Suffocating in Cebu

This is going to be a short one, as we were only in Cebu for a day, and it was mainly just because we had to fly out of it to get to Palawan. Our opinion is that it doesn’t warrant visiting unless you’re passing through, as it’s basically a smaller version of Manila, i.e. crowded and polluted, with the addition of lots of beggars. There is begging literally everywhere, and it’s both unsettling and annoying. Of course, this only applies to Cebu City, as I’m told the island of Cebu has a number of beautiful beaches and costal towns to visit. We were saving our beaching for Palawan though and didn’t have time to explore Cebu island.

The streets of Cebu City.
The streets of Cebu City.

We got to Cebu via ferry from Tagbilaran. There was a substantial amount of waiting involved, first because we couldn’t get the ferry times until the day of (as windy weather means that seas might be so rough that only the heaviest boats can run), and second because our departure was delayed (following the trend of most forms of transit here it seems). When we finally got on the ferry though it was comfortable, and the ride was exactly the length the classic Zac Efron movie 17 Again. We paid 500P for “Tourist” class, which meant we got an assigned seat inside the boat. There is also a cheaper “Open Air” class and a more expensive “Business” class, but I’m not sure what those entail. The price of the ticket though does not include the cost of checked baggage (100P per bag) or the 15P “Terminal Fee” that we encountered when trying to get to the boarding gate. Hidden fees, my great nemesis.

In Cebu we stayed at Pillows Hotel, which was probably my favourite part of our visit due to the big bed, extra fluffy pillows, and cable TV (sadly kind of exciting after 2 weeks of no TV at all). We arrived mid-afternoon, and spent the remainder of the day at the nearby Robinson’s Mall eating fast food and shopping.

The next day we decided to start of with some sightseeing, so we took a 45 minute walk up to the Taoist Temple while we still had energy. Cebu is definitely a developing city, which creates quite the juxtaposition of sights. It’s common to see artisanal bakeries next to piles of garbage, trendy coffee shops next to cardboard box shanty towns, or shiny brand name malls with scores of begging children waiting outside. The air is also quite polluted in some areas, to the point where Chris was walking around holding a handkerchief over his face to try and escape the exhaust. Also I think that part of the garbage problem has to do with the fact that there is no such thing as a public garbage can in Cebu. We found that if you had trash, basically the only options were to throw it on the ground or carry it around until we got back to our hotel.

Cebu jeepneys.
Cebu jeepneys.

The Taoist Temple, however, is located inside a ritzy gated community (Outside the gate? Shanty town.) so there was barely any traffic. In contrast to much of what we’d seen on our walk over, the temple is in meticulous condition and silent so as to not disturb the people praying/meditating.

Dragon statue at the Taoist Temple.
Dragon statue at the Taoist Temple.

Afterwards, we decided to walk back downtown to see some of the historical sights. It was a long walk and after being accosted by exhaust, garbage, and beggars most of the way, we were in a “screw it, let’s go to McDonald’s” kind of mood, so that is what we did. We felt quite refreshed afterwards though, so we walked to rest of the way to Colon street, the oldest street in the Philippines.

Colon Street.
Colon Street.

Nearby to Colon Street is Magellan’s Cross and San Pedro Fort, so we also took at peek at those. Magellan’s Cross was apparently planted in 1521 by Spanish explorer Magellan when he baptized the first Filipino Catholics. The Philippines is interesting in that unlike a lot of other younger countries, it appears to us that they still really celebrate being colonized and converted by the Spanish.

Magellan's Cross.
Magellan’s Cross.

Sunday Mass was just ending, so the streets were full of people. Unfortunately lots of people also means lots of people trying to sell you cheap trinkets or candles (I think this has something to do with mass?), so we didn’t stay long. We figured by this point we’d earned a break so we took a cab to the upscale Ayala Mall, where we spent the rest of the day window shopping in air-conditioned bliss, eating fun mall food and watching the newest Mission Impossible. Don’t judge!

Fancy Ayala Mall.
Fancy Ayala Mall.

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