If you ever find yourself in this paradise-island called Cebu in the Philippines, here are five things to do to get the most out of your stay. This post is part of the group writing project at Problogger.
1. Hit the beaches or go diving
A narrow strip of land that is 200 kilometers long and 41 kilometers wide, the island province of Cebu—which is ringed by over a hundred other smaller islands—is home to several white sand beaches and spectacular dive spots.
Worthy of mention are the beaches and dive spots of Bantayan, Malapascua, Alegre and Camotes in the north; Olango, Mactan, and Sulpa in the east; and Moalboal, Badian, and Sumilon in the south.
Of Cebu’s over a hundred satellite islands, some are uninhabited and are favorite destinations of local and foreign tourists.
Cebu is home to several white sand beaches and spectacular dive spots.
2. Dance the Sinulog
Nothing defines Cebu as much as the Sinulog. It is a festival both religious and festive. A nine-day event that is both offering and thanksgiving. The festival culminates with the Sinulog mardi gras, which is held every third Sunday of January and is the island’s biggest event.
Everything stops in Cebu for the mardi gras as the city explodes into a sea of dancers and floats take over the street. The Sinulog has become bigger with every year of its staging, starting from its humble start as a parade for students.
The Sinulog dance step of two-step forward, one-step back is inspired by the “sinug” (Bisaya word for burnt offering) dance prayers of candle vendors at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.
SINULOG: Cebu’s biggest festival and tourism draw. The festival culminates with the annual mardi gras, held every third Sunday of January.
3. Visit old churches
Spaniards came to Cebu first before colonizing the Philippines. It is no surprise that the island hosts a lot of old churches, some dating back to the Spanish era. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, for example, is the country’s oldest church.
It was first built by the Spaniards in 1566 on the very spot where the image of the Santo Niño, left behind by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in 1521, was found preserved in a burned wooden box.
There are also a lot of old churches in Carcar, a three-hour drive to the south.
4. Go downtown
Colon St. is the oldest street in the Philippines. It was built when the Spaniards led by explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in the island in 1565. Colon is the center of Cebu’s commerce and while it’s no longer as glitzy as other commercial areas of Cebu, it still retains its old world charm–from 1920s building facades to historic markers.
While Colon has become a safer place to visit in recent years, try not to bring anything valuable. Just bring the essentials with you: enough money for a meal in one of the restaurants in the stretch and some purchases in flea markets. When you’re touring Colon, look for markers of historic spots.
At the end of Colon St., just ahead the Gaisano Main department store, is the marker for the street. It’s a small obelisk in the middle of the road. A few steps away is Parian, the old Chinese district in Cebu.
Nothing much remains of the beautiful houses that used to define the district but there is a huge heritage monument in the area. The monument towers over the area and depicts key historical events of the island.
PARIAN HERITAGE MONUMENT. The monument celebrates key historic events in the island.
5. Indulge in native cuisine
Talisay lechon (roasted pig)
It is said that the best-tasting inasal or roasted pig in the Philippines is the one cooked and prepared in Talisay City. You get varied answers as to why the Talisay inasal tastes best: some say it is the herbs they place inside the pig, others say it is the way they cook it, still others say it’s the sauce they use for basting.
Puso is rice wrapped in coconut leaves and then cooked. Many establishments serve puso instead of rice to go with your meals. Puso rice pieces are strung together and servers just cut them off and slice them in half for serving, hence the term “hanging rice.”
Puso, according to a Cebu Normal University professor, had been once considered food for the gods, before Spain colonized the Philippines and introduced Christianity. The professor, however, said this ritualistic preparation of puso as divine offering is virtually non-existent today.
Eat fresh seafood by the shores of Mactan Island by visiting the sutukil diners of Lapu-Lapu City. The eateries are located near the Mactan monument, which houses the obelisk honoring Ferdinand Magellan and the statue of Lapu-Lapu. The monument is said to be the spot where Magellan was killed in 1521.
In sutukil restaurants, you get to pick fresh seafood (fish, shrimps, crabs and lobsters) and these are then prepared into three dishes: grilled (for sugba), prepared into a soup (tuwa) or turned into a raw seafood salad (kilaw), hence the name.
For more about Sutukil, you can read this article.
If you’re planning to go to Cebu, be sure to check our directories of hotels, resorts and pension houses.