25 Jan2012

Everyone deserved a break after the Sinulog madness. And I had been meaning to try this “Chill Out Sunset Cruise” offered by Islands Banca along the Cebu harbour, so a few days after Sinulog we booked passage for a dozen managers and crew who weren’t on duty on this 1.5 hour cruise… It was a revelation. I am often at a loss when visitors ask me what there is to do in Cebu City as a tourist (unless they head to beaches, churches elsewhere on the island, etc.), but now I have a new thing to recommend. For PHP295 per person, you get this spectacular view of the city from the water — very relaxing, somewhat unusual and light on the wallet.

Weather permitting (they make the final decision whether it’s on or not by 4pm or so), you assemble at the Cebu Yacht Club, about 2 minutes from the Islands Stay Hotel in Mactan where our Zubuchon branch is located, and at 5:30 cast off for the cruise. They sounded very strict about the timing, and warned guests would be left on the docks if late, but on our cruise they waited 18 more minutes for a couple of guests… This detail can be crucial, depending on what time the sun sets the day you take the cruise.

A customized banca or native outrigger boat is set up to accommodate perhaps 30 or so folks, but the day we took it, there were just 18-20 people and it was extremely spacious and there was lots of room to vege or move about as you pleased.

Despite some clouds, the sunset we experienced was spectacular nonetheless, and the photos here capture but a fraction of the experience. The bridges to Mactan never looked so beautiful…

…and what about one of two beautiful rainbows that presented themselves just minutes into the ride. :)

Snapshots in all directions yielded varying degrees of light, beautiful shades of blues, yellows and orange…

…architectural details of bridges lit up and appreciated from unusual angles…

…and as we returned to the docks the sky had turned pitch black. The cruise comes with a free drink of iced tea. Don’t be fooled by a steward who offers beer and softdrinks up front (they are for sale), before he takes out the free iced tea. We brought along some chicharon to munch on. And once back on shore, had a satisfying meal at a nearby Thai restaurant.

Next up, I would like to try a day-long lease on one of the larger Islands Bancas that operate from the other side of Mactan, and head out to isolated islands and beaches closer to Bohol. I understand for varying sizes of boats and lengths of trips, at say PHP5,000-10,000, a group of 20-30 could have a really nice beach experience. This last photo courtesy of the Islands Banca website, here. And no, despite having a store in one of the group’s hotels, we paid in full for this sunset cruise and the drinks consumed, and I was not asked to do a post on it.

P.S. If you do arrange a banca hire and want a lechon for lunch, please specify a Zubuchon if you desire to be specific. :)



  1. linda says:

    MM,you’re a great ambassador for Cebu. Spectacular views and great photos! Love the banca,too!

    Jan 25, 2012 | 5:41 am


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  3. moni says:

    Thanks MM for this post on “Sunset Cruise” and the day-long lease of the Islands Bancas. It is a refreshing alternative to the usual beaches when one’s guests have been there and done that. For the day-long lease, perhaps a complete picnic can be ordered from Zubuchon — zubuchon, five pork fried rice, pancit, biko ni manang lima, etc. Yummy!

    Jan 25, 2012 | 5:41 am

  4. Meg says:

    MM, there’s no stopping you. These harbor shots are relaxing to the eyes, I don’t even have to travel to Cebu. But I think not having Zubuchon is a palate crime of a lifetime. I still need to see and touch Cebu one more time. Thanks for sharing.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 5:54 am

  5. Josephine says:

    Will try to make it this (northern) summer and if so will be specific! Can you advise closer to the time where I can bring a very disparate multicultural/multiage family speaking at least 3 languages and not always at the same time who have Manila roots but no knowledge of but would like to of Cebu/ Mactan where to go?

    Jan 25, 2012 | 8:54 am

  6. PITS, MANILA says:

    thanks for providing us with this info, MM! the day-cruise sounds so inviting! i remember trying the ‘manila bay cruise’ ages ago (just off ‘harbor view’ at the back of the ‘manila grand stand’). it was very relaxing … a great way to spend the afternoon!

    Jan 25, 2012 | 9:54 am

  7. Papa Ethan says:

    Great photography, MM! Especially those agaw-dilim shots that juxtapose architectural lighting against the natural twilight. Somehow, infrastructure reveals an intrinsic beauty if properly lit and when captured photographically from unexpected angles. It’s literally a new way of seeing Cebu. Ang ganda!

    If only on the basis of these pictures, I sincerely hope that other institutions (gov’t, NGO, private groups) would develop more river cruises all around our country. I do know that they have already taken such an initiative in Dagupan City.

    Our rivers are an intrinsic part of who we are as a people. That’s why Bonifacio — in rejecting the name “Filipinas” (after King Felipe of Spain) — appropriated the term “Tagalog” (meaning, taga-ilog; no relation to the linguistic/political group) to encompass all members of our race and to describe our struggling state back then. After all, most human development started as small settlements along river banks.

    Also, the modified banca shown above echoes in the imagination the balanghay of the mythical ten datus who helped populate our archipelago.

    Speaking of Bonifacio, it will be his birth Sesquicentennial next year. And quite incidentally, the lechonans of La Loma, QC are clustered at the end of A. Bonifacio avenue! Hehe…

    Just some random thoughts triggered by this post…. :-)

    Jan 25, 2012 | 10:07 am

  8. Mom-Friday says:

    Oh wow, I always love rainbow shots! :)
    Now I am hoping we can visit Cebu this summer with the kids.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 10:18 am

  9. Pinksalmonlady says:

    What an amazing shots MM especially the rainbow and sunset. thanks for the info too. Now I know what to do in case we visit Cebu.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 11:04 am

  10. natie says:

    So beautiful! I agree with Papa Ethan–Philippines should have river cruises or InterIsland Cruises. We have such wonderful coastlines and our Dept of Tourism should capitalize in this. That is one beautiful banca! China has river cruises–so should we! even just in bancas like those.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 12:06 pm

  11. Betchay says:

    Is the banca safe? I counted only 5 lifesaver rings…are you given life jackets when you board? Pardon me but when I was small I nearly drowned thus my reservations! And I remember the banca accident at the Manila Bay years ago that claimed the life of several foreign tourists….but I guess that particular banca toppled as it kinda had a second floor(?)and the passengers were not distributed evenly on both sides…whatever…safety precaution is my concern. ;)

    Jan 25, 2012 | 12:55 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Betchay, those rings are more for show, there are over 30 life vests under the benches on either side of the boat. And the crew brief you on the life vests, and you can wear them if that makes you more comfortable. It felt quite safe to me, and I have been on bancas in several provinces in the Philippines… Besides this is a tour in a channel between Mactan and Cebu island, not many waves unless there is a storm. The biggest waves come from passing ships.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 1:19 pm

  13. Betchay says:

    Thanks MM…that’s a relief! :)

    Jan 25, 2012 | 1:29 pm

  14. borckx says:

    Cool! I didn’t know they had a sunset cruise, and affordable at that! Masubukan nga.
    Thanks for the post, MM. :)

    Jan 25, 2012 | 2:06 pm

  15. Vix says:

    Hi Marketman! I love your photos :-)

    Jan 25, 2012 | 2:49 pm

  16. bisdakRN says:

    In 2009 during my vacation I decided to try the island hopping to Olanggo island and I must say that it was one very memorable experience that, given the chance, I would definitely try again. We rented a banca for P3,500 for a day and they toured our group (there were just about 10 of us) to the nearby islands and eventually we spent the rest of the day at the fish sanctuary where they threw the anchor at the deeper part of the sea (but not too far out of the shore) and there we dove and frolicked with the small fishes nearby. We were staying at Hilton hotel and there are a lot of banca-for rent close by. If you haven’t tried it yet, then definitely do so.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 3:25 pm

  17. krizteene says:

    How magnificent! I’ll make sure to take this cruise pagbalik ko ng pinas. and of course get a taste of Zubuchon. Sana walang bagyo sa september.

    Jan 25, 2012 | 6:02 pm

  18. marilen says:

    After participating vicariously in your posts of Sinulog celebration and frenzy and Zubuchon frenetic activity, what a nice river cruise to exhale and relax. Thank you, MM

    Jan 25, 2012 | 9:35 pm

  19. RjAllcanseeya says:

    Sweet, definitely must Visit Cebu!!

    Jan 26, 2012 | 12:49 am

  20. zoi says:

    MM, this is awesome. We hope to get to Cebu in our forthcoming trip (April) to the Phils. Told my wife that the number one reason for us to go to Cebu is to finally try your resto, then head off to some of the nice beaches there. This banca ride would be a good addition to the plan. If theres not enought time to go there, i hope to order a whole lechon and have it picked up at the airport.

    Jan 26, 2012 | 1:24 am

  21. corrine says:

    MM, where is the best beach from the city? I’ve been to at least two but the beaches are bit rocky or stony…swimming is impossible. Thanks!

    Jan 26, 2012 | 11:36 pm

  22. Marketman says:

    corrine, surprisingly, despite its popularity and population of resorts, there aren’t many good beaches on Mactan, or at least few I have been or heard off. From what I recall, the reason for the brief banca ride to the islands across is precisely to find the nicer beaches… In some modern, recent cases, hotels have piled ground limestone? onto the shore to replicate beaches, making for a coarse but artificial kind of “sand”… it is against the law, theoretically, to harvest sand elsewhere and transfer it to one’s “beach” I think…

    zoi, we are flattered and hope you have your fill of lechon et al. Yes, head out to the islands on a banca for a better beach experience. Also, if you have several days, you may wish to head north to Malapascua or Bantayan for more beaches/diving. Alternatively head south for old churches and food tripping…

    Jan 27, 2012 | 7:05 am

  23. cebuana101 says:

    nindot jud ang cebu marketman

    Feb 1, 2012 | 4:06 pm


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