Cebu, the oldest city in the Philippines and the second largest behind Manila, constitutes a thriving metropolis of over three million people. Yet, southern Cebu retains a more provincial, less frenetic quality than the northern hub of Manila.
History buffs can catch glimpses of what life was like when the Philippines was a Spanish colony. Sun and water lovers will find a marine paradise in Cebu's Mactan Island resorts. Gourmets will relish Cebu's delectable combination of Spanish, Chinese and Polynesian cuisine, with some truly exotic fruits mixed in.
A little more than an hour's flight from Manila via Philippine Airlines, Cebu's airport on Mactan Island sits close to an array of top beach resorts. These include the Maribago Resort, a stunning oceanside property boasting ample opportunities for canoeing, windsurfing, snorkeling and other aquatic pursuits. Here are some local attractions for day trips:
Fort San Pedro - Also downtown, this well-preserved fort was the bastion of Spanish power during the colonial period. You can see artifacts from sunken galleons and walk the walls much as the garrison did centuries ago. The corner towers mirror fortifications in Puerto Rico and other former Spanish colonies.
Casa Gorodo - Another vestige of Cebu's colonial past, this palatial residence that once housed the Catholic bishop reveals the lifestyle of the wealthy during that era. The edifice is worth visiting for its wood carvings alone.
Lapu-Lapu Monument - This commemorates the battle of Mactan, in which Magellan met his demise attacking a vastly superior force led by the Filipino chieftain Lapu-Lapu. An heroic statue of the chief and a mural depicting the attack make this battle site a memorable attraction.
Heritage of Cebu Monument - Located on Colon Street (the oldest in the city), this huge sculpture depicts the history of Cebu through its indigenous trading days, Spanish colonization, American commonwealth period, World War II, independence and the modern era. It was dedicated in 2000.
Taoist Temple - Located in Cebu's upscale Beverly Hills section, this beautiful temple is a place of pilgrimage for the city's large Chinese population. The view from atop the temple's 99 steps is spectacular.
There is night life aplenty in Cebu, befitting a thriving metropolis. Many of the nightclubs and bars are concentrated around the Ayala Entertainment Center, which is adjacent to the huge Ayala Mall. There is also a casino at the Waterfront Insular Hotel. For more info, go to www.experiencephilippines.org.
Mike Quane is a travel writer with twenty-five years experience. His work has appeared in The New York Daily News, Newsday, Grit, Endless Vacation, Parents Magazine, The Portland Press Herald, Telegraph Publications, Hong Kong Traveling Magazine, the inflight magazines of Singapore and Korean airlines plus many other places. He wrote a weekly column at This Week Publications for fifteen years and a monthly column at LongIsland.com for over a decade. Mike has covered destinations worldwide.