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Lechon festival, world-renowned triathlon race energize Cebu after 'Odette' |

Travel and Tourism

Lechon festival, world-renowned triathlon race energize Cebu after 'Odette'

Kathleen A. Llemit -
Lechon festival, world-renowned triathlon race energize Cebu after 'Odette'
Megaworld's Cebu township, Mactan Newtown, hosted Ironman 70.3 and the return of the Cebu Lechon Festival. Below right is Megaworld Lifestyle Malls head (far right) Graham Coates with participants of the race. / Kathleen A. Llemit, Megaworld Corp. / Released

CEBU, Philippines — On one side of The Mactan Newtown township in Lapu-Lapu City, diners at the Mactan Alfresco were looking forward to trying out different Cebuano delicacies, notably its world-famous slow-roasted pig or lechon.

Meanwhile, along its mango tree-lined boulevard, bystanders cheered on triathletes who participated in the gruelling Ironman 70.3 long-distance triathlon race held in the island province.

On the weekend of August 4 to 7, Cebuanos and tourists indulged in decadent servings of flavorful slow-roasted pork while also experiencing adrenaline rush and excitement by witnessing over 2,000 participants from 46 countries endure the extremely physical challenges that saw them swim, bike and race throughout Cebu's most scenic routes including Megaworld's 30-hectare township and its beachfront and the recently inaugurated Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX). 

Cebu's best lechon

The Cebu Lechon Festival returned as a concurrent event of the popular edition of Ironman. It has always been held every first or second week of August in the township. 

It returned as a bigger event that saw 10 lechoneros from Lapu-Lapu City roast Cebu's pride — roasted pig so flavorful on its own that it does not need sauce on the side. 

"What differs these lechon from other cities is that, 'yung lechon kasi namin hindi kailangan ng sauce. Kumbaga, it can stand itself without the sauce," said Thesbe Alonso, general manager of The Mactan Newtown. 

Cebu lechon is usually prepared with herbs and spices, notably lemongrass or tanglad as filling, while the pig is roasted for three hours over a charcoal pit. These aromatics' flavor and fragrance seep into the meat, making them savory enough that a dipping sauce is often not prepared to enhance its flavor. Other lechon varieties from other cities or regions often serve lechon with sarsa or sauce, usually gravy or the spiced soy sauce and vinegar mixture. 

This year's Cebu Lechon Festival is not only grander with more lechoneros participating but it was also because of nightly cultural performances including the city's famous Sinulog dance.

It also brought again its famous 1521 Great Sale, a time when festivalgoers may eat all the lechon they want if they choose to avail of the 50% discount on lechon on sale from 3:21 to 3:30 p.m. on festival week. The 1521 Great Sale is in reference to the year the Spanish  led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu. 

Related: Battle of Mactan 500th anniversary: Historian shares 10 facts

Live, work, play plus learn

The weekend event is a welcome respite to Cebuanos and tourists alike. Cebu is among the many Visayas and Mindanao provinces that suffered the brunt of supertyphoon "Odette" (international name: "Rai"), a Category 5 typhoon that wreaked havoc with its gusty winds and heavy rainfall in December 2021.  

Traces of its devastation can still be seen on some structures and houses in Cebu, like the steel roof of a structure in one of the villages on the way to Mactan International Airport. 

The Mactan Newtown was not even spared with some of its trees uprooted. Some of the glass windows and the lobby of the 18-storey Savoy Hotel were damaged. Dining and retail outlets in the township also suffered with their glass panels broken by the impact of the strong winds. 

The Mactan Newtown was still recovering from Odette and is still coping with the pandemic but it accepted the offer to host the world-renowned triathlon event with just three months of preparation. 

It was not an easy feat, said Megaworld Lifestyle Malls head Graham Coates, but they had to do it. He shared that it was the top management's directive to put their best food forward especially since they are trying to move forward. 
The twin-bill events on the first week of August saw how Megaworld's Mactan township, one of its current 28 across the country, is on its way to further continue its development. 

Coates said that The Mactan Newtown is seen as a tourism, sports, and leisure township with the added bonus of a beachfront, which was formerly known by the locals as Portofino. 

The beachfront is a key feature as it enables the township to continue hosting water sports activities, including more editions of Ironman.  It will also be a feature of the planned Mactan Newtown Beachwalk with its two-level beachside mall that will feature a 1.4-hectare man-made lagoon, cinemas and a chapel. 

Currently, there are over 40 retail, service, dining and essential outlets across the township including banks and specialty dining outlets. The latter includes a branch of the Filipino casual dining restaurant Choobi Choobi; Civet Coffee Roaster which serves coffee sourced all over the Philippines including those produced by its namesake nocturnal mammal; Chimac Chicken and Beer that offers authentic Korean chicken with different flavors paired with beer or any kind of spirits; and Shikisai, which serves generous yet reasonably priced portions of authentic Japanese ramen, udon and bento boxes. 

These serve residents of three of its condominium properties, namely, 8 Newtown Boulevard, One Pacific Residence and One Manchester Place. These establishments also cater to tenants and workers from eight office towers as well as the future guests of the 20-storey Belmont Hotel set to open soon. 

The township is home to the Newtown School of Excellence which offers academic programs from pre-school to Grade 7. The educational institution is under the supervision of La Sallian Schools of Supervision Office. 

Coates said that they have learned valuable lessons left by "Odette." They have implemented design changes in terms of thickness of the glass and the location of the main windows of their future properties, among others. 

Megaworld has also invested in township and data analytics which sends out notices on occuring weather systems to all its stakeholders.

RELATED: 'Pinoy Big Brother' housemate Paul Jake Castillo joins IronMan Cebu despite falling sick

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