So I promised to write this in English, but the post is available in Finnish as wel at: https://vattuniemenviinikerho.net/2016/01/09/filippiinit-osa-1/
We visited the Philippines over the Christmas holidays 2015-2016. We arrived at Cebu airport on Mactan Island early in the morning of the 23d of December. We spent 1,5 days in Lapu-Lapu city with our friends before heading out to a beach resort on Panglao Island.
Lapu-Lapu is located on the Island of Mactan close to Cebu, which is the third largest Island in the Philippines. Lapu-Lapu is a very busy city, the roads are very narrow and packed with traffic. Lapu-Lapu consist mostly of rural areas and shopping malls. But you can also find a few resorts on the island, with secluded beaches.The city is very littered, so much so that it is a bit of a shock to a white tourist. We later came to learn that litter is pretty much everywhere in the Philippines.
On the 24th we traveled with Ocean Jet from Cebu city to Tagbilaran city on Bohol Island. In all honesty, there would be a lot to be done in efficiency in the boat terminal. Customers first que to pay a terminal fee, then they que to get their luggage scanned after that you que to get your ticket validated and seat asigned and finaly you que to check in your luggage. So not the smoothest of experiences there.
The fary journy from Cebu to Tagbilaran takes 2 hours, the ship is very airconditioned, which ment I was freezing for twho hours. There is a snacks and drinks trolly on the ship, so bring cash. During the trip we also got to see the terrible state the sea is in, we could se rubish floating past the ship constantly.
Once we arrived at Tagbilaran we had a car waiting on the pier for us, ready to take us to our beach front accommodation. We had chosen our first stay as a very secluded and small location with the intention of resting and relaxing in the sun!
Panglao Island is a small island in the Philippines, located centrally and shielded from sea wind from the east by Cebu Island and from the west by Bohol Island. Panglao has many resorts and beautiful beaches it is also an amazing place for a dive holiday, as the coral reef surrounding Panglao is amazing. In the near vicinity of Panglao there are two smaller Islands Balicasag and Pamilacan. There are daily dive trips from Alona Beach on Panglao to these islands. On Balicasag there is also opportunities for snorkeling and spotting beautiful coral fish and even sea turtles.
Getting to Panglao is fairly easy. There is a small airport in Tagbilaran on the Island of Bohol, a 30-60 minute car drive from Panglao depending on driver and traffic. In addition there is the Tagbilaran harbor, where the Ocean yet cruises from to Cebu city and back.
Momo Beach house
Momo Beach house is located on the North side of Panglao Island on Momo Beach. It is the only resort on Momo beach. It is the essential place fore relaxation and rest. With only 16 guest rooms you really feel pampered by the abundance of staff catering to your every whim. Being the only resort on the beach you get peace, no vendors no other tourists, only quiet.
The room was comfortable and nice, it was exactly what you would expect from a beach house. The only negative was that the room only had one mirror and that one was placed in the darkest corner of the room.
Momo Beach house services
Momo doesn’t provide you with a list of services. However almost anything is possible. We ordered massages on the beach, had our laundry done etc. Practically if it is not impossible to do they will figure out a way. I guess it reflects the service attitude of the place, you really feel like a queen/king while staying at Momo. It took a while to get used to being addressed as miss Ida, but I guess I could get used to that long term.
As Momo is located on a secluded beach it offers different kind of activity services. There is a daily shuttle from 9-15 going to Alona beach, the main beach of the Island. In addition they offer private tours to the Chocolate hills, to see the Tarsiers, Dolphing watching and Island hopping. Each tour comes with your very own guide. If you feel up to the challenge of local traffic you may also rent a scooter from Momo and explore Panglao and Bohol on your own.
Dolphin watching and Island hopping
We did a combined Dolphin watching and Island hopping tour while staying at Momo. We got up at 5 am, as the dolphins only surface in the morning when it is not hot. We were given a packed breakfast to take with us, unfortunately no coffee though. The shuttle took us to Alona beach where we had a boat waiting for us. We sailed off into the sunrise and saw a huge flock of dolphins. They are very small dolphins max 1 meter long.
After Dolphin watching we continued to Balicasag Island. Balicasag is basically a round island some 40 minutes outside of Panglao. Balicasag is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef full of colorful fish. It is also possible to see sea turtles while snorkeling. Balicasag is also a popular destination for divers. Unfortunately it is a very busy Island, be prepared to snorkel among some 100 Koreans in floating wests.
We were assigned two guys to paddle our small boat out to see the turtles, the guides also helped us find the turtles. After spotting some 4 sea turtles in and snorkeling around in deep sea water with 1 meter waves for half an hour we were taken over to see the fancy fish on the coral reef. They were beautiful, sorry we didn’t have an underwater camera.
The abandoned resort
A 10 minute walk down Momo beach there is an abandoned resort. It is a bit of a spooky place as it must have been abandoned for some 15 years at least. The resort however has once been a grand resort with a huge swimming pool area and a grand main building. If you do stay at Momo Beach house it is definitely worth a stroll down the beach to see this. The resort once held a large jetty for easy access, however only parts of it remain today.
Momo beach house restaurant
Our first encounter with the beach house restaurant was a bit of a shock. The restaurant offered a four course set menu at the very reasonable price of 700 php per person (14€) as it was Christmas eve. So we decided to take the set menu, little did we know what we were in for. We were first served a seafood salad, which actually turned out to be a seaweed salad. Well I do like seaweed, but not the kind that looks like twigs and branches and snaps when you bite into it. After that we were served a soup, I think it was an okra soup. The soup was lukewarm had no flavor what so ever and the consistency was slimy. At this point I was horrified as I was imagining what the food was going to be like for the next 4 days we were going to spend here. The main was tonkatsu with a seafood stirfry. This time the seafood was actual seafood and the tonkatsu was actually cooked to perfection, imagine my relief. As a desert we got a creme brulee, without the brulee, so it was basically a cup of rich cream custard. It was very nice compare dot the first two courses, it also came with some local fruits.
The following day we had a very interesting lunch as well, after that we asked one of the employees, Ed, at Momo what he would recommend to eat at Momo. Ed actually suggested we try the Panglao speicality Halang Halang chicken, which did not exist on the menu. Well, it turns out, they are much better at making the local foods than they are at making their menu items. So after this we ended up pre-ordering all our dinners according to Eds suggestions. The following days we enjoyd grilled salmibagon bought from the fishers on Momo beach and the Philippino staple mark dish Chicken Adobo. We were very happy with the local foods.
I think Momo would do better if they skipped things like Chicken Poutine in the menu and would focus more on the local flavors, which they know well.
Drinks at momo
Momo serves some beautiful drinks made of fresh fruits, like mango daquiris. They also make a beaturifull Gin & Tonic. Other drinks like the mango smoothies and mango juices are amazing as well. When it comes to beer the selection is limited to San Miguel Pilsen and San Migule Light. The price for a bottle of bear is 100 php -> 2€. They carry one white and one red wine. They are both from spain, a Syrah and a Sauvignon Blanc. The redwine was probably the best red we had during the whole trip. The wines do come at a slightly steep price of 300 php a glass ->6€, but the glasses are not small.
Service in Panglao
We soon learnt that the Philippians are not quite up to speed with the requirements of the white tourists when it comes to service. Be prepared to wait for service for some time and don’t expect to be served as you are used to. In general though the service is very friendly and communication is easy as the locals do speak very good English.
The food in general is excellent. However it is a good idea to mostly stick to the local foods as the Western specialties tend to be quite interesting. Surprisingly the local food consists mostly of chicken and meat, but you do get fresh fish and seafood as well. What surprised me the most was the lack of fresh vegetables.
The local mango is the pride of the Philippines, well I guess I should say mangoes as there are two different kinds. The more popular mango is a very yellow fruit, it has a tangier taste than the one we have in Europe and a after taste resembling black currants. The green mango is very different as it has a very sour taste almost like a lemon, it has the consistency of an apple and the juiciness of a pear.
Tap water is not drinkable, but you can use it to brush your teeth. A half liter of bottled water is 50-100 php, which equals 1-2 €.
If you love beer, be prepared to drink San Miguel Pilsen and all the other San Miguels as that is mostly what is available. The price for a San Miguel Pilsen is in the same price range as water.
Do you love coffee? Get used to instant coffee as that will be the best coffee you will get on the Philippines!
Wine, it is fairly hard to find a good wine in the Philippines. The locals are also not used to handling wine, hence an opened bottle might stand in +30 Celsius for several days. Wine is also a fairly expensive drink as it is an import product. A glass varies between 150-350 php -> 3,5-7,5€. It is still not expensive but expensive compared to the local price range. Most wines are only sold by the bottle.
Look for fresh juices and drinks made out of the local mango. If you don’t like your fresh fruit drinks to be crunchy with sugar, request them without added sugar, especially juices tend to be laden with sugar.