Re: first time..maybe the Waterfront for a week alone ?
My wife is a Filipina from Cebu. Mactan island is where the airport is, serving Cebu. There's a bridge over the water if you want to get to "the big city" of Cebu from Mactan. Lapu Lapu is the name of the native Filipino leader who killed Captain Cook. There's a small pocket-sized national park honoring him on Mactan. I recognize the Waterfront Hotel and casino, but have never stayed there. It's for North Americans and Europeans who have money. It has "American style pricing." That means you'll get no break from the exchange rate. It will be as if you're booking a fancy hotel in The States or Paris or Canada.
Everyone ALMOST speaks proper English. Most of the time you'll do alright, as long as it's a situation where you don't have to depend on them to be precise. Be prepared for food served cold. Whether you're in a restaurant or in a private home, it's not a priority to get your food to you while it's still hot. (HOT food? Why?) I remember calling ahead once, to make sure a particular restaurant had A/C. (They call it "air con.") They told me "yes." When I arrived, THAT'S when they turned it ON! The climate is a killer, really. The heat and humidity will sap you. Even in taxis with A/C they never crank it up enough to help very much while you ride in the back seat, even when you ask the driver to turn it up.
Don't let them know you're a rookie. Check to make sure a gratuity or "service charge" is not built-in to your hotel bill or restaurant bill. On Mactan, I recommend Su-Tu-Kil ("Soo Too-Kill") restaurant. It is open-air. At low tide it smells BAD, but hey, it's the ocean. The seafood is fresh. A huge variety to choose from. Several years ago, we all had dinner together and in US dollar terms it was very cheap, but good.
I used my credit card for a hotel in Cebu once--- the Cebu Midtown. They put a "hold" on my credit card for the expected amount of my bill (several days) PLUS a damage deposit which they have a right to do, but I've never seen THAT before. It caused a big problem, trying to SHOP with that credit card! I wanted to throw a grenade into the lobby. Bastards. Watch out for THAT, too, at the Waterfront.
As for living there: remember that almost everyone is dirt-poor, even if they have a job. Even those who go to work every day are earning peanuts. If you ask anyone to do ANYTHING, you'll be met with a huge amount of gratitude if you give a tip. My wife once allowed a fellow to hail a taxi for us. I was annoyed. I could have done that. But she is in touch with that stuff. I said: we tipped a "taxi pimp?" WHY? But that's the sort of thing you can expect.
We know a couple who lived full time for about 9 months or so in the more comfortable and pricey apartments or condos on the hillside in Cebu. After they returned to the States they were still fighting with the owner or the management for the return of their damage deposit. They never got any of it back.
Even the fellow who is the single, lone American Official who is in charge of the Cebu Consulate Agency is a full-time resident there and he runs a business. The consulate agency is only a sideline for him! Crazy arrangement. (And we found out the hard way that a "consulate agency" is NOT the same thing as an actual CONSULATE!)
You will be met with real hospitality in The Philippines, don't get me wrong. But people are desperately poor. Everyone goes "hand-to-mouth." They see an American and they expect you to be rich. You might have saved for 30 years to afford the trip, but to them, that's "rich." So hang on to your belongings, like you would in NYC or L.A. If you want to go back again and again for a few months in the winter, you might try to arrange to return to the same apartment. If you leave a place that you own yourself just VACANT for several months, there will be nothing left when you get back. I hate to say it, but that's honestly what I have to tell you. I'm not familiar with "Bigfoot." Be sure to have all your questions ready to ask them if you're serious about signing on the dotted line for an apartment lease or anything like that.
Another time, on another trip, when a luxurious retreat at the Waterfront Hotel and casino is not on the agenda, and all you're looking for is a cheap hotel room, I recommend the Cebu Business Hotel in the city. It came to about15 per night in dollar terms. WONDERFUL air conditioning! No view, unless you consider a window facing a brick wall is a "view." But a real bargain, and clean.
When you leave someone and say goodbye for a long time or forever, the thing to say is: "Mabuhay." ("Mah-BOO-high.") it means "long life." Literally, it translates to: "Live!"
Have a good time. We are going back in 2012 for a wedding.... ---"Hinky."
*If I can be of further help, you can email: email@example.com
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