Sightseeing in Cebu City

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Things to do


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February, 2018

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We stayed for one night on the Philippine island of Cebu on the way to Mactan Island. On leaving the “Henry Hotel”: for our half-day city tour, we drove through an IT Park and learned how the Philippines outrank India in terms of contact centre numbers.

Our first stop was the Taoist Temple. Around 15% of Cebu’s population are Chinese with the majority being affluent and living in gated communities. There were two entrances to the temple complex with 181 steps, and we went in one and exited the other. It was very grand and well maintained with appropriate colourful dragons and tall temples and signs asking us to observe the silence and solemnity. Its location, high on a hill, provided slightly misty/smoggy views over the city.

Driving on through the uptown area, we passed the Capitol Building established by the US and the tallest building in the city, the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers. The 38th floor features an amusement facility including a roller coaster running around the edge. However, this will be overtaken by a new 50 storey building built by a Chinese family: the Chinese are said to own virtually all the major businesses in Cebu.

We then passed the University of San Carlos, one of the most prestigious for the Chinese focussing on business and law, which also houses a museum, but we didn’t have time to look around the intriguingly described burial artefacts. Instead, we drove down through the old red-light area of Cebu, which is now the home of t-shirt printing shops and shoe repairers. Again, without stopping in the traffic, we drove onto Colon Street, the oldest in the Philippines, and now home to the ubiquitous shopping mall sprawl.

Our next stop was the Cebu Heritage Monument, a tableau of sculptures made of concrete, bronze, brass and steel showing scenes about events and structures related to the history of Cebu. It was designed by a Filipino and took three years to construct.

Virtually across the street was Yap-Sandiego ancestral house, one of the oldest wooden homes remaining in the Philippines, where a young girl in original style Chinese clothes asked us to sign the visitors book. It was beautifully furnished in period style, with lots of objects and set dining tables and family photographs. Before being allowed upstairs we had to put on shoe covers to protect the original wooden floors.
Driving down Sikatuna Road we passed the cathedral and the Monument of Rajah Humabon, a green Shrek-like creature with tattoos signifying how many warriors he had slain.

Our next stops, was the triangular fortress of San Pedro, set in an ever-shrinking park as the authorities take land for development, including a subway for traffic to ease the congestion. There were black and white photographs showing images of the city by someone who had died on the Titanic. We strolled around the fortress walls which looked out at Plaza Independencia.

Our last two stops were near to each other. Firstly, the Basilica Minore del Santa Nino where outdoor masses are held for the vast swathe of pilgrims who flock to see Santa Nino – a 12-inch wooden statue of the Child Jesus as a king dressed like Spanish royalty. It’s one of the oldest Christian relics in the Philippines and given in 1521 as a gift by explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Shrek-like Rajah Humabon. Although we had to queue for over 30-minutes, we couldn’t leave without visiting it, having seen a replica in Manila. A guard ensured you didn’t spend too long in front of it but at least we snatched a photo. The second stop, was the Magellan’s Cross with painted ceiling and women selling candles around it. This was planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers on arriving in Cebu in 1521.

This was a full-on tour with a lot of climbing in and out of our transport and looking through the window and it would have been easy to have spent a couple of days exploring the city.

Helen Jackson

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