Cebu is a first city income class, a highly urbanized city which serves as a significant center of commerce, trade and education in the Visayas Region. It is the oldest city in the Philippines, the first capital city, and the Fount of Christianity in the Far East. Carl & I had the chance to visit the city for a day, and here’s what we did and saw:
After a smooth sail from Tagbilaran via SuperCat ferry, we took a taxi to Hotel Pier Cuatro, a budget friendly accommodation located right across Robinsons Galleria – Cebu shopping mall. We highly recommend not to take opportunistic taxis which are not metered or offer a fixed fare! Cebu is very industrialized, and can be compared to Manila, so expect extreme traffic jams and visible poverty lines.
Hotel Pier Cuatro is an okay hotel for a one-night stay. I do not really have such nice memories of the hotel. except that we found it creepy and noisy at night, the aircon dying, the small tv tube sits quietly on top of the cabinet, and the breakfast late. At 6 am, guests started pouring in at the dining area, but the staff shove us away, telling us that breakfast was at 6am. But it was already 6:10 am.. But nevertheless, we survived the stay, safe and sound, and for that, we were grateful.
Since we had very little time to explore, we just chose the famous historical attractions, those I read from books from when I was in grade school.
1st stop: Fort San Pedro, an 18th century Spanish fort which served as an army garrison, a rebel stronghold, a prison camp and a zoo. It was originally made of wood, but later on turned into a stone fort to protect the city from Muslim rebels. Fort San Pedro is also the oldest triangular bastion fort in the country. Entrance fee is set at 30PHP per adult, as of 2017.
2nd stop: Plaza Independencia, a symbol of independence and freedom. Just across Fort San Pedro is a clean square covered with century-old trees. The plaza was called Plaza de Armas in the 1600s, and served as a military training and parade ground during the Spanish era. Later on, the name was changed to Plaza Maria Cristina, in honor of the Spanish queen. During the American colonial period, the name was again changed to Plaza Libertad, following the Spanish word for liberty. Ironically, it was liberty from Spain. When the country regained its complete independence from colonial rule, the plaza finally got its present name.
The government has to be applauded for their effort to improve the plaza. It looked literally safe and very clean. There were policemen guarding, and an information booth for tourists.
3rd stop: Magellan’s Cross, Cebu’s most popular historical landmark. From Plaza Independencia, we traversed the busy streets of Cebu to the famous Magellan’s Cross. It was quite a walk amidst the crowded and dodgy streets, and sad to see naked children running around, very vulnerable to all the dangers a socicety can inflict upon them. Carl felt very exhausted at that time, and just like me, I didn’t really think that he appreciated the sight of the children.
The Cross is located in a small roofed kiosk, guarded by religious women wearing colorful skirts, selling candles and offering to pray for you. When Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521, he immediately tried to Christianized the tribe led by Rajah Humabon. The Spaniards baptized the rajah, along with his wife, Queen Juana, and about 400 native inhabitants. They planted a cross in the city, and to protect the cross, it was encased in a cross of hollow tindalo, and that’s what we see today.
4th stop: Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, home to the country’s oldest religious icon, the image of the Señor Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus), given to Queen Juana by Magellan himself. The church is also one of the oldest in the country, built in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Visiting the church was a unique exerience, as it exemplified the extreme Christianity in the country. The basilica was said to be visited by thousands of people everyday.
I really wanted to see the famous icon, so I decided to go inside with the crowd. Carl, on the other hand, opted to sit outside because of the extreme heat and, well, he was not really a big fan of extreme religious fanaticism. On my way in, I was handed a sarong by a woman. She eyed me from head to toe, and told me to cover my legs. Of course, I respected that. Many parts of the country has not reached that level of religious liberalism yet, if I may say, where goers are allowed to enter in whatever clothes they prefer, like the Catholic church in UP Diliman. Oh, I was also handed a sarong when I visited the monasteries in northern Greece, so that was nothing new to me.
Inside the church are hundreds of people, perhaps half of them praying, the other half were tourists curious about what was inside the church. I had to line up to see the famous icon of the Child Jesus. Signs reminding people of the sanctity of the place were found all over, but some tourists couldn’t help but take photos and talk loudly amongst each other. Interestingly, the security guard even offered to take your photos with the religious icon. Therefore, it WAS a tourist thing, more than a religious symbol.
5th and final stop: Robinsons Galleria Cebu. All covered in sweat and dust and a memorable experience in the heart of Cebu City, Carl & I decided to head to Robinsons Galleria to get some refereshments and eventually, dinner. That’s where he had his first Jollibee meal! I guess, good food is really an acquired taste. You have to eat it again and again to appreciate (and love) it! I was super proud of my husband for surviving Cebu City, and for being open to trying out new stuff, like Jollibee. 😉
The visit was short, but enough to see the highlights of Cebu. Up next: our Palawan escapade! 😉