When Going Solo, Go to Cebu!

by misslampa

It's always a good idea to practice the art of traveling light.

Travel-wise, it was my first attempt at going solo. I’ve survived the streets of my dearly beloved Manila – known for being mean and magical and marvelous (all true, by the way!) – all these years, so I felt like I was ready to tour Cebu alone. After all, I’ve heard it’s a much safer and less polluted place.

When I flew out of my hometown, the kind of trip I had in mind was one wherein I’d be accompanied only by my shoulder bag and a good read.

But after my 3-day adventure in Cebu, I’ve realized that when you’re touring a city that’s home to around 830,000 people, it’s impossible to travel alone. Or perhaps that holds true regardless of where you go. Because although you choose to set out solo, the locals and other tourists are bound to journey with you in one way or another.

I’m not in any way saying that Cebuanos are imposing. Only the peddlers in front of the Basilica de Santo Niño and outside Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral were forcing their wares on me, actually. But even then, I knew that they were only trying to make business. The locals leave you alone – letting you roam their clean streets and share public transport rides with them in peace. Some may stare at you briefly when they hear you speaking in Filipino while asking other passengers to hand your jeepney fare to the driver, but just smile at them warmly and they’re guaranteed to smile back at you.

 

The PUV terminal across Ayala Mall in Cebu looks just like the one in Manila, and prominent signs inside the terminal help you find the jeep you need faster.

 

Once you start asking for help of any sort, though, they’re more than happy to help. And because I’m not really good with directions and committing public transport routes to memory, I was also more than happy to be helped. Win-win, see? :-)

Upon hearing that I wanted to go around Cebu and live as the locals do, the Cebuana who attended the same conference I came to Cebu for helped me create an itinerary over lunch at the hotel. She told me about both touristy and non-touristy places, and more importantly, she convinced me that I didn’t need to hire a cab even if I was touring the city at night. That saved me around P4,000++ in cab fare (the cab driver who brought me to my hotel offered to bring me around the city’s popular spots for P1,000 for every three hours).

Admittedly, I got lost a couple of times, but whenever I didn’t know where I was and which jeep I should hail to get to a nondescript music bar or a Thai massage spa that’s popular with the locals, all I had to do was approach the friendly Cebuanos. Thrice, the people I asked didn’t know the answer to my question. No surprise there. But thrice as well, they didn’t just stop at shrugging their shoulders. They looked for someone else who could answer my question. Now that’s pleasantly surprising.

So just in case the title of this blog entry isn’t explicit enough (you have to be unbelievably dumb to miss the point), let me say it again: If you can muster enough guts to be by your lonesome on your next travel adventure, you’re going to do yourself a big favor if you make Cebu your destination. You’re bound for a cosmopolitan and laid-back adventure that won’t break the bank. And when it ends, you’ll surely say, “Daghang Salamat, Cebu!”

Here’s a preview which will hopefully convince you .Ü

 

The restaurants at The Ayala Mall Terraces (beside Cebu Marriott Hotel) open at 7am and close around midnight.

 

Being a UPian myself, I can’t help but to make UP College Cebu my first stop. I was able to come in without an ID (yes!), and exploring the grounds immediately made me nostalgic. University life seemed so long ago already.

UP Cebu's Oblation is more sun-kissed than our Oble in Diliman.

 

They had installations like these dotting the open grounds of the campus...

 

...and I also found myself inside one of the classrooms used by Fine Arts students.

 

To get to UP Cebu, take the 04M jeep to Lahug (P8.00) from the Ayala PUV terminal. From UP, I took the 17B jeep (also P8.00) which brought me to Colon, also known as the oldest street in the Philippines.

Colon Street has this 1920s, old-world vibe, and everything about it reminded me of Old Cubao.

 

I also went to check out the two most popular churches in the city. You have to take the 14D jeep (P8.00) from the Ayala PUV terminal to get there.

Pilgrims drop to their knees and slowly approach the altar of Basilica de Santo Niño (open from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m.) while remaining in that position. Metropolitan Cathedral's altar, meanwhile, is awash in gold.

 

The famous Magellan’s cross (closes at 7 p.m.) is also housed in a chapel next to the basilica. It’s hailed as Cebu’s most important historical landmark.

Personally, though, I think it's more impressive because of what it represents. I don't find anything special about how it looks.

 

From there, it’s just a short walk to Plaza Independencia (open until very late at night), where you can also see Fort San Pedro (officially closes at 8 p.m., but it was already closed at 7 p.m. when I dropped by on a weeknight.)

Kudos to the city government for maintaining the place well!

 

Do check out Larsian sa Fuente, which is just a jeepney ride away (06C, also P8.00). Larsian is where locals go whenever they’re craving for grilled food. It was such an interesting place, and even on a weeknight, it throbbed with life.

 

I bought grilled longganisa, grilled chicken skin, grilled chicken, grilled gizzard and grilled hotdog with rice wrapped in woven leaves (called “puso” in the vernacular because it’s shaped like a heart) from Kylle’s BBQ and paid only P81 for all of it! But here’s the best part about eating at Larsian:

The only utensil they'll give you is a small clear plastic bag. Slip your hand in it and voila, you can now eat Pinoy-style without getting your hands dirty!^^

 

About the most dangerous thing I did was to hire a habal-habal (motorcycle, P200 two-way) and take a 25-minute ride up the mountain at 9:00 p.m. so I can get to Tops (P100 entrance fee), which is famous for giving tourists and locals alike a magnificent view of the city. Locals advised me against it, actually. Too dangerous, they said. There aren’t too many houses on the way to Cebu’s highest view deck and if I chance upon a man with bad intentions, no one could hear me scream. I’m better off hiring a cab. But my curiosity got the better of me. And I’m writing this blog entry now so yes, that means I survived the experience.

It was so cold, I ordered a Café Mocha from this coffee shop at Tops to keep me warm. And oh, my apologies, but my camera just couldn't do the view justice.

 

Another first for me was bar hopping alone. But because I’m such as wuss when it comes to alcohol, I ordered a Shirley Temple (P130) at this unnamed bar beside Cabanas (Juana Osmeña St, near Mango Square) and Cucumber Juice with Mint (P80) at Outpost (along Veteran’s Drive, which you’ll pass by on the way to Tops).

I got drunk on good music, but not on alcohol.

 

For the most part, I did it because I wanted to check out the local music artists. Many good singers in the country come from Cebu, after all. And I’m happy to report to you that the ones I listened to that night (Ire and Tsunami and solo performer Gumer Entero) didn’t disappoint.

I forgot the number of the jeep which passes by Mango Square, but from Mango Ave., I rode the 4C jeep to get to JY Square (both cost P8.00 each). Outpost is a few hundred meters away from that shopping center.

Before I knew it, it was midnight already, so I took the 17C jeep (P8.00) and got off at Gorordo to get a relaxing massage at Yoga Thai Massage and Spa. For P220, I was treated to their Traditional Thai Full-Body Dry Massage (one hour for P110) and their Thai Foot Massage (also one hour for P110). I found the massage so relaxing, I fell asleep while the therapist was working her magic on my aching muscles and tired feet. I felt compelled to give her a generous tip, especially because P220 for a 2-hour massage is a really, really good deal already.Ü

So there you have it, dear reader. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Cebu, I’ll bump into you.

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31 Responses to “When Going Solo, Go to Cebu!”

  1. I am impressed by how much you have fitted into this one post!

    • The ability to cram in so much in one go is God’s gift to women, I think. :-)) We put too much makeup, talk too much, buy too many shoes…see? And you know what’s better, dear Sir? We get away with it, haha! :-))

  2. Wow, I’ve been meaning to travel there sometime but never know where to go or where to stay etc, but i sure do like the pictures :) oh and one of the major reasons? is because i LOVE filipino dishes! so tasty! :)

    • Thanks for dropping by, Andy.Ü I just have a point-and-shoot camera, so now you really have to come to the Philippines so you can see how much more beautiful the spots are! And I’m curious, how’d you get introduced to Filipino food? :-) Which ones are your favorites? (PS: i dropped by your blog, too. It’s all heart, Andy! I especially liked the one about seeing your daughter in the kid who was sleeping soundly in her mother’s arms. Keep on rocking both as a writer and a dad!)

      • Hi! thank you so much for dropping by my blog and your kind words :) i was once engaged to my filipina gf and she made me a lot of really neat filipino dishes, my favorite being palabok , lechon and pancit :) i’m actually planning on visiting sometime but i have no idea what hotel chains are there or how to get around :( might visit a friend of mine at cagayan de oro city too :) any ideas? :)

      • Palabok and pancit rock, you’re right! And lechon is both good and bad for the heart, if you know what I mean. :-)) value-hotel chains are almost nonexistent in the Phils, I think. The only cheap one I know of is gohotels.ph, but the only location they have at the moment is in Manila. There’s also Friendly’s Guesthouse in Malate (also in Manila), if backapacking is your kind of thing. But there are many inexpensive accommodations in most places, most of them are family-run. CDO is among the most popular spots to visit, you’re right! I can’t believe I’ve never been there, though, so I can’t be of much help there! Haha!

  3. the first and last time i went to cebu was when i was almost five years old. memories of the trip are blurry, so thanks for making them somehow a little bit clearer. :) (i remember seeing something like fort santiago, which i assume is the fort san pedro that you mentioned here)

  4. Never knew so much about the Phillipines…thanks for the tour/documentation.

  5. Never knew so much about the Phillipines…thanks for the tour/documentation.

    • At your service, Mr. Alvi! :-)) Thanks so much for dropping by. And hey. Cebu is just one island and we have 7,107 more (7,106 during high-tide Ü) so there is definitely a lot to see. You can put your photography skills (I dropped by your blog and found out you’re passionate about cameras) to good use here! I’m sure your pictures will put mine to shame, haha!

  6. I’ve never backpacked before, maybe I’ve gotten spoiled with staying at hotels all my life so it would be a really fun new experience. for sure i have to go to Manila since the plane lands there first before it splits off to anywhere else right? or no? i’m newbie to the part of asia lol :) mmm yes, lechon can be bad for you because of the fried part of it but wow it’s so addictive it makes my heart happy lol!

  7. Edit: I’m such *a* wuss…

  8. graham thats the best info i have had i,m going to cebu december solo dso very helpful

  9. i have an upcoming trip to Cebu and i’m going to be alone as well. sooo happy that i saw your blog!! thanks for the pictures, tips and guide. hopefully most of the information will still be accurate even 2 years later.

  10. Amazing! You did it write your whole travel in a single article!

    I want to hear more about TOPS in the mountain view…

    • I just checked out your blog! You’re from Cebu, so I’m sure you know so much more and therefore have so much more to say about TOPS! :)) Thanks for dropping by, Jacinth!

  11. Cafe Mocha looks like the film location of a Kathniel film! The circular stone walls looks like it!

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