Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Lazy Day in Cebu City

For some reason, I've never really roamed the sidestreets of Jones (Osmena Boulevard) except when they're along my hotel. On my nth visit to the Queen City of the south, with no particular itinerary to undertake, I arrived in the city before 9 AM and slept in my room at the M Citi Suites (along Llorente Street) until 2 PM. Wasted day, right? Not really. I just flew to Cebu from Bacolod, a 40 minute flight that started at an unholy 5:30 in the morning. I was dazed from lack of sleep.

That afternoon, I decided to just walk around. I willed myself to find anything interesting outside the usual beaten track. I proceeded to Robinson's Cybergate Mall, just around the corner, first to get a print out of my web check-in boarding pass - at the mall's Business Hub (front of the building). After that, I roamed. Along Don Gil Garcia, Llorente's 1st side street, I saw O'Nael (first photo above; note the unusual spelling), a new building intricately designed with geometric panels. Is it a hotel, an apartment, a commercial space? No hint to that. No other labels for further clues, except that there's a Korean (or was it Japanese) restaurant there.


Over at Red Ribbon restaurant, a lady customer was complaining. I overheard this.

Counter Girl (talking to the kitchen crew): "Ba't nyo nilagyan ng garlic ang garlic bangus ni ma'am?" (Why did you put garlic on ma'am's Garlic Bangus?!!!)

Horrors. Have you ever heard of such inanity? Why order garlic fish, in the first place, if you don't like garlic? Sometimes you just want to hurl a chair to clear a clouded atmosphere, don't you? I know of someone who fusses too much whenever he's in a restaurant. He would ask for a myriad of stuff from the crew, from the banal to the complex; just begging for every morsel of attention from the overworked staff. Don't you just loath these types? I know I do.


At the other side of Llorente going towards Juana Osmena, Hotel Pillows (along Gov. M. Roa Street) looked charming. Aside from the peculiar name, I liked the clean bluish exteriors. Europa Inn and Executive Pension were nearby. I walked further until I came into a busier tributary of Mango Avenue where Mango Square Mall is found. I liked that area, colorfully decked in yellow and a coterie of electrical wires that don't deserve to be seen in a modern world. At sundown, the bars of Mango Square throb with vibrancy and verve, but slumbers at day time. I headed towards Maxilom. Even the spiffier 2 Mango Avenue looked dead in daytime.


I considered a relaxing massage at Good Earth Spa just for a pampering but the place looked dull, if a tad dodgy. It was like a hole in the wall. Close by is Marshall's Irish Pub, a curiosity. What's more interesting is that they offer ostrich (burger, salpicao, kebab) and crocodile (bites, steak, kebab, sisig). Inside the bar, an older Caucasian gentleman is manning the bar, Marshall probably. Irishmen always take their culture of inebriation wherever they go.  

Business Hub at Robinson's Cybergate Mall, beside the main entrance. If you require printing or online matters, this is the place to visit. It's just a block from M Citi Suites. I black-and-white page costs PhP10.

Food Plaza at the 2nd level of Robinson's Cybergate Mall.

Hotel Pillows along M. Roa Street


Inside Mango Square, the 3-level shopping arcade seems moderately populated. There's a book fair at the activity area of the ground level. Another unusual restaurant is found here - Iranian and Indian cuisine at the "Persian Plate" serving, among others, chana dal and other lentil preparations, rice pulao, musaka, sizzling spinach, biryani, all priced between PhP150 to 250. Now isn't that affordable for a specialty cuisine?

With nothing much to do, I decided to head out to Colon, Cebu City's cantankerous version of Quiapo, and the country's first and oldest street. Still considered the hub of the grassroot, the area teems with activity not found in Mango Avenue in the daytime. Ultravista Cinema is showing "Third Party", a third rate Pink erotica directed by a third rate director eerily named Paul Singh Cudail. It's the kind of cinema people patronize not for their entertaining flicks but for its intrinsic cruisy atmosphere.

Oriente Cinema, meanwhile has done a complete overhaul of their cinemas (2 of them). The halls are spacious, the soft seats wide with huge leg rooms, the screen spanking new, and the whole place smells as new as its seats. This was a surprise. There is, after all, a more-than-decent theater in Colon, with entrance way cheaper (PhP160) than those in SM, Gaisano and Ayala.

I headed to 168 Mall, its entrance is flanked by Mang Inasal and Jollibee. I have never been inside. It's a commercial conundrum of cheap Chinese products spread out into small shops on a three-story complex. The 3rd floor, a favorite hangout for students, has a gaming center called BB Fun Zone. At the opposite end of the hallway, an almost empty Food Court is lined by exquisitely named food counters like Mariel Marie Food Services (what a name), I Know Rice, Ahoy, Mr. Prito, Ela's Chicken, M.E., and D' Mixed. To complete the lineup, there's a Patrice Salon. Games, food and hair all in one level.

It was dark when I got out of 168. I wanted to check out Borromeo Street, named after one of the country's first Filipino judges circa 1905 (Borromeo was born in Cebu but got assigned in Agusan). I lost my way somewhere but found myself on the fringes of the Carbon Market scene, with rows and rows of vegetable peddled in a frenzy. It's a chaotic scene steeped with vigorous commerce.


I saw a sidewalk vendor selling lanzones so I went to check it out. PhP60 a kilogram for single-piece fruits and PhP80 for "pompong", clustered fruits. I said I'd buy 1 kilo. I started picking them, when the lady seller suddenly quipped, "Dili ko papili." (I don't allow select picking). Huh? You mean I give you my money and I can't pick what I want? When the heavens distributed idiocy to humankind, some caught their fair share.

I left disgusted. To be honest, despite Cebu's proximity to Camiguin, the supposed fruit bowl of Visayas, the city takes pride in selling some of the most tasteless Lanzones this side of the country. "Pinakawalay lami nga lansones" can be found in Cebu, and I am generalizing as per experience. Yup there are exceptions, but they are exceptions than "rules". There's plenty of lanzones around but the really sweet ones are few - at any given time. Later that night, I walked towards the back of Robinson's in Fuente Osmena and bought a "pompong" (at - hold your breath! - PhP100 a kilo) and tasted some of the sourest god-awful fruit the country has ever grown. I rest my case! But just maybe I had a bad day?

A day later, I bought a kilo of lanzones from a peddler also selling lansones at the corner of Cybergate Mall. "They are very sweet, sir, and they come from Mamburao," sales-talked the fruit vendor. So this one isn't from Camiguin? Or Basilan? Or wherever heck it is that cultivates lanzones and say, camote or utut-utot?

Mamburao, you see, is the capital of Mindoro Occidental, a second class municipality of roughly 50,000 people spread over 15 barangays. I wasn't made aware that Mamburao has become the exponent of "sweet lanzones". People always refer to some vague municipality to advertise agricultural products. It's from Quiagot, or Baliwaswas, or Tinakluban, or Dasuk-dasok, etc. I ate the "holy grail" of lanzones and found out that, indeed, it is exactly the same soury shite Cebu lanzones is getting known for.

(Another day hence, I flew to Davao to catch the last leg of Kadayawan and I chanced upon a shop selling lanzones. The price - PhP35 per kilo - and one of the sweetest lanzoneses I've tasted in my life. The bunch supposedly came from Calinan. The only lanzones sweeter was the Bangkok lanzones that I would usually buy along Jalan Alor in KL. Now compare: PhP100/ kilo of sour fruit - as to PhP35 of very sweet fruit! And the PhP80 you can't choose!!! It's suggested that you close your eyes when you're picking the fruits you're buying. Heavens! There's a gargantuan mystery at work here that requires a sleuth like Jason Bourne - or it's just plain mercantile scam. They'd probably give you the so-called "runt of the pack" - the ones that didn't get sold 7 days ago and are now rotting. Di pwedeng pumili eh.)

2 Mango Avenue


Before heading back to my room at the M City Suites (M stands for Muntuerto), I decided to check out nearby Grand Royal Spa, located along a street named after another lawyer (like Borromeo), Don Mariano Cui. Cebuanos are very fond of lawyers, they ultimately name their streets after them. Back to Grand Royal Spa. Located near Cebu A La King Cafe (it's actually more of a fast food joint than a cafe) and across Chong Hua Hospital, the spa looks relatively new. It has 12 rooms - instead of cubicles. It is well lit and meticulously clean; two of the rooms are for couples who wish to have their procedures beside each other.

In my travels, it's always a joy having semblance of home to "come home to". It's somewhere you feel safe, comfortable and allows you to recharge while your body recuperates. M Citi Suites succeeds in that level. It's my 4th time there, didn't I say? In a city where I've been in more than 15 hotels, staying more than twice is a statement in itself. I'd probably check out other hotels in the future, but I will be coming back to M Citi every so often. It's a convenient place in Cebu to start and end one lazy day. It wasn't that lazy, was it?

Post Script: Photos here were mostly taken using my Blackberry. My iPhone takes better photos but I avoid taking too many phones when gallivanting around.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Mango Square bars

The way to Good Earth.

Marshall's Irish Pub

Mango Square Mall

Middle eastern and Iranian cuisine at the Persian Plate

168 Mall in Colon near Metro Gaisano

Food Court at 168 Mall

Vegetables abound at the fringes of Carbon Market
Grand Royal Spa at Mariano Cui Street

Front desk at the Grand Royal Spa
OPD/medical arts wing of Chong Hua Hospital touted to be Cebu's version of Chinese General Hospital. M Citi Suites is 2 blocks from the hospital. At the opposite end of the street is Adelfa Hotel.

M Citi Suites along Llorente Street a block away from Fuente Osmena. Robinson's Cybergate is close by.


NRIGirl said...

That was a nice stroll; thank you!

eye in the sky said...

It was spontaneous. Haha. Thanks.