I fell in love with Cebu City the first time that I laid my eyes on it. This was way back in high school when I had the chance to visit and go around Cebu. Fast forward to the present day, I still cannot get enough fill of Cebu and if I am going to be asked where I would like to retire or where my second home would be? It will still be Cebu City.
Cebu City is the Queen City of the South. The city and its other provinces are worth exploring as it offers a wide range of activities and interesting sites for nature buffs, adrenalin junkies, and history enthusiasts. Cebu is one of the oldest communities in the country with its history dating back to pre-Hispanic times. Cebu City alone is a treasure box of tourist destinations waiting to be explored.
Our IG travel group, @viajerongpinoy, had the opportunity to visit Cebu last October as part of our second year anniversary celebration. Our group first headed off to Bantayan Island (check out my previous post) and ended our trip by checking out the sights and sounds of the city. Now, Cebu City is a very large city and a day is not enough to cover the whole area. As our group was pressed for time, we opted to check out downtown Cebu and what it has to offer.
So in the same spirit of #ExploreManila, I would like to invite you to walk with me and #ExploreCebu!
City Sidetrip: Temple of Leah
Situated along Busay and overlooking the city, the Temple of Leah is a symbol of everlasting love. The construction of Cebu city’s newest attraction started in 2012 when Teodorico Adarna commissioned its construction to honor his wife, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna. The Roman-inspired architecture is just one of the few that you can find in the city. It is still a work in progress but they are already accepting visitors to admire its beauty.
The temple stands majestically on this side of Cebu. The grand structure is highlighted by a fountain in the middle of its wide courtyard, roman columns, statues of roman gods and goddesses, and a staircase guarded by two lions. Benches were set up along the sides where one can sit down and admire the beauty of the structure. On the other side, one can enjoy an overlooking view of Cebu City.
The main lobby of the temple is a grand declaration of love with a gold-colored statue of Mrs. Albino-Adarna as its center of attraction. Two staircases branch out on both sides that leads to the second floor of the building. From the top, one can view the elegant tiled flooring of the lobby area.
Unfortunately, the viewing rooms of the temple were closed off. Taking a peek from its windows, I saw the collection of books and other personal collections of “Leah”.
Getting there: The fastest way to get to the Temple of Leah was taking a cab from downtown Cebu. It is the most expensive way, though. One can also opt to take a jeep to Lahug and get down at JY Mall where you can take a habal-habal to the temple.
Explore Hits Downtown Cebu
Cebu City is an old community in the Philippines and a lot of these influences can be seen in downtown Cebu. For first time travelers to Cebu, I strongly suggest that you kick-off your tour with a Walking tour of downtown Cebu. This will give you a brief on how history unfolded in Cebu City.
As part of our plan to discover, rediscover in my case, the city together with our fellow viajeros, we decided to bring our #purowalk experience in the city. The good thing about it is that all the attractions in downtown Cebu is just a few steps away from each other.
Basilica Minore del Santo Nino
We started our walk with one of Cebu’s tourist attraction – the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. The church is visited by hundreds of devotees and tourist everyday as it holds the oldest image of the young Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the church is also the center of festivities during the annual Sinulog Festival every third weekend of January. It is probably the most festive “fiesta” in the country, attracting thousands of visitors from different parts of the globe.
This is not my first time to visit the church but its antiquity has never failed to keep me amazed. I will never get tired seeing the external and internal beauty of this church. The church belfry is still undergoing rehabilitation after it was collapsed during the Bohol earthquake in 2012.
Just right outside the church’s compound is the Magellan’s Cross. I guess this is the most iconic image of Cebu’s thriving tourism industry.
The small chapel is the home of the original cross believed to have been planted by Magellan when he landed in the country. It is the symbol for the advent of Christianity in the country. It is through religion where the Spaniards conquered the Filipinos. To this day, we still see the immense influence of religion in our lives.
The original cross is said to be encased in the Tindalo Wooden Cross to protect it from being chipped off by tourists. Do not miss out on admiring the paintings on the ceiling of the chapel which illustrates the story of how the cross ended up to where it is now.
Malacanang sa Sugbo
Just two blocks away from Magellan’s Cross is the official residence of the Philippine President in Cebu. The Malacanang of the South was built in 1910 and was originally intended to serve as the “Aduana” or the Bureau of Customs. It did served its purpose until 2014 when it was ordered to be converted to serve as the official residence of the country’s highest official.
The structure suffered damages during an earthquake in 2012 and the Bureau of Customs tried to re-acquire the building. The local government officials decided otherwise and went on to preserve the structure as Malacanang sa Sugbo, a historical building in the city.
Just right across the Malacanang of the South is a huge park known as the Plaza Independencia. The park is a popular hangout for locals because of the huge space where one can enjoy the cool breeze from the sea. More than just a hangout, the plaza is historically significant having been a mute witness to the city’s past.
The plaza has gone through a lot of name changes, starting from the Spanish period, until it settled on Plaza Independencia. The huge park is highlighted by an obelisk dedicated to the first governor-general of the country, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Subsequent road improvements in parts of the park has also yielded human remains and artifacts dating back to pre-Hispanic period.
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro is a small fort adjacent to Plaza Independencia. The small triangular fort was built to ward off Muslim raiders during the Spanish Period. The fort is a mute witness to hundreds of years of history from pre-Hispanic occupation until the present. It has served as a fort, a garden, a zoo, and now a museum. It was also considered to be demolished but thanks to the efforts of Cebuanos, the plan was shelved and the plan to restore Fort San Pedro began.
At present, Fort San Pedro is already fully restored and is one of the must-see attractions in Cebu City. The fortress now houses a museum that gives you a glimpse of old Cebu through photos and the tourism office of the city. The garden and its triangular fort is a great place to just seat down and relax as you enjoy the cool breeze blowing from the sea.
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Just a block away from the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral – the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Metropolitan Cebu. Established in 1595, the construction of the cathedral had issues primarily on its funding. The cathedral was designed to withstand typhoons however it was damaged during the World War 2 leaving only the belfry, its façade, and part of its walls intact. It was immediately restored after the country was liberated from Japanese hands.
At present, the Spanish colonial design of the church stands out in the busy streets of downtown Cebu. Its façade are highlighted by intricate carvings. Interestingly, emblazoned on its façade is the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms that represents the contribution of Spanish monarchs in the construction of the church.
Walking along the streets of Colon is comparable to walking along Recto Avenue in Manila. The feel and the look is almost the same. The only difference is that walking along Colon Street is walking along the oldest street in the Philippines.
A marker at one end of Colon Street is the only reminder that the street is the oldest in the country. It was once the center of business and commerce in the city however as the Cebu city started expanding inland, Colon Street started to wane. At present, the street is a bit rundown and gives you the feel that you are walking along an old community.
Cebu Heritage Monument
Cebu has a heart that values its history and its heritage. Cebuanos are so emboldened by this belief that they have managed to put up a monument that outlines its rich heritage to its community and to the Philippines. The monument stands out at the heart of one of Cebu’s oldest community and was also once the prime settlement of Cebu’s affluent families. It is just a couple of steps away from Colon Street.
The monument is a tableau of both historical sites in Cebu City and historical personalities. It is Cebu’s history in one location.
Post Explore Cebu City Notes:
I strongly recommend that for first timers in Cebu City or for those who want to see the “older” side of Cebu to try walking around downtown and explore its streets. You will get to understand its heritage and how it has molded the modern Cebuano’s minds and values. It is also good to note that the city government has managed to preserve its colorful and rich history through its heritage sites and churches. Anyway, writing this entry made me think of doing a three or four day Explore Cebu project someday.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.