Cebu, the island paradise

You’d love Cebu for its pretty azure skies, pristine white sand beaches, unique culture, lovely people and tropical weather. It’s an island paradise located in the heart of the Philippines, specifically in the Visayas Region where many other wonderful islands abound.

The island is called the Queen of the Southern Philippines, and is one of the most developed provinces in the country. Its history dates back in 1521 when Magellan claimed the island for Spain, though even before that Cebu was already the gateway of Asian trade. Today, the island is one of the main centers of trade, commerce, tourism, education and industry.

What makes Cebu a worthy place to visit, here, we shall count the ways…

Historical highlights

Cebu has one of the most interesting cultures in the Philippines

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Known as “Zubu” in the 13th and 16th century, the island, at that time, was inhabited by Hindu and Muslim tribal groups. The arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 established the island’s period of Spanish exploration and colonization. Though Magellan was later killed in the Battle of Mactan, the Spanish exploration continued, making Cebu the first European settlement established by Spain in the Philippines.

Cebu was ceded to the United Stated in 1898 after the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War. In 1901, Cebu was governed by the United States, yet after a few years, it became a charter province and finally,  in 1937, it was independently governed by Filipino politicians.

With rich history on its wings, Cebu has one of the most interesting cultures in the Philippines, and houses historical sights like Cebu’s oldest Roman Catholic church, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the walled garden of Fort San Pedro, the precious artifacts of Casa Gorordo and the Philippine’s oldest street – Colon Street.

Beaches and resorts!

There are also available trips around the island to see fantastic shores and beautiful small churches.

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Fine powdery white sand beaches, crystalline waters, cool breeze, the musical journey of the waves to the seashore, these and more can help you relax as you sit gazing at the horizon, allowing nature to take its course. Cebu can provide you your much needed rest and relaxation via its many beaches and world class beach resorts, to name a few – Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa, Plantation Bay, Alegre Beach Resort, Maribago Blue Water Beach Resort and Bantayan’s Yoonek Beach Resort.

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For the adventurous, most resorts offer watersport activities like boating, diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding and windsurfing. There are also available trips around the island to see fantastic shores and beautiful small churches. For experienced divers, head on to Marigondon Cave to satisfy your crave for extreme diving.

 Festive Vibe

Sinulog features a street parade with participants wearing colourful and creative traditional costumes dancing to the beat of drums, trumpets and native gongs

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One of the most-anticipated and lively festivals in the country – the Sinulog – showcases Cebuano heritage and culture in one magnificent, colourful and religious event. The Sinulog Festival honors the vision of the child Jesus, known as Santo Niño (Holy Child). It is an annual dance ritual that commemorates the Cebuano people’s pagan origin and their acceptance of Jesus and of Roman Catholicism.

Sinulog features a street parade with participants wearing colourful and creative traditional costumes dancing to the beat of drums, trumpets and native gongs. During the whole month of January, Cebu is busy with activities leading to the final parade on the third Sunday of the month. Recently, Sinulog has been promoted as a tourist attraction featuring contingents from various parts of the country.  

Sightseeing and Scrumptious Eats

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Going to Ayala and SM Supermalls is a great way to know about Cebu, but it doesn’t mean that they are the only option, although most foreigners and locals flock to these malls. Sights that one should not miss are: Mountain View Resort, Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary, Taoist Temple, and Tops Lookout. Good places to visit outside the urban area are Bantayan Island, Kawasan Falls, Malapascua Island, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary and Mactan Island Aquarium.

When it comes to food, Cebuano cuisine may not be as popular as those of French or Chinese, but it has its distinctive qualities and holds its own against the great culinary cultures of the world. Don’t forget to try the popular Cebu Lechon (roasted suckling pig), Kanding Caldereta (goat stew), Humba (heavily flavoured pork with boiled eggs), and street-foods that are not only cheap but also yummy – Siomai sa Tisa (like steamed dumplings with kalamansi sauce), Tempura (a flavoured pasty that is deep-fried and dipped in hot sauce), and if you want to challenge yourself like that in Fear Factor, eat Balut! It’s a fertilized duck egg that is boiled and has a nearly-developed embryo. No kidding!

And Of Course…Its People

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With enthusiastic locals always ready to give their bright smiles, the Cebuanos are known for their hospitality and charm. To travel in Cebu means not only to see and experience its lovely sights, but also to know the fascinating locals who helped make Cebu truly an island paradise.

Published: Tianjin Plus Magazine, June 2011

Photography: Cathy Perez     

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