One of the worthy tourist destinations in the Philippines is Cebu City. Cebu City is the second major and oldest city in the Philippines. Its large land area of 315 square kilometers houses a lot of noteworthy tourist attractions and Spanish colonial buildings that you should not miss!
You will never run out of things to do, places to visit and restaurants to eat at in Cebu but if this is your first time to visit the city and if you only have a limited time to go around it, I personally advise that you might as well visit the key areas that Cebu has been known for first before fully exploring the other areas.
I liken exploring a certain place to knowing a person; you first ask him basic questions like “Where do you live?”, “Where and when are you born?”, “How old are you?” before delving deeper and asking more personal questions. Same thing with getting to know a certain place; you gather first pertinent information about it like its origination through asking locals, visiting museums and key sites that molded it into what it is right now before going to more modern establishments. In that way, you will be able to warm yourself up with the place, get a feel of the culture and appreciate the place and the people more.
I prepared a list of key tourist destinations that you might want to consider if you only have a limited amount of time to roam around the city. And all these you could cover 4 hours tops!
1. SAINT PEDRO CALUNGSOD CHAPEL
Known to be the patron of the youth, Saint Pedro Calungsod was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Square in Rome last October 21, 2012. While teenagers of his age played around during the 1600’s, then 17-year old Pedro decided instead to devote his teenage life to teaching catechism and joining the Spanish Jesuit missionaries, led by Fr. De San Vitores, to a voyage to expand the reach of Catholicism to Guam. He might have died with a spear-hit in his chest and a machete-blow on his head but ultimately he died while embracing the devotion he has for the Church. He did not even reach the age of 20.
Calungsod is the second Filipino to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, next to Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and with this, the whole province of Cebu and the Philippines celebrate. This chapel was donated by Henry Sy, Sr. and Felicidad Sy to the Archdiocese of Cebu as a dedication for the saint.
Where to find it: Cebu South Road Properties, Cebu City
NOTE: You could also visit the Archbishop’s Residence Compound located at 234 D. Jakosalem St. to find the official pilgrim image of Saint Pedro Calungsod.
2. MAGELLAN'S CROSS AND PAVILION
This same cross, that stands at a small chapel across Cebu City Hall, was believed to be the same cross that Ferdinand Magellan has planted upon reaching Sugbu (now Cebu) to symbolize the baptism of the then-island chief Rajah Humabon, his wife and more or less 500 followers to the Roman Catholic religion, 500 years back. This sign found below the cross says that the original Cross is enclosed in the tindalo wood as to protect it from people who have tendencies to chip a part off it to be used for miraculous purposes.
Where to find it: City Hall Lane, Dakbayan Sa Sugbu at the end of Magallanes street
3. BASILICA MINORE DEL SANTO NINO
One of the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, it houses the oldest religious image in the country. If you look to the direction of the main door from the inside of the church, you will notice people waving to the altar before going out as if they are bidding goodbye to a close friend. That is right though as this is a gesture done by the devotees to express their praise, faith and intimacy to the Child Jesus. They also do this to catch his attention for Him to hear their prayers and pleas.
Where to find it: Beside the Magellan’s Cross, Osmena Blvd
4. FORT SAN PEDRO
Built as a military defense structure during the Spanish regime, the fort had been a huge part of the lives of the Cebuanos as it has had many uses through the years: barracks during the American regime, classrooms wherein Cebuanos received formal education, army camp for the Japanese soldiers, a city zoo, offices of the Department of Tourism and the Philippine Tourism Authority and now a museum that houses the San Diego shipwreck and the fort’s diggings.
Where to find it: Pier Area
5. COLON STREET
Dubbed to be the oldest and shortest national road in the Philippines, this run-down street was once the heart of downtown Cebu’s shopping and commercial activities.
Comparable to Divisoria in Manila, Colon street still holds the title of being the ultimate bargain’s hunter paradise in Cebu. People of different dialects also flock the place every year for the annual bazaar. This annual bazaar reenacts the grandeur that Colon street once had.
6. THE HERITAGE OF CEBU MONUMENT
A monument that sits at the location before of Plaza Parian at Colon Street, it now showcases the most significant events in Cebu’s History up to the beatification of Saint Pedro Calungsod.
Where to find it: Parian District along Colon St.
7. YAP-SANDIEGO ANCESTRAL HOUSE
Occupied by the earliest occupants Don Juan Yap and Maria Florido, this beautiful house had already been passed down to the present and 8th generation. That is how old this ancestral house is! Visiting this house would be a nice experience as it could give you a good glimpse of how the house of the affluent people looks like during the 1600’s.
Where to find it: Across Heritage of Cebu Monument. 155 Lopez-Jaena corner Mabina Street, Parian District
8. JESUIT HOUSE
Now owned by the Sy’s, this house homed the Jesuit priests during the 18th century.
Where to find it: Zulueta Street near the Heritage of Cebu Monument.
9. CASA GORORDO MUSEUM
This wood-and-stone type house that has been purchased by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc, has been renovated and opened as a public museum in 1983. It displays and exhibits the mid-19th century and early 20th century culture and lifestyle of the Filipino people. The house was eventually recognized to be a National Historic Landmark in 1991 by the National Historic Institute.
Where to find it: No. 35 Lopez Jaena St, Barangay Parian
10. CEBU TAOIST TEMPLE
Located in the posh Beverly Hill subdivision in Cebu, this temple was built by its most affluent Chinese community. Rituals like washing of hands, walking inside the chapel barefoot, dropping two blocks of wood to know if your wish is to be granted or not through the position of the faces of the wood and the climbing of the 81 steps to light joss sticks and to have your fortunes read by monks are all common activities of the Taoist devotees. Nonetheless, this temple is open to worshippers and non-worshippers alike.
Also, I recommend for you to hire first a van or a car with driver (they also double as a tour guide!) so that you would not spend so much time orienting yourself with the map, getting lost and looking for the places you want to visit. Like what I have told you, it would take time before you get fully acquainted with a place; it will never be an overnight thing.
There are a lot of booths outside the airport that offer vans and cars for hire, so just choose one of those booths and you are good to go! In our case, since we were a group of 7 we hired a van good for 3 hours. The van costs Php 1800 for the first 3 hours + Php 400 for every succeeding hour. The good thing about this is that you could just leave your bags/baggages inside the vehicle and explore the sites hassle-free. At the end of the tour, you could also ask manong to just drop you off at your hotel if you plan to stay longer in the city! In our case, we paid Php 2200 all in all plus extra tip for our very reliable driver but of course! Not bad right? And moreover, it is very convenient.
That’s it! I hope I had given you enough information to jumpstart you on your Cebu trip. Enjoy your trip!