Cebu Island is a large island in the Visayas region of the Philippines, shown in red on the map below. Cebu Province is that island plus several nearby small islands which are shown in white. The larger Negros Island lies just across the Tañon Strait to the west. Leyte and Bohol are to the east.
The most important city is Cebu City, often called the Queen City of the South. It is the oldest city in the Philippines, the second largest after Manila, and the largest urban center in the Visayas.
The main urban area is Metro Cebu, located near the middle of Cebu Island's long east coast; it has more than half the province's total population. It includes three substantial cities (several hundred thousand people each) which are administered separately and have separate articles here:
- Cebu City - largest city and provincial capital
- Mandaue - just north of Cebu
- Lapu-Lapu - on Mactan Island, offshore from Mandaue
Several other towns are in effect suburbs of Metro Cebu;
- Danao City - on the coast 40 km north of Cebu
- Talisay - on the coast, just south of Cebu City
- Carcar - further south, but still part of Metro Cebu
There are also towns in other parts of the island:
- Bogo - up near the northern end of the island
- Daanbantayan - further north, almost at the tip
- Oslob - down near the southern tip of the island
- Toledo - across the island from Cebu on the west coast
- Moalboal - on the southwest side of the island
- Badian - south of Moalboal
Most of the province is on Cebu Island, but several other islands or island groups are included. They are shown in white on the map above. Two are part of Metro Cebu and easily accessible from anywhere in the urban region:
- Mactan Island has the city of Lapu-Lapu and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on it. It is located a bit north of Cebu City; the city of Mandaue is directly opposite it on the coast of Cebu Island and there are two large bridges.
- Olango Island is just beyond (east of) Mactan and can be reached by ferry from there
Others are further out:
- The Camotes Islands are east of Cebu Island, about halfway to Leyte
- Malapascua is a few km off the coast near the northern tip of Cebu Island
- Bantayan is off to the northwest
There are large high-end resorts and hotels on the islands of Mactan, Bantayan, and Malapascua and the Camotes group, and in the Badian region. Of course, price levels there are high but hotel rates are still cheaper than in most of the 4 to 5 star accommodations elsewhere in the world. They will have beautiful pool areas, nice restaurants, spas, cable channel TV, internet and all kind of luxury.
Apart from that there are smaller resorts in fisher villages in the south and north, and on Olango, offering a more Filipino experience. Price levels for food, drink, watersports and trips there are generally much lower. Some of these resorts have beautiful coral reefs right in front of the resort - perfect for those who plan to go snorkeling or to make some easy dives in amazing coral reefs. Moalboal has many dive schools. The upland areas also offers majestic views of the mountains and seas.
Poverty is commonplace throughout the province. It is generally recommended not to show off too much luxury in front of those people who have to work hard to earn their daily food and drink. Those people are generally very friendly and helpful but caution is recommended. Apart from the poor, there is a well established middle class and an extraordinarily rich upper class that come mostly from present or former government representatives or business people.
The main local language of Cebu is Cebuano, also called "Bisaya" by its speakers or "Visayan" in English. Most people also speak English and Tagalog, so communicating is usually not a problem.
Because of the recent Filipino diaspora in search of employment opportunities, it's also not so rare to encounter talented Filipinos with at least a smattering of Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay, Mandarin and Hokkien Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
Most flights come from Manila with service from the four major national airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, Philippine Airlines/PAL Express, Tiger Airways. Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Air also have direct flights from Korea as well as Asiana Airlines or from Singapore with Silk Air and TigerAirways, from Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific or Cebu Pacific. Cebu Pacific also fly two times a week to Bangkok. Air Asia also fly daily to Kuala Lumpur.
Asiana and Korean Air both have a non stop flight from Seoul, arriving around midnight.
For most tourist the only way to get around is via taxi. They are everywhere, cheap and efficient. You simply flag one down and tell them where you want to go. Most drivers know where almost everything is. If they don't then simply flag down another one.
Almost all of the taxis in Cebu are metered. They charge 40 pesos for you to get in and 3.5 pesos for every 5 minutes they wait, and 3.5 pesos for every half km. Most of the time a taxi driver is very nice but sometimes you will find ones that will want to charge your more than the meter or not use the meter at all. Avoid these taxis unless you enjoy getting ripped off. If they refuse to use the meter, or they go the wrong way more than once to try to increase the meter then get out and find another taxi. You are not required to pay more than what is on the meter no matter what the driver says. If the driver is pleasant, feel free to tip 10-20 pesos for nice service, and a bit more if he loads or unloads your bags.
The so-called private taxis should be avoided. They try to take advantage of tourists by charging 5-10 times the price that should be paid. If you call a metered taxi to pick you up at one of the isolated resorts on Mactan Island, be prepared to pay more than you actually should. Drivers will manipulate the meter or simply ask you for a fixed price.
However, if one is indeed adventurous enough, another way to get around the city is via the colorful (and noisy) jeepneys that can be seen almost everywhere on the road. Jeepneys have specific routes assigned to them and will stick to that route only. The routes are marked by number plus letter (ie 03B, 03G, 13C, 04L). Jeepneys also place the route on the side of their jeepneys. Most jeepneys, though, go around the downtown area first before heading back to the start/end of their route.
Jeepneys are usually safe. During rush hour, though, be warned that it tends to get crammed and stuffy.
To get in a jeepney, call the attention of the driver by waving one arm as the jeepney approaches you. Drivers usually stop once they see this arm-waving. To get off one should say "LUGAR LANG" in a loud voice. Make sure the jeepney driver hears you, if not, he will continue to drive away.
For trips around the island there are several bus operators (e.g. Ceres or Sunrays) leaving from Cebu South Bus Terminal. Most routes are serviced with airconditioned buses, too. Prices are very cheap. A 2 hour trip to Dalaguete in the South from Cebu City in an aircon bus will cost you around 110 Pesos. Tickets are bought at a conductor inside the bus who comes to you after getting in. The same route by taxi would cost you around 1500-2500 Pesos as the driver would usually have to get back empty.
In Cebu City
- Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino: The catholic church where the statue of baby Jesus (Santo Niño) is enshrined. The Santo Nino was a gift given by the Portuguese explorer Magellan to Raja Humabon upon Magellan's and the Spanish explorers' arrival in March 1521.
- The Mactan Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City: The shrine to local chieftan Lapu Lapu, who led the defence of his island in 1521 that resulted in the death of Magellan.
- Mactan Island Aquarium Museum in Lapu-Lapu City. If diving is not enough for you take an educational trip to the aquarium museum.
- Mactan Cross: The cross given by Magellan to Raja Humabon, located near the Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino.
- Casa Gorodo: Former residence of the provincial governor of Cebu. (Located in the Fuente Osmena neighborhood)
- Cebu Cathedral: The birthplace of Catholicism in Asia. Also has a museum with many historical artifacts from the cathedral.
- Fort San Pedro: The first, oldest, and smallest Spanish fort in the Philippines. It is located near the port area near Pier #1
- Tops: An overlook point at the "top" of the island. A good place to look over the city.
- Bantayan Island
- Kawasan Falls - two beautiful waterfalls near Badian in the South where you can swim or drive by float under the waterfalls for a relaxing massage
- Mactan Island - diving and beaches
- Malapascua island - thresher shark watching
- Moalboal - nice dive spots
- Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary
- Mactan Island Aquarium - fish watching!
Cebu is a good place to relax and enjoy the beautiful island. For those who want some more activity, most resorts offer watersport activities such as diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding, windsurfing etc. Resorts also offer trips around the island to see all the beautiful churches, fisher villages and the amazing Kavasan Falls. Of course these activities will be relatively costly if you are residing in one of the upper-end resorts on Mactan Island. If you go further South to some of the nice value resorts near Dalaguete or Oslob, activities can be much cheaper and be conducted by enthusiastic local guides.
Eat at Siomai sa Tisa - Although there are a lot of spin-offs of this 'restaurant', there is only one Siomai sa Tisa and it is, obviously, located in Tisa, Labangon. It only open during night until the wee hours of the morning. This 'restaurant' are just tables and chairs located at the side of the road. They serve the best siomai (Chinese food, steamed) coupled with the best sauce and the best halo-halo (Filipino dessert). This is true Cebuano dining out.
To get to this place, one may take a cab - the driver probably knows this place. or one can take a jeepney. All 12L jeepneys pass through there.
Eat lechon, or roasted pig. Among the recommended lechon makers are CNT and those sold at stalls in Talisay City, Carcar City and Lilo-an. A newer version of this beloved Cebuano fare is the boneless lechon sold at Park Mall in Mandaue City.
The water in Cebu is generally considered safe. Bottled water is as cheap as 15 or 20 Pesos per litre. Most establishments offer beverages such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, Pepsi, 7-up, iced tea and local non-alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages are also served at your request. Local beers are San Miguel, San Miguel Light and Red Horse Stallion (stronger beer also brewed by San Miguel). Beers from abroad can also be found in more touristic areas but will be much more expensive if not brewed somewhere near.
Just the same as other cities, there are areas in Cebu City which should be avoided especially at night. The Carbon market area in the center of the city is best avoided by foreigners. Pickpocketing and robbery are a problem in the market area. Also, use caution around the main port area, tourists are mobbed by cab drivers looking for fares and the pickpockets take advantage of this.
The general rule is that the further you go from Cebu City and the more you go into the mountains the poorer people will be, which might cause some of them to commit crime to survive and eat.
Metro Cebu is the main transport hub of the Southern Philippines. There are filghts to almost all major cities in the country plus some international filghts, and ferries to almost anywhere in the Visayas plus Manila and a few places on Mindanao, of which Cagayan de Oro is closest.
Particularly popular nearby destinations are:
- Boracay - probably the country's best-known beach area, certainly among its most highly developed, a short flight away
- Bohol - an interesting island accessible by ferry
- Dumaguete - capital of a nearby province, with good tourist facilities and a laid-back atmosphere, reachable by ferry or bus