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postheadericon Cebu: The Isle of Tropical Dreams

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Cebuanos celebrate life like no other. They strum their guitars and sing the "balitaw" when they're happy. They strum the guitar and sing the "harana" when they're sad. And when they pray, they dance! It therefore comes as no surprise that the guitar is a prime product in Cebu which, quite naturally, has also produced a large share of the country's best musicians and master showmen.

The Cebuano's flair for showmanship and love for celebrations is manifested in the Sinulog, a colorful festival of pageant proportion observed every third Sunday of January. The island is an anchor tourist destination and one of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippine archipelago.


Cebu is the traveler's fantasy of a tropical island come true - balmy weather, pristine beaches, crystalline waters, and luxurious resorts with all the frills of modern living. The island-province was where the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan planted the Cross of Christianity in the name of Spain in 1521. But even before it became the Occidental gateway to the Orient, it was already a popular entry point among Asian merchants.

This province has since blossomed into a choice tourist destination, with many leisure establishments taking full advantage of its sea-valley-and-mountain location. Metropolitan Cebu, the country's second biggest metropolis, is the political, economic, educational and cultural center of the Visayas. Hotels, shopping malls, entertainment halls, casinos and golf fairways are ever present in the metro to cater to every tourist's whim.

The rest of the 166 islands and islets are fringed with sandy beaches and sapphire-clear waters teeming with marine life, perfect for divers.


The fiesta is when life in these islands is celebrated in full pageantry, complete with a brilliant display of sights and sounds, scents and tastes. Cebu shows us how. The Sinulog is towns biggest and showiest fiesta in honor of the Infant Jesus. In a choreographed movement, "tribes" clad in dazzling costumes hold aloft images of their tiny patron even as they simulate the natural rhythm of sea waves which brought the Holy Child to their shores. The prayer-dance is synchronized to the beat of drums and shouts of "Pit Seor! Viva Santo Nino!"

The tribes wend through the city's major streets, starting early in the morning and stretching into early evening. A big entertainment roadshow and grand fireworks display bring to a close the celebration. The Kadaugan sa Mactan is a one-day pageant re-enacting the historic battle between the Magellan-led Spanish colonizers and the resisting natives led by Rajah Lapu-lapu. The festival is celebrated every April 27 in Lapu-lapu City at the beach area where the Portuguese voyager met his death.

While the rest of Christendom observes Holy Week with somber rituals, fasting and abstinence, Bantayan Island makes an exception. The townspeople display their brand of folk Catholicism by feasting on roasted pig and then swimming at its white sand beaches after a religious procession. The Semana Santa is a movable feast between the months of March and April. The rustic town of Opon honors its patroness, Our Lady of Rule, with a fiesta from November 20 to 21.

Guests take the occasion of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria to visit the beautiful old town of Carcar which, aside from its splendid colonial architecture, also produces a number of the popular delicacies. In December, the people culminates its fiesta celebrations with the month-long Paskuhan, a festival of Christmas songs and lantern displays.


Cebu takes pride in being the country's oldest colonial city. Many landmarks attest to the richness of its history. On April 14, 1521, Magellan planted a cross to mark the spot where some 800 natives - led by Rajah Humabon and his wife, Queen Juana - were baptized into the Catholic faith. The original cross is now encased in a hallow hardwood cross and can be found in a roofed kiosk along Magallanes Street.

As a baptismal gift to Queen Juana, Magellan gave a black image of the Infant Child which, on April 27, 1565, managed to remain unscathed after a fire razed the city to the ground. The Basilica Minor del Santo Nino was built by Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Fr. Andres Urdaneta on the spot where the miraculous icon was found.

The religious statue has since been enthroned in the basilica, with the original kept inside the convent and a replica enshrined at the church's side altar. From the mainland, Magellan crossed the channel to the island of Mactan in an effort to spread Christianity. The chieftain Lapu-lapu, together with his warriors, resisted the attempt and killed Magellan as he reached the shore. A monument now marks the site.

Fort San Pedro, located at the city's wharf area, was the nucleus of the first Spanish settlement in the country. The fort has been turned into a museum-park. Colon, the country's oldest street, was built at the Parian or Chinese District. Located at the heart of downtown, it is a busy commercial center by day and a lively entertainment belt by night. The seat of the provincial government is an imposing building of pre-Pacific War vintage rising majestically along Osmena Boulevard.

Located at the center of the boulevard is Fuente Osmena, named after Cebu's Grand Old Man, the late Commonwealth President Sergio Osmena, Sr. A favorite strolling park among locals, the circular Fuente becomes even more alive in the evenings. Within the park is a skating rink. The University of San Carlos was established by the Dominican fathers on the site of the former Jesuit-run Colegio de San Ildefonso, originally founded in 1595. Its museum on P. del Rosario Street has an extensive collection of anthropological and biological artifacts.

The Southwestern University Museum located on the Urgello Private Road, takes pride in its large collection of pre-colonial and colonial artifacts as well as its Filipiniana Research Center. Casa Gorordo, along Lopez Jaena Street, is the ancestral house of the first Bishop of Cebu and affords one a glimpse of affluent Cebuano lifestyle, circa 1800. The Jumalon Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery in the Basak district was the private museum of the late lepidopterist Professor Julian Jumalon. His garden continues to be a haven to thousands of butterflies and his salon features mosaics made of butterfly wings.

The Chinese heritage is very visible and one of the more popular destinations in the city is the Taoist Temple, located at the highest elevation of the Beverly Hills Subdivision. Devotees, meanwhile, go to the Heavenly Temple of Charity at the Peace Valley in the Lahug district. Yet another pilgrimage spot is the Celestial Garden where life-size replicas of the 14 Stations of the Cross are spread in a 12-hectare property within Banawa Hills.


Evenings are hot in cool Cebu. From downtown to uptown, the city comes even more alive as dusk sets in, with queues leading to music bars, discos and the casinos.

It is a premier entertainment center. Electric high tension fills the nightlife and patrons can't help but "shake those bodies" as they swing into the groove.


For the island-hopper, the province is one exciting playground for daring expeditions. Aqua sports top the list of what to do. For scuba diving, the best dives are found in the islands of Mactan, Moalboal and Camotes. The calm waters surrounding Argao, Badian and Malapascua islands are ideal for kayaking.

Because of its hilly terrain, mountain sports has created a following in the . Rock climbing is excellent in Cantabaco and Malubog. For trekkers, the 908-meter high Mount Manunggal is a steady climb in the heat.

Mountainbike your way up and down scenic Talamban. It takes less than a full day on the road, with plenty of stops along the way. The ecotourist will find Olango an ideal place for communing with nature. A wildlife sanctuary, the island supports the largest concentration of migratory birds in the country.

For the golfer, the Cebu Country Club and the Alta Vista Golf and County Club are conveniently located in the metro, in Banilad and Pardo. There is also the Club Filipino Golf Course in Danao City, some 33 kilometers drive from Cebu City.


The destination is noted for its inexpensive gastronomy of many cuisines. Island flavors are fairly simple with meats and seafoods cooked three ways - marinated in vinegar, charbroiled or boiled - and then seasoned with condiments. Chinese and Spanish cookery are the strongest foreign influences in local cuisine.

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