A real life adventure on how #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines even in a tense situation
It was the last day of a very adventurous and fulfilling FAM trip to TBEX FAM TRIP – NEGROS Y CEBU in the Philippines. We had done everything from swimming with the turtles at Apo Reef to snorkeling at Cebu to experiencing local cuisine and culture at Siquijor. Everything was impeccably well organized. We were treated like VIPs. The Philippines Tourism Board had won everyone’s heart. I was a bit sad and happy too that the trip was coming to an end. And probably that was the reason why I couldn’t sleep the night before.
At 5 am when the world around me was in the snooze mode, I was sitting in my private balcony of the luxurious Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa in Cebu, Philippines. The tropical dawn and soothing sea breeze was not only kissing my cheeks, but had also awakened the philosopher in me. While the philosopher in me was busy introspecting life mother nature was busy unfolding the magic in front of my eyes—the sky changed colors as many times as a school girl picking prom dress.
Suddenly, a new reality dawned on me. One of my bags was missing! I called the front-desk:
ME: “Hi, I am calling from room #8019. One of my bags is missing, Could you please check on your end and have it sent to my room.”
Why I didn’t notice the night before is beyond me. I think perhaps I was intoxicated by the sensational meal we had at Cowrie Cove the night before that went late into the evening.
OPERATOR: “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that mam. Let me check with our team and get back to you right away.”
ME: At 6 am I dial the front desk again, “Hi, were you able to locate my luggage?”
OPERATOR: “Mam, we are looking for it. Please give us some time. I’ll call you back”
ME: At 7am I call the operator again, “Hello, any news on my luggage? How come only one bag reached my room when both were together and had my name on them?”
OPERATOR: “Mam, please give us some more time. We are looking for it. We will call you back soon”
At 7:30am it was time to switch from patient to panic mode! I frantically tried reaching out to other members of our group. But unfortunately I had only friended them on Facebook and didn’t have their mobile numbers. I ask the operator to connect me to Ochie, the Philippines Tourism representative, but the operator couldn’t find her name listed in the reservation system. I was frustrated and panicked at the same time.
I only had half an hour to get ready, have breakfast and meet the group for our last day of island hopping. Both my luggage and any members of our group were out of reach. At 8:00am I finally got through to Ochie. She seemed more upset than I was. She assured me not to worry. I knew with her on my side, everything would be fine. Instead of waiting around and stressing out about my luggage, Ochie suggested that I still join the group for the island-hopping tour. I thought this was a good idea, but there was a minor hitch–I didn’t have any appropriate clothes to wear.
There wasn’t much else I could do, so at 8:30am I reached lobby donning my sweaty clothes ready to go, but it seemed everyone had already gone to the jetty area to board the boat going to one of the nearby islands. I went back to my room to do a bit of sulking, when shortly thereafter I received a call from the front desk letting me know that my bag had been found and it would be delivered in just a matter of minutes. Apparently it had made its way to another room and no one turned it in. With the use of closed-circuit cameras they were able to track my bag and retrieve it.
Lady luck smiled but half-hardheartedly at me, the good news was that I had my luggage and was able to change into a fresh set of clothes. The bad news was that the boat had left without me. The hotel staff heaved a sigh of relief when they found my luggage, but the dejection of not been able to achieve their hallmark gold standard of service was written on their faces. It appeared as if they had just lost a World War. They apologized so many times I started feeling sorry for them. I wasn’t mad at all, and besides, Filipinos are so sweet it’s difficult to be angry with them.
The Resort staff wanted to make up for their oversight at any cost, so they went out of their way to arrange an exclusive tour of their huge 13-hectare property and offered other services to me absolutely free. Sometimes a small loss can mean a BIG gain.
During our travels we visited many breathtaking places in Dumaguete, Siquijor and Cebu, getting pampered at luxury properties and relishing in mouth-watering delicacies, while indulging in adventure cum cultural excursions, but everything was at such a fast pace, that this was now my moment to take a pause and enjoy the moment within the stunning sanctuary of Shangri La.
First things first. Pahle pet puja phir kaam duja (first eat then do anything else). First on the agenda was to relish the sumptuous breakfast buffet at Tides, the resort’s all day-dining outlet. It had so many varieties of the world cuisines you can eat daily and still not be able to sample everything in a week. It even had poha and aalu puri (an Indian dish that makes me think of home).
With a happy tummy, it was time to get some eye tonic. True to its name Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort was designed on the concept of “structure nestled in nature.” A picturesque island retreat framed by lush palm trees, ivory sand beaches and postcard-perfect waters. Seems like a dream, right? Well, I was living that dream!
My beautiful guide took me around the property, which had 530 guest rooms and suites, its own private man-made beach cove, 2 outdoor swimming pools, a 6-hole golf course, and its own marine sanctuary covering 6 hectares that holds over 100 species of fish and corals. My guide told me that the property is so huge, that sometimes even she gets lost.
I was just about to end my walking tour when my mobile alerted me. The delightful disturbance was from Mike Shubic, publisher of this very blog.
MIKE: “Hey, how’s your island hopping tour going? Did you finally get your luggage?”
Coincidentally, Mike was also confined to the resort because of some last minute flight issue. Funny thing was, neither of us knew that both were left back at the resort. After I informed Mike that I did not make the boat for island hopping, he said in his confident and baritone voice, “Meet me at the beach in 10 minutes, I have a surprise for you.” I had no idea what he was up to, but I made my way to the beach with great enthusiasm.
Both of us are huge adventure seekers, so I was really excited when Mike informed me that we were going to take a jet-ski out for a spin. Believe it or not, I don’t know swim, but since Mike is a great swimmer, I was comfortable to try something crazy and hop on the back of the jet-ski. Yes, I put my life in his hands. Mike talked me into driving and I think he may have regretted it. It was so much fun to go fast!
I was having such a wonderful day, but didn’t know the next thing was going to blow my mind. Mike and I parted ways and I headed to the other side of the resort to CHI, the amazing spa at Shangri La. I must admit, it was one of the best spas I been to in the Philippines. I had a traditional Philippines Hilot massage using warm coconut oil and banana leaves. It was so relaxing that I even dozed off a few times.
The day had finally come to an end and it was time to fly back to Manila with a bagful of memories. At this time I remembered a famous quote from a Bollywood movie, “Kabhie kabhie jeetne ke liye kuchh haarana bhi padata hai aur haar kar jitne wale ko baazigar kahte hain” (Sometimes you have to lose something in order to win, and the one who wins after losing is called a Gambler.)
All I can say is, It’s more fun in the Philippines to lose Luggage!
CEBU TRAVEL TIPS
WHEN to go
- Cebu is a destination for every season. But the best time to go in the dry season (Dec to May).
HOW to go
- Cebu is an international destination with flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and even the USA. An hour away from Manila, Cebu is an ideal jump-off point for other tourist attractions in Visayas and Mindanao. Local flights like Cebu Pacific, Air Asia & Philippine Airlines provide good value for the money.
WHERE to stay
- Cebu has all kinds of places to stay, depending on your budget – from backpacker inns to 5 star resorts. I can say Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort is the best place you’ll find in Cebu. Splurge it, if you can, it’s an amazing property!
WHAT to do
- Historical places: Cebu is very rich when it comes to historical sites from the time of Spanish rule in the Philippines. Places I recommend are Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, Museo Sugbo, Casa Gorordo Museum, Cebu Provincial Detention & Rehabilitation Center, Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary, University of San Carlos Museum, Tops Lookout, Magellan’s Cross and Fort San Pedro.
- Diving: Cebu is one of the best scuba diving areas in the Philippines. The top 5 dive areas in Cebu are ideal for both novice and experienced divers, they include: Mactan Island, Moalboal, Malapascua Island, Liloan Island and Sumilon Island.
- Oslob Whale Shark century: swim with the whale sharks in the Oslob Whale Shark century. But be there before 11 am. You can’t see them after 11
- Waterfalls: Cebu has some of the most stunning waterfalls like Dao Falls, Tumalog Falls, Kawasan Falls, Bugasok Falls and Mantayupan Falls among others
For a detailed travel guide on Cebu visit: www.mycebuguide.com
Also, here’s a travel guide to Siquijor and Negros Oriental
I was invited byPhilippines Tourism Board for their TBEX FAM TRIP – NEGROS Y CEBU in the month of October 2016. I was hosted by Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa. All the views expressed here are mine. The pictures used were clicked by me during my stay there.