Cebu, located in the Philippines is an island which is long and narrow and covers a distance of 225 km. The island itself is surrounded by 167 neighboring islands some of which are Mactan Island, Bantayan Island, Olango and Camotes Island. Cebu is flanked on both sides by the straits of Cebu. The topography of the island is made up of narrow coastlines, limestone plateaus and coastal plains. There is also a hilly terrain in both the north and south parts of the island. Some of these mountains are as high as 1000 meters. The mountains are popular with adventure thrill seeking tourists who like to hike up the hilly terrain.
Cebu city is the capital of Cebu. The city is the oldest Spanish colonial city in the country. Cebu city along with four neighboring cities Mandaue City, Lapu- Lapu City, Talisay City and Danao City and eight other municipalities make up the Cebu Metropolitan Area. Today the city is one of the most developed provinces of the country. With its strategic location in the archipelago, Cebu has become a hub of commerce, education and trade and industry. The natural port of Cebu has seen it become a major shipping hub of the Philippines. Many international concerns such as Mitsumi, Muramoto Audio- Visual, Lexmark International, NEC technologies have set up manufacturing plants in the government sponsored industrial estates here. The many government incentives for manufacturing and industry have seen the city become a leading center for exports in the country. The people of Cebu, given its location and abundant resources have historically been geared towards trade and commerce. Tourism, Furniture making, Ship building are the major industries located here. In recent times the city has also become an IT hub. The availability of an educated workforce, the accessibility of Cebu to Asia and other international destinations, has led to many international companies setting up their call centers and business processing units here. The Cebu Business Park and Asia town Information Technology Park are two areas where the majority of these businesses are located. The Cebu chamber of Commerce and Industry which is made up of the city’s businesses is further aiding the City become a software and eservices hub of the region by offering various concessions to the companies which set up shop here.
In addition to IT, the small island leads the entire country in the exports of furniture, house wares, toys and fashion accessories and carrageen gifts. Apart from all this trade and development the city and the surrounding region has white sand beaches dotted with many luxurious resorts, tropical hideaways, dive spots, golf courses and bustling shopping malls. These factors further contribute to Cebu being voted a favored tourist destination by readers of popular tourism journals.
Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese maritime explorer in his quest to reach the spice islands set sail from the Spanish port of San Lucar de Barrameda with a flotilla of five ships and a crew of 250 on September 20, 1519 via the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. They reached the Philippines Archipelago on March 17, 1521 and were told by the ruler Raja Kolambu of Mazzaua in Mindano to proceed to Cebu. Magellan thus arrived in Cebu city in 1521 along with Enrique of Malacca who served as his translator. He then proceeded to befriend the ruler Raja Humabon of Cebu and cajoled him to sign an allegiance with the ruler of Spain Emperor Charles V of Spain to whom Magellan had pledged his services. Having befriended the Raja, he later baptized the Raja and his wife as King Carlos and Queen Juana. The Santo Niño was presented to the queen as a symbol of friendship between the two nations and on April 14th Magellan erected a large wooden cross on the shores of Cebu. The explorers further baptized more natives of Cebu and tried to establish the rule of the newly baptized King Carlos in the region. The erstwhile ruler of Cebu had been involved in a power struggle with the tribal king Lapu Lapu of Mactan Island for many years. The cause of the dispute was the control of the burgeoning trade in the region. This led to the historic battle of Mactan in which Magellan was killed. The natives of Mactan succeeded in driving out the conquerors.
Juan Sebastian Elcano who was Magellan’s second in command then led the expedition back to Spain after circumventing the globe. They took back with them tales of savage natives who inhabited the islands of the Orient. Subsequent expeditions to the region didn’t meet with much success.
In 1565 the Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi along with his army and several Augustinian and Franciscan friars arrived in the Philippines. They proceeded to colonize the islands and establish the first Spanish settlement in Zugbo in 1569.This Spanish settlement was called Villa de Santissiomo Nombre de Jesus. The Spanish reign continued until 1898 after which the Philippines came under the rule of Americans. During the Second World War Cebu was occupied by the Japanese Army and it served as an important Japanese base until it was liberated by the Allies in 1945 and then it was occupied by the Americans.
People and Language of Cebu
The approximately three million inhabitants of Cebu have descended from the Spanish and the Chinese. Both these communities played an important role in the economic and political development of Cebu. The American influence on the Island continues up until today in many aspects of life on the island. Like in the rest of the Philippines the Filipino language is spoken on the island along with Cebuano and other dialects such as Tagalog, Waray Waray and Hiligaynon. English is also widely spoken and understood on the island.
Cebu is characterized by balmy weather and temperatures rarely fall here below 27°C (80°F). The best time to visit Cebu is in the months of December to March when the weather is relatively dry. From March to May are the summer months when temperatures on the island can rise as high as 37°C (99°F). Rains come to the island in the month of July and are often composed of torrential downpours.
The people of Cebu are predominantly Roman Catholic. Other minorities such as Protestants, Taoisits and Muslims also exist on the Island. The Santo de Niño or the holy child of Jesus was given to the Queen of Cebu by Magellan and is housed on the oldest church on the island called Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. To celebrate this event a rich festival called Sinulog is held on the third Sunday in January every year. During the celebration of this festival people who are attired in rich ceremonial costumes hold aloft the image of infant Jesus and dance and sing in the streets.
Getting to Cebu
Cebu is served by Mactan- Cebu International airport which is located on Mactan Island and is a thirty minute drive from the city. There are regular air links from here to Singapore, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Doha in Qatar. Domestic flights link Cebu to Manila and from there on to the rest of the world. Due to the increasing air traffic, an additional terminal is being constructed at the airport which will serve international flights exclusively while the present terminal will be used for domestic air travel.
Cebu can be reached from other islands by riding in a BANCA which is a motorized outrigger. The port facilities located in the city also make it a destination for several cruise ships and ferries from other islands.
Getting around the Island
The island has indigenous modes of transport such as the Jeepneys. These are privately owned and decorated jeep like vehicles adorned with various bells and whistles and religious icons. Jeepneys operate everywhere in the city and are available 24/7. The cost of riding a Jeepney is between P4 and P10. The Tarantillas are horse drawn carts which also serve has a mode of transport on the island and give one a sense of travel in the ages past.
Metered taxis operate on the island and are ideal for traversing the island and sightseeing as they are air conditioned. Local buses operate on the island and there are two bus terminals on the island in the North and in the South.
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
The oldest church in the country is on the island of Cebu. This 16th Century church is located in downtown Cebu on the spot where the statute of Santo Niño which was given to Queen Juana by Magellan was found by the Spanish conquistadors in 1565 in a burned wooden box. The church was founded by an Augustinian priest Andrés de Urdaneta on April 28 1565. The church was first built of earth and wood and subsequently rebuilt in stone in 1739. It has withstood fires and other catastrophes. In 1965 it was elevated to a rank of a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI. It remains under the domain of the Augustinian friars.
The Magellan Shrine
This is a large memorial statute which was erected in memory of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who died in the Battle of Mactan in 1521. The statute measures thirty meters and is located at Barangay Mactan Lapu Lapu city.
Casa Gorodo Museum, 35 Lopez Jaena Street
This museum, which was originally the home of the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu is now restored as a typical Filipino home of the late 19th century. It has exhibits of religious artifacts, paintings and antique furniture.
Fort San Pedro, 20D Macopa Street
Located in the wharf area of Cebu city is the Fuerza San Pedro which was the first Spanish fortification in the city. It was first constructed in wood and earth in 1565 to protect the Spanish settlement from attacks by Muslim Pirates. The fort was then rebuilt in hard stone with thick walls which are 20 meters high with an imposing front entrance which is 30 meters high. Through the ages the fort has served as a watch tower for pirate attacks, a prison for rebel Filipinos, as army barracks for the US army and as a prison for prisoners during the Second World War. Today the fort is a museum which documents the Spanish rule in Cebu. It has exhibits of documents and coins from the Spanish era, paintings, sculptures, canons and even an oasis garden. The museum also has statues of Legazpi, the Spanish conquistador and Antonion Pigafetta a Spanish historian.
Lapu Lapu Shrine
Built to commemorate Datu Lapu Lapu the king who defeated the Spaniards and killed Magellan, this shrine is a 20 meter bronze memorial on Barangay Mactan.
Bohoi is an island province located to the southeast of Cebu .It was ruled by the Spanish for over three hundred years and evidence of this Spanish rule is seen in the various churches found here. A number of rare beautiful shells such as the Gloria Maris and the Golden Cowrie are found on the beaches of the island. The world renowned Chocolate hills are found on the island too. These consist of 1768 hills which are shaped like scoops of chocolate ice-cream.
Beaches and Tropical Hideaways
Cebu is renowned the world over for its wonderful beaches and various dive destinations. Mactan Island which is accessible by crossing a bridge from Cebu city has numerous beach resorts which offer an array of aquatic recreational activities. Olango , Kansatik and Sagod are other locales in the vicinity which have white sand beaches and dive spots.
Many more attractions such as coral reefs, caves, lagoons exist at Capitancillo islet, Gato Islet and Moalboal. Argao is another beach destination located at the end of a two hour drive from Cebu city which is popular with tourists.
This museum was the home of the late lepidopterist Professor Julian Jumalon. The museum has exhibits of his highly unusual mosaics which are made of butterfly wings. Butterflies still thrive in the garden of the museum.
Hotels and Resorts
The various beaches of Cebu have many luxurious resorts to cater to the needs of tourists. Some of the highly acclaimed resorts are the Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa located on Mactan Island Lapu Lapu city. The resort is known for its impeccable service and can be accessed via phone on (63-32)231-0288. Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is built in the fashion of a plantation hence the name and has wide verandahs and shuttered windows. It is located at Marigondon,Lapu Lapu city. The resort can be reached by phone on (63-32)3405900.Alegre Beach Resort is yet another resort located on the northeastern coast Cebu near the town of Sogod. Here one can indulge in activities such as bird watching, mountain biking and trekking in the rural environs. These are a few of the resort hotels popular with tourists. The Cebu city Marriott Hotel is a popular business hotel located in the Cebu Buisness Park and it can be accessed at (63-32)232 6100.