When we made the recent trip to the island province of Cebu for the Sinulog festival (one of the Philippine’s biggest fiestas–read: street party–and annual religious festival in honor of the Santo Nino or Child Jesus), my husband and I and a couple of our friends also made a three-hour trip out of the city to the southern town of Oslob and made some other stops on the way back for some good lechon (roast pig) and chicharon (pork cracklings). Because why wouldn’t you stop for lechon and chicharon?
1. Swim with the whale sharks. Like the sleepy Sorsogon town of Donsol, Oslob turned into a tourist destination, primarily because of the whale sharks that frequented its waters to feed. But unlike in Donsol where you have to search for them, the fishermen in Tan-Awan in Oslob hand-feed the gentle giants and lead them close to shore for the tourists to have an easier access to them. And there are three ways to see them, dive (P600), snorkel (P500), or just stay in the boat, (P300) because the whale sharks tend to stay close to the surface as the feeder throws uyap (shrimp) to feed them.
Personally, I prefer the practice of whale shark interaction in Donsol. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see a whale shark and capture that Instagram-worthy shot there–because they are after all supposed to be still in the wild–but it seems there’s less impact on their migratory nature (the whale sharks in Oslob, we’re told, are there year-round). Our friend who writes for About.com and was with us during the trip has a different take on it here (and a more helpful guide).
2. Lunch at a beachside ‘su-tu-kil’. Sugba (grill), tula (stew), and kilaw (cook a la ceviche) are three popular cooking methods in Cebu and establishments offering them are plenty.
While we were still in Tan-Awan, our group had lunch in one of the sutukil stalls next to one of the beach resorts (Brumini Bed and Beach Resort). Since we were making the porky pilgrimage to Carcar later that afternoon, we decided to only have fresh seafood grilled for our lunch by the beach. And fresh lapu-lapu (grouper), shrimps and squid never met hot coals they didn’t like. Plus, the plates of hot rice, slices of fresh green mangoes, and a sawsawan (dipping sauce) of soy sauce and calamansi completed the delicious seafood spread.
3. Thrills at Tumalog Falls. The popular waterfalls is often included in any Oslob itinerary. It’s less than 10 minutes away by car or habal-habal (motorcyle taxi) from the whale shark interaction spot. At the jump-off point you either walk or take another motorcycle ride (P50, roundtrip) to bring you down the steep mountain road. The ride reveals a preview of the 300-foot waterfalls and it’s such a surprising sight to see I almost forgot how scared I was of riding the motorcycle down the steep winding road.
As you get closer to Tumalog Falls, you’ll feel the spray from the water as it pounds down a large, shallow pool. A number of visitors go there for a dip, but if your plans are more of the take-some-pictures variety, best to protect your gadgets.
4. Say a prayer at the Birhen ng Simala. On the way back to the city from Oslob, you can make a couple of stops in Sibonga and Carcar. On the hills of Simala is the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (or as Cebuanos call it, ‘Birhen ng Simala’). On its vast grounds is a huge church that is yet to be finished and seems to borrow from different styles of architecture with confounding results. But get past that and you simply see how Catholics express their faith. The site is also where several testimonials of miracles have supposedly occurred starting in 1998 and you can read these shared testimonials within the church.
5. To the Carcar Public Market for lechon and chicharon. Any self-respecting meat lover who makes the trip to Cebu, makes it a point to try its lechon (roasted pig) and chicharon (pork cracklings). One of the destinations to find some good-tasting pig is at the city of Carcar, around forty kilometers south of Cebu City. You can reach it in an hour or so by car or take a Ceres bus for P70. Your first stop should be its public market. Within it, there’s a ‘lechon lane’ of sorts where you can find several stalls selling the golden roasted pig. Lechon there is sold by the kilo and you can have your feast right in the market (just by a puso or hanging rice wrapped in banana leaves) or take it back to your hotel for some serious pig-out session (with friends, we hope).
A short walk away, near the rotunda, is a sidewalk lined with stalls selling Carcar’s even more famous product–chicharon. When we get there, the shop owners are more than happy to have you sample the freshly cooked pork cracklings, which either comes with an overly generous amount of fat and meat or purely skin. When a stall owner hands me the former to sample it’s still hot and when I take a bite, oil shoots out of it, and drips down my chin. It tasted good but I couldn’t take another bite and my body probably thanks me for it. Though not for long as I look for the other kind of chicharon and happily eat several pieces before buying a couple of bags to bring home for friends.
6. See the old houses in Carcar. If you don’t have food coma yet or maybe you need to walk off all the fat you consumed, it would be good to explore Carcar. Considered a heritage city of Cebu, it is home to a lot ancestral houses and other structures from the Spanish and American colonial periods. There’s the Mercado Mansion, Balay na Tisa (Sarmiento-Osmeña house), the Carcar Dispensary (which now houses the Carcar Museum), the Carcar Church, and many others along the Plaza, Sta. Catalina Street, and other side streets. As one Carcar local tolds us, there are many heritage structures in the town but they’re spread out unlike, for example, in Vigan where you can find them most of them along Crisologo Street. But if you’ve had a lechon and chicharon feast beforehand, a few hours of walking should be necessary to atone for one’s artery-clogging sins.