I visited Iloilo City which is located on the south of Panay Island. It is the second largest city in the central Philippines (also known as the Visayas) and has around 300,000 people. I definitely enjoyed this town although it is more of a nice place to live than a tourist destination. It is big enough to have lots of amenities but small enough to be easy to get around and there is not much pollution. I did not take many pictures, but you can see some pictures here taken by an American expat:
Since I didn't meet anybody at Boracay island, I decided to finally give couchsurfing.com a try. This is a web site that allows you to register your profile and meet up with other travelers and hosts who live in particular cities. It is safer than randomly meeting people since people post information about themselves and get vouched for by other travelers and hosts. Anyway, I met Frank, who owns a local IT school, through couchsurfing and he showed me all around one evening. What a great host! Although he is Filipino, he used to live in the Bay Area, too, so we had a lot in common. Frank showed me all around the night life of the town and I could see how this place was small enough that you really could know a lot of the people that you ran across during an evening out. Frank invited me to a party at his house a couple of days later, but unfortunately my schedule required that I leave one day before that. I have discovered that Filipino hospitality is simply legendary.
I then visited Cebu City on Cebu Island. I think Cebu City has a population of around 2.5 million. It is a more manageable version of Manila with less pollution and traffic. Cebu City is where Magellan planted his cross when he "discovered" the Philippines for the West (he was killed not long after that) and also the location of the Spanish fort that was erected a few decades later when the Spaniards returned in force to take the islands. Anyway, I liked Cebu a lot more than Manila. I also think that this is where many of the foreign expats live -- I saw more of them here.
By the way, when I was in a taxi cab in Cebu City we passed a placed called "Big Bucks Cafe" with a logo amazingly like the Starbucks logo -- I asked and was told that the trademark laws are not as strong here. I did not get a chance to go back -- but I imagined a good photo would have been me sipping a latte and smiling at the camera in front of the "Big Bucks" logo. Well, I hope that just imagining it brings a smile to your face.
Well, I am only in Cebu City for a couple of days before heading to the northern tip of this island to meet Tom, an American expat, and his wife and her family.