Blessed Chillin’ in Cebu
Cebu is second largest city in the Philippines, after Manila, making it also highly developed. In fact, at times you can completely forget you’re on an island. But its rich colonial heritage and the 167 surrounding islands ensure it’s still a great destination that’s got a bit of everything.
The Shrines and the Churches
Five centuries ago, a Spanish fleet led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan came ashore at Cebu. So began the country’s long history of Western colonization, followed by Japanese occupation during World War II. Given this complex history and cultural diversity, it’s no surprise that Cebu is home to many shrines and churches. To see them all, you’ll probably have to spare a day or two, but here are a few highlights not to miss.
Perched on the top peak of the affluent Chinese community in Beverly Hills, The Taoist Temple features dragon sculptures and pagoda roofs typical of Chinese architecture. Head to the balcony where you can check out the views of downtown Cebu as well as Mactan and Bohol islands in the distance. History buffs shouldn’t miss the Heritage of Cebu Monument, a massive sculptural tableau depicting Cebu’s key historic events like the arrival of the Spaniards and the Christianization of Cebu. Speaking of religion, Cebuanos take their faith seriously—as evidenced by the stunning grandeur of the Philippines’ oldest church, Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, which houses the country’s oldest image of the Santo Niño, a child Jesus brought to the island by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Not too far from the church stands the symbol of Cebu, Magellan’s Cross, a chapel housing a crucifix believed to have been planted on the orders of the Portuguese explorer.
Located just a few kilometers from Cebu, Mactan Island is famed for manufacturing guitars and ukuleles. A quality handmade ukulele starts from PHP1,200 (B837), and comes with a carrying case—and with the ukulele fever currently ablaze in Bangkok, someone is bound to thank you. But if that’s not your thing, Mactan is also a perfect starting point to visit a little archipelago around Cebu and Bohol. The popular destinations are the secluded Nalusuan and Pandanon, which can be accessed via Olango Island. Besides the views of a surreal emerald ocean, you can feed the fishies or have lunch at one of the many restaurants on stilts. The best way to go is by taking a tour (see Tours).
Like other Asian cities, Cebu is known for its abundant street food. Sensory overload is guaranteed at Larsian, a canvas-covered enclave housing several stalls selling all sorts of BBQ meats. Another famed street eat is balut, a boiled fertilized egg similar to our khai khao. Eaten with chili and vinegar, balut is believed to amp up your sex drive. Another specialty exclusive to Cebu is pusô (rice wrapped in a triangle of woven coconut leaf), or hanging rice, which is usually seen sold alongside siomai (pork dumplings). Just like Thais, the locals here eat late into the night, so just take a stroll and try whatever smells or looks delicious. We highly recommend taking the food to Tops, an open crescent-shaped area set 2,000 feet above sea level. Here, for PHP100 (B70), you can soak in the unobstructed views of Cebu city at night.
There are no direct flights from Bangkok to Cebu, so a layover in Manila, also a great city, is unavoidable. Cebu Pacific Air (www.cebupacificair.com) has both routes covered ten times a day, with a 3- to 6-hour layover in Manila. Flights start from B9,538 roundtrip.
To get to Cebu City from Mactan-Cebu International Airport, you will actually have to cross the Mactan Channel either by the Marcelo Fernan Bridge or the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge. Taxis are PHP 195 (B136.50).
PHP1 (Philippine peso) = B0.7
Thai nationals, along with nationals from 149 other countries, automatically get a 3-week visitor visa upon arrival. For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/599a3x
A hotel room in Cebu starts from around B1,440. If budget’s not an issue, the city’s only five-star hotel, Marco Polo Plaza (www.marcopolohotels.com), has rooms from B3,342. If you prefer ocean views, we recommend Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa (www.imperialpalace-cebu.com), a massive seaside resort equipped with a sizeable waterpark. Rates there start from B7,310.
Public transport is scant in Cebu , so unless you want to spend your holiday hopping on the local taxis—jeepneys—you may want to consider taking a tour from a company like Cebu Trip Tours (http://cebutriptours.com). Island hopping is also a must, and the folks at The Islands Group (www.theislandsgroup.com) do it best with their fleet of modernized banca boats complete with mod cons like bean bags, iPod decks and WiFi. If all that is still too much work, visit http://funtours.cebupacificair.com, a one-stop service for everything from flights to accommodation courtesy of Cebu Pacific Air.
|Address:||Blessed Chillin’ in Cebu, Cebu, Philippines|
|Report a correction|