Malilong: Beautiful Cebu

The Other Side

MANY of my friends have taken to biking to relieve stress from the pandemic. It requires skill and human endurance to pedal safely through trails and highways, sometimes for as long as two days, pausing only for some carbo-loading and for catching a few winks.

I envy them. At my age and after angioplasty, I obviously do not belong in the ranks of these iron men. Besides and this is the more important consideration, I do not know how to bike. For some strange logic that I cannot until now fathom, my mother believed that the bike was the twin brother of perdition and strictly forbade me from even touching its handlebar.

In college and away from my mother’s watchful eyes, I took biking lessons from our office messenger (I was already working then as a reporter of a local news agency) but the schooling ended disastrously when I crashed into some ornamental plants at the Casino Español. I left the bike lying on a broken pot and ran as fast as I could away from the security guard who was chasing us. The messenger had the presence of mind to retrieve the bike and pedal furiously along Ranudo, hollering as he passed by me, “Dagan sir, naa si Fernando Poe sa imong luyo” unmindful that I was already running.

So in the pandemic and unable to mount a bike, I sought relief from stress by being driven around throughout the island, most of it anyway. We have done the “round south” and have visited all the towns but Medellin and Daanbantayan in the north and Pinamungajan, Toledo City, Balamban, Asturias and Tuburan in the west. They’re next in the list.

Traveling to the province is a very relaxing experience. It is also in a way educational. I learned for example that the most delicious bibingka is in Catmon, that minus the wrapper the budbod-kabug in Lugo is only a tad bigger than a one- month-old baby’s finger, that the delicious pintos in Bogo is difficult to find, that the widest and most picturesque bridge is somewhere between San Remigio and Tabuelan, that a portion of the national highway between Badian and Alegria can fall off to the sea anytime and that the best tostado is in Santander.

(I would like to add, since we’re talking mostly about food and even if I didn’t have to travel to find this out, that the yummiest vegan bun is cooked in a kitchen called Zhao Chinese which I discovered accidentally on Facebook. It’s their best-seller, the lady who answered my inquiry, revealed.)

It is ironic that it took a pandemic and the consequent home detention to make me appreciate the things that I have taken for granted. Cebu is beautiful. It is also a safe place to travel in, but for Covid-19. I wore a mask during the drive which averaged eight hours per day for three days and it was quite frankly uncomfortable. But I have long ago learned that in life there are trade-offs. If I wanted to enjoy traveling to the countryside and not worry about catching the coronavirus, I had to wear a mask.

These restrictions won’t last forever anyway so let’s strive to stay safe and in one piece by the time we shall have completely eradicated the Covid-19. The signs in Cebu city and province are encouraging. During the second half of the month of April, for example, our number of new cases in one day breached the 100-mark only once.

Our number of active cases has also shrunk to below 1,000, while the PCR test positivity rate now runs between five and six percent only. The marked improvement has convinced Mayor Edgar Labella to reopen the Cebu City Sports Center tomorrow.

Let’s protect our gains. If we do, it won’t be long before we can drive to Catmon for their bibingka and Santander for their tostado or just savor the beauty of Cebu’s countryside without the fear of the Covid-19 bearing heavily upon our hearts.


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