Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Philippines Food & Travel Diary, Part 1 - Cebu City

Earlier this year while I was in China, I made an impromptu decision to join Nick in the Philippines and meet his family there. Coming from the bone-chilling cold in China, the heat and humidity of the Philippines hit me like a brick. I had just one outfit with me suitable for the 85+ degree heat (initially packed for a long layover in LA), which I wore every single day and hand-scrubbed at night. Despite this, I had an incredible time experiencing a new culture, and am happy the two pieces I brought turned out to be rather appropriate for the vibrant, colorful country.

 Tasting mangosteen from street-side fruit stands:
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Colorful vehicles; free-spirited children who shouted loud, friendly greetings to the "foreigners":
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Feasting on lechon (crispy-skinned roast pork) at Zubuchon, proclaimed by Anthony Bourdain as the "best pig ever": PI4
Continue reading for more photos...

Buying streetside bbq'd skewers for dinner, grilled on the spot then paired with mangoes, sticky rice, and salted fish. PI1
While flying Philippine Airlines, I got hooked on their Happy brand chicken adobo-flavored peanuts. Unfortunately, each package contains about 5 peanuts so I had to restock early on. When asked how much, the lady at this shop replied "one twenty five." Aghast that she was trying to charge me a hundred and twenty-five pesos (~ $3 USD) for five little peanuts, I huffily went off, looking for another vendor. Turns out this flavor is more popular than I thought, and I ended up right back at this vendor 30 minutes later, faint from the heat and still peanut-less. I forked over the money and found out that she had meant 1.25 pesos (~ 3 cents USD) per package.
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Left: Nick's parents had gone to the "special" foot spa before we arrived and insisted we try it as well. Right: Local woman selling yams from her head.
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Jeepneys - the most popular means of public transit. Riders sit knees-to-knees, packed to capacity and extra passengers hang off the back.
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We first stayed at Casa Escano, a bed & breakfast run by a young UC Davis graduate. It was fun to wake up every day and try a new breakfast out on the terrace. Below top: chicken arroz caldo, a Spanish-influenced rice porridge served with egg, scallions, peppers and fish sauce. As a Chinese congee lover, I couldn't resist trying this despite the heat and humidity. Below bottom: A variation of loco moco, a Hawaiian-influenced breakfast involving a hamburger patty, a fried egg, plus gravy.
PI2
We had dinner once at AA BBQ at the recommendation of our hotel owner. Thank goodness growing up in China trained me to not be skeevy about food safety : ) We got in line to pick our "catch" and skewers of meat from open displays, then handed them over to be cooked in whatever way we pleased. The open-air restaurant was quite bustling with many families enjoying a meal together.
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Above: the "before," including conch, bangus, squid, and giant prawns. Below: the "after" - feast of seafood grilled, fried, seared, and even made into stew
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I hope you enjoyed the first part of my Philippines travel diary. This post was comprised mostly of snapshots from Cebu city, before we made our way to Nick's aunt's remote beach hut. The second part of the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I can't wait to share photos from that next.

Readers - I'd love to hear any local must-dos or must-eats for a future trip!

108 comments:

  1. I went to the Phillipines years ago with my family - one of the best trips of my life. Enjoy your time!

    xoxo
    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

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  2. Yay Cebu! :D I went there when I was a 'tween' so I don't remember too much.. but I remember the beaches very well :)

    And lechon.. mm. I love it! Its hard to find good lechon around here.

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  3. very pretty outfit!! I'm very curious to what kind of shoes you wore - I'm about to go on a trip that'll involve lots and LOTS of walking, yet I want to stay away from sneakers and look pretty in pictures. Any tips!?

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    1. I purchased flip flops when I got there, but if you're going to be doing a lot of walking you need flats with good arch support (so make sure the sole isn't totally flat and flimsy). I don't have brands to suggest, but make sure you break them in before your vacation to avoid blisters and any pain during the trip.

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  4. Wow! Happy to see my Philippines on this blog. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Ha! That picture of you with your feet in the fishy foot spa may be my favorite I've ever seen on your blog, Jean!! ;-) ;-P

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  6. Thank you Jean for posting this pictures. I am from the Philippines originally. I hope you had a good time over there. We always does every time we visit.

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  7. These photos are gorgeous! I especially love the first one of the marketplace.

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  8. Love the pic of you in the fish foot spa :-) Love your travel logs!

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  9. I was pleasantly surprised to read about your visit to the Philippines. I'm also from the Philippines and what I miss most living here in US is the Filipino food. Did you get to shop the malls, too? During my last visit, there was a newly built Mall of Asia fronting Manila Bay. If you did, you were probably in shopping heaven as the clothes there are Asian sizes, so no need to alter:)I wear XS or OP here and back home, i had to go with Small!

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    Replies
    1. I visited SM and Ayala and went into almost every store hoping to buy a change of clothes...unfortunately, nothing fit and the prices were pretty high for the quality. I must've not gone into the right places!

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    2. Hi jean! You should have gone to the tiangges (bazaars). They have pretty good selection for a very reasonable price.

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  10. I'm from Cebu,though I haven't gone back the last 10 yrs. I truly miss the food,beaches and the sights. Thanks for sharing pics of your visit,made me nostalgic of what I enjoyed back home.Hope you savor the food and our culture even with all the heat(summer).

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  11. Food, food, food - I love good food! I want to hear more about your impressions of the different experiences (um, food ones especially) :) Looking forward to hearing about the beach hut - sounds like paradise!

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  12. Lovely pictures :-) Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Jean, the picture of you with your hands covering your face during your fish foot spa is priceless.=) Your trip about going from a cold weathered place to another one that is hot reminds me of the time I went from the heat scorching 106 degrees weather of Sacramento to the cool and wind swept 65 degrees weather in San Francisco. Thank you sharing your travel with us. I love seeing pictures of people travels to different country.

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  14. Totes using your advice on tucking a cardigan into your pencil skirt today! Thank you for the tip, makes the working day more bearable with something new in my usually-just-normal work outfits.

    Also, so delighted to see my home country featured in your blog. Yes, definitely brought your style tips and advices to an office in the heart of Manila.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed the tip, Danielle! Would love to visit Manila someday..have a good friend that lives there.

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  15. Wow everything looks so delicious! Love the photo of the foot spa - I did one of those too in Phuket, lol. Can't wait to see the next segment - I've heard amazing things about the beaches in the Philippines so really looking forward to hearing about it!

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  16. I just came back from Cebu/Borocay/Leyte about a month ago! Definitely go to Ayala and go hunting through the boutiques. You'll also find a good alterations place there where it cost about $3 for urgent (done in 3 hrs)hems and things.
    For Filipino food in Ayala there is a lovely restaurant on the lower level called Cafe Laguna where they serve amazing Filipino cuisine and the best watermelon drinks. And Hukad along The Terraces.

    For pampering go to The Spa of Cebu!! Have fun :)

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  17. I've been following your blog a while and didn't know you had a Philippine connection. Filipinos are style-conscious so I hope you get to post your observations as well (I'd like to know your comment about our local fashion brands - Bayo, Kamiseta, Plains and Prints). Don't pass up on the Sky Walk at the Crown Regency. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

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  18. I LOVE that you wore and re-wore one outfit during your trip. That goes a long way towards showing that you don't need to have a million clothes in your closet to look stylish...something I can do well to remember!

    Lovely photos, all.

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  19. Looked like a wonderful trip. So much delicious food! That's the best part of traveling to new countries =) Can't wait for your continuation post!

    xoxo,
    www.StyleCueBySuzieQ.com

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  20. I love this! I especially love how you wore just one outfit, which was quite stylish by the way. :) Being half-Filipino, I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I'm looking forward to the next one :) :)

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  21. Woah you're brave, trying the exotic food! Looks like you had a blast. How could you not, huh? Next time go to Boracay or Palawan. The beaches there are pristine :))

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  22. Boracay, Aklan.. Coron, Palawan.. Best beaches in the Philippines!
    Tagaytay or Baguio for an escape from the scorching heat..
    Trinoma, SM Mall of Asia, Robinson's Galleria.. Must go-to malls for shopping!
    Sizing are really perfect for you because Filipinos have small-average frames..
    Greenhills Tiangge for cheap fashion finds (and other stuffs as well)
    Street foods are always a hit for foreigners here because it's cheap, popular & tastes good (atleast for me) and also bagoong.. :D
    Try also the halo-halo from Razon's(a restaurant) or buko shakes & dried mangoes(especially the ones from Cebu)..
    And oh! There's also place called Chinatown here in the Philippines!
    I hope you a good time here in the Philippines!
    p.s. The Happy chicken adobo-flavored peanut is my favorite too! :D

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  23. Btw, all those that I've mentioned except Boracay, Coron, Tagaytay & Baguio are easily found in Manila/Metro Manila..

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  24. omg. :) you're here! *excitement. :)
    i'm a local of Makati City. and i just want to say you're awesome!!!
    i agree with jen's comment above.
    i would just like to add if you're going to Baguio try finding some UKAY UKAY stores. :) its like a second hand shop (just in case you like to check)
    they sell authentic LV, Chanel, etc bags for like 5000pesos (above and below) it really depends on the condition of the bag.
    and clothes ukay stores are full of them. very cheap ones too. :)

    well..i hope i helped. i've been in ukay ukay stores since i was in college and it saved my piggy banks. (i'm just starting a blog for it hehehe)

    enjoy your stay!!! :)

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  25. From your photos, the Philippines does look like a very colourful city. My favourite photo is the one of Nick and you at the fish foot spa!

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  27. Yay I was waiting for this! Glad you had fun. I haven't tried adobo flavored nuts but I love Ding Dongs and Boy Bawang haha.

    I went on a field trip a few weeks ago and we rode the tops of the jeepneys. So fun! Next time you must try pancit palabok, as it's my favorite meal. And sisig (no egg!) and halo-halo, if you haven't already.

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  28. I did the foot spa while in Korea! Ticklish, but interesting. :)

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  29. Jean, I'm so envious of your ironclad stomach! Eating all the local (and street!) foods without getting sick is impressive. Did you try any of their mango desserts? I think it's one of their national fruits. Candy, drinks, etc. are all really good.

    Did the water for your special foot spa turn black afterwards? I remembered walking by one and they were showing a video of how the process worked. I chickened out after I saw the water turn color, hahaha.

    Thank you for sharing your adventure and photos! Looking forward to the next segment. Now I'm off to find myself a second breakfast.

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    1. Lots and lots of fresh mango, some of which was used in desserts. The spa did not turn our feet black...that must be another type of luxury spa treatment : )

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  30. Your trip looked so much fun, making me more impatient to go back home this April! I'm glad you liked the Philippines!

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  31. Wow what an experience you had there with food and local outings. I find it rather difficult to have ana authentic experience as locals if you do not have family or friends that actually live there to guide you on where to go or what to do but in your case lucky you that a bf's family lives over there. Mangosteen must be my buzband's most favorite exotic fruit of all. He gobbled down everyday when we were in Thailand this year. Looking forward to part 2.

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  32. you should hit the beaches! :) aww... i want to meet you in person. :)

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  33. Wow, it looks like so much fun! I especially loved the foot spa picture :) It looks like y'all had a great time and now I'm craving Pinoy food! Haha thanks for sharing!

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  34. All of the food looks amazing! How was the foot spa?! :)

    xo, Yi-chia

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  35. Your peanut story was hilarious!!! Woulda been fun to meet up with you while you were in the country. And yeah, the heat's pretty bad, even for us tropical folks!

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  36. Hi! I was wondering if you can provide quickie advice - for your middle 2 photos, the ones where you are doing the fish pedicure, how did you get the two photos to fit side by side on your blog like that? Was it some re-sizing trick?
    (and I love this entry by the way! It has so much zest!)

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    1. I did it within Photoshop (dragged two images into a new blank image) but there's also an app on the iphone called Frametastic which I use.

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  37. Jean! I heard about those foot spas LOL! You are BRAVE!!! And while I'm pretty open to most foods being born and raised in Canada and never having even visited Asia I think I would be squirming like crazy hahahaha! Great pictures and what a nice vacation!

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  38. Love this post and can't wait for another one...wish I could be there,it looks interesting and I'm glade you're having great time :)

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  39. So cute! I'm loving that yellow skirt!

    www.highheelstosneakers.com

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  40. I love your outfit! I've had that foot massage and it tickled!

    octoberchic.com

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  41. Never been, but the food looks delicious and I think the spa pic looks cute!

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  42. love the philippines - lived there for three months and it has a special place in my heart. on the don't miss list: tagaytay (a lake inside a volcano which is in a lake inside of a volcano), pancit noodles, scuba diving off of mindoro (try rick's scuba), competitive karaoke with machines that assign you a score, and somewhere where you can see barong shirts being made (traditional men's shirt). oh and halo-halo for dessert!

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  43. I've never been to the Philippines though I have plenty of friends who came from there. Sounds like you had one amazing feast after another. I had no idea you were originally from China.

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  44. Great post. The food looked amazing. And that foot spa... hehe (your picture is worth a thousand words), but how did it feel to have those little fishes eat away at the dead skin cells?

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    1. Very, very tickly...also I could not bear to look at the gaping mouths of the fishes.

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  45. oh my wonderful. i'd wanna keep that beautiful conch shell after eating it!

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  46. Love your post. You really captured the essence of the Philippines and how simple yet beautiful the people are. There are lots of beautiful places including Laguna, Palawan and of course Boracay.

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  47. Sounds like an awesome time was had. I wanted to visit Phillipines while I was in HK last October but we just didn't have time. :(

    What would you say was your favorite part of the trip?

    kat
    aneyeforfashion.blogspot.com

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  48. How awesome to read about my hometown from you blog! though i'm not from cebu, i love that place. i remember spending numerous weekends there with my family growing up. I love how Cebu has that big city (but not crazy like manila) vibe but at the same time, in a couple of minutes drive, you are transported to paradise. Amazing food and amazing beaches!

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  49. Wow Philippines. I am enjoying reading your post here. Take care

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  50. I'm so glad that you decided to go to the Philippines, especially Cebu. I was originally from Cebu, before moving to California, and I am very happy that you were able to capture the beauty that is Cebu. The last time I was back there was five years ago and I am glad that it has changed for the better.

    ecklection.com

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  51. So amazing! I really want to go to the Philippines.

    http://fiveminutefashions.blogspot.com/

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  52. Make sure to get some banana-Q and kamote-Q! And.. if you're strong enough... balut?

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    1. Haha...I think I have a fairly strong stomach, but not nearly strong enough for balut.

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  53. LOL on having to rewear the same outfit! No cheap fashions in Philippines to be had? Great snapshots by the way. I love how you captured the colors and hustle/bustle of the city. So was it the best pork ever ;). LOL on the 125 price difference!!! Those are like dead-skin eating fish right? I'd be so scared too! But I'm assuming it mostly tickled. What a crowded bus! You gotta love Asian though. And my fav in HK/Taiwan are those fresh seafood restaurants. Can't beat them. Nothing like it in the states. Can't wait to see the pictures from the private hut!

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  54. Fun read! Can't wait for Part 2 :)

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  55. are you two getting married soon?

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    1. LOL! You two do make a beautiful couple and I really love your posts!

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  56. i really like the yellow skirt on you :D

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  57. Lechon is a guilty pleasure! Have you and Nick ventured to Quincy yet. There's a foot spa there and Boston's one (and only) Filipino restaurant! There's also a Filipino grocer adjacent to the restaurant!

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  58. Jean, I really enjoyed this post! I also have some family in Cebu and haven't been back in 10 years. I haven't been but someday want to go to the rice terraces, Chocolate Hills, and El Nido (which I've heard is the beach with the least amount of tourists).

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  59. I can't wait for part 2! I didn't know your boyfriend was filipino! Is he full filipino because he looks like a halfsie. Anyway, looking forward to part 2! You should visit Manila!

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  60. Hi Jean. I've been a reader of your blog for about a year now but this is my first time commenting.lol...

    Your pics are lovely. I was born in the Philippines but don't get to visit as often as I'd like. You are so eloquent and your post just took me back there even if only for a moment. I laughed really hard at that bit where you thought the vendor was charging you 125 for a tiny bag of peanuts. If there's one thing that's cheap there, it's food. Lol

    I agree that it's difficult to find good pieces there that are priced reasonably. Their sales are not as good as they are in our side of the world, I'm afraid (currently residing in Canada). Thanks for sharing your Philippine adventure with us. Looking forward to the next part.

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  61. It's an awesome place! Next time try Palawan and Boracay!

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  62. I cant wait for your Part 2, I want go Philippines!!
    you and Nick are a lovely couple XD

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  63. such lovely pictures of my hometown! glad you enjoyed!

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  64. Im from cebu philippines..im glad you had a great time..its definetely a different experience..i miss cebu

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  65. haha like everyone else, I loved that fish spa photo! The food markets though look so fun - very colorful and tasty! I can't imagine wearing the same clothes everyday in that heat - you are very brave haha

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  66. Hahaha! That 'grandma is that you' is hilarious! Glad you enjoyed your stay here Jean. Manila would be much more of a riot though! The heat was crazy right?! I'm from here but honestly think wouldn't make a day w/o air conditioning. Best time to visit is December to February as the temp is much more pleasant.

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  67. Aww you're so cute in the foot spa photo! I'm like you, Chinese with a half Filipino bf. Neither of us has been to the Philippines though. I would loveee to go there for the food haha :)

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  68. Hello Jean. I'm from the Philippines and have been reading your blog for quite some time for style tips. (I'm also petite, and quite on the light side of the scale). Glad to find that you have a post about Philippines and that you enjoyed your visit in our country!

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  69. Hello Jean. I'm so glad you featured in your blog my hometown,Cebu City before my family moved to California. I was amused by your experiences especially your expression in your snapshot at the fish spa. By the way, my sister runs the business. You have done almost every foreigner needs to do and eat in Cebu.
    Visit landmarks : Magellan's cross, Sto.Nino church, Mactan beaches, purchase fresh water pearls jewelry(sets are so cheap), eat Mandaue delicacies: suman or "budbud" a delicious rice pudding, Otap or Rosquillos cookies (famous Cebu delicacies). Enjoy your stay!!!

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  70. I heard of those foot spas! All the rage. I don't think I can do it. My feet are super sensitive. Your trips are so fun!

    Helen
    dietingfashions.com

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  71. Amazing photos from your trip! I would love to visit the Philippines one day...the food looks so good!

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  72. Hi Jean! So happy you had fun in the Philippines :)

    Btw you spelled Philippines incorrectly in the title and tag :)

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    1. How embarrassing! Thank you for pointing it out : )

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  73. Aww I love this!! Makes me the Philippines so much :) I just had a hefty lunch and looking at all these pictures just made me hungry again.

    It's definitely not a perfect country, but the people are lovely and kind, always trying to make you feel at home. I'm glad you enjoyed your time!!

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  74. Hi Jean, love your photos. I agree with your "grandma"...you two make such a cute couple. I always laugh whenever you mention about him and/or his opinions. Btw, where did you get your yellow skirt?

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  75. Gimingaw kog samot sa Sugbu (makes me miss Cebu more)! AA was the old hang-out.Are the bbq's at Larsian near Robinson's rotunda? Thanks for posting these pics.glad you had a swell time.

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  76. Love this blog post just like the rest of the fellow Pinays who commented! My parents are from Leyte and Davao respectively, but we also have family in Cebu, Metro Manila, and Pangasinan. So we island hop whenever we go.

    I never tried the foot spa, and will now need to try it once I go back again. How long did you have to sit there for? Just curious. And, which foot spa did you go to? Was it in Ayala?

    Can't wait to read more stories about the Philippines from you. It's been 5 years since I've been back but hope to go there in the next few years with my baby in tow.

    PS is your boyfriend Filipino or half? he looks mestizo :)

    xo annie
    http://inspiredbythesethoughts.blogspot.com

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  77. Loved all your pictures! Last year, we went to Korea and had a spa day with the fish as well. It was kind of scary at first, but fun. Lol. I've never been to the Philippines. I've visited Korea, Thailand, China, and Japan. I will have to put that on my list. I love seafood and the food looks amazing.

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  78. Loved all your pictures! Last year, we went to Korea and had a spa day with the fish as well. It was kind of scary at first, but fun. Lol. I've never been to the Philippines. I've visited Korea, Thailand, China, and Japan. I will have to put that on my list. I love seafood and the food looks amazing.

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  79. Love your post,
    Wish you all the best.

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  80. I just found your blog on Bloglovin's Popular section. I got interested on your alterations so I decided to scan more and seen this post. I'm from Philippines, I hope I have known your blog a long time ago. It looks you had fun and enjoyed your stay. :)

    xx,
    stylegrenade.blogspot.com

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  81. This posts makes me miss Philippines more especially Cebu. The food makes me hungry :(... I hope you have a great time there. Enjoy your trip.

    http://a.k.a.chymecindy.net

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  82. It's my first time to read your blog, I was so happy and proud to see a post about the Philippines! I wish you could come back to explore more Pinoy cuisine and shopping places. You should try Boy Bawang (Garlic flavored cornicks), pork sinigang and dirty ice cream, just to name a few. Cebu is such a nice place, Manila should be next on your list! :)

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  83. Look like you had a great time your story made me laugh out loud. I adore your blog.
    x
    cammi
    http://www.cammilicious.com

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  84. Great pics! When are you posting Part 2 of your trip?

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  85. LOVE this post! Great pics and descriptions! You and Nick are adorable. I was in the Philippines in June. Too bad you did not get to go to the markets/bazaars. I bought some beautiful fresh water pearl necklaces and other jewelry for very inexpensive prices. Looking forward to Part 2.

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  86. Good you loved the Philippines...:)

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  87. Awww reading this post made me so happy! I'm glad that you loved your visit! :) Is Nick Filipino?

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  88. I'm glad you had fun in the PH! Patty here... I'm filipina, a petite, and I love your blog! Found it a couple of days ago. You should check out this petite blogger from malaysia (or maybe you know of her already..) fourfeetnine.com

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  89. oh my gosh! I just stumbled upon your blog. I think I went to the same fish spa and sat in those exact seats in a mall in Cebu City when I was there in July (either Iyala or SM? I think it might have been SM) I hope you had a blast!

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  90. This is my first time to read about your blog while I searched for some fashion tips (i'm petite, too! :)), and I'm so happy you had a great time here in Cebu. You two look good together! So glad you met a romantic Filipino out there! Hope you'll come back to the Philippines for a longer vacation. We've got lots to offer! take care! :))

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  91. wow! i'm a filipina and so good to hear you enjoyed your stay in the phils.

    Love your blog by the way. Hope you'll visit again :)

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  92. hi jean,

    love your blog. keep it up. nice to hear that you enjoy your Philippine trip. All the best.

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  94. It always brings a smile to my face when I come upon this blog post. I lived on the island of Cebu before I moved to California. I'm glad you enjoyed it! It made me reminisce and look at old photos when I went back for a family reunion 4 years ago.

    http://www.ecklection.com

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