Cebu City is a metropolitan district in the central part of the Philippines with world class hotels and casinos and a vibrant nightlife to boot. It is the oldest city in the country thus having a multitude of historically-significant stories to tell. The Spanish colonization of the Philippines began in Cebu with the baptism into Catholicism of Rajah Humabon and his wife, and eventually 800 of his subjects.
The legendary Sinulog Festival is celebrated on the third Sunday of January every year. It has the highest headcount of participants and the top choreographic presentations of all festivals in the entire country. Outside of the city, Cebu’s beaches possess beautiful sandbars and crystal clear waters. Swimming with the friendly whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu can be a surreal, unforgettable experience. Most importantly, foodies, rejoice! The mouthwatering Cebu Lechon (slow-roasted pig) is to die for.
Sto. Nino Basilica and Magellan’s Cross
The relic of the Holy Child known as Sto. Nino is housed in this vast complex of a church. The statue is considered as the oldest religious artifact in the country and dates back from 1521. The story goes that Ferdinand Magellan, the man known to have discovered the Philippines, offered it as a gift to Raja Humabon’s wife when the couple was baptized. Several steps from the church, another landmark can be found. Magellan’s Shrine is believed to be the exact spot where Ferdinand Magellan planted a wooden cross when the natives were converted to Christianity.
This traditional festival is done in honor of the Holy Child. The statue is considered miraculous for surviving a massive fire in the 1500’s. For this reason the Sto. Nino has a multitude of devotees from the entire Philippines thus the flock of people during the Sinulog Festival. The festival lasts for nine days, culminating with the Grand Parade on the last day. The Grand Parade lasts for 9 to 12 hours and features locals in spectacular colorful costumes dancing elegantly to the cadence of drums, trumpets and native percussion instruments.
Yap Sandiego Ancestral House
Built during the late 17th century by Chinese merchants, the house-turned-museum is an interesting attraction for many tourists. Made of coral stones and wood and still intact to date, it is considered one of the oldest houses in the whole country. It is amazing how many typhoons and earthquakes this ancestral home has withstood over the last centuries. Do ask for a guided tour to better appreciate the history behind this well-kept home and its antique family collections. Not far away is Colon Street, the oldest street in the country established in 1565.
Whale Shark Experience and Tumalog Falls
Whale shark or butanding in local language is a species of slow-moving shark that feeds by filtering small food as opposed to most species of sharks which use their sharp teeth to eat. The whale sharks in Oslob have developed a relationship with fishermen who feed them every day, making these gentle giants friendly to humans. Tourists can opt to watch the whales aboard a native kayak or swim with them for a more personal experience. Near the butanding watching area is the undeveloped Tumalog Falls, recently gaining popularity with tourists and locals alike. The falls feature natural mini-umbrellas mimicking gentle rain showers, a contrast to most waterfalls which cascade water at full force. There are also gently pouring waters that form into a small pool, perfect for taking a refreshing dip. The exquisiteness of Tumalog Falls is raw, soothing and primeval, totally worth your time to visit.
The Cebu Inmates
Yes, you read it right. Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is a maximum security prison that can house 1600 inmates. The dancing inmates made international news with their choreographed “Thriller” routine ala flash mob style. They perform for the public on the last Saturday of each month because even jail time is more fun in the Philippines. Cebu can be reached via international flights from Hongkong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Qatar. There are a number of domestic flights that cater to Cebu including Manila, Kalibo, Davao, Bacolod, Zamboanga, Tacloban and many others. Alternatively, one can take the large passenger ferries from Manila, Davao, Butuan, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro for much cheaper but longer travel time.
Malapascua, Camotes and Bantayan Islands
Malapascua Island is more popular to scuba divers than beach bummers. It is blessed with pristine waters and a stretch of fine white sand. Manta rays and thresher sharks are the main reasons why tourists go here as they are regularly seen throughout the year. Snorkeling is also a spectacular experience with a Japanese shipwreck, protected coral gardens and remarkable marine life to see. Cliff-diving and fishing are other activities the island has to offer. Camotes Islands are dubbed as “The Lost Horizon in the South” because of their primordial, untouched exquisiteness. Fine white sands, sparkling clear waters and laid-back shores where one can relax in peace, caves with natural light and pristine waters below, bird-watching and a secluded lake called “Lover’s Lake” make this destination much sought-after.The rustic Bantayan Island with a beautiful sandbar was historically a Spanish base with forts and watchtowers. There’s a century-old church made of limestone and coral stones. Virgin, Sugar and Paradise Beaches are not to be missed and more so Ogtong Cave which features a natural fresh water pool.
Manila’s public transportation can get very crowded during rush hour so if you value personal space, it is best to take a taxi or rent a car with a driver. Do not attempt to drive yourself in Manila for it is the “toughest place to be a bus driver” per BBC. If however you intend to mingle with the locals and experience for yourself what it is like to commute in Manila, by all means take the jeepney, train, bus or rickshaw. It won’t be convenient but it can be quite an experience. You might even chance upon a dancing traffic enforcer because traffic apparently is more fun in the Philippines.
- Power outages still happen from time to time in the islands, especially after the devastating typhoon Haiyan
- Travel time from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port, the jump-off point to Bantayan Island takes 3 hours. The last boat leaves at 4:30PM.
- Maya Port is the jump-off point to get to Malapascua. From Cebu City to Maya Port, the trip takes about 4 hours. The last boat to Malapascua Island typically leaves from Maya around sundown.
- Travel time from Cebu City to Danao Port takes about an hour. From Danao Port to Camotes Islands, it will take another 2-hour boat ride. The last boat departs at 5:30PM.