Cebu is a large island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The larger Negros Island lies just across the Tanon Strait to the west. The largest city is Cebu City, often called the Queen City of the South. The oldest Spanish settlement in the Philippines dating to the time when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and his men paved what would become Colon Street of today and established the Santissimo Nombre de Jesus in 1565. It took more than twenty years for the conquistadores to come back and claim the islands for Spanish throne, since the discover n 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, stumbled to his death in nearby Mactan Island under the hands of the local chieftain, Lapu –Lapu.
Cebu City has since evolved into a modern metropolis. It has the largest sea port in the Philippines, the second largest Air hub and the second largest city in the country. It is the fastest growing large city in the nation with an annual growth of over 5% per year. Cebu is a booming metropolitan area with all the conveniences of a modern city. At the same time, it boasts of natural resources like countless of white sand beaches (both commercial and untouched), as well as historical sites that reflect its cosmopolitan past: from the birth of Christianity in Asia, to early commercial trade with Mexico and China, to vestiges of the American colonization of the Philippines.
The main touristic areas in Cebu Island are Mactan Island and Badian Island where you can find large high-end resorts and hotels offering all kind of luxury. There is also an Aquarium Attraction named Mactan Island Aquarium Museum on Mactan Island. Apart from that there are smaller resorts in fisher villages in the South offering a more Filipino experience.
The language spoken in Cebu City is Cebuano which is also known as Bisaya. Many speak English as a second language as well as Tagalog. Sometimes, they also speak in Taglish (Tagalog + English) when they cannot find the appropriate word to use. The youth and the modern generation speak English with a Cebuano accent, often interchanging i and e as well as o and u while the ones from the older generations can barely converse in it. Some people will also understand a little of Ilonggo. The Chinese minority speak Hokkien, a minority of expatriates and immigrants speak their own languages.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport (IATA: CEB) (ICAO: RPVM), This international and domestic airport is a modern alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. There are numerous direct daily flights to and from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and scheduled flights to Japan, Qatar, Malaysia, Taiwan, and China. Aside from this, the airport serves several seasonal charter flights to Russia, China, the United States, and other nations.
Mactan Cebu International is also the main domestic hub outside Manila with a variety of flights around the Philippine archipelago such as Manila, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Boracay, Clark (just near Angeles City), Siargao (Surigao), Zamboanga, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Camiguin, General Santos, and Tacloban, among others. Passport control and baggage handling is fairly fast and efficient. Visitors from North America, Europe, Middle East, and the rest of the world may fly first to Singapore or Hong Kong or Seoul or Kuala Lumpur or Doha to catch a flight to Cebu. If you don’t mind braving the horrendous traffic and the cacophonic noise of Manila, you will get a faster connection to Cebu, for there are more than 20 flights daily between the two cities or almost two flights every hour. There are also flights to Cebu from Clark International airport, from which there are further flights on discount airlines to Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore and other points.
Getting in/out of the Airport
The airport is on Mactan Island in Lapu-Lapu city. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the actual city of Cebu. From the Airport you will need to hire a taxi. If you are staying at one of the nicer hotels they usually can send a free van to pick you up at airport. If you forgot to ask for this you may find that the van of your hotel is there to pick someone else up and you can hitch a ride if there is room. Facilities and amenities at the airport include a shopping center, duty-free shop, souvenir shops, cafés, business centers, food shops, communication facilities, banking facilities, car rentals, hotel and resort reservations, and beauty and health services.
Departure taxes : International flights: 700 Philippine pesos (PhP) Domestic flights: 200 Philippine pesos (PhP).
Cebu City’s domestic port is the country’s busiest. Cebu City is home to almost 80 percent of the country’s passenger vessels. The country’s largest shipping lines, namely WG&A, Sulpicio Lines, Trans-Asia, George & Peter Lines and Lorenzo Shipping Lines, are headquartered in Cebu.
Large passenger ferries with a capacity of 2,000 to 4,000 passengers ply the more distant routes such as Manila, Davao, Butuan City, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro. Medium-sized vessels such as the roll-on/roll-off (roro) types ply nearer destinations while fast ferries transport passengers to and from neighboring islands in two hours or less depending on the destination.
Do as the locals do and catch a colorful jeepney. Simply ask around for which route to take. They are available 24 hours and cover most of the nooks and crannies of the city. Airport to Lapu Lapu City (LLC) costs about 7 pesos, while across the bridge to Mandaue or Cebu City costs more than ₱10. Be sure you know what part of the city the jeepney will take you to. Additionally be aware of pickpockets and other theft, this is common and even locals fall victim.
Buses are also available but these tend to ply exclusively along the north-south route. There are two major bus terminals as the name implies for direction of travel – North Bus terminal at Mandaue and South Bus terminal. Ceres Bus lines operates regular bus services from these terminals and are considered the “safer” alternative to the smaller privately operated bus lines.
If you do not wish to give up western comforts take a taxi. Always insist on a metered fare. Most trips around the city should cost not much more than ₱100(usually less).
Drivers may bargain if they notice that you are a tourist; hence, the cost of the trip may double in price. However, you have the option not to agree and may report such to local authorities. If you know the name of the building, establishment, area or street you wish you reach, this is still the fastest way to get to your destination. Most drivers know where almost everything is. If they don’t, then simply flag down another one. If the driver is pleasant then it is nice to pay 10-20 pesos extra for nice service and a bit more if he loads or unloads your bags. Most drivers do not have, or will tell you they do not have change, so be ready with 50′s and 20′s if you are going on short trips.
It is best to avoid the “Private” taxis. They take advantage of tourists and they charge 5-10 times the price that should be paid. You will find these taxis at the some of the classy high class hotels, they are called Hotel taxis and are usually owned by the hotel to make extra money; they will charge you ₱500 for something that should cost ₱60. Some hotels make it very hard for other taxis to pick you up at their hotel and you may need to walk outside to save money. Another place that uses private taxis is the airport. The arrivals terminal only allows taxis that have a special airport permit that costs thousands of pesos per month, but these taxis get to charge you a much higher price. If you want to avoid them, simply ask a porter for help and ask for a metered taxi. You go up a ramp and there are a large number of metered taxis waiting for you. You can also wend your way upstairs to Departures, where there are lots of metered taxis dropping off. Fare down town to Ayala or SM Malls should be around 150 pesos on the meter. You may be told “500” by the driver. Just grab the door handle and say “What, you don’t have a meter?” Don’t travel unless the meter is used; not using the meter is illegal, and you can report it to local officials.
Places of Interest
Basilica of Santo Niño (Basilica del Santo Niño (Basilica of the Holy Child), , A large and venerable church that traces its history to the founding of the convent of the Santo Niño de Cebu in 1565. It contains a statue of the Santo Niño (Holy Child) that regarded as the oldest religious relic in the Philippines. The statue was presented by Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana during the baptism of King Humabon and his wife Queen Juana on April 14, 1521. The natives of Cebu were formally Christianized by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Father Andres de Urdaneta on April 27, 1565. However, as they found the natives hostile, the village was set on fire. Later on, in a burnt-out house, a soldier named Juan Camus found the statue untouched. This was proclaimed a miracle. The statue, adorned with gold and precious stones, is in a glass case to the left of the altar. The church sees a constant stream of devotees praying at pews in the sanctuary and in front of statues of saints. The basilica is located in Osmeña Boulevard, ☎ +63.32.2556697
Magellan’s Cross – if you approach the Basilica from Osmeña Boulevard, walk through the courtyard of the Basilica and the Colegio to reach the Plaza). An octagonal building decorated with murals containing a large wooden cross that commemorates the Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan who planted a wooden cross upon converting the original inhabitants to Christianity. A plaque states that the visible wooden cross contains the original cross, but some historians say the original cross was reduced to firewood by local inhabitants when the Magellan fleet headed elsewhere. Take time to appreciate the various candle sellers who dance around during worship and while selling the candles. Located at Plaza Sugbo, off Magallanes Street (between the Colegio de Santo Niño (south of the Basilica of Santo Niño) and Cebu City Hall
Basilica del Santo Niño Museum (open Tue-Sun 08:00-11:45, 13:30-16:45) contains the vestments used to dress the Santo Niño and jewellery offered to the Santo Niño for use during his feast on the third Sunday of January. 10 PhP.
Colon Street - Brave the cacophanous traffic to see the oldest street in the Philippines with some nice worn-out classical buildings dating back to the American Era. At night, this street transforms into a market with good buys everywhere. Be wary of pickpockets though.
Fort San Pedro (Fuerza de San Pedro) – The smallest Spanish outpost in the Philippines during the colonial era. It has a small museum showcasing the wreckage and treasures from the sunken San Diego galleon from Mexico. The area is scenic with the newly renovated and open-air Plaza Independencia at the entrance.
Lapu-Lapu Monument, Mactan Island - Lapu-Lapu was a local hero who fought Ferdinand Magellan during the historic Mactan Landing in 1521. A small marker to Magellan is nearby. A few minutes’ walk away is Shangri-La Mactan Hotel Resort and Spa, which is a tourist spot in its own right. The compound is a large park where visitors (even if they don’t stay in the hotel) can roam the huge reception and its environs. Check out the beach, the chapel, the spa and the various restaurants.
Casa Gorordo Museum- A well-preserved Spanish colonial mansion constructed largely of wood, set in a pleasant, manicured garden. The lower floor has a collection of old tools, and an air-conditioned room that has changing displays such as art exhibitions. The more interesting upstairs level was the former living quarters of the Gorordo family. It features lovely carved wooden furniture and a wide patio. The kitchen is particularly interesting, as it contains a traditional dirt stove, a wooden food safe, and a traditional dish drying rack fitted to the outside of the window. Located at 35 Lopez Jaena Street, ☎ +63.32.2555630 fax: +63.32.2555630)Tue-Sun 10:00-18:00. Entrance :Adults 70 PhP.
Cebu Provincial Museum (Museo Sugbo) – The museum is housed in the former Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, which was once the Carcel de Cebu. Its four Spanish-era buildings made of coral stone contain artifacts relating to the history of Cebu. It is only a short taxi ride from Fort San Pedro.
Provincial Capitol -which is particularly scenic at night, is by far the largest provincial Capitol building anywhere in the entire archipelago. Its original design is a miniature of the White House and was built during the American Era.
Heritage of Cebu – A massive and particularly detailed monument showcasing the heritage of Cebu from the old Spanish to the American colonial era. Situated at the Eastern end of Colon Street.
Taoist Temple - Visit the temple for a unique look at the island’s Chinese heritage. The Chinese make up a significant part of the population, with much of the locals having full, half or part Chinese ancestry.
Crocolandia - Witness different sizes of crocodiles, snakes, deer and birds.
Adventures & Activities
Biking - Go to Tops, which literally sits at the top of the Mt Busay for an unobstructed view of the entire city at night. A few shops and restaurants stand along the way for a short stop. At one time taxi drivers charged a whopping 500+ pesos for the ride to Tops but the price has doubled to a ridiculous non-negotiable 1000 pesos, the best way to experience Tops is by mountain bike. This is a world class climb and on any given day, Cebu’s bikers are humping the 45 minute to 1 hr trek filled with switchbacks and views better than you see actually at the very top. Ask your hotel where you can rent a mountain bike. They will have to ask around a bit, but it’s worth it.
Drink, Eat, Laugh and Party – Cebu city is one of the cities which won’t miss the party scenes at night, being a major city of commerce and finance in the Philippines; the development of bars, clubs and other commercial establishments are at a fast rate. Take a break from the hectic busy urban life… take a laugh, comedy bars are common in the Philippines and usually Sarcasm the lowest common of wit as most people would say is the common specialty of comedians, don’t get pissed at them if they make fun of you, smile back and just get along. Comedy and disco bars, coffee shops and restaurants are found in Gen. Mexilom Ave., Fuenta Rotunda and Osmeña Blvd.
Ride a Tartanilla – Head to Cebu’s old quarters in Carlock Street and try riding a horse drawn carriage called a tartanilla. Remember to negotiate with the driver before taking a ride.
See the scenic view of Cebu City’s skyline – The Marcelo Fernan Bridge or Second Mactan Bridge offers some interesting views of the city at night, and is even picturesque from below. Arrange for a taxi to take you there.
Shop - Cebu City is well known for two spacious and modern malls outside Manila. SM City Cebu and the Ayala Center Cebu are the most famous and luxurious shopping centers at the heart of the city. Boutique shops, mini-malls, themed malls, fine and alfresco dining include ParkMall, Banilad Town Center, among others.
Sinulog Festival – The island of Cebu gets especially busy on the third Sunday of January due to the Sinulog Festival. It is the local way of honouring the Child Jesus. Main thoroughfares around the city are blocked for an all-day and all-night loud and colourful street party. Don’t forget your dancing shoes!
Xtreme Rides - Just adjacent Robinson’s Mall is the Crown Regency Cebu which is the tallest building in the city. Adventure seekers may head to the top floor to experience a breathtaking view of this modern city and its environs. You may also opt to join in the Xtreme Rides that literally puts you on the edge of the city, or you may walk around the edge of the building (don’t worry, safety cables are attached) to experience this once in a lifetime experience. All of these you can enjoy for a small fee.
Swim and Sun – For a real beach experience, visit nearby Bantayan Island. It is accessible by chartered plane from Mactan Cebu Airport or through Hagnaya Port (3 hrs by car from the city) where it is around an hour ferry ride to Sta Fe port of Bantayan Island. Day trips to Virgin Island can be arranged with your resort as well. Mactan is actually the popular place when it comes to beaches which is just minutes away from Cebu City and is where the Airport is located. But despite it’s popularity, Mactan is a poor choice for travelers who are looking for a real beach experience.
Snorkel, Bird-watching and Scuba Diving – The island of Olango and its 6 small satellite islands are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving as well as observation of migratory birds.
Cebu City has many shopping malls – the biggest being SM City Cebu, which is a four-level shopping mall with a huge department store, supermarket, movie theater and over 200 shops and restaurants. A more upscale shopping mall is the Ayala Mall, it also has a large department store, two supermarkets and a movie theater, and it offers more restaurants and stores that appeal to tourists. These are modern buildings with lots of western goods in addition to local stores. There are other, older and smaller malls dotted all over the city, such as Country Mall, Robinson’s Mall, e-Mall, Mango Square and Cebu Parkmall. In addition to this there are many stores and places to stop. One nice place is the Colon part of the Old Downtown.
If you need to fix something there are hardware stores in all of the malls. Cebu Home and Builders Center along AS Fortuna-Mandaue, Mactan (near old bridge) and Cebu Parkmall is the home depot style that carries the most complete line for finishing and building materials. There is a large warehouse store called Makro, located near SM that offers good prices on goods in bulk. Another great place to buy household goods on the cheap is White Gold, also near SM. For furniture the two best places to go is Sun Gold and Mandaue Foam, just remember to ask for at least 10-20% off the price. If you want to buy groceries the supermarket in Ayala Mall is well stocked but has an extremely repulsive smell to it. You may opt for SM Supermarket in SM City or for best value go to SaveMore Supermarket in Mactan Marina Mall, e-mall and it’s largest branch in VisMin at Cebu Parkmall. (Wikitravel)
Best Buys: Cebu’s otap, turrones, danggit and Bohol’s kinampay and polvoron.