This was our second and last day, in our short visit to Cebu.
We started the day by walking around the environs of the hotel, the Crown Regency. We went around the nearby Fuente Osmena, a large roundabout much like the one on Paris’ Arc de Triumph, only without the arc. It sits in the middle of Osmena Boulevard, a wide multi-lane street which stretches from the old town to the provincial capitol, a beautiful domed structure which brings to mind the U.S.‘ Capitol Hill. Not withstanding the vendors and beggars scattered about, Osmena Boulevard is a picturesque tree-lined street. I consider it a Cebuano Champs Elysee or Pennsylvania Avenue.
After checking out of the hotel around noon, we decided to have lunch at a decent looking open air sidewalk eatery that we found while walking around. The place is called Apurado (I guess it’s the surname of the owner, though apurado in Cebuano does mean “impatient”). They served Cebu lechon, and no stay in Cebu would ever be complete without a sampling of this trademark specialty. The ambience wasn’t much, but I liked the thought that it’s still possible to get a decent open air meal by the streetside without choking in smoke or being run over by a crowd.
After lunch we took a taxi to SM City Cebu, the city’s largest mall. I could still remember going to the mall on my last visit to Cebu 14 years ago. The mall sits on reclaimed land, and back then there were very few structures on its surroundings. The reclamation had just been completed, and the whole area was wide open and flat, with just the port and container yards on one edge, the mall somewhere in the middle, and not much else. Nowadays it’s become a highly urbanized area, and could hardly be considered empty.
The mall itself has changed too. It has a new wing, which I would dare say has the most elegant looking interior of any SM Mall in the country (yes, I think it’s better than the Megamall’s Atrium). I don’t usually associate elegance and taste with SM, with most of their malls being oversized boxes filled with shops but devoid of any sort of interior design or architecture. I have to make an exception with this new wing though, which even has a baby grand piano on the ground floor.
Interestingly, the guards in Cebu seem less paranoid of DSLR cameras than their counterparts in Manila. I’ve been taking pictures at Ayala Center and SM Cebu, without them interrupting. Bless them.
This was Sunday, so after roaming around the mall, we then headed out to visit the church.
We passed by the Carmelite Monastery. Though they don’t have masses in the afternoon, we wanted to go there to see the place that was the pious late president Cory Aquino’s refuge during the tumultuous days preceding the people power.
After lighting some candles at the Carmelites, we then headed to Cebu’s Redemptorist church to hear Sunday mass. The Redemptorist is a good, traditional looking long-aisled Church not very far from the city’s “uptown” area.
After hearing mass, we decided to take an early dinner before crossing back to the other side of the Mactan Strait for our flight back to Manila.
Before heading to Cebu, we did some research on places to eat, and one of the names that kept popping up was La Tegola, an Italian restaurant. I happened to see their Ayala Center outlet on day 1, and so we decided to go back there to sample the place. We were satisfied with what we found, but I’ll leave more on that for another article.
From there it was back to the island of Mactan, to pay our respects to the first chief to defy the West, Lapu-lapu, before heading back to the airport to catch our flight.
Cebu holds the distinction of being the oldest city in this country, and for that I think, the Cebuano are a proud people. Proud of their city, their history, and more evidently, proud of their language, which is spoken by more Filipinos in more areas, than any other.
The city itself is a reflection of this pride. From the modernistic and minimalist Marcelo Fernan Bridge, to the picturesque Osmena Boulevard and Provincial Capitol, to the history in the area around the Santo Nino Basilica and Colon, the city has distinct character that could not be found elsewhere in the country. It’s the country’s oldest, yet also one of the most modern.
Interestingly, we also found a lot of tourists in Cebu. In fact, I think the density of tourists per square kilometer, is greater here than most other places in the country (except perhaps Boracay). With modern malls, historical sites and attractive beaches all tucked into one compact piece of the country, I wouldn’t mind making Cebu the gateway to the country either. If I were to talk to a potential tourist right now, I would advise them to land first in Cebu, as Magellan did (coincidence?). They can skip the agonizing jams and confusing topography of the big city up north. Down here, in the middle of the archipelago, is where this country starts to become really interesting
*We visited Cebu on July 2010 . All photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-42 f3.5-5.6.