Things To Do In Cebu
Cebu is a metropolitan city much like Manila- it is overwhelming, energizing and fast paced under dazzling city lights, and dotted with proofs of historic and religious background of Philippine history. At first glance, it invites travelers with its blaring jeepneys, delectable and traditional cuisine, and charming Cebuana’s. There’s also a busy central thoroughfare that is teeming with shopping centers standing across religious structures and historic landmarks. With its boundless seaport, the city is the hub of travel and serves as the main harbor port for inter-island vessels that will bring you to other cities throughout Western Vizayas and Mindanao.
Cebu City or the acclaimed “Queen City of the South” is the most inhabited island in the Philippines and is second to Luzon in its significance and contribution to Philippine tourism. It has a vast selection of crystal clear beaches, whale shark watching, snorkeling and diving spots, secluded waterfalls, old architectural buildings and ancient cathedrals.
The Ancient Cross (Magellan's Cross), which is over 485 years old, is a symbol of the historic rise of Christianity in Cebu. It marked the beginning of Christianity on the island. The Cross was built in April 21, 1521 in honor of Ferdinand Magellan, who explored the Philippines and fostered the seeds of Christianity which flourish on the island of Cebu and in the entire nation.
When To Go:
The temperature stays roughly the same in Cebu year-round, and it is not especially warm or cool. However, this does not so much imply that all travelers will find the range agreeable. The normal low temperature is 22° C and the normal high temperature is just beneath 32° C. Interestingly, the most sweltering month of the year is around May. The best time of the year to visit is mostly during the summer season which starts from the first week of March all the way until the first week of June.
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Cebu is situated along the tropical monsoon range of the Philippine archipelago. Anyone who plans to spend the holiday season here must be aware of the “monsoon/ stormy months” which run from the last week of August until November. Avoid a visit during these rainy months because occasional chances of floods and high winds are expected to happen. The rainy months often continue until the first week of December and travelers are generally advised to stay indoors rather than be inconvenienced by canceled flights or postponed scheduled inter-island voyages. Locals avoid sending out any ship to the sea because of the huge waves created by the storms in the Pacific Ocean.
These are the major attractions and remarkable things to do in Cebu City:
Basilica del Santo Nino (Basilica of the Holy Child)
Every January in Cebu, the Sinulog Festival is held in honor of Santo Nino. It lasts for two weeks and concludes on the third Sunday of the month with religious celebrations and dance choreography, street dancing (Pit Senor Celebration) and stunning costumes. Around the city and in front of the Basilica del Santo Nino or the Basilica of the Holy Child, groups of about two hundred girls, boys, men and women, parade through the city to the sound of orchestras, percussion and wind instruments, dancing nonstop for eight hours. It is a sort of carnival with a religious background. The street food of Cebu is available for those who want to try it.
The Basilica of the Holy Child is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and it is a must to see it while you’re in Cebu. If you attend the festivities, you will feel the importance of religion in Filipino culture. Although it was rebuilt after being gutted by a fire in 1740, you can still see the man-made monuments. In the basilica, there is a statue of the infant Jesus, the subject of special worship by the Filipinos. It is always worth a look and you can hear the Holy Mass every Sunday morning. Even if a part of it was destroyed during the 2013 earthquake (one part of the façade collapsed, but it is currently undergoing reconstruction), the Church remains as one of the best attractions in Cebu.
This symbolic site is famous for its role in the history of the Philippines and Europe. Ferdinand Magellan landed here with his fleet of conquistadors and it is also here where he died at the hands of the brave Filipino chieftain Lapu-Lapu. The Magellan’s Cross stands next to the Basilica of the Holy Child. It is the cross that Magellan planted when he reached the island. It also signifies the day when the locals were baptized as Christians and Catholics.
It is a wooden object located in the baptistery and its significant value can be realized only by remembering its important role in Philippine history. The famous cross is always visited by a lot of tourists because this is the most prominent landmark in Cebu. It is located on the main square opposite the basilica and the local administration building. In the dome of the chapel, there are many paintings showing the birth of Christianity on this island and a spot where you can lay incense and candles. The place revolves around the pulsating life of Cebu and its relatively hectic tourist activity as a lot of visitors (especially local) come to pay homage to this symbolic place in Cebu. You can spend 15 to 30 minutes absorbing everything. In the immediate vicinity, you can visit some shops, markets, and many small restaurants and have a taste of their local cuisine or the famous “Lechon Cebu” (roasted whole pig).
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro is small but lovely and is a typical example of colonial architecture. You will be surprised to find that behind the thick walls is a very cozy and neat courtyard. The old fort is now a modest ruin located right in the heart of Cebu. It is a small square piece of land that is surrounded by the remains of the fortress wall with corresponding entrance fee. The entrance from the park leads to the path where there is a variety of monuments and stands right next to the passenger terminal for the ferries and other trips to Bohol Island.
The well-preserved Spanish Fort is still in good condition despite its antiquity; it is interesting to look around and take pictures. There is a small museum which is also worth spending time to comprehend and learn about Cebu’s historic past. The small fort is equipped with lots of guns, old trees, beautiful gardens and rooms with historical values. It is worthwhile to visit this site while on a tour of Cebu. It stands very close to Magellan's Cross, the official site of the discovery of the Philippines. The fort itself is not really that great and you can get around in 10 minutes, but it has a room with historical descriptions of the arrival of Magellan and his tragic meeting and battle with Lapu-Lapu in 1521.
Cebu Heritage Monument
The Cebu Heritage Monument proudly shows samples of modern Filipino sculptures and displays the history of the Philippines including the long period of Spanish colonization. The art collection is maybe a little lacking in terms of sculptures, but it is informative nonetheless. The monument displays the entire history of the country in one place.
It is interesting to walk a few times around the monument and take photos. The whole story is captured in stone and must not be left unattended. It is a fascinating monument to Philippine history and a great way to see how the colonizers baptized the people into Christianity.
Oslob Whale Shark Watching
Being able to swim within inches of these magnificent and gigantic sharks is an incredible experience. The Oslob Whale Shark Watching adventure can be found in the southern part of Cebu where whale sharks are plentiful. Oslob is about a 4 hour drive from Cebu City in an area where nature reigns supreme. You can stay at the seaside bungalows with very basic amenities but conveniently located near the point of the sea where most of the whale sharks gather. You will be amazed to see these entirely gentle creatures gather in front of your bungalow with the presence of the local fishermen and their traditional canoes attracting them to no more than 100 meters from the shore. You can go with your guide to join them in the water for a close interaction with about 10 whale sharks that are not afraid of people.
Whale shark watching is a unique and unforgettable experience. To spot a whale shark is already memorable, but to swim together with them is beyond imagination. Once in Oslob, after a brief explanation of what to do or not do in the water, you will be taken by boat about 100 meters from the shore. You will be immediately surrounded by a group of whale sharks that quietly approach the shoreline to eat the planktons offered to them by the boatmen. You can stay in the water for about 45 minutes surrounded by these magnificent animals that swim placidly and are not bothered at all by human presence. It is an experience that you will treasure and fondly remember from Cebu.
The Tumalog Falls is a unique natural attraction of Cebu. It is characterized by its complex shape with many cascades and surrounding trees. At the bottom of the waterfall, you can find lots of natural baths where you can swim in peace. Tumalog Falls is located near the town of Oslob which is about three and a half hours drive from the airport on the island of Mactan, Cebu. It is near the whale sharks. From the coast, you can climb higher into the mountains and there, among the bamboo forest, discover this waterfall. Under the falls, there is a clear blue lake where you can swim, stand under the waterfall or relax on a bamboo raft. Many people come here and spend half a day with their packed lunch boxes and everything that is necessary for swimming and relaxing.
It is a magical place with lovely surroundings. The best time to go there is during the early morning, starting from 7:00 to 10:00 AM when the falls are not yet crowded and you still have enough time to view the natural and fascinating spectacle - the falling water, the aqueous suspension of the lake, and the rays of the rising sun. The magnificent play of light makes it one of the most perfect places to visit in Cebu City. It is great, but not magnificent. Do not come a long way here just for the sake of this waterfall, it is best to combine it with other destinations on the south coast of Cebu.
The Taoist Temple is worth a visit! From the top, you will have a beautiful view of the city. Warning: it has lots of stairs. If you love sacred sites and serene temples, this is the right place to visit. The property is situated on a hill in the forest and there are no other means to get there but by taxi, (which is cheap), or walking. The temple is very nice and well cared for. It is full of pictures and statues of the Taoists. The guardian also tells an interesting story about how the Chinese live in harmony in Cebu and why they love being in the Philippines.
A short tour can be accomplished within half an hour and you must inform the taxi driver immediately to wait for you for the return trip (finding an empty taxi is quite hard in this area), the fare for this is in conjunction, but not expensive. The temple is beautifully maintained and from various sides, you can have an excellent view of Cebu and you can get striking images in clear weather. The park where the temple is located is well cared for and looks beautiful. Enjoy your visit to the Taoist Temple.
The Tops Lookout is a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is here where you can unwind and relax while looking out from this observation deck on an idyllic view of Cebu. It is highly recommended, but you must have a sturdy jeep or other means of transportation to reach the mountain because some parts are pretty tough for a tricycle or Jeepney (a local mode of transportation).
At the viewpoint itself you can eat or drink and there are lots of food kiosks for snacks and delicacies. The admission fee is 100 PHP per person. There is a small and newly created view system with some souvenir shops. The view of the city, the surrounding mountains and the sea is fantastic. To experience the best view in daylight and at night, it is best to go there in the late afternoon.
Mountain View Nature’s Park
It is worth visiting at sunset in order to enjoy the view of the islands that stand out on the sea in sequence. The Mountain View Nature’s Park is accessible by car and located on a large plateau that is equipped with a bar and tables and space where children can run around safely. One of the best things to do while you are on a tour of this park is to try the rope course adventure trail.
This activity involves going through many outdoor challenges which make use of 17 stages of rope adventure that range from easy to moderate and are designed for the young and old alike. There is a guide who will teach you techniques on how to overcome each level; don’t bypass this park when you’re in Cebu.
Colon Street is the busiest and oldest commercial street in the Philippines where you will be transported back in time. It is surrounded by noise and traffic and located right in the middle of Cebu. It is a chaotic and populous area with many stalls and shops everywhere. You can go to the major shopping centers located in this area as well as admire old European architecture on some structures that has survived the test of time. It is a timeworn street that has been in existence since 1565.
1730 Jesuit House
The 1730 Jesuit House is a museum that is dedicated to the Spanish history of Cebu. It is best to hire the guide provided by the museum. At first you will be a little surprised about the location of this house; it is inside a store, so you do not have the feeling of "entering" into a museum. Once inside, you have a chance to see how the Spaniards lived in the Philippines and learn about the stories behind the colonization. Besides housing several architectural curiosities, the house is situated inside a very impressive building.
Cebu is a definite must for lovers of history, religion, and culture. The city is a perfect study in contrast because of its visible signs of modernity and some parts of the city that still carry remnants of the past. If you want to learn about how the Philippines were explored by Magellan, visit Cebu. You will not only discover a fascinating city, but you will also be enamored with its abundant natural resources and the most endearing locals who love good food, festivities, and music.
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