The Center Suites: No-fuss, good-value hotel in Cebu City

Whenever we find ourselves in Cebu, we either hie away to its far ends for the beaches, sardines, or sharks, or else stay in the city to pig out. The last time we were here, we couldn’t find time, however hard we tried, to go back to Moalboal, so the inevitable happened: we were stuck in the city’s humidity and heavy traffic, but, BUT we were also within easy reach of our favorite food haunts.

And we have The Center Suites to thank for this: its location—along Escario Street—meant we were a couple of minutes’ walk from the nearest branch of Cebu’s Original Spicy Lechon Belly (yes, that’s the name!), our favorite lechon house. It’s also one ride from almost everything else, including IT Park, Ayala, and Fuente, all of which have branches of another favorite, Casa Verde.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

And although staying in this hotel did indirectly fatten us up, that’s not the only thing it does well. For one, we found the staff very accommodating and courteous, even when we arrived at the ungodly hour of 4 AM from a lechon-booze-siomai night out with friends. We were also asked to fill out a form for our breakfast choice that (same) morning, which we thought was quite a nice touch (especially for those who wouldn’t suffer a fried egg for a scrambled one). I also think it’s a prudent way to manage resources (we are not fans of hotels who waste food just because their guests can pay/have already paid for it).

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

Our twin room was also very comfortable, with its own toilet + hot and cold shower, air conditioning, and television. Towels were also provided.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

Those who are looking for luxe accommodations won’t find it here though. There was just enough space for two people, and thankfully the room had a separate area for stowing luggage, which helped maximize the remaining floor space.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

There’s also free (and fast!) WiFi, an advantage that most smaller hotels have since there are less people fighting over it at any given time. The table was also a nice touch—something that not all budget hotels are keen to add, which is a shame because it is still very useful for those who want to work and/or have a decent space to put their stuff that isn’t the mattress.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

The Center Suites Bistro is also in-house, and serves a la carte Filipino breakfast for guests (each booking comes with free breakfast, which is always welcome, thank you very much) as well as an assortment of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino dishes, available even for non-hotel guests.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

At an average price of P700 per person, it’s definitely a good deal considering its central location, AC rooms, and free breakfast. It’s also not directly along the main road (you have to walk just a few meters inland), so the city’s fumes and noise do not get as far as your room window. So when you’re traveling to Cebu and would like to be in the thick of things, The Center Suites will make a great base. Trust us, that lechon belly is worth staying nearby for.

TWO2TRAVEL: The Center Suites, Cebu City

For more info:
(63 32) 416 8881
(63 32) 266 8885
+63 932 440 6950
+63 905 251 8212
N. Gonzales Compound, Brgy Camputhaw,
Escario Street, Cebu City
If you’re booking via Agoda, you may use this link
Overnight room rates start at P855.

Our overnight stay at The Center Suites was complimentary. Our opinions of the hotel’s services & facilities are based on firsthand experience and are completely our own.

Stunning hilltop views and more at Thunderbird Resorts Rizal

Immaculately soft pillows make for good beds—others would argue they make for great beds—but the best beds aren’t even about the mattress you rest on for the night. It’s about what greets you the minute you wake up.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

This is why great waking up moments are usually associated with the scent of coffee, sunlight streaming through the window, stunning balcony views, or at times, a plateful of your favorite breakfast (sometimes, ALL of them).

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

And because sleep is such an intangible idea, we instead associate a good night’s sleep with the first thing we see in the morning (which is also why seeing that bedside clock at 8 AM instead of 7 AM, or looking at your phone with 1,000 missed calls from your wretched boss, is guaranteed to ruin an otherwise good sleep—agree?).

Rooms with a view

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

Waking up with a view from above Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, is arguably a great way to end a good slumber and start another day—or for us, cap off a day-long dose of nearby Angono, from its higantes to its crickets to its petroglyphs.

The lake looked massive—indeed big enough to house a humongous dino if you let your mind go on an overdrive. But at such height, you could very well see the lake from end to end, Metro Manila’s skyscrapers visible on the right side on a clear day.

This kind of view, plus of lush mountains all around, is something this sprawling resort on the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range has no competition for.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

Many would troop to Thunderbird Resorts Rizal for its casino. The concept itself is rather uncommon—you don’t see most hilltop resorts with their own casinos. This is the same concept that the resort has in La Union—our hometown—which in turn is done in that distinct white-and-blue palette inspired by the hillside town of Santorini in Greece.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

But it’s the stunning mountain views we really wanted to see—something we believe is the property’s strongest asset. This, plus its accessibility from Metro Manila, makes it one of the better-value choices for harrowed city dwellers for the weekend.

The surroundings smack of Baguio too, and we were all too glad to have cool mountain air around instead of smog.

From sun up to sundown

The property faces the west—which means you get a generous hilltop view of the sun as it sets on the horizon.

Another equally magical moment that follows the sunset is the blue hour, which, contrary to its name, is over in about 15 minutes. At this time, rows of lights from Metro Manila down below puncture the bright blue sky as the rest of the resort illuminates itself in subtle warm light.

It was a bit difficult to reconcile that the road between the smog of Manila and the cool air of Rizal is just about an hour’s drive long. On a regular weekday, that same amount of time would take you only as far as Makati from Quezon City.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
Just before sunset

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
Blue hour

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
Early evening

The guest houses—all 41 of them—are housed in two main wings, all of them facing the lake. Guests who prefer a direct casino access can book one of the Deluxe Rooms, but other than that, the Deluxe and the Superior Rooms have the same amenities every traveler with discriminating taste will appreciate.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

These rooms come in a clean, understated vibe: the interiors have mostly earthy tones, and room has two double beds, making them ideal for families taking the kids for the weekend. This is not to say that friends cannot have as much fun with an impossibly huge bed to themselves.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
There’s your stream of sunshine.

The palm-tree-lined courtyard that separates the casino from the resort is a refreshing extension of the property’s lush surroundings, and tucked in one of its corners is the outdoor Zaphira Spa covered in dreamy white drapes.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

It turns out there’s quite a lot to preoccupy the weekend tourist aside from the stunning views—and aside from the casino, of course.

The resort rents out bikes, including a tandem bike, which guests can take for a spin early morning when sunlight’s not yet too harsh. There are designated bike trails, and the resort actually encourages guests to go all the way downhill to the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs, the oldest known artwork in the Philippines (the site is a stone’s throw from the resort gates, but more on that on the next post). At the back of the property is another uphill trail with steeper slopes that are best for more experienced riders.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
The cool mountain air of Rizal makes for great mornings pedaling on a bike around the resort property.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

Thunderbird has twelve (!) chefs manning their main restaurant, Koi, which serves fusion food; their Pool Bar, which serves mostly grilled food that go well with beer (where else, by the pool); and their Cabana Bar inside the casino.

Non-fans of fusion food may change their minds with the US Angus Beef Kare-Kare, whose peanut sauce is as rich as any but whose beef shames all others for its tenderness (not kidding). There’s also the cornflake crusted fried chicken with country cheddar mash and homestyle gravy, which is a new take on bringing out the crisp in everyone’s favorite chicken part (the skin, of course, what were you thinking?). It was a pretty good one too—we didn’t know cornflakes could ever taste good. The mashed potato would need a bit more TLC though (no, not tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese).

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
L: Cornflake-crusted fried chicken with mashed potatoes;
R: Cups and glasses to start the day right.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | ThunderbirdL: Diavolo (sauteed shrimps with red wine, butter, eggplant, fresh red chillies and spiced Pomodoro finished with rich cream, butter, and penne pasta; R: Hickory pork and grilled pineapple (diced pork belly marinated in stout, soda, and molasses, grilled pineapple served with mozzarella, parmegiano, and tomato concasse

Those with more adventurous palates can also try the Salmon and Uni Cream with Tobikko Fish Roe (sauteed salmon cubes, fresh sea urchin puree, cream and tobikko fish roe, toasted bonito flakes, served with pasta fetuccine). Koi also uses Angus Beef in—wait for it—sinigang, which it calls the US Angus Beef Sinigang sa Kamias at Tanglad.

Aside from all the staycation options just a few steps from one other—not to mention the tempting boards—guests can hie off to several interesting spots around Rizal province (click here to see the list). Nearby Angono, the Art Capital of the Philippines, has some really interesting art galleries and museums. If all these don’t get you through the weekend—seriously?—may we suggest a trip down to Balaw Balaw for a hearty serving of uok to cap off the experience? :)


Eastridge Avenue
Binangonan, Rizal
Philippines 1940
(+63 2) 651.6888

Map & directions here. Free shuttle services to and from several points in Metro Manila are also available.
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This post is the second of our Rizal series from our Rizal Blogger Tour sponsored by Thunderbird Resorts Rizal. Opinions expressed in this post are the authors’ own. Check out our other posts: