A backpacker’s guide for a two-day trip to the southern Cebu gem
I don’t do much traveling, but when I do, it is either for seminars or meetings, barely squeezing in seeing the sights just to make the trip more productive. This year was my first time taking a trip with nothing else but traveling in mind and making the most out of it. First on the list was Oslob, a seaside town in the southern tip of Cebu.
During my first year of stay in Cebu, Oslob emerged as a destination because of its serenity and crystal clear beaches, pictures of which always went viral. It even got more attention because of whale shark interaction offerings that attracted local and foreign tourists. Swimming with the gentle giants instantly became part of everyone’s bucket lists, which included my friends from abroad who spontaneously decided to travel in Cebu, making me their de facto tour guide. My qualifications were limited to being someone who was up for anything, and with that shining credential, I instantly became a local guide.
I read all reviews and blogs about going to the place; took care of the budgeting and researched on which resorts were the cheapest. Soon enough, the itinerary for three backpackers was ready and perfect, as far as I beleived. My friends arrived midnight prior to the day we had been waiting for. The team was complete!
Jason Choy from Sydney, Australia (it was his first time in the Philippines) and Zo Loren from Hong Kong. Oslob here we go!
Be early. That is the number one rule of being a backpacker, and the earlier you are at your destination the more you will be able to do. Go to the South Bus Terminal from wherever you are and catch the first trip going to Oslob, which is at 4:30 a.m. That means you have to be there at around 3 to 4 a.m. to avoid traffic and super long lines at the terminal. Trust me, Cebu has terrible traffic conditions you would want to steer clear of early in the morning.
In our case, we arrived in the terminal at 5:30 a.m. because of errands and thought it was fine. We quickly learned that we thought wrong as evidenced by the snaking queue that greeted us at the terminal. We waited for almost two hours for another Oslob-bound bus. Should you find yourself in a similar predicament, it’s better if you make use of the time reserving energy for the trip. Once you hop on the bus, prepare PhP150 for the fare.
If you want to go whale shark watching straight away, ask to be dropped off at Barangay Tan-awan, which is conveniently along the highway. There’s no “going around town” to speak of. You can rent a habal-habal (motorbike) to take you to the tourist spots, such as Tumalog Falls and the heritage area.
Expect delays. The usual three-hour ride stretched to four hours because of traffic thanks to the combination of it being the start of the weekend and summer season. That meant we would arrive late to the whale shark watching spot because whale shark interaction ends at 11:30 in the morning to avoid overfeeding the giants.
Prepare for the unexpected. Despite being late, we pushed our luck and went straight to the briefing area. In the articles I’ve read prior to the trip, whale shark watching supposedly ends at 12 noon. We found out that it’s earlier than that depending how many ‘butandings’ are present in the area. This is also to limit the crowd that might frighten them. So we had no choice but to accept our fate. There was an influx of tourists in the sleepy town with some having already been there for days.
Our original itinerary was to do the whale shark watching in the morning and chill in the afternoon by the beach. Eventually, we decided to stay overnight with chilling as the only order of the day followed by whale watching early next morning.
Since the barangay is so small, we were able to go resort hopping in search for the cheapest one, without sacrificing quality and the scenery. Last tip for first time backpackers: cheaper is always the better choice. We went to 12 different resorts, and enjoyed the sights. Tired was a word we did not understand seeing how beautiful Oslob was.
Walking around the town opened our eyes to things that make Oslob an interesting destination apart from the whale sharks. For a true taste of the locale, try having lunch by the side of the streets, befriend locals and buy mangoes sold in the streets. Spend the afternoon swimming and cliff diving in Tan-awan Cangcuay Beach Resort (located in the elevated part of the barangay). Let the view take you away, but brace yourself for the 250 steps you need to take to go down the cottages. It will be worth it I promise! For only PhP120 you will be able to see incredible rock formations, sleep in a swing under a rock or just relax in a chair with a book.
Have barbeque for dinner at Brumini Resort where seafood fare is the rage. There, you’ll be able to dine with the other tourists while enjoying the sea breeze and the intimacy of the place. To complete the exquisite dinner, don’t forget to order their fresh and indulging halo-halo!
Oslob by night time is entirely different—no noisy tourists and automobiles honking their horns in the streets. Oslob bared itself when the darkness took over with only the moon and the stars lighting most of the town. We felt no danger walking at night as the fireflies led us back to MB Sunrise Resort (our home for the night). The night was too beautiful to just sleep on. So before concluding the night, we went to the resort beside ours to stargaze as well as sing our hearts out the Filipino way—karaoke! The other resort had no accommodations save for tents, making it the perfect place to stargaze in Oslob.
Waking up at dawn, we were able to see the sunrise from our resort, the majesty of which explained why the resort was named MB Sunrise— it was the perfect spot to watch the sun take over the day. Let the resort arrange your whale shark interaction and wait for updates.
As soon as we arrived in the briefing station, it came as no surprise that there were already a lot of tourists. The queueing is easily forgotten as you get in the boat and see the calm and grace of the awe-inspiring gentle giants.
Nothing could replace the amazement you get when you see first hand just how big they really are. For my part, having organized the trip, the happiness from my friends’ eyes gave me overwhelming satisfaction for a job well done.
It was an adventure, and an adventure is not complete without plot twists. It was all about the experience, not the price. Never forget to ask yourself what is your purpose in traveling: is it adventure or a search for peace of mind? Although sometimes nature gives both. Enjoy!
By MONABELLE TIMOSA