The whale sharks have stayed in the shallow waters of Oslob, a sleepy municipality in the southern tip of Cebu province. The warm hospitality of the people combined with their generosity and change of heart to feed instead of hunt these sharks, in contrast to the snobbish people of the city, have forced them to stay. So I think.
Oslob came into the limelight when they started feeding whale sharks (or butandings by the Tagalogs and tuki by the locals). People have different views (sometimes violent reactions) to their practice of feeding them that even caught international headlines.
So publicity has been done. And tourists come and go to the place.
But I did not go to Oslob for the whale sharks. I went there to relax and chill out. Just like the whale sharks. Everyone is welcome anywhere here. Just behave, the tricycle driver told us. The difference between me and the whale sharks is I paid to be fed.
The municipality of Oslob is a good 3-hour drive from Cebu City going to the south or approximately 135 kilometers from the city proper. With less than 30,000 population, the place is quiet even during holidays. One can obviously notice the cleanliness of the place, a good sight to behold when you are from Cebu City.
The beaches in Oslob are white but the sand is visibly not fine but smooth white stones. It feels good to sleep on them and dream of long lost loves. But if you want the heavenly touch of fine white sand, you should hire a pumboat (around 2,500 pesos roundtrip) to Sumilon Island, a nearby island that is part of the municipality. There is an expensive resort there, the Sumilon Bluewater Resort. But only if you have more money to spend or else just pay the entrance fee of 20 (or 40?) pesos to enjoy that special spot there where the waters are so clean and so clear you think it is just knee-deep.
Must visit also are the remnants of the Spanish colonization in the town- buildings and watchtowers made of blocks of coral stones. You can actually find them in their plaza which has been improved and beautified with the eGwen project of the suspended governor of Cebu province- Gwen Garcia. The cuartel, the baluarte and the Immaculate Conception church are all photo-worthy especially during sunset.
And then there's the Tumalog Falls. But you have to hire a habal-habal (motorcycles that can carry more than 5 passengers at a time) to get to the falls. According to the drivers, the falls used to have a heavy volume of water coming down but the municipality diverted some of the fresh water for the water supply of the town. What you see at the site are the extra water from their reservoir, creating a rain-like deluge from above several meters up.
Kudos to the municipal officials who have a good tourism foresight. The falls is very accessible, roads going there are cemented. But all vehicles are not allowed inside the area. You have to make a 15-minute hike to the falls. That's after paying the entrance fee of 20 pesos.
Most local government units mistook the word "development" to concreting everything in sight. The Tumalog Falls retains its original surroundings with improvements that do not clash with nature. Trails were made out of stones and bamboo.
But one of the reasons why I kept coming back to Oslob is the people. Warm, helpful and always smiling. They are the epitome of the real Filipino hospitality. Maybe the whale sharks like them, too.
Ceres Liner has an hourly trip from Cebu City to Santander passing through the town of Oslob. Go to the South Bus Terminal near Elizabeth Mall (Natalio Bacalso Avenue) and take the Ceres from there. Airconditioned buses and non-aircon trips are available. The fare from the city to Tan-awan, Oslob is about 155 pesos (aircon) and less for non-aircon. The travel is about 3 hours. Other bus companies also ply the route.
Accommodation abound the area catering from the "social" types to backpackers' delight.
I recommend South Sea Breeze in Tanawan, Oslob (Telephones:  415-5313; 09129-252-4046) because it is just a few meters from the whale sharks, if you like watching them. But the place is simple and homey. An airconditioned nipa hut costs 1,500 a day. You can bring your own food and let their kitchen staff cook them for you. They usually charge 200 pesos a day.
Also the Oslob Garden Stay in Lagunde, Oslob (Telephones:  481-8072; 0922-811-1575) offers the whole house with 2 airconditioned rooms that can accommodate 3-4 pax. Towels, hot and cold shower are part of the package. Privacy is their mantra. They also charge 200 pesos if you let their staff cook for you. Or if you are feeling like Anthony Bourdain, you can do your own cooking.
Habal-habal fares range from 20 pesos to a hundred depending on where you want them to go. But they are the easiest way to move around. Haggle first before hopping in.
Go to the town's public market to see the whole town unfolding before you. Fresh produce are cheap and affordable, of course. The people there are extra helpful.