I breathed a sigh of relief as I arrived at Tabuelan, a 4th class and one of the youngest municipalities located at the western coast of Cebu in central Philippines. I went there to try the Tabuelan Floating Restaurant, the first of its kind in the province.
Getting to Tabuelan I realized, is a separate adventure in itself. Since the public bus to the town is hard to come by, I took a van to Tuburan instead. From there, I then rode a habal-habal to Casiano Girona Family Park, the floating restaurant’s jump-off. This combo is not the cheapest option there is but it allowed me to arrive just in time for the vessel’s scheduled lunch departure.
A floating restaurant
Tabuelan’s very own floating restaurant only accepts reservations (minimum of 10, maximum of 45 persons) at the moment. I guess I am lucky as the organizers accommodated a solo traveler like myself to join the two families who were booked that morning.
While it had its maiden voyage only early this year, it will be inevitably compared to more established river cruises such as the one in Bohol. But I think that the Tabuelan Floating Restaurant has enough charms that could make it stand on its own.
For one, Tabuelan’s vessel is smaller and allows for more intimate conversations on board. The port is not crowded too as there’s only one floating resto that plies the scenic and serene Batawang river. The experience is less hurried over all.
It’s pegged at Php500 per person, and this is already inclusive of the lunch buffet, guided tour, entertainment and maintenance and environmental fees. It’s not exactly cheap but it becomes very reasonable when you consider that it’s a small community-based enterprise.
For our lunch, we were treated with Filipino ‘fiesta’ dishes – chopsuey, humba and many others. We also got to taste Tabuelan’s tinibuok manok – native chicken stewed in tuba or local coconut vinegar. Everything is sourced locally which means that the menu may vary from time to time.
Needless to say that there is still a big room for improvement for this emerging tourist destination. While I appreciate the tour guide’s informative spiel on the different mangrove species that abound in the area, they might want to think how to make the entire experience more interactive, especially for the kids.
I’ve been told though by Ms. Marifi Gerona, who oversees the entire operations, that in the future, there will be kayak, SUP (Stand-Up Paddling) activities and maybe, even firefly watching tours at night.
Uncrowded white sand beaches
I was about to leave for the city when Sherwin, one of the restaurant’s crew, volunteered to tour me around Tabuelan. I happily obliged of course.
We headed straight to Maravilla which is probably the municipality’s most famous tourist spot. It is home to surprisingly uncrowded, blinding-white sand beaches. But that may not be the case this coming September 16, when the town will host the Tabuelan 226, the first full triathlon race in Cebu.
Although Tabuelan has been successfully hosting the Tabuelan 111 since 2012, this is the first time that they will launch a full Ironman race (3.8km swim, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run).
Before heading back to the poblacion, we made quick stops at the bamboo boardwalk at Tigbawan, the World War II memorial plaque at Olivo and Durhan White Beach Resort, yet another uncrowded pocket of sand in Tabunok.
If I had more time, I’d visit the caves and springs located at the mountain barangays and enjoy the sunset over Tañon Strait with a few friends at the fairly new Metroland Beach Resort.
Sherwin shared to me that sunsets in these parts are spectacular and to borrow Tabuelan’s tagline – inspiring as well. Well, I have to agree as I saw fleeting glimpses of its glorious orange hues as our V-hire made its way up the Cebu Transcentral Highway.
Since I’m not participating in any triathlon soon or maybe in my lifetime, I’ll just stick to sunsets. I hope to return to Tabuelan if only to witness one, and then some.
Tabuelan Floating Restaurant
For reservations and inquiries: (+63 32) 4619481 or +639228503864