One night in Cebu

It’s in this part of the country where you can find one of the best resort hotels in the world. But I decided to stay in an affordable boutique right in the heart of   Cebu City For an overnight stay, yet  complete with all the amenities , including a buffet breakfast for two, I just had to pay P1,500.

Amazing, but it’s enough to entice foreign– and even local tourists, to visit Cebu .  The traffic jam is as bad as Manila , but  that’s not really a problem for a parachutist like me. There were lots of places to visit  and you will never get lost. There were fleets of new metered taxicabs everywhere. For the shophalics, the downtown and uptown areas were booming with  big malls  that sprouted in nearly all of the districts.

That perhaps explains why Cebu has become a favorite tourist destination in the region.  You won’t even notice  the ever growing disparity between the rich and poor because of the boom in the hotel industry.

And I didn’t mind overeating because the local cuisine is good and affordable.  My old buddy Douglas “Dougie” Mondonedo was complaining  that he  was suffering from gout, but he just ignored it because he couldn’t resist the beer and  the famous Litson Cebu, which is served without any sauce, for our early lunch.

It’s just unfortunate that we really didn’t have much time to roam around the city. We had to attend a function at the Cebu International Convention Center . So for a nightcap we found ourselves in a place called a Mango Square After a few minutes we noticed that the strip was really meant for the young crowd so we decided to go back to the hotel and leave our other friends  who appeared to be enjoying the maddening night crowd. It was also starting to rain.

We had to walk in a sleazier part of the area to get a cab. But the taxi driver was friendly. He was even a bit apologetic, thinking that we didn’t enjoy the nightlife in the city and we had to go back to the hotel when it was just a bit past midnight.

“Naku talaga hong mahal kasi diyan sa mga karaoke bar. Kasi maraming foreigners diyan. Gabi-gabi sila at  limang libo ang bayad sa bar fine mga babae,”he said. “Pero alam n’yo ba na ang mga taga rito , hindi yan ang pinupuntahan. Uso dito ‘yung boarding house,”

Then Dougie asked, “saan ba ‘yon?”

“Marami ho dito nu’n” the cab driver said.

“Ganoon ba? Tutoong boarding house pala. That’s interesting,” Dougue said.

“Dito maraming salesgirl. Kailangan  nila  ng dagdag na kita. Kaya dapat makilala n’yo ang mga security guard ng mga boarding house at sila ang magsasabi sa inyo kung sino ang pwedeng ilabas,” the driver said.

“Naku kailangan  pa pala namin silang hanapin sa  mga malls,” my friend joked.

“ Papupuntahin lang sila sa Jolibee at sa pag-uusap n’yo baka P1,500 pumayag na. ’Di pa sila pumapatol sa mga foreigner,” the driver replied.

The driver continued  by saying that  some pimps were even peddling poor college students who badly needed money to survive in the city. “Lalong marami ho n’yan ‘pag malapit na ang bayaran ng tuition” the driver said.

Then I noticed  Dougie was already getting annoyed by what the driver revealed. “Ano ba naman ‘yan? Ganito na ba ang kalakaran sa Cebu ?”

Before the driver can tell us more about the other side of the city, we had finally reached our hotel premises.

In the not-so-distant past,  Cebu was also  notorious for being the haven of sex tourists but government authorities had to crack down on the flesh trade because of  the embarrassment the city got from the series of news reports from the local media. Alas,  some things never changed despite the facade of progress. Joel Paredes

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