Getting ‘Lost’ in Cebu


Wander-lost – a strange habit of exploring a new place without giving any thought to where you are going. You go where your feet will take you. The challenge is to blend in with the locals and act as though you’re not getting lost.

When I landed on Cebu for the very first time, I thought it was a bit of anti-climactic. All my life, I’ve been itching to get there for reasons I can’t explain to myself, and here I am, my feet firmly planted on the Mactan International Airport, eyes scanning the big ‘Welcome to Cebu‘ billboard, unable to fully grasp it all.

I remembered just roughly a year ago, when my grandparents and I were walking along the bay at the coast of Dumaguete, enjoying the Visayan sun and the salty breeze, when a cousin suddenly pointed to a long island over the orange-caked horizon. “That’s Cebu Island” he said in broken Tagalog. I gazed over it and it occurred to me how its haughty spine of mountains is turned away from us; a place so near yet so distant.

I’ve always toyed with this crazy idea in my head that I am destined to spend the rest of my latter life in Cebu. The desire is still there, a very strange one at that, since I was born and raised as a Tagalog and Bisaya sounds Chinese for me. The thought of having to migrate to a thriving city full of history, surrounded by people who don’t speak your native language, holds a unique appeal as far as my adventurous spirit is concerned.

The taxi driver we got from the airport gave a brief tour around the city as we ride to the hotel. He discussed the things and activities to do in Cebu in almost perfect English, and pointed out the must-sees around the city like a seasoned tour guide. I smiled to myself, thinking how a tourism of the city falls not only on the burden of tourism officials or tourism slogans, but also with the civilians as well. You ought to show to the tourists that you are excited for them to enjoy your city. Back in Manila, my friends and I used to hang-out in Plaza Roma at Intramuros and we would smile and wave earnestly at the tourists, hoping to our hearts they would have a good time….. and that their bags or cameras or wallets won’t be stolen.

It was past 6pm when we reached the hotel. I decided to have my Wanderlost adventure in downtown Cebu despite the hour. No GPS, no Google Search, no car, no map…Just plain instinct. A lot of you would probably criticize me for safety reasons, but this sort of aimless traveling fills me with thrill just like roller coasters or ziplines do.

First stop: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. I took a jeep en route to downtown Cebu to the Cathedral, remaining silent throughout the ride as I listened to the rapid but mellowed Cebuano language being spoken inside the jeep, picking up important phrases for my memory. It’s indeed a strange feeling…to get lost in the sea of strangers whose language is a bizarre music to your ears.


The belltower is now under construction
The cathedral is undergoing some kind of renovation. No doubt for it to withstand future tremors.

The Cathedral is indeed, is magnificent in its own right. Bathed in soft golden light of the plaza, a reverent silence would fill you just by looking at the church itself. Since there’s a mass going on, I was unable to take pictures of the interior of the church, but the grandness of the facade is enough. This church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, a standing echo of Cebu’s deeply-rooted Catholic roots, just as The Manila Cathedral is for the Manilenos. It’s a big relief that the church itself has been spared from the deadly earthquake that struck Cebu and Bohol last year.

See, even the street reminders are in Cebuano. They are fiercely proud of their language :)
See, even the street reminders are in Cebuano. They are fiercely proud of their language 🙂

As far as my geographical knowledge of Cebu is concerned, Magellan’s Cross would be just nearby the Cathedral. And after several minutes of wandering around, devouring the sights, I finally found it at the front of the Municipal Hall.




The Magellan’s Cross is also under renovations, but that didn’t stop me from capturing the sacred relic in my camera. On the ceiling, paintings depict the arrival of Catholicism in Cebu island and how the Spaniards were able to penetrate the Philippines through Cebu.

Reflections on Spanish colonialism of the Philippines: During my elementary and highschool days, we are conditioned to think that the Spaniards back in the old days oppressed the Filipinos (indios) and we have to hate them for it. Perhaps it is to glorify the heroes of the revolution or the Filipinos who sacrificed their lives for our independence. Kind of like hating the bad guys in the movies. But I’ve long stopped thinking that colonialism is all-bad and pure evil. Spain formed our nation. Without them, I can’t imagine ourselves being united under one flag. It is out of their selfish interest, yes, but they made it possible to unite us all. I have to credit them for that.

Next stop is the Capitol Building. Going to the Capitol would mean riding through the downtown Cebu area. When traveling alone in Cebu, you can get a guy to let you ride in a motorcycle. It’s a mode of transportation that’s popular in Visayan provinces, and I have yet to see it in Luzon. Rate of fare would be around P20-P50.

The Capitol: The heart of the whole province of Cebu.

The Capitol is a European-style building that sits in the middle of a busy intersection, facing toward downtown Cebu. For some reason, I have yet to see the Philippine flag being waved in front of the government buildings, which is pretty odd. Who knows, maybe it’s just flag wash day.

It struck me how Cebu is rapidly growing to be the Manila of the South. More and more skyscrapers fill the horizon, there is a constant hustle and bustle of people, and the streets are busy until midnight. They even have huge billboards and giant LEDs on the side of their buildings, kind of like little New York. Traffic and security is also a growing problem. What’s different is probably the absence of mass transportation system, which the government should focus more on. Taxpayers in Cebu and Davao and other parts of the Philippines carry the burden of maintaining the public transit systems in Manila, so it’s time to let them get a share of their taxes by developing major infrastructure projects in their area.

A colonial building preserved for modern use. Kilig! :)
A colonial building preserved for modern use. Kilig! 🙂

I decided to walk some more in downtown, watching as the shoppes close for the day. I’ve heard that when it comes to nightlife, Lapu-lapu city would provide more entertainment, but it was getting pretty late to tour the whole area. I contented myself with the promise of returning here once more, this time of my own time and expenses, to fully enjoy what the other cities have to offer.

Cebu’s City Hall
Cebu night scene

The only downside of Wanderlost adventuring is that, you don’t have any idea where to buy the pasalubongs. You don’t know where the cheapest place to eat, or the affordable souvenirs are. Despite that, I accepted the regrets of the Wanderlost Adventures. They would serve as motivation for me to return to that place again, this time going to the places I have missed.

You would ask, by the end of the day, if Cebu matched itself right into my own views of it and reinforced my desire to settle there in the future. Well, I barely scratch the surface, but I can imagine myself as a resident of the area. Sure, there are some issues in terms of security, traffic and congestion, but I can live with that. I wasn’t raised in busy Manila for nothing. Just as long as Cebu retains its historic roots, its livability and the warm Visayan hospitality, I’m willing to live here as a lone Tagalog in the the throng of proud Cebuanos. Well, until I should be able understand them, at least.


On that note, could you give a must-see place in Cebu I definitely shouldn’t miss? Next time I’ll go wandering in Cebu, I’ll start from there 🙂 Thanks!

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