Those looking forward to adventure-filled vacations in the next few months should include Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor in their list of must-see places. These tourist destinations took a beating in the past two years, not only due to pandemic restrictions but because of typhoon Odette’s wrath. But Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Director Shahlimar Hofer Tamano assures Central Visayas is now ready to welcome local and foreign tourists with a variety of outdoor activities.
A program was held at the Shangri-La Mactan Cebu recently as part of the inter-island media familiarization tour hosted by the Philippine Airlines and Tourism Board of the Philippines. In the said event, Tamano shared some of the things their group has been busy with to reinvigorate and improve tourism in the region.
The regional director is happy to note that infrastructure projects are at full steam despite the continuing pandemic. Last January, the third bridge of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway, also known as the Sto. Niño Bridge, was inaugurated. It promises to cut travel time from the airport to the southern part of Cebu by 40 minutes and will be open to motorists this year.
Also opening this year in Cebu City is the nine-hectare NUSTAR Resort and Casino complex in Kawit Point. The five-star luxury resort and casino facility will have three hotel towers called Fili Urban Resort and a four-level, 35,000-square meter mall.
Exciting times ahead
In 2021, the DOT conducted a series of dive festivals in Moalboal, Malapascua, Lapu-Lapu, Mactan, Panglao, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor to attract newbie and veteran divers and underwater photographers. The dive spots in Central Visayas, with its rich marine wonders, are cited as among the best in the world. Tamano says diving remains to be a top drawer of tourism in the region.
The world-famous Loboc River Cruise is back in business. However, only the floating restaurants that have been upgraded based on the new design were allowed to resume operations. This is according to Elmer Varquez, Loboc’s chief tourism operations officer.
Tamano highly recommends driving up to the TCH (TransCentral Highway), which is becoming popular as a bikers’ haven and also a favorite destination of photographers and nature lovers. It has cafes, restaurants, parks, and camping sites. During our short stay in Cebu, we were able to visit the 700-square-meter flower garden in Sitio Bunga, Balamban called Buwakan ni Alejandra. If you’re looking to take pictures for your Instagram feed, this is the place to go. After, we had our Japanese-themed dinner at Liel’s Kitchen which offers a panoramic view of the mountains of Busay.
Cebu is also being promoted as a hub for those who would like to learn arnis, also known as kali or eskrima/escrima. Prior to the pandemic, the region (specifically Bantayan and Siquijor) has been welcoming thousands of martial arts enthusiasts from Germany, US, China, Japan, and Korea, offers Tamano.
In time for Holy Week, Tamano says they are expecting an influx of tourists going on a pilgrimage. Among the pilgrimage programs they are offering include the Marian Pilgrimage in Metro Cebu, the Cultural Treasures Churches Tour, the Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches Pilgrimage, and Via Maria: A Pilgrimage Tour of Bohol’s Marian Churches.
Those fond of exhilarating sports should try canyoneering (rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping) in the towns of Badian and Alegria.