Epic Ride: Queen City of the South
Cebu is like a second home to me, both literally and figuratively. I lived in Cebu for a few months a couple of years ago, and I still go there regularly both for leisure and for business. With that, I consider myself a regular of both Cebu City and Mandaue City so I would love to share to you guys my favorite spots in Cebu. Bear in mind that these places are my own personal picks and the ones I enjoy / enjoyed the most.
Dubbed as the Queen City of the South, it is situated by the center of the island province called Cebu. 1000 kilometers and 2 RoRo trips away from Manila via Bicol, the tedious task of going through #X provinces is well worth the sacrifice.
I’ve toured Cebu several times and on different motorbikes, so that means I have been to the places in my list several times already for me to consider them as my favorites. I also have some more places in my list although they are from nearby towns or cities such as Mandaue City and Sibonga, however the list in this article will only contain places in Cebu City proper.
In no particular order
Larsian sa Fuente – my most favorite sinful place to eat. If you see the macro shot of a pig intestine or isaw along with other grilled specialties from Larsian somewhere in this article, then that is proof that I am someone that tends to like all the greasy, oily stuff. But hey, as they say, you only live once. As with everything, the key is balance.
Located near the Fuente Osmena circle in Cebu, be warned that if you are the pasosyal type, then Larsian might not be for you. There won’t be anything fancy once you enter the Larsian complex as it looks like a palengke to say the least. Once you enter, you will be swarmed by different vendors practically begging you to eat at their stalls. Once you’ve made your choice, the others will almost in an instant ignore you with someone even batting their eyelashes. Talk about hospitality. The only saving grace you could tell yourself is that you went there for the food. Among those I’ve tried are the Chorizo de Cebu, grilled chicken, chicken atay, squid, gizzards, and the like.
Upon entering, you are in for a distinctly Cebuano Barbecue feast. They also do not serve the usual cups of rices, but rather the triangle shaped Puso’ rice wrapped in suman leaves (or whatever you call it), for a truly Cebuano dining experience. Larsian is open 24 hours a day, and peaks at around 6 in the evening, when both locals and tourists visit the place the most.
For a truly authentic Larsian BBQ experience, you are expected to eat with your bare hands, although some stalls will give you a disposable plastic glove to make you feel more comfortable eating there.
Casa Verde – it looks like fine dining but it is also good for casual dining. Literall translated as the “Green house”, Casa Verde is famous for its affordable meals and large servings. This restaurant has been famous for Brian. Who is Brian you might ask? For only 228 pesos, you get to taste Brian, I mean Brian’s Ribs. Not only is it their bestseller, but it is also my personal favorite. Brian’s Ribs is baked pork ribs in a sweet tangy piquet sauce served with white rice, corn and carrots.
Along with it is the Milky Way, Cebu’s biggest milkshake, and probably in the Philippines too! Due to its popularity, Casa Verde has expanded and has several branches already (there’s even one in UP Town Center in QC) but my personal favorite is in Ayala Center Cebu. Expect long lines, but the wait will be worth it. During the times that I dined there alone, I chose to have my dinner at the bar, thus not having the need to fall in line for an hour or two.
Originally, the first branch was just supposed to be a small canteen that catered to the residents of the 2nd floor dormitory and some students from nearby colleges. Through word of mouth and recommendations by its regulars, the humble canteen soon became a full scale restaurant. After almost a decade and several branches after that simple canteen, Casa Verde has grown into one of Cebu’s most popular dining destinations.
Yap – San Diego Ancestral House
Located in the Parian district of Cebu City, the Yap-San Diego Ancestral house is by far my favorite among all the museums I have visited in Cebu. It is so well preserved that in fact, it is said to be one of the oldest existing structural residential houses in the Philippines. Made out of Coral stones and woods by a Chinese family of merchants in the 1600’s, this house of wood and stones stands strong despite wrecks and fate of time. Some of the original things from the Yap – San Diego household are still well preserved in the museum inside, including old telephones, desks, china, and all the old stuff you could think of.
This Ancestral House was a residential home built by Maria Florido and Don Juan Yap almost 400 years ago. As time passed by, this old architectural building was handed down to Val Manciano San Diego and his wife Ofelia. Up to the present day, the house is as sturdy as ever, fully standing even until it was eventually converted into a museum. In fact, the house never had a major make over and house’s roof and wall are 95% original. It is also believed that this particular old landmark is the oldest existing Chinese house outside China. Just a few steps away from the Yap – San Diego Ancestral house is the oldest street in the Philippines – Colon St. in downtown Cebu.
Just a few years ago, the old ancestral home was turned over to Doña Maria’s great great grandson, Val Sandiego. Val himself is known in Cebu at present times as an art collector, renowned choreographer and heritage icon.
I am pretty sure that even if you are not fond of old houses, the Yap-San Diego Ancestral house might interest you even just one bit.
The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is located at 155-Lopez Jaena corner Mabini Street, Parian District in Cebu, Philippines. It is just a few steps away from the Parian Monument which is also known as Heritage of Cebu Monument and meters away from Colon Street, the oldest street in the Philippines.
Sto. Nino Church – along with Magellan’s Cross, the Sto. Nino Church is pretty much one of the top 2 most recognizable landmarks in Cebu. This is actually one of the most popular tourist destinations when one visits Cebu for the first time. Along with the popular church and bell tower, there is also a Pilgrim Center opened in the 1990’s to accommodate more devotees so they could pray as the main church could not hold the sheer number of worshippers frequenting Sto. Nino Church. There is also a church museum one level lower than ground level.
During the 2013 7.2 magnitude Bohol earthquake that shook Tagbilaran, it ws so strong that it delivered a huge impact to Cebu City Proper. That earthquake destroyed the belfry and façade as seen in the videos that circulated in the internet during that time. After just a few months, the restoration of the building was done and is now back to its original look. I was actually in Cebu during that time and indeed, being a devout Catholic or not, you will be saddened by the collapse of one of Cebu’s most popular and architectural treasures.
The image of the Santo Niño, which is kept in the Santo Nino Chapel of the Basilica, is considered the oldest religious relic in the Philippines.
Ayala Terraces – Forget the mall, this thing is stunning most especially at night. This is my favorite hang out place when I lived alone in Cebu. Apart from the wide selection of restaurants and coffee shops, I like the lighting design of this place. Even at night it looks lively. Oh, my other favorite Casa Verde is located in Ayala Terraces as well.
The original cross gradually deteriorated as over the years the faithful (including many who believed the cross had miraculous powers) took little pieces of the cross as mementos.
In 1845 another cross was placed at the spot. This new cross was made of tindalo wood and inside a hollow inside splinters of the original Magellan’s Cross were preserved. Today a modest red-tiled octagonal pavillion (or kiosk) shelters the cross.
Inside the pavillion, the ceiling mural depicts Magellan’s landing in Cebu in 1521, his planting of the original cross on the shore of Cebu Island, the conversion of the first Filipinos to Christianity, and the celebration of the first mass in Cebu.
For me, along with the Sto. Nino Church, Magellan’s Cross is Cebu’s most important historical landmark and an important shrine
Cathedral Museum of Cebu beside Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
I have visited this museum a couple of times and every time I left, I was in awe. I had brought with me Cebu trivia and bits and pieces that made me appreciate more the history and culture of the province and all its religious aspects. Everything in the museum is also organized. The gallery in the second floor is arranged into six sub divisions: The Genesis of Our Faith, Viam, Veritatis, Elegi (I Have Choosen the Way of the Truth), De Cal Y Canto (Building the House of God), Gathering of Saints, Regalia of Worship, and The Priestly Life.
The Cathedral Museum of Cebu, housing the most important religious treasures of Cebu, is just located right across the heavily modernized Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
A Cebu first timer looking for pasalubong to bring back home? That shouldn’t be a problem because of the popular Tabo-An Market. Tabo-An market houses several stalls of merchants selling dried, semi-dried and fermented fish. The stench of this market is a give away when you are near this area. Huge baskets filled with tuyo, danggit, posit, dilis, and the like fill all the stalls, with everyone competing with each other for your business. Initially they will have the same prices so the trick here is to appear that you are already walking away to the next stall so they will be forced to lower down their prices so they could get your business. Hehe, that by the way also works in Divisoria and Baclaran.
By the way, Cebu City’s Taboan Market is considered the central hub of dried fish trading in the island. Even, danggits made all the way from the northbound Bantayan Islands eventually make its way here, albeit at understandably higher prices.
Bear in mind that when I said that the stench is a give away, I was not exaggerating, not one bit. The pungent aroma literally sticks to your shirt. Even after your taxi brings you to your hotel, your smell will be left inside the taxi so good luck to the next passenger. Anyway, over the years I have bought several kilos of dried fish here and what the vendors would do is to put your loot inside a thick plastic bag and enclose it with an electric sealer. I don’t think you could actually place it inside your carry on luggage due to the smell, so you might as well check it in at the airport.
Known to the locals as “Tops,” this relaxing spot is found in the mountainous Busay, Cebu City. The route to Tops takes you through some of the city’s best sights and views. If you’re not used to the twisties, you might get dizzy due to the several sharp twists and turns you will be passing through on the way here. For motorcycle riders, this should pose no problem. The route here starts just after Waterfront Hotel and Cebu I.T. Park. When you notice that your vehicle is starting to go uphill, then you know you are going the right way. You will even pass by one of Cebu’s most prominent hotels – The Marco Polo.
Upon arrival, there is an entrance fee of 100 pesos per person. I wanted to say it is a minimal entry fee but I am torn whether to call the 100 pesos worth it or not because there is nothing to do at the top once you are there. The view is to die for but pretty much that’s it. If you want to reflect or recharge, then maybe this is the place to go.
As I wrote about it on a previous edition of Epic Ride by The Pinoy Rider, the Taoist Temple is located in the posh Beverly Hills in Lahug, Cebu. It overlooks the entire city and offers a great 360 degree view of Cebu. You may also pray for your devotions, or just simply roam around and admire the beautifully built temple maintained by Taoist monks.
Fort San Pedro
One of the distinguishable landmark of Cebu is Fort San Pedro. Built for military defense
by the Spaniards. This fort is almost 300 years old and according to Wikipedia, It is considered as the oldest tri-bastion fort in the Philippines that was built in 1738 to keep them safe from the Muslim raiders. By the end of the 19th century, Filipino revolutionaries used it as their stronghold. Its area is about 2,050 square meters; the walls are about 20 feet high, 8 feet thick and the towers are also about 30 feet high. It has a triangular in shape, one facing at the City and the other two are facing toward the sea. It also has 14 mounted cannons, which are still in each respected places.
Fort San Pedro is located at Plaza Independencia, in the Pier Area of Cebu City.
Nowadays, part of the fort is a museum where the Spanish documents, artifacts, sculptures, paintings, swords and other weaponry are being displayed.
Your gastronomical experience in Cebu will never ever be complete without tasting their famous authentic Cebu Lechon. In fact there are other choices like CNT, Ayer’s, and other several lechon stores but my personal favorite is Zubuchon. The lechon (roasted pic) they serve is by far the tastiest for me. You must try this at least once. Zubuchon is scatted all over Cebu but I frequent the one in One Mango.
Aside from the typical famous lechon, Zubuchon also offers several lechon dishes like Lechon Sisig, Munggo Lechon, Lechon Crispy Pata, among others. All of their lechon dishes are best paired with their also famous Kamias Shake (yes made from real Kamias!). It was also a welcome treat when I found out that their owners specifically instructed all staff not to use MSG on their lechon, and for me this is a big plus as the others usually include it when putting flavor to their products. Well, everytime I finish a meal here, the back of my neck always start to hurt, but I guess the pain is all worth it because even if my blood pressure rises everytime I eat in Zubuchon, my tummy and my heart are both smiling.
Cebu is the Queen City of the South and although there are several places in nearby towns in Cebu Province that one can visit, even by staying within the confines of the city proper, there is no doubt that a visitor here won’t get bored, not just with the tourist attractions but with the food as well. For me, it is my home away from home and I will never get tired of going back to Cebu.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider