The Philippines is situated in south-east Asia in the South China Sea, between Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia. There are over 7000 islands in the Philippine archipelago and so inevitably with all that coastline, there's some great diving!
Right in the heart of the Philippines, lies the Visaya region, sheltered from most of the summer typhoons that hurl themselves at the east coast and easily accessible from many Asian destinations with its own international airport just outside Cebu City.
To make all of this geography a little clearer, have a look at this series of maps. (Pending migration)
Moalboal is a small town situated 89 km (2½ hour car drive or ~3 hours by bus) south-west of Cebu City. Panagsama Beach is about 3km from Moalboal town and is usually reached via tricycle. Panagsama Beach is a old fishing village that has slowly evolved as a tourist destination because of Pescador Island which is a 15 minute boat ride from the beach. For years people have come to Panagsama Beach in order to dive the spectacular Pescador Island. Be warned though, one thing that Panagsama doesn't have is much of a beach - there are some small stretches of sand but certainly not kilometres of it as at other destinations.
Here is a map of Panagsama Beach. The main businesses are marked and there is enough to give you a feeling for the orientation of the place and to work out where you are in relation to the rest of the Beach. Remember that it's possible to walk from the north end of the Beach to the south and vice versa; you have to pass through Pacita's garden but it is no problem; walk behind Pacita's concrete disco and you will come out on the track towards Planet Action and Tipolo or in the other direction, heading towards Neptune.
Two photo tours of Moalboal are linked here to give you an idea of what Moalboal was like in 2000 and 2009.
Panagsama Beach offers a very laid back lifestyle and it is the perfect place for relaxing and scuba diving. There are many different restaurants that offer local and European food "a la carte". Or you can get fresh fish, prawns and crabs from the local fishermen and prepare a meal for yourself on the beach while you are watching the sunset over Negros Island.
The night life often goes on into the small hours of the morning and offers something for everyone, young or old. There are discos, bars, outdoor bars and very often impromptu parties are held in/outside the diveshops at night time (Neptune Diving and Ocean Safari are particularly known for this). You can also listen to live music at a couple of venues along the beach. One-Eyed Jacks often has an acoustic band. Favourite bars (you'll find them very easily) are the Chili Bar and 7 Sins. Chief Mau's is always open until the early hours of the morning for those for whom the day starts at sundown!
There are "many" bars and drinking holes along the way in Panagsama, each different and many with their own specialties. I am assured that the gin & lime tastes far better when mixed like this!
There are sometimes volleyball tournaments held on the beach, and when there are enough people interested in completing a team, soccer matches are arranged in Moalboal town, outside the Municipal Hall. Practice sessions are held on Tuesday and Friday afternoons; for more information, ask in Last Filling Station, Planet Action, Chili Bar or Neptune.
Pool and billiard tournaments are also held regularly in Chief Mau's Station, Chili and several other bars.
If you need to place an international phone call, a fax, send e-mail, most of the dive shops have telephones, some also have paper fax machines. There are also a couple of public card-phone boxes in Panagsama. Most of the dive shops also have wireless Internet access. Eve's Kiosk and Visaya Divers have e-mail systems that you can usually use while they are open. Most cell phones will get a good connection though there is no 3G connectivity. There is an Internet café in Moalboal which charges a reasonable P30 per hour and has fast access, plus one close to Chief Mau's on the Beach.
In Cebu City you have all the things you may need during your stay such as banks, travel agents, shopping malls, hotels and a mail post office. There are many Internet cafés in all the malls and scattered over the City, so you will be able to find somewhere to send e-mail. Prices range from P25 to P60 per hour. Cebu City airport (Mactan Airport) serves both international and domestic; you do not need to fly via Manila in order to reach Cebu. International and domestic tickets can be purchased in Cebu. Airlines that fly to Cebu direct include Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Silk Air. Domestic airlines include Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Grand Air. Note that most of the domestic airlines offer substantial discounts on some flights if you buy your ticket more than 4 days or so in advance. This can save you up to 40% of the purchase price.
There are also regular ferries to and from Manila with sailings every day. The best ferries are probably the WG & A SuperFerries. Check our links page for their web site.
Cebu City has plenty of discos, bars and restaurants that you can choose from should you stay in the city. The night life is very much like the night life in Manila and offers some choice. If you don't know what to do in the city please don't hesitate to ask people. In addition, if there is anything which you need from Cebu City or if you need to go there yourself, ask first at where you're staying or diving and they will give you help or advice as appropriate.
If you need to spend a night in Cebu, I can recommend a few hotels:
There are many other hotels in Cebu; the above I can recommend from personal experience. If you want a 4 or 5 star hotel there are many to choose from including the Shangri-La on Mactan Island, the Marriott, the Cebu Plaza and others with appropriate prices. My personal favourite when splurging is Crimson Resort on Mactan :).
From the airport, take a taxi to the south bus terminal; ordinary buses to Moalboal run regularly from here taking around 2½ hours and the fare is around P90. There are also two air-conditioned buses run by Kings Star which leave from the bus station every day at 13.00h and 15.00h; these buses cost about P140. Librando non-airconditioned buses leave every 30 minutes during the day from the Librando bus stop opposite the bus station; Ceres Lines have expanded onto Cebu from their base in Negros and are fast but with sane drivers and plenty of inspectors to check the quality of driving and proper fare collection. Pick these buses up at the south bus terminal. I like the front seat of the buses but avoid them if you are of a nervous disposition - the sights you see may spoil your trip as you come within millimetres of smashing into something smaller coming the other way - and the back seats since they are always the most uncomfortable. Truly riding the buses in the Philippines can be an experience!
You can also pick up one of the many "V-Hire" mini-vans that wait for passengers in the area of the Southern Bus Terminal. These cost around P100 per head and leave when full (8-9 passengers). There's never much room for baggage so if you're carrying dive gear, perhaps it's better to get a normal bus, either air-con or regular.
When you get to Moalboal, get off the bus at the crossroad by the market and take a tricycle to Panagsama Beach. Alternatively, you may take a taxi all the way to Moalboal from the airport . . . approximately a 2.5 hour drive, though traffic crossing the bridge joining Mactan to the main island can be heavy and the trip can take longer. You may negotiate yourself with taxi drivers and pay P1500-2000, or all the resorts and dive shops can arrange pick-up and the prices are quite reasonable especially when shared within a group.
Perennial concerns in Asia are worries over the standards of health, sanitation and water supplies.
Have a look at Günther and Klaus' pages for more information about having houses built in the Moalboal area.
To wet your whistle visit the Moalboal photo tours linked in the navigation menu above, pictures from 2000 and 2009.