The Central Visayas (Region VII) is one of the regions of the Philippines composing the Visayas island group. The Visayas are roughly the central third of the Philippines, so this region is approximately in the center of the whole country.
This region has some magnificent beaches, many dive spots and, in Cebu City, historic landmarks which date back to 1521. The island of Bohol has the charming Chocolate Hills and diminutive tarsiers and is popular with leisure travelers, including many Koreans and Japanese.
The pioneering Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan was killed at the Battle of Mactan, now the city of Lapu-Lapu, by local chieftain Lapu-Lapu in the year 1521. A shrine in Cebu City was built in memory of his death centuries later. The oldest urban center in the Philippines, the walled city in Cebu, was built by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century; parts of it survive (some only as ruins) and are tourist attractions today. The walled city of Intramuros in Manila was patterned after this walled fortress.
The Sinulog Festival in January is the region's most popular religious cultural event. It is centered in Cebu City but also celebrated in many nearby areas.
The region includes three island provinces, all with plenty of beaches and dive resorts. Each consists of one main island with the same name as the province plus various smaller islands nearby.
- Bohol, a major tourist draw with tarsiers (one of the world's smallest primates) and the scenic "Chocolate Hills"
- Cebu Province, economic center and transport hub of the region, with much tourism in some areas
- Siquijor, a small island province whose history includes tales of witches and sorcerers
There is also one province which is only part of a large island:
- Metro Cebu, easily the largest urban area in the Visayas, second in the country. It consists mainly of three cities:
- There are also many smaller suburbs; see Metro Cebu for a list.
- Dumaguete - capital of Negros Oriental
- Siquijor - capital of Siquijor province
- Tagbilaran - capital of Bohol
- 1 Apo Island — a major diving destination with a large protected reef area, south of Dumaguete
- 2 Malapascua — an island in Cebu Province, but separate from Cebu Island, somewhat to the north. It has beaches, dive shops, and many resorts, mostly upscale
- 3 Moalboal — an area in Cebu Province with many dive schools and many resorts, mostly at mid-range prices
- 4 Olango Island — close to Cebu City, with a bird sanctuary, diving, and some mid-range resorts
- 5 Oslob — village near the southern tip of Cebu island, known for whale shark watching
- 6 Panglao Island , the main resort and diving area on Bohol
This is an overview article. For details of things to see and do, and places to eat, drink or sleep, see the lower-level articles on individual provinces, towns and islands. Links above will lead you to them.
The main language of this region, and for much of Mindanao and parts of the Eastern Visayas, is Cebuano, which is also known as Bisaya. With more than 20 million native speakers, it is the second most important local language in the Philippines. Local and regional newscasts are broadcast in Cebuano, and most local newspapers are published in English. There are variations in Cebuano - for example, the Cebuano spoken in Bohol is called Boholano - but the prestige variant is the one spoken in the "Queen City" of Cebu.
Since before the time of Magellan's visit (1520), Sugbo (as Cebu was then known) had been a world trade centre and many speak English as a second language. Many also speak Tagalog; that language is not native to this region, but rather to Luzon, but is the basis for the official language Filipino which is taught in schools throughout the country.
Sometimes, people in this region also speak in Taglish (Tagalog + English) when they cannot find the appropriate word to use in Tagalog. Youth speaks English with a Cebuano accent, often interchanging i and e as well as o and u while ones from older generations can barely converse in Taglish. Really old people often speak excellent English from US colonial days. Some people will also understand a little of Ilonggo or Waray. The Chinese minority speak Hokkien, a minority of expatriates and immigrants speak their own languages.
When speakers of different Philippine languages meet overseas, they must determine if their conversation will work better in Tagalog or English. Most likely, it will involve both Tagalog and English, thus Taglish. Within this region there is rarely this problem since all natives of this region understand Cebuano. However, some higher officials from outside the region understand very little Cebuano and will want to switch to Taglish.
The region is well connected to the rest of the country by air or sea, and there are some buses. Most overseas visitors will enter it by air, landing at Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
The main jump off point to the region is the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the island city of Lapu-Lapu, part of Metro Cebu. This is currently (mid-2018) the only international airport in the Central Visayas and much the busiest in the entire Visayas region. From the airport, one can easily get to Mandaue (there are two bridges), and on to the urban center of Cebu City.
The airport has flights to many cities in East and Southeast Asia, plus Dubai. It is Cebu Pacific's hub in the Visayas with connecting flights to most major cities in Mindanao and the Visayas, and to tourist destinations such as Boracay through Caticlan Airport and Palawan through Puerto Princesa. All domestic carriers have flights to Mactan-Cebu International Airport from Manila.
There are also airports in Dumaguete (in Sibulan town), and in Tagbilaran. Both Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly Manila-Tagbilaran and Manila-Dumaguete. Cebu Pacific also flies Cebu-Dumaguete, and Clark-Dumaguete flights will start in June 2018. Siquijor also has a small airport; Air Juan has flights to/from Mactan-Cebu.
The Port of Cebu is the country's busiest port and a major transport hub with connections all over the Visayas region and some to Manila and Mindanao. Inter-island shipping is served by numerous shipping lines, two of them fastcraft companies which serve all the provinces in the region.
Bus companies serve the Manila-Cebu and Manila-Dumaguete routes from Ali Mall terminal in Cubao, Quezon City.
The Port of Cebu is the region's main gateway. There are also ports in Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, Larena in Siquijor, and Tagbilaran, Getafe and Jagna in Bohol. Inter-island shipping is served by numerous shipping lines, two of them fastcraft companies which serve all the provinces in the region.
From either Cebu City or Dumaguete, there are boats to Bohol and Siquijor. Both fast craft and RoRos (larger, slower, cheaper ferries that can carry cars and trucks) are available.
It is rare to travel within the region by air; bus or ferry is generally more convenient. For example, one might fly Cebu-Tagbilaran but the ferry (see Tagbilaran#By_boat) is considerably cheaper. It is likely also faster and more convenient since the ports are downtown in both cities while airports are not, and boats go direct while fliers must change planes in Manila.
For Negros, the commonest route is a bus from Cebu City to Bacolod or Dumaguete. For the Western Visayas, bus to Bacolod then a ferry to Iloilo; there are buses from Iloilo to any of the provincial capitals on Panay. There are also flights from Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Kalibo, the nearest airport to Boracay.
See the "Get in" sections of destination articles for details.