Mactan welcomes latest 'invaders'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 April, 1998, 12:00am

Many tourists book flights to Cebu, but do not even get there. They land at Mactan Island International Airport and transfer straight to resorts which are only a few minutes' drive away.

They spend their whole holiday in a resort and never venture over the bridge to Cebu Island.

Some Japanese travellers are even unaware that they are in the Philippines, as their travel agents simply promote Cebu as 'an island in the Pacific'.

The Shangri-La's Mactan Island Resort is the main one - the only five-star resort in the Philippines - and only 15 minutes' drive from the airport.

The resort opened in 1995 and recently added a new wing, a second swimming pool and an Italian restaurant.

There are now 546 guest rooms and suites, and in spite of the downturn in the region's economies, the resort is one of the best-performing properties in the group.

General manager Coen Masselink said there was stiff competition in the region after currency devaluations, but the Mactan resort was doing well, and was the most popular in the group for business conferences.

The ease of access plays a big role in the island's success, with direct flights from Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore - no traffic jams, just collect your baggage and head for the pool.

Package deals are available from Hong Kong to the Shangri-La resort, and though in the main they are for two- or three-night stays, most people are probably unaware the return flight is open for 21 days.

This allows visitors to take an extended holiday and explore other islands in the Visayas region, such as Bohol and Negros.

For Cebu City has got its act together on sea travel after many horror stories in the Philippines of ships sinking, and passengers unable to find life-belts. Now modern, air-conditioned jet-cats run regularly, and on time from the port area.

It is easy to see, however, why some people never leave their resort. At the Mactan Island Shangri-La, for example, you can take a three- to four-day course to qualify for your PADI diving certificate, or sign up for only one day to learn the basics in the deep pool and then do a reef dive.

Or you can go parasailing, play miniature golf, water or jet-ski, wind-surf, snorkel, go fishing, take out a kayak or sailboat, or play snooker.

At night you could eat at one of the resort's five restaurants, watch a cultural show, go to the on-site disco, or a karaoke lounge. Or you could torment yourself trying to decide which of the 40-odd TV channels to watch in your room.

You need never know that in the tiny fishing villages over on Cebu Island, children cluster around the local store to watch the only TV available - often a black-and-white set. Unless, of course you decide to forego the luxury for a day.