Cebu is the traveler’s fantasy of a tropical island
come true - balmy weather, pristine beaches, crystalline
waters, and luxurious resorts with all the frills of
modern living. The island-province of Cebu was where the
Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan planted the
Cross of Christianity in the name of Spain in 1521. But
even before Cebu became the Occidental gateway to the
Orient, it was already a popular entry point among Asian
Cebuanos celebrate life like
no other. They strum their guitars and sing the
"balitaw" when they’re happy. They strum the guitar and
sing the "harana" when they’re sad. And when they pray,
they dance! It therefore comes as no surprise that the
guitar is a prime product in Cebu which, quite
naturally, has also produced a large share of the
country’s best musicians and master showmen.
The Cebuano’s flair for showmanship and love for
celebrations is manifested in the Sinulog, a colorful
festival of pageant proportion observed every third
Sunday of January. Cebu is an anchor tourist destination
and one of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the
Cebu has since blossomed into a choice tourist
destination, with many leisure establishments taking
full advantage of its sea-valley-and-mountain location.
Metropolitan Cebu, the country’s second biggest
metropolis, is the political, economic, educational and
cultural center of the Visayas. Hotels, shopping malls,
entertainment halls, casinos and golf fairways are ever
present in the metro to cater to every tourist’s whim.
The rest of Cebu’s 166 islands and islets are fringed
with sandy beaches and sapphire-clear waters teeming
with marine life, perfect for divers.
The fiesta is when life in these islands is
celebrated in full pageantry, complete with a brilliant
display of sights and sounds, scents and tastes. Cebu
shows us how. The Sinulog is Cebu’s biggest and showiest
fiesta in honor of the Infant Jesus or Señor Santo Niño.
In a choreographed movement, "tribes" clad in dazzling
costumes hold aloft images of their tiny patron even as
they simulate the natural rhythm of sea waves which
brought the Holy Child to their shores. The prayer-dance
is synchronized to the beat of drums and shouts of "Pit
Señor! Viva Santo Niño!"
The tribes wend through the city’s major streets,
starting early in the morning and stretching into early
evening. A big entertainment roadshow and grand
fireworks display bring to a close the celebration. The
Kadaugan sa Mactan is a one-day pageant re-enacting the
historic battle between the Magellan-led Spanish
colonizers and the resisting natives led by Rajah
Lapu-lapu. The festival is celebrated every April 27 in
Lapu-lapu City at the beach area where the Portuguese
voyager met his death.
While the rest of Christendom observes Holy Week with
somber rituals, fasting and abstinence, Bantayan Island
makes an exception. The townspeople display their brand
of folk Catholicism by feasting on roasted pig and then
swimming at its white sand beaches after a religious
procession. The Semana Santa is a movable feast between
the months of March and April. The rustic town of Opon
honors its patroness, Our Lady of Rule, with a fiesta
from November 20 to 21.
Guests take the occasion of the Feast of St.
Catherine of Alexandria to visit the beautiful old town
of Carcar which, aside from its splendid colonial
architecture, also produces a number of Cebu’s popular
delicacies. In December, Cebu culminates its fiesta
celebrations with the month-long Paskuhan, a festival of
Christmas songs and lantern displays.
Cebu takes pride in being the country’s oldest
colonial city. Many landmarks attest to the richness of
its history. On April 14, 1521, Magellan planted a cross
to mark the spot where some 800 natives - led by Rajah
Humabon and his wife, Queen Juana - were baptized into
the Catholic faith. The original cross is now encased in
a hallow hardwood cross and can be found in a roofed
kiosk along Magallanes Street.
As a baptismal gift to Queen Juana, Magellan gave a
black image of the Infant Child which, on April 27,
1565, managed to remain unscathed after a fire razed
Cebu to the ground. The Basilica Minor del Santo Niño
was built by Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Fr.
Andres Urdaneta on the spot where the miraculous icon
was found. The religious statue has since been enthroned
in the basilica, with the original kept inside the
convent and a replica enshrined at the church’s side
altar. From mainland Cebu, Magellan crossed the channel
to the island of Mactan in an effort to spread
Christianity. The chieftain Lapu-lapu, together with his
warriors, resisted the attempt and killed Magellan as he
reached the shore. A monument now marks the site.
Fort San Pedro, located at Cebu City’s wharf area,
was the nucleus of the first Spanish settlement in the
country. The fort has been turned into a museum-park.
Colon, the country’s oldest street, was built at the
Parian or Chinese District. Located at the heart of
downtown, it is a busy commercial center by day and a
lively entertainment belt by night. The seat of the
provincial government is an imposing building of
pre-Pacific War vintage rising majestically along Osmeña
Located at the center of the boulevard is Fuente
Osmeña, named after Cebu’s Grand Old Man, the late
Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña, Sr. A favorite
strolling park among locals, the circular Fuente becomes
even more alive in the evenings. Within the park is a
skating rink. The University of San Carlos was
established by the Dominican fathers on the site of the
former Jesuit-run Colegio de San Ildefonso, originally
founded in 1595. Its museum on P. del Rosario Street has
an extensive collection of anthropological and
The Southwestern University Museum located on the
Urgello Private Road, takes pride in its large
collection of pre-colonial and colonial artifacts as
well as its Filipiniana Research Center. Casa Gorordo,
along Lopez Jaena Street, is the ancestral house of the
first Bishop of Cebu and affords one a glimpse of
affluent Cebuano lifestyle, circa 1800. The Jumalon
Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery in the Basak
district was the private museum of the late
lepidopterist Professor Julian Jumalon. His garden
continues to be a haven to thousands of butterflies and
his salon features mosaics made of butterfly wings.
The Cebuano’s Chinese heritage is very visible and
one of the more popular destinations in the city is the
Taoist Temple, located at the highest elevation of the
Beverly Hills Subdivision. Devotees, meanwhile, go to
the Heavenly Temple of Charity at the Peace Valley in
the Lahug district. Yet another pilgrimage spot is the
Celestial Garden where life-size replicas of the 14
Stations of the Cross are spread in a 12-hectare
property within Banawa Hills.
Evenings are hot in cool Cebu. From downtown to
uptown, Metropolitan Cebu comes even more alive as dusk
sets in, with queues leading to music bars, discos and
Cebu is a premier entertainment center. Electric high
tension fills the nightlife and patrons can’t help but
"shake those bodies" as they swing into the groove.
For the island-hopper, Cebu is one exciting
playground for daring expeditions. Aqua sports top the
list of what to do. For scuba diving, the best dives are
found in the islands of Mactan, Moalboal and Camotes.
The calm waters surrounding Argao, Badian and Malapascua
islands are ideal for kayaking.
Because of its hilly terrain, mountain sports has
created a following in Cebu. Rock climbing is excellent
in Cantabaco and Malubog. For trekkers, the 908-meter
high Mount Manunggal is a steady climb in the heat.
Mountainbike your way up and down scenic Talamban. It
takes less than a full day on the road, with plenty of
stops along the way. The ecotourist will find Olango an
ideal place for communing with nature. A wildlife
sanctuary, the island supports the largest concentration
of migratory birds in the country.
For the golfer, the Cebu Country Club and the Alta
Vista Golf and County Club are conveniently located in
the metro, in Banilad and Pardo. There is also the Club
Filipino Golf Course in Danao City, some 33 kilometers
drive from Cebu City.
Cosmopolitan Cebu is noted for its inexpensive
gastronomy of many cuisines. Island flavors are fairly
simple with meats and seafoods cooked three ways -
marinated in vinegar, charbroiled or boiled - and then
seasoned with condiments. Chinese and Spanish cookery
are the strongest foreign influences in local cuisine.
Here's a listing of theme restaurants in Cebu City: