There is a lingering joke that the Lapu-Lapu, the Cebuano chieftain who first defied foreign incursion in the archipelago, is also the killer of the first recorded tourist—Ferdinand Magellan. With the yearlong national observance of the quincentennial of the epic Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation of the world, public spotlight has been focused on the historic Battle of Mactan.
Despite the scant information about the legendary warrior, suffice it to say that his exploits live in the charming city named after him—Lapu-Lapu City. Formerly known as Opon, this bustling urban center is monikered as the “Historic Resort City” because of the eclectic blend of history and tourism.
According to the City’s First Lady and Tourism Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (TCHAC) Cindi King Chan, Lapu-Lapu aims to be a global hub of heritage, culture, tourism and investment with the unprecedented growth it has been experiencing.
Often overshadowed by the more popular Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu is the aerial gateway to the province and where fun begins and concludes, with its world-class Mactan Cebu International Airport.
Just across the airport, you will immediately get the resort feel at the Waterfront Airport Hotel & Casino which gives you a glimpse of the Visayan hospitality with its artsy grand lobby and warm welcome of its personnel.
The 25-year-old, four-star establishment has been recognized by Haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards as among the Bucket List Worthy Places in the Philippines.
In recent pre-pandemic years, it also racked awards such as Asia’s Best Airport Hotel, and the country’s Best Business Hotel, Best City Hotel and Best Airport Hotel.
With comfy rooms, suites, poolside villas, Uno Restaurant, and the adjoining food outlets at the casino, guests need not travel far for the resort experience with delectable local and international dishes to boot. As the Alert Level gets downgraded, the hotel hopes to offer again its popular buffet and reopen its Ambassador’s Lounge which caters to guests in the executive floors.
For the outdoor resort experience, you can bask in the sand, sea, sun and water sports in the numerous posh resorts in the villages of Maribago, Marigondon and Punta Engano. Scuba diving is a must-do in these areas which boast of over a dozen of the most diverse and exciting sites in the central archipelago sought-after by international and domestic divers.
The plunge into the underwater world need not cost an arm and a leg if you seek diligently on dive operators who can give you a memorable dive at friendly rates. Feel Deep Dive Resort is a quaint five-room bungalow which gives you a homey ambiance and kickass diving expedition at the Talima Fish Sanctuary, Marigondon Cave, Tambuli Wall, Kontiki house reef, and a couple of marine sanctuaries scattered around the Hilutungan Channel.
These sites are known for jaw-dropping coral walls and gardens, schools of assorted fish species, caves, a plane wreck, and a profusion of aquatic animals. And if it’s your lucky day, occasional whale sharks will cross your path.
Feel Deep managing partner Jimbo Sarte said more than a recreation, diving is also an environmental commitment as divers clean the seabed from trash every time they dive. This is on top of the annual massive International Coastal Cleanup Day held every September.
With its rich biodiversity, Mactan has been included in the yearlong Dive 7 Festival of the Department of Tourism Central Visayas Region to help restart the diving industry stalled by the pandemic.
Olango, a small island 15 minutes away from Mactan, is an under-the-radar destination in Cebu. While it lacks luxurious resorts, its unspoiled natural wonders are unparalleled luxuries you can enjoy unto yourself. The island is known for its Ramsar-recognized wetlands where migratory birds from the northern hemisphere flock to it during the winter months.
Olango also takes pride in its marine sanctuary which takes you to a 1-kilometer wooden boardwalk to a gazebo for light food, beverages and the clam-like “saang” foraged by fisherfolk, and feeding and swimming with the fishes.
It is best to navigate the island on rented bicycles you can see the bucolic way of life on a slow pace. And if you wish to spend the night, Sagastrand Resort and Talima Beach Villas are among the simple but notable places to chill out and watch the world go by.
Come chow time, Marina Seaview is the place to be or to be seen with family, friends and special guests. Situated at the banks of the Mactan Channel just outside the airport, it more than qualifies as a hotel restaurant with its elegant furnishings, ornate interiors, function rooms and mouth-watering specialty seafood and signature dishes.
It also has an al fresco area for people conscious of air flow and those who want a riverine ambiance. Its bar offers the best spirits in town, music lounge and dining area which has a kaleidoscopic sunset panorama of the two Mactan-Mandaue bridges, mesmerizing harbor lights and passing ships.
With Lapu-Lapu’s rich history and exciting experiences across five centuries, we can definitely hail the chieftain and the city which immortalizes his memory.
Images courtesy of Bernard L. Supetran and Feel Deep Dive Center