I know some readers might be so sick of me trying to build up Cebu in my posts as if I'm doing it for the very first time. But let them get sick, because for the next few posts, I'll be doing it again and again.
This is my first full day in Cebu, but my second visit for this year. I just arrived yesterday afternoon and so far, my premeditated determination of sticking to healthier food options deserted me, as soon as I saw my gregarious aunt at the airport. We had pizza as soon as she picked me up and after a few hours, we had an authentic dinner in one of her favorite Japanese restaurants. I had no room for dessert and I cursed myself for losing it on my very first night.
This morning, my determination fueled by intense guilt, made me decide to visit the gym in Ayala Center. I wanted to skip breakfast and sneak around hoping none of my relatives would see me, when I was pulled by my aunt's reliable household help to have breakfast. My mom would always say that it's very bad to decline the offer when they prepared something for you. Plus, it's seriously bad to ignore a creamy tomato-egg omelet and fried hotdogs glistening in...canola oil.
After breakfast, I skipped any other invitation for hot cocoa as I went to the garage to fetch my assigned car. I thought the coast was clear until my uncle was surprisingly at home and handed me the car keys. Giving me that weird look as I wore my over-sized blue jogging pants with matching backpack, I tried to distract him from asking THAT question by making overkill comments about his cute labrador pups. I understand the perplexity of my vision. They have never seen me wearing jogging pants before and leaving the house looking like a nomad. So curious, he finally asked me where I was going. I was about to tell them I'm going to my lola's house, a semi kind of white lie, when their trusted household help snuck up behind him and said, "Mag-gygym yan, noh. (She's going to the gym, you know)." A look of disbelief then amusement registered in my uncle's face and he snickered as he gave me the key. I smiled and did not deny.
I made a few phone calls to my aunt to tell her where I was going. I told her I'd meet her at my lola's house during merienda, which means another round of food session and which means I really have to sweat it out at the gym. I drove to Ayala Center with minimal traffic and parked at the Ayala Terraces side, which meant I had to walk to Fitness First. It didn't matter. I love the scenery so much that Ayala Terraces could give Greenbelt 5 or Trinoma a run for their money.
I arrived at Fitness First at 10 am and was amazed of how different and more spacious it is than the branch they have at Robinson's Summit in Makati where I regularly go to. The shower rooms have TV. It's more spacious and well lighted. The lounge is has its own world where you don't see machines and you really can get to relax after a grueling workout. The actual work-out area is like an open gymnasium with 2 1/2 levels with hanging TV and staircase. The cardio area has an army of treadmill, stationary bikes and Rotex assembled in a choir fashion, which reminded me of the high choir assembly I once saw at a sect's church (Iglesia ni Kristo). Fitness First Cebu has more equipment, bigger space, funkier interiors and more VCD selections. Yeah sure Fruit Magic's still there and the color and smell are still the same, but I'd trade the one in HP with this anytime. I was so impressed that I called gym enthusiasts at the office and promised to take sneaky pictures for them to see.
So, I did my Rotex routine, did the usual stretching my trainer taught me and visited the sauna. By 11:30 I was out and about ready to roam around one of the hippiest malls in the country and one of the best hang out places in Metro Cebu. Roaming around, I really feel I'm at home here. Every single time that I come here, I get engulfed in vacation spirit that I never miss anything back home. It is in this moment that I long to relocate.
There's nothing in Manila that I couldn't possibly find in Cebu. The upscale stores are here. The upscale and famous Manila restaurants are here with better interiors. Some of the yummiest restaurants here are not even in Manila. The ambiance and urban feel are way better than the congested and complicated I'm used to.
I'm sure there are corporate junkies here, but it feels they're not working at all. The only ace Manila holds are my loved ones. But if I could settle and bring them all here, I would. I would constantly play around with the scene of me receiving news that I'd be relocated here in Cebu for some indefinite project. Instead of crying and thinking about it, I'd end up too excited that I'll pack my bags in a heartbeat. Though I confess that I applied for a position here once. I just saw an ad online. The pay is competitive and I don't have any problem with the location. It's near all my relatives' houses. I'm all set and ready to go. I got through the first interview by phone and they invited me for a personal interview. But they finally found out that I'm actually residing in Manila. They asked me if I'm willing to be relocated in Cebu, and I said yes, but that entails them to assist me with the actual relocation. It did show in the application that Cebuanos are priority. I wanted to scream that I am a Cebuana and I can relocate in Cebu for free, but not wanting to sound so desperate, I didn't push my luck anymore and just registered the surprised disappointment in her voice. She never called me again.
I would say it once and I'll say it again. I can definitely relocate here in Cebu. IN terms of shops, recreation spots and nightouts, Manila has nothing new to offer that Cebu hasn't developed into their own version. The corporate scene may be busy and urban with a good mix of quiet and laid back life. Laid back, not provincial. The people here are very accommodating and very friendly. They have no pretention and hang ups in life. It's a place where you could run an empire without getting too stressed and raise a modern family on the side. If ever I decide on where to raise a family, Cebu will always be a top option. People don't get attached to the social sigma so much. Cebuanos have this classic pride and unparalleled confidence. They don't let other people boss them around and they have good command in English. People here are a good mix of understated flair and glamor, but not pretentious and very toxic like some crowds in Manila. Everytime I go here in Ayala Terraces and roam around the metro, it reminds me of Fort-slash-Westgate Alabang. Downtown reminds me of a better version of what Binondo should be like. There's traffic here, but manageable. And people here are more laid back.
My mom back home was very curious to know why I'm coming here again since I have no agenda and no important things to do here. As my relatives started to scramble for my itinerary, I just told them to stop. This is my itinerary: to just hang out and live a semi-charmed life as if I reside here. Convincing my mother, she forewarned her sisters not to make a big fuss over me. I had nothing important to do. Enjoying a cup of coffee in Metro Cebu, to enhale the relaxed spirit, going to my lola's house and hanging out with my relatives beat any loaded itinerary in the book. I am not a tourist. This is after all my second home, let me live it just the way I like it.