Cebu City on Shoestring


I was on a work related trip to Cebu City and was not really planning to go around the city however my appointment was moved on the next day so I decided to check out the famous landmarks of this metropolis has to offer.

Background

Cebu is the second city of the Philippines. It was the first Spanish settlement and the oldest city in the country.

Festivals and the Beach

Sinulog Festival is held every third Sunday in January. If you want to check out the beach, December to May will be a safe choice to visit this beautiful island.

Sinulog Festival is held every January.
Sinulog Festival is held every January.

Touchdown

Mactan-Cebu International Airport is 30 minutes away from Cebu City proper. It is one of the country’s busiest airport with direct flights to Manila, Davao, Iloilo, Seoul, Singapore and Hong Kong. For convenience, take a cab in front of the airport. Cab flag down is 40 pesos and will usually cost you around 200 to 300 pesos to the city center.

Getting Around

Cabs are available around the city as well as jeepneys. If you prefer jeepneys, you can ask the hotel staffs for directions, it will cost you 8 pesos per ride. Majority of the Cebuanos speaks well in English, in fact they prefer English over Tagalog. You can also walk if you want to, tourist spots like the Sto Nino Basilica and Fort San Pedro are  only few blocks away from each other however be mindful of the people around, pick pockets sometimes are unavoidable.

Sinulog participants with the white dome of Cebu Provincial Capitol at the background.
Sinulog participants with the white dome of Cebu Provincial Capitol at the background.

Sleep

Mayflower Inn, Capitol Site (just beside Cebu Provincial Capitol)

Well recommended by Lonely Planet for backpackers. Single rooms usually cost around 850 pesos per day but it usually has an extra bed. Unfortunately, you can’t bring your visitors inside your room. Rooms have hot and cold shower, clean. WiFi is also available at the Lobby (strongest) and in your rooms (fluctuating). Staffs and security are customer oriented and very accommodating. The inn also offers food for breakfast up to dinner, not the best but decent. It is best for money for its location and security.

TIP: When looking for a place to stay, check the rooms first before checking in. I found a cheaper hotel with good location however it has poor facilities and sound proofing.

Eat

STK ta Bay! sa Paulito’s Seafood House

Located in #6 Orchid St, Capitol Site. STK means Sugba, Tuwa and Kilaw so try their Kinilaw, raw fish in vinegar and spices, starting at 100 plus pesos, this is actually good for two persons. Aside from the overrated kinilaw, other best sellers includes Grilled Tuna Panga and baked scallops. The place has a good ambiance and cozy. An old house turned restaurant is perfect for dating.

Another good place for dining in this vibrant city is Blue Elephant at Apple One Building. Its a rooftop bar and resto with a good view of the city. Try their crocodile sisig and sizzlers.

Apple One
Apple One
Crocodile sisig
Crocodile Sisig

( MORE: Zubuchon, the best pig ever!)

See and Do

Magellan’s Cross

I head downtown via jeepney and my first stop was the famous cross in Cebu. Going there is easy, just take the jeepney with a signage going to “Sto Nino.”

The remains of the original cross planted by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in the island of Cebu was encased in a hollow cross made of tindalo wood. It is housed in a rotunda built by the Agustinians in front of the city hall. On its ceiling is a painting of Magellan erecting the cross with the first Filipino Christians baptized in the island by Fr. Pedro Valderama.

The famous Magellan's Cross.
The famous Magellan’s Cross.

Basilica Minor  del Sto. Nino

Just in front of the Magellan’s Cross is the church. In 1565, the original church was built in the site where the image of Sto Nino, the Holy Child, was found. However, it was burned thrice but the image of the Sto Nino survived. The wall of the church is made of coral stones, its ceiling is painted with the historical events significant in the spread of Catholicism in the island. The retablo in the main altar contains images of saints mostly in black with golden halo.

Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino
Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino

Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro is few blocks away from the basilica. Built in 1565 under the Spanish conqueror, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, Fort San Pedro is the largest and oldest triangular fortress in the Philippines however compared to Intramuros this is smaller.  The fort served as a camp and garrison, now it is one of the main attraction in downtown Cebu.

Fort San Pedro is the largest triangular fortress in the Philippines.
Fort San Pedro is the largest triangular fortress in the Philippines.

Heritage of Cebu Monument

Going to the monument is safer via jeepney. The monument and the ancestral houses are located adjacent to each other. The monument is located in the original Plaza Parian. It showcased the history of Cebu since the Spanish Era.

Heritage of Cebu Monument
Heritage of Cebu Monument

Yap Ancestral House

The Yap Sandiego Ancestral House, located just across the Cebu Heritage Monument is considered as one of the oldest Chinese House outside China. According to the caretakers, it is now 338 years old and still made of its original structure. Inside the house are collections of old pieces, from silver wares to wooden furnitures and images of saints. Just outside, a wooden boat, which according to them used to cross to Mactan Island, hangs and served as a pot for hanging plants. Initially not in my list since it was unknown to me, I can say that this one good find and I highly recommend to everyone to visit.

One of the oldest house in the Philippines which has its original structure preserved. Authentic!
One of the oldest house in the Philippines which has its original structure preserved. Authentic!

Casa Gorordo

Built in the 1850’s, this residence gives a glimpse of the lives of the affluent families in Cebu hundred years ago. The house’s ground floor is made of Vigan tiles and coral stones as its wall. The second floor is made of Philippine hardwoods such as Molave (Tugas) and Balayong. The house has a number of well preserved furnitures.

Taoist Temple

After hours of walking in downtown Cebu, I was lucky enough to join other tourist going to Taoist Temple. The temple is quiet far from downtown so I believe it is best to take the cab.

Located in the northern hilly section of Cebu City, the Taoist Temple in Cebu is one of the largest in the country however not comparable to the temples in China. The temple offers a great view of the city and served as a sign of the city’s diverse cultural mix.

This is not Westeros, this is from the Toist Temple in Cebu, Philippines.
This is not Westeros, this is from the Taoist Temple in Cebu, Philippines.

Pasalubong

Every trip should end. For pasalubongs, key chains are sold for 10 Php per piece besides Sto. Nino Basilica but you can also buy this at Ayala Center at 6 piece for 100 Php. Dried Mangoes and Otap (Shamrock) can also be an excellent choice since Cebu is known for both.

Shopping here is not far from Manila with the presence of Ayala Mall...
Shopping here is not far from Manila with the presence of Ayala Mall…

Useful Phrases

“Oo” means yes.

“Dili” means no.

“Palihog” for “please”

“Maayong Buntag” for “Good Morning”

Note: This itinerary is good when you have Cebu as your side trip or when you only have little time to explore the city. Have a nice trip.

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