asia) for more shopping!
MOA was built in 2006 as a largest shopping mall in the Philippines until SM City North EDSA, SM Mega Mall, SM Seaside city Cebu – it is now ranked 4th in the Philippines. The mall’s four buildings are interconnected by walkways for shopping convenience. The entertainment building offers the first IMAX in the Philippines. Also it offers an arena, skating rink, concert ground, convention center and more.
We left the mall at 1pm and arrived at our hotel before 2pm which gave us time to refresh before our dinner show.
Two of our members also took an optional tour to Bataan to learn about the historical march, and joined our group for the dinner show.
We left the hotel at 5:30pm for dinner show at Barbara’s which located in Intramuros and we arrived ample time for dinner and the show.
The restaurant offers authentic Filipino cuisine inspired by colonial times with a variety of ingredients and flavors to enjoy a quaint old-world ambiance.
The cultural show is fabulous, and we were entertained with variety of Filipino traditional dances and folk songs from all areas of the Philippines. At the end of the show guests were invited to participate in a traditional bamboo dance. They introduced all the guests and we were surprised to see people from all over the world visit this place.
We returned to hotel for a good night’s sleep for the next day departure.
Day12: 25 Jan, 2020 Departure day!
After breakfast, we had some time to spare before hotel check out. Some folks did last minute shopping at the mall across he street, and some of us just relaxed and prepared for a long flight back home.
We checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport for our flight.
We utilized senior citizen privilege, which made our check in easy. I learned that Filipino people really respect and take care of senior citizens. To our pleasant surprise, our entire group was upgraded to Premier Economy class – Thank you Philippine airlines!
At our boarding, again we took advantage of senior citizen privilege and we boarded right after the wheelchair passengers.
In flight, we enjoyed the comfort and service of Premier Economy class! We were served a hot meal 2 hours after take off with a choice of Pork Belly Sinugba or Bourbon Chicken.
A mid flight snack of Beef Tapa with garlic spread was served and breakfast was served 2 hours prior to arrival with a choice of Pan-fried fish, or bacon and eggs.
Some enjoyed the movies, and some of us just took a nap in comfortable seat.
We arrived in Honolulu around 10:00 am and after arrival process, we said good by to everyone.
The Philippines have a lot to offer that many of people are not aware of. One of my group called the Philippines a “Hidden Jewel”, and I agree.
Please join us on our next Philippine tour and many future tours!
By Sumie Consillio
Please contact us anytime for information about future tours around the world!
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