Cebu Island is a large island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Cebu Province is that island plus several nearby small islands. The larger Negros Island lies just across the Tañon Strait to the west. Leyte and Bohol are to the east.
The main urban area is Metro Cebu, located near the middle of Cebu Island's long east coast. It is the country's second largest urban region, after Metro Manila, and the main urban center of both the province and the larger Visayas region. The central city of Metro Cebu is Cebu City, often called the Queen City of the South. It was a substantial settlement before the first European, Magellan, arrived in the 1520s, then became the first Spanish city in the Philippines; today it is the provincial capital.
Metro Cebu includes three substantial cities (several hundred thousand people each) which are administered separately and have separate articles here:
- 1 Cebu City - largest city and provincial capital
- 2 Mandaue - just north of Cebu City, on Cebu Island
- 3 Lapu-Lapu - on Mactan Island, offshore from Mandaue
About a dozen other towns with separate articles here are also administered as parts of Metro Cebu; see that article for a list.
There are also towns in other parts of the island.
On the west coast:
- 4 Toledo - directly across the island from Cebu, with ferries to San Carlos on Negros
- 5 Moalboal - a popular diving destination
- 6 Badian - south of Moalboal
North of Cebu:
- 7 Bogo - up near the northern end of the island, on the east coast
- 8 Daanbantayan - further north, almost at the tip
- 9 San Remigio (Cebu) - on the northwest side of the island
South of Cebu:
- 10 Sibonga - coastal town with a monastery and church that draw many pilgrims
- 11 Argao - another coastal town, has ferries to Bohol
- 12 Oslob - on the southeast side of the island, known for whale shark watching
- 13 Santander - southernmost municipality on the island, 137 km from Cebu. Has ferries to Negros Oriental and Siquijor
Most of the province is on Cebu Island (in red on the map), but several other islands or island groups are included. They are shown in white on the map. Two are part of Metro Cebu and easily accessible from anywhere in the urban region:
- Mactan Island is the large island shown in white just east of Cebu island; it has the city of Lapu-Lapu and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on it. Lapu-Lapu is a bit north of Cebu City, directly opposite Mandaue on the coast of Cebu Island, and there are two large bridges. The port area that is the center of Cebu City is on the bay between Mactan Island and Cebu Island.
- Olango Island is the smaller island just beyond (east of) Mactan and can be reached by ferry from there. It is the country's most important site for bird watching and also has a protected reef area with excellent diving.
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 an island group off to the northwest
All of these have beaches, reefs, resorts and dive sites.
There are high-end resorts on the islands of Mactan, Bantayan, and Malapascua and the Camotes group, and in the Badian region. Price levels are high for the Philippines but cheaper than comparable places in many other parts of the world. They generally have beautiful pool areas, nice restaurants, spas, cable channel TV, internet and all kinds of luxury. Most are located on or near fine beaches.
Moalboal has many dive schools and a range of tourist-oriented restaurants, bars and resorts. A few decades ago it was mainly a backpacker destination, but now there are many mid-range and some upmarket places; it is one of the best places in the country for a diving holiday at moderate prices. Getting there is not particularly convenient; from Cebu City or the airport it is about three hours on a bus.
Apart from that there are smaller resorts in fisher villages in the south and north, and on Olango Island, 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. The upland areas also offer 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 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 local language of the entire province and several nearby areas is Cebuano, also called "Bisaya" by its speakers or "Visayan" in English. Educated people generally also speak English and Tagalog well; those are the country's two official languages and are taught in all schools. Even people like cab drivers and waitresses often have reasonable English, so communicating is usually not a problem. Signs written in Cebuano are commonplace.
Various other languages are also spoken; most Chinese Filipinos speak Hokkien and people from nearby provinces speak other Visayan languages, but most of both groups also speak at least one of Cebuano, Tagalog or English. Because many Filipinos have emigrated in search of employment opportunities, it is also fairly common to encounter a few Filipinos with anything from a smattering of to complete fluency in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, German, Japanese, Korean or Spanish.
Speaking in Tagalog while in Cebu may offend local sensitivities; some Visayans resent the elevation of Tagalog to the status of a national language. Despite that, educated Cebuanos do speak Tagalog, and most will be happy to use it with visitors. However learning some Cebuano instead of speaking in Tagalog is appreciated.
The main airport is Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located in Lapu-Lapu, about half an hour and ₱300 from Cebu City by taxi. It is a major hub for domestic flights; there are direct flights to most cities in the south and some in the north, and connections via Manila to many others. It also has many international flights.
Cebu City has the country's busiest port which serves as the main hub for ferry travel anywhere in the Visayas and also has some boats to Manila and Mindanao.
There are buses to Metro Cebu from cities on other islands, including Dumaguete, Iloilo City, and Quezon City in Metro Manila. They ride ferries part of the way.
Within the main cities most tourists get around either by taxi or by jeepney; see Metro Cebu and the individual city articles for details.
For trips around the island starting from Metro Cebu there are several bus operators (e.g. Ceres or Sunrays) leaving from either the South Terminal in Cebu City or the North Terminal in Mandaue; check the article for your destination to see which you need. Most routes are serviced with airconditioned buses, and prices are low. A trip to Dalaguete, 85 km south of Cebu City, in an aircon bus costs around ₱110. Tickets are bought from a conductor inside the bus who comes to you after you board or once under way. The same route by taxi would cost you at least ₱1500 as the driver would usually have to come back empty.
To travel between towns starting from a smaller place, most journeys are also by bus; if the two places are on the same bus route you can often just get on at one and off at the other. However, the bus will not stop if it is full and for some routes you need to change buses. There are also jeepneys available for some trips.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
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 at night, until the wee hours of the morning. This 'restaurant' is just tables and chairs 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 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.
As in other cities, there are areas in Cebu City which should be avoided, especially at night. The Carbon market area in the central city is best avoided by foreigners; pickpocketing and robbery are a problem in the market area. Use caution around the main port area; tourists are mobbed by cab drivers looking for fares and the pickpockets take advantage of this.
In general, the further you go from Cebu City and into the mountains, the poorer people will. Some of them commit crime to survive and eat. Insurgents may also be present further inland.
Cebuanos are laid back and easy-going than their Manila counterparts, but criticism or jokes about their culture, and comparisons with "Imperial Manila" (as some Cebuanos call the national capital pejoratively) are not welcome. Cebuanos are proud to be Filipino, but are also proud of their distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity. Cebu City, as the Philippines' second largest city, is as prosperous and no different than Manila, so do Metro Cebu.
Metro Cebu is the main transport hub of the Southern Philippines. There are flights to almost all major cities in the south plus some international flights; see Mactan-Cebu International Airport for details. For northern parts of the country, one often needs two flights with a connection in Manila.
There are ferries from Cebu City 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:
- Bohol - an interesting island accessible via a short ferry ride, with fine beaches and good tourist facilities
- Boracay - probably the country's best-known beach area, certainly among its most highly developed, a short flight away
- Dumaguete - capital of a nearby province, with good tourist facilities and a laid-back atmosphere, reachable by ferry or bus