Moalboal is a small quiet town about 4 hours away from Cebu airport. The centre of the town is occupied by a large church and marketplace. All around are low-rise little shops selling the basic necessities of life. The people here seem to like their bakeries and confectionaries a lot, and you can find bread and cakes going for an incredible price of 1 peso each. I was ordering 10 of this and 10 of that, and it did not come up to more than 50s peso to feed snacks to 20 people. There is also a police station, but I have no idea what the policeman’s uniform looks like, as such is the nature where there is no need to have patrolling policeman making their presence felt.
There are lots of motorcycle taxis (motorcycle with a side car attached), a cousin of the Thailand tuk-tuk, and a ride on them goes for 6 pesos per person. If you are of the bigger build, check that you can get in and out of the side car or you may find yourself stuck! There are also bicycle taxis for those who prefer a slower and leg-powered ride, and buses that run the Cebu-Moalboal route. Vehicles follow the American system, where they drive on the right-hand side of the road and the steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle. There are no road dividers, parking lots, and yellow lines and traffic lights are unheard of. You can even sit on top of minivans and vehicles, as I did on the action truck, but just hold on tightly and be careful of overhanging branches along the road that may decapitate you. It gets dark at about 5.30pm, and 7pm looks like the 11pm darkness that we are used to. The street lamps, if they exist, are dim, but the people seem to be very adapted to the dimness because it does not stop them from going about their business. Most of the people here are farmers and life here is simple and slow, yet to be invaded by a McDonald’s or a 7-11 shop. As an American PR agent who has been there for 20 years told me, the lifestyle and niceness of people has not changed much; the only difference is that there are paved roads that snake around the island of Cebu.
The tourist and diving area is at Panagsama Beach, which is a 10-minute ride from the Moalboal town centre, going through a few muddy roads before reaching a whole host of accommodation guest houses that go by the name of Nidos, Sunshine, and others. There are not many backpackers here, only divers, and even they do not seem to be too large in number. The diving hotspot is at an nearby island called Pesacador, and it is a place of thriving large sea fans and home to many turtles, schools of fish, and, if you are lucky, the occasional whale shark. The locals even say that during the months of April and May, when whale sharks go through the channel between Negros and Cebu, a friendly whale shark will come closer to shore to play with the local children!
The pathway that runs along the Panagsama beachfront passes through lots guesthouses; pubs; and eateries that offer good seafood, Western food, and even Japanese food. Among the best is the last filling station, with its pizzas and house specialty eggplants. Be patient with your orders, as they seem to take some time to cook, but don’t let that stop you from trying the fresh seafood and pizza concoctions or the local super-tasty grilled chicken. On one of the nights, 16 of us had a meal consisting of fried snapper, four shrimps in a sweet-and-sour dish, two whole grilled chickens, one sizzling tuna steak, four plates of vegetables, and one fried squid, with lots of rice and drinks. The total cost came up to be 2390 pesos, or 149 peso per person.
The beach here is not much of a beach, as the sand here was blown away in a typhoon that swept the area in 1984. What is left is the coral. In a way, that helps protect the beach from hordes of sun-soaking tourists. What one can do here includes snorkeling among the corals, fishing, and diving. Dig around the beach at low tide in the sand and the corals, and you can find plenty of sea life, like shell fish, star fish, and little crabs, left behind by the tide.
For a sandy beach, head to White Sands Beach, which is about 20 minutes from the Moalboal town centre. This is the beach the locals head to, and the long stretch of beach is not crowded; I only saw one the Western tourists there. The waves and current there are strong, so be careful. There are also lots of shelters along the beachfront, and having a barbeque there (like we did) is simply wonderful. There are accommodations for people to rent and stay in and some makeshift shops selling touristy T-shirts. One can get a T-shirt from 100 to 150 pesos. Regardless, there are not too many of these shops or peddlers to disturb the tired travaller wanting some quiet time on the sunny, white beach.
There is still more to be offered at Moalboal. For those wanting to work up a sweat, be courageous and go for a mountain hike up Mt. Osmena. You will be rewarded by stunning views of rolling green hills and the distant sea, and, at the same time, by having a close view of the hard life of the Moalboal farmer tending to his vegetable produce and farm animals. The hike takes about 3 to 4 hours up to the peak of the mountain, and it takes the same amount of time to come back down. You will have to watch your step for stable ground, as the pathway is narrow and rugged and becomes muddy when it rains. Bring lots of water, and a walking stick or pole is of immense help in finding firm footholds. Give yourself enough time to come down, bearing in mind that the sun sets at 5:30pm and that you do not want to be caught coming down on the rugged terrain of the mountain slopes in the dark. For the locals living and farming on the mountain slopes, they have no problem of course carrying their produce on their heads and navigating in the dark. Beware of the local animals as well, as one of our boys found himself being chased by a pig and, on another day, another was chased by an excited cow.
More action? Try river climbing, where you climb through the river and waterfall system. It is a combination of trekking through water, water caving, a bit of rock climbing, swimming, and seeing lots amazing crystal-clear turquoise water. It is tiring and you’re bound to fall many times. This needs lots of teamwork. You will get some cuts and bruises here and there and, at times, even feel like you are going to be swept away by the current, but it is well worth the challenge and thrill - the scenery looks like something from the Jurassic Age.
Even more action? Rappelling down buildings on manmade structures is fun, but there is simply nothing like a great adventure when canyoning in Monteneza Falls in Cebu. Here we are jumping off waterfalls, rappelling down, and doing the flying fox down the waterfall. The coolness and freshness of the water and the sound of many rushing waters amongst the overhanging cliffs are things to behold and enjoy.
For a less physically demanding challenge, go for a pleasant horseback riding experience through the Moalboal farm villages. There is lots of local scenery to savour, and be nice to the horse. It is a pleasant experience, except for the pain on your backside from the horseback riding.