Cebu

Sporting a bustling nightlife, Philippines’ third-largest city is also your launchpad for exploring the Visayan Islands. 

Cebu is the Philippines' third-largest city and the hub of a large central Philippine island of the same name, which attracts travellers with its historical sites and wide array of food and drink options. Outside town, you will find beach resorts, diving spots, casinos and even mountain bike treks. The main urban draw is Fort San Pedro, a Spanish fort built in the 17th century to repel attacks by Muslim or European raiders. Nearby sits a large wooden crucifix left by Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, whose fleet was the country’s first encounter with the West. (Magellan would die in Cebu trying to mediate a local political dispute.)

One of the great dilemmas here is deciding where to go at night because so much of Cebu is about food and beer. If you're looking for a night out, one of the hotter districts is the Fuente Osmeña roundabout in the city centre, which is full of lively clubs, restaurants, beer houses and barbecue stalls that thrive after dusk. Hotels and shopping malls are also plentiful in this area. Cebu is also a real launchpad for exploring the Visayan Islands of the central Philippines.

 

When to go

The Philippines is a year-round destination, but rain is least likely from December through April.

Visa requirements

Singaporean nationals can visit any part of the Philippines visa-free for 30 days.

Money

The peso (P) is the monetary unit and there are 100 centavos to one peso. Currency exchange kiosks at the airport and at major banks accept Singapore currency. ATMs are open 24 hours and international credit cards are widely accepted. 

Transport

The Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is located on Mactan Island. A taxi from the airport to the ferry pier or Fort San Pedro, a journey of around 30 minutes, costs P200-250.

Metered taxis circulate on major roads in central Cebu and fares in the city centre range from 100 to 250 pesos. For in-town rides, ask your driver to use the meter to protect you against fare scams. Jeepneys, ornately decorated long trucks with benches in the back, stop along major roads and are as good as city buses. Know the name of your stop or a nearby landmark and tell the fare collector as you board. The collector will remind you when you're there. If you're heading out of town, long-distance buses leave from the city to the scenic southern tip of Cebu Island, and fast ferries from city piers go to Bohol, Dumaguete and elsewhere in the central Visayan islands.

Health and safety tips

Cebu is considered largely safe for visitors although, as in any city, there are some dark, ramshackle parts of town that should be avoided. Also, be alert for pickpockets. Food hygiene is always questionable, so unless your stomach has a proven record for handling street food, eat in restaurants. The Cebu Doctors' University Hospital (tel: (63) 32 221 2101) accepts foreign nationals. For emergency hospital services, call (63) 32 255 5555.

Emergency details

The nearest embassy is in Manila at No. 505, Rizal Drive (corner of 5th Avenue), Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig City (www.mfa.gov.sg/manila, tel: (632) 856 9922).
 

In an emergency, dial 166.

Basic greetings
English Filipino
Hello Helló
How are you? Kumustá kayó?
Fine, thanks Mabúti namán, salámat
Goodbye Paálam
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Mawaláng gálang nga pô!
Thank you Salámat
Yes Óo
No Hindî
How much? Magkáno?
What's your name? Anó ang inyóng pangálan?
My name is… …ang pangálan ko
Nice to meet you Ikinagágalák kong makilála kayó
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Nasa Facebook/Twitter ka ba?
Where’s an internet café? Saán may ínternet café?
Where can I get a taxi? Saán akó makákabilí ng tíket?
Where is the bus/train station? Saán ang estasyón ng bus/tren?
A one-way/return ticket to… Isáng óne-way/round-trip tíket sa…
Do you have a room for one/two? Méron ba kayóng kuwárto pára sa isá/dalawá?
When's check out? Kailán ang check-out?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Pwéde ba kayóng magrékomendá ng magandáng réstorán/bar?
A table for two, please Mésa pára sa isá/dalawá, please
A menu, please Menú, please
The bill, please Ang bill, please
Where's the toilet? Saán ang CR?
Help! Saklólo!

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Museo Sugbo

M.J. Cuenco Avenue

Museo Sugbo is Cebu’s provincial museum, housed in its former jail. The complex has morphed into six museum galleries, which display memorabilia connected to well-known local people, alongside a Well of Good Fortune and Happiness. Plans are afoot to recreate prison life in one of the former isolation cells.

Fort San Pedro

A. Pigafetta Street

Fort San Pedro, a triangular fort built by Spaniards in the 17th century and reinforced in 1738 to repel attacks has various sections. Its largest building, the Cuerpo de Guardia, used to house the fort’s defenders, while an adjacent structure called Viviendo del Teniente was the living quarters for the highest official. The fort was later used as a prison for Cebuano rebels during the Spanish era, a military outpost by the Americans, and a prisoner of war camp during the Japanese occupation. Its main building now houses a museum.

Basilica del Santo Nino and Museum

Basilica del Santo Nino, Osmena Boulevard

This Catholic church compound dating back to Spanish colonial days of the 1500s is open to the public now after surviving several fires and earthquakes. One of Cebu’s landmark attractions, the Basilica del Santo Nino and Museum remains an active, open Catholic church. Its museum once housed the country’s oldest religious relic, the Image of the Holy Child Jesus. Today, rings and necklaces are offered by devotees to the Santo Niño for use during the January Sinulog festival.

Casa Gorordo Museum

35 L Jaena Street

Housed in a 19th-century residence, the Casa Gorordo Museum is a private museum (daily 10am–6pm) displaying artefacts and memorabilia related to Cebu’s traditional lifestyles. The first Filipino bishop of Cebu, who was a descendant from the wealthy Gorordo family, once lived in the museum.

Magellan Shrine

Punta Engano Road

The Magellan Shrine on Mactan Island dates back to 1866, when it was built to honour the Portuguese explorer who was world famous for sailing around the world in the 1500s, and who is known locally for being killed near this very landmark. The shrine includes a 30-metre (98ft) -high bronze statue framed by palm trees.

Shop

Alegre Guitar

Pajac-Maribago Road, Lapu-Lapu City

Alegre Guitar is one of several guitar shops on Mactan Island, which is renowned for making these musical instruments. Visitors can see the production process, described by a staff member. If you are thinking about buying a guitar in Cebu, it's wise to know the specifications you want and the price you’re willing to pay before negotiating with the shop.

Budget $$$

Goodwill Bookstore

49 P. Del Rosario, corner of Junquera Street

This friendly bookshop is part of a small national chain founded in 1938 and run by the Filipino-owned Goodwill Trading Company. The Goodwill Bookshop sells an unusual line-up of English-language titles, particularly rare books, textbooks and medical reference material. It has also started to offer children’s books.

Budget $$

Odyssey Music and Video

Ayala Center, Cebu Business Park

Odyssey Music and Video sells CDs, DVDs, video equipment and other entertainment-related gadgets. The Cebu branch of this national chain is open from 10am to 9pm.

Budget $

SM City Cebu

North Reclamation Area

SM City Cebu has around 500 outlets selling a vast range of goods, many of them high-end, including fashion brands and electronics. There are also restaurants and cafés serving Filipino and international cuisines, as well as entertainment venues. It’s open from 10am to 9pm.

Budget $$$



Dine

Café Georg

Ground Floor MLD Building, Banilad

Café Georg has two central Cebu locations, where diners can choose from options that range from healthy to 'sinful'. The latter includes a delicious range of cakes and puddings that go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee.

Budget $$$

Café Laguna

Ayala Center, Cebu Business Park

Spacious Café Laguna has a good reputation for regional and home-style Filipino cooking. Its specialities include puto bumbong (coloured rice flour steamed in bamboo tubes), pancit palabok (a traditional noodle dish), vegetable rolls and sinigang stew.  It’s part of a chain with restaurants in various parts of the country.

Budget $$

Formo Restaurant and Lounge

Banilad Town Center

Formo specialises in Mexican and Vietnamese cuisine and turns into a pulsating club at night, where the DJs play a variety of music including acoustic and Latin. Beer prices may fall to as low as P30 a bottle. No wonder people come here to party.

Budget $$

STK Food Mall

Near Mactan Island Shangri-la Hotel

STK Food Mall, an assortment of food stalls overlooking a mangrove swamp on Mactan Island (near Cebu’s airport), serves fresh seafood from an adjacent wet market. The signage on the stalls gives you a clue as to its most common dishes: S stands for sinugba (grilled food), T for tinola (stewed), and K for kinilaw (fresh fish marinated in vinegar).

Budget $



Stay

Hotel Asia

11 Don Jose Avila Street

The high-rise Hotel Asia in central Cebu features compact, fully furnished Japanese-style guestrooms with mini bar, high-tech toilet and over 70 TV channels. There is also a restaurant. The hotel advertises its rooms as 'first-class quality at third-class rates', which translates as P1,650–3,200 per night. Wi-fi is available throughout the hotel premises.

Budget $$

Marriott Cebu City

Cardinal Rosales Avenue, Cebu Business Park

Centrally located inside the Cebu Business Park, the Marriott Cebu City comes with 278 rooms, plus several restaurants and bars. It’s geared towards business travellers, hence the eight meeting rooms. The hotel sits next door to the Ayala Mall shopping complex.

Budget $$$

The Beverly Boutique Business Hotel

F. Manalo Street, corner of Queens Road

Small but clean and functional rooms make The Beverly a common choice for returning Cebu tourists. It’s located a block from the Mango Avenue bar district, which is ideal for guests planning a late night out. The in-house restaurant serves a mix of American and Filipino foods, starting from breakfast with coffee and ending on steaks with beer.

Budget $$

Verbena Pension House

584 Don Gil Garcia Street

The Verbena Pension House started as a restaurant called Cozy Nook in the garage of a duplex on Verbena Street in 1976. It then served mainly taxi drivers seeking food to get them through the day. Still cosy and traditionally decorated, the centrally located hotel has four types of rooms, all simple, and one has enough bunks for 12 people. The restaurant lives on.

Budget $

Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino

Salinas Drive, Lahug

Like something out of Vegas, the Waterfront Cebu City, with a 24-hour casino on its second floor, represents the country’s ambition to attract more international gamers. Guestrooms fill most of the landscaped tower, which also has a pool and gymnasium. Food and drink can be found at any of nine restaurants and lounges, from the Lobby Lounge to the Power House.

Budget $$$


Fiesta sa Carcar

24-25 November

The rural town of Carcar, known for its Spanish architecture, comes alive with a celebration in honour of its patron, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and there is plenty of local food and entertainment on offer.


Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival

27 April

History comes to life with the re-enactment of Magellan’s fatal encounter with Lapu Lapu, close to Cebu City.


Paskuhan Festival

Date varies in December

This festival unites people in Cebu to sing festive songs and make lanterns ahead of Christmas.


Sinulog Festival

Third week of January

Catholic pilgrims from around the Philippines travel to Cebu for Santo Niño month, the climax of which is Sinulog Festival. Thousands of revellers shout, parade and dance in wildly costumed groups up and down the streets of downtown to the frenzied beat of drums and the toots of whistles.


Tres de Abril Celebration

3 April

Cebu remembers the island natives’ victory over Spanish forces under the leadership of Leon Kilat. This historic battle made Cebu the first major island outside Luzon to oppose the Spaniards.


Virgin Queen of the Rule Fiesta

21-22 November

Cebuanos celebrate their deep religious faith in Opon town and Lapu-Lapu City with a hot of stalls showcasing local food, a procession and coronation of a fiesta queen.


Culture

Start your tour at Fort San Pedro. Built in the 17th century and reinforced in 1738 to repel attacks, the Spanish fort is a triangular enclosure with bastions at each point and an earthen embankment. The walls are 6 metres (20ft) high and a massive 18 metres (59ft) thick. Two sides face the sea, the likely source of any Muslim or European raiders.

 

On upper Magallanes Street look for a wooden crucifix left by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 to commemorate the archipelago’s first encounter with the West. This is Magellan’s Cross and it serves as a shrine to the initial conversion of Philippine islanders to Christianity. It’s unclear whether this really is the original cross, but local devotees don't seem to mind either way and still visit to pray, light candles or drop coins into the alms box.

 

Nearby, off Osmeña Boulevard, is the Santo Niño Basilica and Museum. It was built in 1565 to house the country’s oldest religious relic, the Image of the Holy Child Jesus, which has since survived fires and earthquakes.

 

Closer to the city centre, you'll find three small museums maintained by educational institutions: St Theresa’s College Museum on E. Pond Extension documents early Cebu history and society; the Rizal Memorial Library Museum on Osmeña Boulevard contains artefacts connected to this famous Cebu family; and the Southwestern University Museum, whose collection includes local archaeological finds and religious art.

Places to visit:
Fort San Pedro, Magellan's Cross, Santo Niño Basilica and Museum, St Theresa’s College Museum, Rizal Memorial Library Museum, Southwestern University Museum.

Foodie

Start with lunch at the upmarket restaurants at Gaisano Country Mall or its rival Banilad Town Center in Cebu’s Banilad district. By evening both teem with prosperous Filipinos who go to eat or have a drink.

 

Later move on to Fuente Osmeña in the centre of town. This scenically landscaped roundabout is the place to go for a great selection of restaurants and barbecue stalls that come to life after dusk. You’ll find the usual local and foreign fast food spots, plus one-offs such as Azkals Sports Bar and Grill, as well as the seafood speciality restaurant Chikan, and Larsian BBQ, a stall that serves up sizzling portions of chicken, fish and seafood.

 

If your appetite still allows it, catch a taxi into the low hills outside town to Mr A’s Bar & Restaurant. This spacious compound is a relief from the urban congestion and serves Filipino food in an indoor-outdoor setting that overlooks the town.

 

Before it closes at midnight, visit the Crown Regency, a 38-story hotel complex where thrill-seekers can ride an Edge Coaster or go for a Sky Walk on the building’s exterior. After that, grab a cab to mid-town’s Mango Avenue for a drink or show at one of its fabled night clubs. 

Places to visit:
Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad Town Center, Fuente Osmeña, Mr A's Bar & Restaurant, Crown Regency, Mango Avenue.