Visiting Cebu: City Lights and Island Shores

Historical sites and natural treasures can be found in Cebu's capital city and Bantayan Island.

By Martin Flordeliza
November 03, 2011

Despite its highly urban status, Walks of Kulot blogger Martin Flordeliza discovers the historical treasure that is Cebu.  

Cebu is a bustling urban metropolis not unlike Manila, with malls, a business district, high-rise buildings, and an IT park to boot. Indeed, Cebu City is the Metro Manila of the south. But amidst its progressive economy, the island of Cebu is rich in culture and history. Our faith and religious beliefs are deeply rooted in various events that happened in the island centuries ago and remnants of the past are kept intact to tell our history. A stroll in downtown Cebu will bring out the voyager in you with great stories that unfold as you discover some of the firsts, the smallest, and the oldest wonders that can only be seen in Cebu.


Home of the oldest church and relic in the country

Philippine history tells us that Christianity was first brought to the Philippines when Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the island of Sugbo (Zebu) in 1521 and started to baptize the locals under the Christian faith. As a symbol of their allegiance to the Spanish rule, an image of the Sto. Niño was given to Rajah Humabon and his wife Hara Amihan who were baptized Carlos and Juana, respectively. In the year 1565, the oldest relic of the Sto. Niño was discovered by Spanish explorers and a church was built in honor of the Holy Infant. Today, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, known to be the oldest church in the country, is a living testament of the Filipino's century-old religion which dates back to the early voyages of the Spaniards. People from different walks of life come to visit the basilica every day and pay homage to the Sto. Niño--the beloved patron of the Cebuanos who saves them from any adversity in life.



The Cross of Magellan

Just a stone's throw away from the Basilica of the Sto. Niño is the chapel of the Magellan's cross. Candle peddlers who offering to say prayers in your behalf are common in the area, but it's up to you to give in if you believe that your petitions can be sent in express. A mural on the ceiling of the chapel depicts the first installation of the cross on the exact same spot. It is also believed that the original cross Magellan planted is encased inside the outer cross which is made of Tindalo Wood. The Magellan's Cross located at the Plaza Sugbo in Cebu is a landmark worth visiting because of its historical significance.


A mini-Fort Santiago

One thing I liked about Cebu is that the historical sites aren't far from each other, which is good for adventure seekers like me. I literally walked from one place to another with my trusty backpack and map. My next stop was the Fuerza de San Pedro (Fort San Pedro).

Inside the towering stone walls is a well maintained garden of lush greens and pink bougainvilleas. Fort San Pedro is a mini version of Manila's Fort Santiago that served as a defense fortress against the muslims in the 19th century. A walk along the fort's cobblestoned path brings you back to the hispanic era though majority of the area has been rehabilitated and transformed into a park.

The oldest street in the Philippines

After my historical walk at the Fort San Pedro, I went back downtown and explored the outskirts of the city. I learned that the oldest street in the Philippines can be found in Cebu.


Colon Street, named after Christopher Columbus, was known as the entertainment and fashion hub of the city in bygone days, but today it's a bit deteriorated, though many of its establishments are still operating. For bargain hunters and second-hand shopping, Colon Street is the place to go. The place is similar to Manila's Quiapo or Divisoria. The Carbon Public Market and the Basilica de Minores de Santo Nino are near this famous street.

Another notable landmark in Cebu City is the Fuente Osmeña Circle or rotonda. The park is open to the public and visitors can enjoy watching the fountain change its colors during the night. (TRIVIA: The Fuente Osmeña landmark is depicted in the P50.00 currency of the Philippines).


Up north, down south

After our daytrip in Cebu City, we headed up north to the island of Bantayan the next day. From our hotel in Cebu City, we rented a van going to the Hagnaya Port. It is approximately a 3-hour ride from the city proper but we got lost along the way and we arrived at Daanbantayan, which is a different town from Bantayan. If not for that unexpected detour, we would have arrived at the Hagnaya Port in less than 3 hours. From the Hagnaya port we boarded a shuttle ferry which costs P135 per person. In less than an hour we arrived at the Bantayan port.

Island Adventures

From the ferry, I noticed towering coconut trees lining the shore of the island. The cool blue tone of the sky was reflected in its waters and was a perfect complement to the island's pristine white shore.


From the port we were picked up by a shuttle courtesy of our resort, and from there we were transported to Maia's Beach Resort, a 15-minute ride from the port. Maia, the owner after whom the resort is named, welcomed us with a warm smile and directed us to our villas. We arrived around 4PM, and we had a late lunch and strolled around the vicinity of our resort. The resort doesn't have a beachfront location but it has a perfect view for watching the sunset.

The next day, we woke up early for our next activity-island hopping to Virgin Island! Before breakfast, I noticed that it was low tide in front of our resort, so I grabbed my camera and started to take photos of the sunrise and the daily activities of the people living in the area. Since it was low tide, I was able to walk on the muddy sea bed and even walked in the middle of the sea.

After breakfast, we headed to Virgin Island just across the Bantayan Port. The beaches of Bantayan are far different from other beaches in the Philippines because they are less commercialized and populated. One can truly enjoy the serenity in pure relaxation while enjoying the sea and basking under the sun.

Dried fish and an old church


During our last day in Bantayan before going back to Cebu, we made a pitstop at Bantayan's public market to buy pasalubong. Danggit, the pungent-smelling yet delicious salted fish, is one of the best pasalubong items from Cebu, aside from the famous dried mangoes and guitars. Danggit, dried pusit (squid), and other dried seafood can be bought at the Bantayan market for only P120 per pack, but prices may vary depending on the product and its weight.

Near the Bantayan Market was the Simbahan ng Bantayan (Church of Bantayan) also known as the Sts. Peter and Paul Church which was built by the Augustinian priests in the 1500s.

Skywalk-ing in Cebu


After our Bantayan escapade, we headed back to the city to ride and experience the famous Edge Coaster and Skywalk at the Crown Regency Hotel (both sky rides at P600). It was nighttime when we dared ourselves to try this nerve-wracking attraction. First was the Edge Coaster on the hotel's 38th floor, where passengers are securely and tightly fastened in the coaster while being tilted 55 degrees. The moment the coaster tilted, I felt that I was about to fall from my seat and was holding on for dear life. But seconds later I got the hang of it and I was in awe of the view of Cebu's night cityscape. It was like a galaxy, the only difference being that you're looking down. The next attraction was the Skywalk on the 37th floor. This is not recommended for those with acrophobia or fear of heights, because you have to walk around the perimeter of the hotel with just a safety line connected to your safety suit. It was really a great experience and I think I up for a round two.



If you're on a tight budget but want to try a variety of grilled and authentic Pinoy dishes, then Neo-Neo Grill House is worth visiting when in Cebu. Food prices range from P75 toP150 per order and each order is good for two persons. Branches are located at Juan Luna Avenue in Cebu City, AS Fortuna Street in Mandaue City,  and Lapu-Lapu City.

As we all know, the Queen is always next to the King; no wonder Cebu was dubbed as the Queen City of the south because it's right up there with Metro Manila. Cebu is not only remarkable because of its progressive economy and development but also because of its role in the history of the Philippines. A lot of firsts and significant events transpired in this island, most of which have been an important part of our culture and heritage: it is the birthplace of Christianity, the home of the oldest church, the place where the first avenue was built, and a Spanish-era fortress of defense. The island of Cebu is also home to the best beaches in the country, including Bantayan Island, the up-and-coming Boracay down south. So the next time you find yourself thinking Manila is overrated, maybe you should consider visiting Cebu. ‘Til then, Cebu!