By MALUM NALU
Cebu City, where Air Niugini is commencing twice weekly flights, is the oldest city in the Philippines.
It is part of Cebu, a province in the Philippines, consisting of Cebu Island and 167 surrounding islands.
|A well-kept Cebu street|
Cebu is one of the most-developed provinces in the Philippines, with Cebu City as the main centre of commerce, trade, education and industry in the Visayas.
Condé Nast Traveler Magazine named Cebu the 7th best island destination in the Indian Ocean-Asia region in 2007, 8th best Asian-Pacific island destination in 2005, 7th in 2004 and in 2009.
It is located to the east of Negros, to the west of Leyte and Bohol islands.
|A clean, well-kept and respected walkway in Cebu…lessons for PNG|
Cebu is a long narrow island stretching 225km from north to south, surrounded by 167 neighbouring, smaller islands, which include Mactan, Bantayan, Malapascua, Olango and the Camotes Islands.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport, where Air Niugini is flying to, is located in Mactan Island, and is the second busiest airport in the Philippines after Manila.
Business between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea is likely to increase with the introduction of the twice-weekly Air Niugini Boeing 737-700 flights between Port Moresby and Cebu.
|The writer, Mel Oplimo,, video cameraman Tapusi Kone and a Filipino friend relaxing at a roadside café in Cebu|
On Monday, July 16, I had the privilege of being invited to be on the inaugural Air Niugini flight to Cebu.
The four-and-a-half-hour flight left Port Moresby at 3pm PNG time and arrived in Cebu to a grand welcome at after 7.30pm (5.30pm Cebu time).
The inaugural flight to Cebu included senior government officials, private sector representatives, senior management and board members of the airline.representatives of travel agencies, and history-making commercial passengers.
VIPs included Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) chairman Dr Thomas Webster, IPBC managing director Thomas Webster, and chief migration officer Mataio Rabura, among others.
We arrived in Cebu to a grand welcome at Mactan-Cebu Internattional Airport where we were accorded the full red carpet treatment, before being led to the VIP Lounge, where a reception was held.
|A popular Filipino jeepney along a Cebu street|
Heavyweights in Cebu that night included president of RD Tuna Group Ritchie Rivera, managing director of Frabelle Fishing Francisco Tiulaurel Jr, Frabelle PNG Ltd president Augusto Natividad, owner of Kenmore Group of Companies Lucio Tan, chairman of Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority Manuel Roxas, Cebu City mayor Michael Rama, Lapu Lapu City mayor Paz Radaza. Mandaue City mayor Jonas Cortest, members of the House of Representatives, and PNG Ambasador to Philippines Chris Vihruri Jr.
All applauded the new Air Niugini flight, which apart from the Manila service, now makes it easier for the Filipinos involved in the LNG project, those in the fisheries sector and other businesses to fly direct to Cebu.
Air Niugini will have two direct flights from Port Moresby to Cebu every Tuesday and Friday.
The flight on Tuesday leaves Port Moresby at 5.50pm and arrives in Cebu at 8.20pm.
The flight on Thursday also has the same departure and arrival times.”
The commencement of this flight now brings to 10 international destinations, Air Niugini now operates to whilst it also marks Air Niugini’s second destination in the Philippines after the capital, Manila.
|Cebu IT Park, which is well known for its cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as Wifi|
Other international destinations include Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney in Australia, Honiara in Solomon Islands, Nadi in Fiji, Tokyo in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.”
Air Niugini chief executive officer Wasantha Kumarasi said in Cebu that night that the regular flights would boost business opportunities between the two countries.
“The Cebu route ensures convenience for the hundreds of Filipinos involved in the multi-billion dollar LNG project in Papua New Guinea, as well as those Filipinos in the fisheries sector and other industries,” he said.
“I am happy to see the president of RD Tuna Group, president of Frabelle PNG Ltd, and owner of Kenmore Group of Companies this evening.”
After that, we checked into the five-star Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, after which we had the chance to sample the nightlife of Cebu, a city that never sleeps.
Next morning, I had the chance to meet my good Facebook friend Mel Oplimo, whom I have talked with on the social network site but have never met personally.
He is a-Cebu businessman, who has business links with PNG, and was more than happy to show us around the city.
Several things struck me about Cebu, first and foremost that despite being home to many millions of people, the streets are so clean.
Cafes and restaurants are everywhere.
The shopping is excellent.
|Interior of the Ayala Shopping Mall, one of the biggest in the Philippines.|
Wifi is just about everywhere in the city, meaning free internet access, so I carried my laptop around with me and filed my stories and pictures from the streets of Cebu.
Oplimo says Air Niugini cannot go wrong as Cebu is the business and tourism hub of the Phillipines.
“We enjoy the splendor and beauty of Cebu,”he tells me.
|Video cameraman Tapusi Kone, Malum Nalu and Mek Oplimo outside the busy Ayala Shopping Mall in Cebu|
“Cebu is known for its semi-conductor industry, furniture industry, shipping, travel and tourism.
“Cebu is known as a rest and recreation area and most entrepreneurs and Chinese tycoons come from Cebu.
“Cebu is known as a tourism hub.
“It has been declared as one of the best destinations for tourism in Asia because of its pristine white beaches and hotel services.”
As much as I would have loved to stay on for a bit more, I could not do so, and had to travel back to Port Moresby on the return flight on Wednesday, July 25.
However, given my new-found friends in Cebu, such as Oplimo, his family and business associates, I can now feel very much at home going there.
Cebu is, indeed, my new home-away-from-home.
For further details on how to travel to Cebu, contact Air Niugini or your travel agent.