You probably know the glitzy side with its swanky beaches and immaculate golf courses. Now, meet the other side of this Philippine island with its stunning views of coconut groves, corn plantations and private beach coves.
Text by Jennifer Ellson I Photos by Amorvida Muyrong
(Originally published in the Maple Leaf Times)
I caught the travel bug early on – the strain that makes one go to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Whether it be Poipet, Cambodia, or Samut Prakarn in Thailand, I’ll surely find a way to go there and discover the unexplored.
So why the Island of Cebu in the Philippines, you ask, when it probably ties with Boracay Island as the most popular destination in the archipelago? The answer lies on the other side of the island. A good hour and a half away from the hustles of Cebu City is the charming town of Sogod, on the north-eastern coast of the province. Locals say only the ‘travel pros’ stay at this clandestine destination, while the amateurs stay at the integrated resorts in Cebu City.
Sogod boasts a rustic ambiance with its stunning views of coconut groves, corn plantations and private beach coves – just what the doctor ordered. Having enjoyed the dazzling casinos of Cebu City and its vibrant nightlife, I was ready to experience the tranquility of Sogod. This fishing town is flanked by sun kissed beaches and not littered with chain hotels. The only resort in the area, Alegre Beach Resort, spells the epitome of indulgence and pampering in an exclusive environment, amidst the scenic natural landscape.
‘Unbelievable sights (indescribable feeling)’
The supposedly boring drive from the airport to the town was enchanting, as the route offers a panoramic view of the coastline to keep your eyes busy, as well as thick forests with mixed hardwood and swaying coconut trees for your viewing pleasure. Along the way, there were some women going about their day’s work, either picking or disposing goods to the wet market nearby, or men tending to their livestock by the road side. It was so invigorating just observing them from the 4×4’s window, imagining how simple life is for them, or not.
When I arrived at the resort, I expected the truly private and exclusive environment feel of the place will not stay that way for long as I saw a few tourists – some Russians, Japanese and Koreans – just as star struck as I was with the modern architectural façade of the resort with contemporary but distinctive Filipino touches and features.
I had a gut feeling that just like me, these tourists will not keep this destination a secret.
That hunch was confirmed when I ordered my first meal at the restaurant by the sea: a fillet of Lapu Lapu, a local grouper fish, in a banana trunk, and rice inside a coconut husk. The presentation was splendid and the taste was divine, which surely cemented its place in word-of-mouth advertising among the guests.
I gave compliments to the chef, who came out to show his appreciation. Imagine my surprise when I met the German chef responsible for the authentic Filipino dishes in front of me. Chef Martin has been living in the Philippines since 1988 and knows local food better than the average Filipino, or in my case, the average Filipino-Canadian. The whole gastronomic experience was made even more beautiful by the trio who serenaded us amidst the soft sound of the waves slapping the shore, which proved what the wise chef said seconds ago: “The food should not compete with the ambience – they should go hand in hand.”
Meanwhile, the fast food for the soul, massage, was just as nurturing and fulfilling. The in-house spa does not need the usual background sounds that you hear when you visit city spas. Depending on whether you opt for the massage by the beach, or at the cabana by the cliff overlooking the ocean, you will hear the natural background music of birds chirping or the sound of the waves.
For the adventurous
Great, you say, but nurture is not my cup of tea and nature is my game. Fret not, for there are lots of activities to cater to the adventurous. Diving is popular, as the house reef offers a100-feet wall dive. Jet skiing is just as trendy, especially with the young ones in the area – just be wary of the marine sanctuary enclosed by buoys in front of the resort, a protected area where swimming, fishing and jet skiing is not allowed at all. There is also the nearby Bagtayam waterfalls where bird-watching is all the rage. Or you can always indulge in a great conversation with the friendly locals, young and old, gathered at every corner to have a bowl of noodles and grilled squid, or play cards till the wee hours of midnight.
All rights reserved (Jennifer Ellson).
- Around Cebu – Cebu, Philippines (travelpod.com)
- Sinulog Festival in Cebu Philippines (pinoyanikanik.wordpress.com)
- Mount Kapayas (catmontree.wordpress.com)