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.
The Philippines is a year-round destination, but rain is least likely from December through April.
Singaporean nationals can visit any part of the Philippines visa-free for 30 days.
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.
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.
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.
|How are you?||Kumustá kayó?|
|Fine, thanks||Mabúti namán, salámat|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Mawaláng gálang nga pô!|
|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?|
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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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Fort San Pedro, Magellan's Cross, Santo Niño Basilica and Museum, St Theresa’s College Museum, Rizal Memorial Library Museum, Southwestern University Museum.
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.
Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad Town Center, Fuente Osmeña, Mr A's Bar & Restaurant, Crown Regency, Mango Avenue.