An hour had passed then finally, “Welcome to Mactan-Cebu International Airport”, was announced over the airline’s PA system…At last, I have arrived in Cebu. As I got out of the airport, I was thinking whether to take the taxi which was readily available right in front of me, or to look for the MyBus terminal or jeepney stop to get to where will I be staying while in Cebu City. I was inclined to take the bus or the jeep however, I didn’t exactly know yet where the hotel was. So, after weighing each pros and cons, it was more practical to take a taxi at that time even if it was costly.
I have already prearranged for a place to stay prior to my arrival in Cebu. I thought that finding an affordable room in Mandaue City, in view of the fact that it was near the airport, would play to my advantage later on. It was already too late when I came to realize that it didn’t really matter because I will be heading South of Cebu after a couple of days anyways. I should have looked for a place within Cebu City itself because Mandaue City was not exactly close to all the main attractions in Cebu City that I wanted to visit.
Inspired by a public transportation route from the airport to Cebu City post, and not wanting to splurge too much on taxi rides, I have spent some time at the hotel and analyzed the jeepney routes that I needed to take to accomplish my goal of going on a DIY tour around Cebu City on a jeep. How hard can taking a public transportation be, right? I knew at that time that I was confident enough since I have been taking the public transportation on my own as early as when I was in 5th or 6th grade.
On the first day, the plan was to visit the attractions of TOPS Lookout, Temple of Leah, Sirao Flower Farm, then the Taoist Temple on the way back. From Mandaue City, I need to get to Lahug to catch a habal-habal that would take me to those places.
It looked pretty easy so, I geared up, donned my backpack and off to the streets I went.
Letters and Numbers
Standing on the sidewalk along A.C. Cortes Ave., I waited for a 21A letter and number coded jeepney going to SM City Cebu. After 5 minutes of waiting for a 21A jeep to pass by in front of me from a sea of colorful Cebu jeepneys, all I saw were a bunch of all other letters except for 21A. There was a stoplight not too far away so I walked further down the road but I was still unsuccessful. Maybe I was at the wrong spot, then I moved past the next block and waited some more. At long last, 21A and it was almost empty. Good job!
Cebu City jeepneys are systematically number and letter coded, each has a specific route. Some routes are divided in two depending on the last digit of the vehicles' plate number if it's an odd or even number. You have to be sure which one to flag to get to the right destination. Just like its cousins from Manila, these jeeps are regarded as the “Hari ng Kalsada” or the King of the Road as it is widely used all over the metro. Aside from the regular jeepneys they also use multicabs (small light trucks) to transport people in and around towns, both having flamboyant exterior designs.
I paid P8.00 to the fare collector and sat at the end of jeep near the entrance/exit. We haven’t gotten too far yet when we ran into a slow moving traffic in front of J Center Mall and it wasn’t at all different from what we usually experience in Manila. After a while, I can already see SM City Cebu, so I got off as soon as the jeep halted at the stop light.
From SM City Cebu, I searched for a 04L jeepney that goes to JY Square Mall where I can get a habal-habal to take me to the uplands.
There are a lot of habal-habal that are moving around the city known as “Angkas” (It has the same concept as Uber and Grab but on a motorcycle) that can actually take you to wherever you want but it can be more expensive.
Spotting a 04L jeep along Juan Luna Ave. Ext. corner A Soriano Ave. was a breeze. It was around 5:00 PM that time, the vehicle was moving slowly as it was almost rush hour. All of a sudden, I started to doubt my sense of direction, “Was I moving the right path”. Self-doubt struck me and I was thinking if I can still pull it off. Soon, the sun will begin to retreat and the attractions might already be closed when I get there. My mind was making excuses in my head not to move forward anymore in such an unfamiliar territory.
The apprehensions over something I can’t explain has won the battle and buried my confidence and excitement to the ground. I alighted the jeep while it was stuck in traffic just before reaching the gasoline station at the intersection under the flyover.
With a heavy heart and self-disappointment, I crossed to the other side of the street and waited for another jeep going back to SM City Cebu. When I arrived at the mall, I was mulling over what did just happen? I felt like I wasted my first day in the city. I didn’t come all the way to Cebu to go to a mall and have dinner at a KFC outlet. I can do all those things in Manila. 🙂
Experiencing Cebu City Rush Hour
Nightfall had blanketed the city and after a brief rainfall, it was time to call it a day. I stood along the road with the locals and waited for a 21A jeep (since I already know that it passes by near my place) going back to Mandaue City. Most of them (locals) just got out from work and heading home as well. Yes, it was already the dreaded rush hour when I was about to go home. I was so tempted to take the taxi but I didn’t give in, I would just have to find the right jeep and run to it as fast as I can just like how I do it when I was still in college. 🙂
But it was like forever and not a single 21A jeep passed by, I crossed over the opposite side and planned to do a round trip but every single one I saw was full. Desperate to get back to the hotel, I went back to where I was originally waiting and took a different jeep to get to J Mall. From J Mall, I was supposed to take another jeep but there was a long queue of passengers and no jeep was available. I took the liberty of walking 10-15 minutes back to the hotel instead.
Day 1 of my DIY Cebu City Tour on a jeep and habal-habal was a huge defeat. Before retiring to bed, I pondered on what I did wrong that day. I went back to the drawing board and worked on a different approach. It was new day the following day. The debacle that I’ve encountered didn’t stop me from making an effort to start anew. I already pinpointed what went wrong the day before and I will just have to run it better this time.
Ask for Directions
As the advertising jingle says, “Wag mahihiyang magtanong…” (Don’t be afraid or don’t hesitate to ask). 🙂
Everything could have been a lot easier if I have just asked questions and asked for directions. I was so afraid of other people to think that I was on a tour and getting lost but in fact I looked more stupid and wasted a lot of time by dillydallying and not asking for directions right away. However, it is easier said than done. I genuinely find it hard to ask someone whom I don’t know for anything. It was like I need to gather a massive amount of confidence before approaching someone to ask them for anything. It is one of the things that I have been looking forward to surmount as I continue on my solo travel adventures.
“Roll Like How the Locals Roll”
With a regained confidence, I was more prepared to take on the challenge of a DIY tour around Cebu City by taking the public transportation. I started early because I don’t want to get caught in to another evening rush hour. But since it was a work week and school was not on a break yet, I slightly experienced the morning rush although it wasn’t that bad. At around 8:30 AM, I was already on a jeep going to J Center Mall. This time, the plan was to go to the highlands first then finish the day somewhere in the city.
Veering away from the awkwardness of getting attention from other people when I blurt out some questions inside a vehicle full of strangers, I try to sit behind the driver or by the entrance near the conductor as much as I can so I can just ask them discreetly. I know that the other passengers could care less about me but I just wanted to blend in and not to attract unnecessary attention.
Learn the Dialect, The Basic Riding-a-Jeepney Terms
Another reason why I always wanted to sit close to the driver and conductor was because I don’t speak Cebu’s mother tongue. Most Cebuanos that I’ve come across with on the jeep would either speak in Cebuano or English (especially when the jeep passed by Cebu IT Park). Very seldom that I heard them speak in Tagalog. I have observed that they usually use words like Pila for Magkano? (How much?), Plete as Bayad (Fare), Palihog/Palihug for Pakiabot/Pakisuyo (Please pass) and Lugar for Para (Stop) when on a jeep, words that helped me on my subsequent jeepney rides. 🙂
Engage and Haggle
Shortly after passing by Cebu IT Park, we’ve reached JY Square Mall. Right at the parking space by the entrance were the habal-habal drivers. I moved towards their direction and I haven’t even opened my mouth when they’ve asked, Temple of Leah? TOPS? Sirao? One of the drivers was offering me P300 round trip for Sirao Flower Farm only but I didn’t say anything. He then asked me where do I want to go. I told him that I want to visit Temple of Leah and Sirao, he quoted me for P500 but I said P400 round trip for both destinations. Even though I thought that it wasn’t effective and convincing enough I was surprised that he agreed. I was not sure if that was a good deal or what but at least I was able to save P100.
Before leaving the parking lot of JY Square Mall, clarify with the driver if the price that they gave includes the waiting time. Some drivers are charging for a waiting fee on top of what you have both agreed on.
Just like when I was in Carabao Island and Gigantes Islands, I took the opportunity to know bits and pieces about Cebu City from the habal-habal driver, Kuya Jason. We made a stop at a gasoline station to refill then we took off to our first stop.
Organized but Complicated
The Cebu jeepney transport system was very organized however, it can be very complicated and challenging for someone visiting the Queen City of the South for the first time. Unlike in Metro Manila where the jeepney routes are following a one way in, one way out concept. It is more straightforward and easy to figure out as they pass through the same roads and places to and from one place.
On the other hand, most Cebu jeeps do not pass the same route going to and from a specific destination. For example, the jeep with code 21A originating from Mandaue City, passes by in front of SM City Cebu. But the same jeep with code 21A will not pass by SM City Cebu on its way back to Mandaue City. It may come around on one or two of the same roads and stops but it has a totally different route altogether which commuters would have to memorize. It was that very difference from its counterpart in Metro Manila that made it too confusing for me. But I know better now. 🙂
Travel is never a matter of money, but of COURAGE. - Paulo Coelho
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How about you? Have you been to Cebu? Have you tried taking the public transportation while on a Cebu City tour? How was your experience? What were the lessons you’ve learned from your commute? We would love to hear from you? Share your thoughts.