Cebu City is the second-largest commercial centre of the Philippines and also the unofficial capital of the south. It has a population of nearly a million people. Boasting a busy international airport and the largest port in the Philippines, it has extensive air and sea connections to all the Visayan islands. The island itself is long and narrow, densely populated and now as a result of illegal logging, almost completely deforested. A few smaller islands lie around Cebu including Mactan Island (connected to Cebu by a bridge) where the airport is located, Pandanon Island, famous for its sandbar and white sand beaches and Oslob Island where Whale Sharks can be seen.
Cebu City has a number of industrial zones which produce electronic goods and textiles. Most of the main attractions for the visitor are located in the old districts, which are close to the port and within walking distance.
Getting to and from Cebu
Flights to Cebu are plentiful both from within the Philippines and an increasing number of international locations. Cebu is an international destination with flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea arriving at Mactan International Airport almost daily. From Manila, Cebu is just an hour’s flight away. If you are visiting any of the Visayan Islands, Cebu is an attractive alternative to using the airport in Manila.
Maybe you are passing through Cebu City en route to Bohol. A number of companies operate a ferry service to Tagbilaran in Bohol. This takes less than 2 hours. If you are holidaying in Bohol and don’t mind getting up early, it is quite feasible to visit Cebu City for a day trip, travelling on the ferry. That is how I came to visit the city. I particularly wanted to visit Cebu to see the Taoist Temple. However, I discovered a number of other places worth visiting, which nicely fills up your day, making a great day out. If you are tired you can always sleep on the ferry journey back to Bohol.
Fort San Pedro
This was built in 1565 as a pirate lookout post. During its history, it has been many things including a rebel stronghold, an army garrison, a prison camp and even the city zoo. The Fort houses an interesting collection of pictures, photos and historical artefacts and outside there is a walled garden to enjoy. Just outside the Fort is the Plaza Independencia which celebrates the independence of Cebu.
Ferdinand Magellan was sent by the King of Spain to look for the Spice Islands. He crossed the globe, landing in the Philippines in 1521. Magellan was responsible for bringing Christianity to Cebu, which was embraced by a lot of the population. Magellan planted a wooden cross on this site. The site is actually a chapel, inside, a case protects the original cross. The ceiling is painted with a number of scenes including Magellan’s landing in Cebu and the planting of the original cross.
Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu
Not far from Magellan’s Cross is the oldest Christian church in the Philippines. The Basilica del Sto Niño was founded in 1565. Sto Niño refers to a statue of Jesus as a child. This was with Magellan when Cebu’s chieftain and his wife converted to Christianity in 1521. The church is fascinating to walk around and contains old paintings, and stained glass windows. The museum contains lots of 17th-century relics.
The Basilica del Sto. Niño is close to the oldest street in Cebu, Colon Street. This was established in 1565 and the street was a hub for early commerce. Today it still has lots of businesses, shops, shopping malls, and food establishments. There are lots of souvenir shops in this area.
Lechon is one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines and most people agree that Cebu offers the best lechon in the Philippines. The dish is basically a whole roasted pig, cooked for a couple of hours over a charcoal pit. Before cooking seasoning is placed inside the pig after the insides have been removed. Usually, lechon is made with a young pig, about six weeks old. This traditional dish is often served at parties and special events. There are a number of specialist lechon restaurants scattered around Cebu. If you are taking a taxi to go somewhere the taxi driver will certainly be able to recommend a good restaurant. If you are visiting Colon Street you may be lucky enough to find someone selling lechon street food.
Walking around Cebu
Fort San Pedro, Magellan’s Cross, Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu and Colon Street are located close to the port and it’s easy enough to walk around them. Also worth visiting in the area are the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Cebu Cathedral Museum, the Colon Obelisk which marks the start of Colon Street, the Casa Gorordo Museum, the Museo Sugbo and the Heritage of Cebu Monument.
If you want a map, the EZ map of Cebu from any National Bookstore is perfect.
Walking around the Port Area and Colon Street is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. However, for me, the highlight of my visit to Cebu was the Taoist Temple which is located in the Beverly Hills Subdivision. This is a short 20-minute taxi ride away from Colon Street. Remember to negotiate your taxi fare before hiring your taxi. Your taxi driver will probably be happy to wait for you.
Cebu Taoist Temple
The temple was built in 1972 by the Chinese Taoist community. The temple is very popular because of its architecture which is very artistic. As well as the temple itself there are stunning views of Cebu City and Mactan Island.
You can if you wish, take two blocks of wood into the temple and carry out the Taoist ritual of dropping the blocks onto the floor in front of the shrine. If both blocks fall face up, then the gods will permit you to make a wish. You are asked to wash your hands and take off your shoes before entering the temple.
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