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It is also the country’s second biggest city and has its busiest port. Cebu Island combines all the convenience of a modern metropolis with all the requirements of an island paradise.
As the oldest city in the Philippines – and the first established by the Spanish – Cebu City is home to some stunning Spanish buildings and churches. It is considered the cradle of Christianity in the Far East. The later colonial influence of the Americans can be seen in its huge shopping malls and fast-paced youth.
Cebu City is an important commercial centre for the Philippines and its growing economy attracts migrants from around the region. The past decade has seen a boom in furniture making, tourism, business processing outsourcing (BPO) services and heavy industry.
It has a modern business park to accommodate commercial growth and several universities to feed future graduates into the workforce.
Cebu is the most densely populated island in the Philippines, but it maintains areas of natural splendour. Its beaches on the northern tip of the island have some of the whitest sand you’ll see anywhere and it has many excellent spots for diving.
When to go:
You can visit Cebu City year-round as its geographic location shields it from the worst of the monsoons and natural phenomena such as typhoons and earthquakes.
- Light a candle in the magnificent Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the oldest church in the Philippines. It was originally built in 1565 on the site where a burned box is said to have contained a preserved image of the child Jesus (Santo Niño), which was left behind by the Magellan expedition of 1521. In 1735 the church was rebuilt in stone.
- Stop by Magellans’s Cross in Plaza Sugbo. The Christian cross commemorates the conversion to Christianity of the local population. The current cross is said to contain some remnants of the original cross planted there by the Ferdinand Magellan, who first brought the Spanish to the Philippines (even though he was Portuguese!).
- Take a boat over to the tropical island paradise of Bantayan. Located just off Cebu, its white sand beaches, clear water and peacefulness make it the perfect place to unwind.
- Go scuba diving at Mactan Island. It’s also a terrific spot for bird watching.
- Immerse yourself in 19th century Philippines at the Casa Gorordo Museum. The building was a family residence before being donated to the city by the Gorordo family and is a fine example of typical architecture of the Spanish colonial period.
- Buy some local snacks and beers from street carts while enjoying the sunset at Tops Lookout.
- Learn all things butterfly at the Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary.
- Go shopping Filipino style at the Carbon Market, where fashion designers stand cheek to cheek with fishmongers and produce sellers.