Cebu City has one of the fastest emerging economies in the Philippines, but that’s not what the whole region is known for especially if you ask the millions of local and foreign tourists who frequently visit this central Visayan destination.
The Queen City of the South
Cebu City is a first class municipality located in the province bearing the same name, Cebu Island, in the Central Visayas. It is officially recognized as a high-urbanized city with a population of over 900,000, according to the 2015 data. While all these information can be easily found online, many people – even those who had the chance to visit this tropical destination often ask: why is it called the Queen City of the South?
The title is attributed to its potential as a rising economic power not only in the Visayas but in the entire Philippines. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it has a booming economy that promises the city’s crown to the royal throne of progress.
Traveling to Cebu City for first-timers
If it’s your first time traveling to Cebu City, you may have a few questions about the basics yet important details that you should know about before booking that plane ticket. Just like any holiday trip, the first step that you should take is to do your homework.
How to get there:
If you’re a Filipino or a foreigner who lives in another part of the country, you have different options to choose from if you want to get to Cebu City. Depending on where you’re coming from, the minimum traveling time can be as short as 1 hour.
Local travelers have several options: plane, ferry, or private car. For international and foreign travelers, Cebu island is the home to Mactan International Airport, catering to local and direct international flights from other major countries in Asia.
Going to and around the city:
The airport is located in Lapu-Lapu City (30-60 minutes away from Cebu City). From the airport, taxi services (200-300 pesos depending on the traffic situation) are available and will take you to the city proper.
Pro Tip: Two of Philippine’s aircraft carriers offer promo flight tickets on special occasions (New Year, Christmas, National Holidays) so you should be on the lookout for these deals online or on their website.
A cheaper method prescribed by locals is the bus service, MyBus (located near the Arrival exit doors), which leaves every 20 minutes and will take you to SM City, Cebu where you can take other modes of transportation to your destination within and outside of the city.
Going around the city is as easy as ABC – no pun intended. “Jeepney” and “multicabs”(local public transport vehicle) routes are classified according to different letter-number combinations like 03A, 02B, 01C, and so on. You can find the detailed information and their updated routes on this page.
What to eat:
Cebu City is a heaven for foodies and food adventurers especially those who are crazy about fresh and affordable seafood meals – and you can never find this opportunity in other major cosmopolitan Philippine cities. This is because Cebu City is a part of a bigger province that is composed of over 160 smaller islands. In fact, the region itself is known for its several fishing villages.
Aside from its local delicacies, there is a long list of restaurants serving international cuisines like Korean, Japanese, Italian, and even Middle-Eastern food places – but nothing beats the juiciest and tastiest lechon Cebu, or roasted (whole) pig.
Cebu’s lechon is not only the best roasted pig in the Philippines, but is also the best in the world, according to the internationally acclaimed chef, Anthony Bourdain.
Where to go:
Did you know that Cebu City is the oldest city in the Philippines? It is also recognized as the very first island where Spaniards built a settlement before establishing a solid control over the country centuries ago. Their long and rich history makes the city interesting not only for history geeks but also for curious travelers.
There is a long list of Spanish-inspired government and religious establishments around the city, as well as residential buildings designed after Spanish architectural styles. However, what catches most of its visitors’ attention are the mighty and still standing post-war memorials located at the heart of the city.
Here are some of the most famous historical tourists’ spots in Cebu City that you should check out on your first day:
- Fort San Pedro
Location: Plaza Independencia, Cebu City
Fort San Pedro is the oldest military defense structure in the Philippines built in the early 17th century. It was under the command of the first governor of the colony, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi until its downfall when Filipino revolutionaries successfully infiltrated the structure at the end of the 19th century. It was then used as a stronghold and now serves as one of the most precious reminders of the region’s courage and heroism.
- Magellan’s Cross
Location: Magallanes Street, Cebu City
This famous religious site is housed in a chapel near the city center. According to historians, it’s a wooden Christian cross mounted by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers in 1521 under the command of Ferdinand Magellan. According to locals, the cross possesses miraculous healing powers.
Outside the chapel are women and children selling candles for offering, and older women singing songs of worship and good luck to those who are kind enough to offer donations in exchange for a ritualistic prayer-dancing.
- Colon Street
If your idea of fun is interacting with the locals and enjoying the unique and genuine vibe of the city, then Colon Street should be first in your itinerary. However, for first-time travelers, it’s advisable to experience this insider culture with a local who knows their way around the place – because it could get really crowded and overwhelming.
Colon Street is a historical place in Cebu City, and is known as the oldest and shortest national road in the country. It was named after the famous explorer, Christopher Columbus. At present, it’s a home to many local fashion stores, movie houses, old local restaurants, and many smaller establishments.
Cebu City is a buzzing metropolis that has successfully kept its historical and nostalgic charm. Traveling to this part of the Philippines can be the most exciting and unforgettable getaway that you’ll ever experience, either for a family trip or a solo adventure.