The oldest city and first capital of the Philippines, I like to think of Cebu City as Manila’s older, artier sister.
Having spent 24 hours in Cebu, I can tell you at least five things it’s famous for: guitar making, the sweetest dried mango you’ve ever tasted, the tastiest suckling pig you’ll ever come across, world-famous furniture design, and the most passionate boutique chocolatier in quite possibly the world.
The province of Cebu is comprised of Cebu Island and 150 plus smaller surrounding isles. Adjacent to the capital Cebu City is tropical Mactan Island, a beach lover’s paradise where flocks of South Koreans love to holiday in luxurious resorts, while still getting a slightly rough around the edges Island experience on their way to and from the airport.
However, adventurous visitors take the time (and battle the traffic) to check out all mainland Cebu has to offer too.
9am-12pm Brush up on historical sites
Cebu is rooted in Spanish history and Catholicism, due to Portuguese colonisation in the 1500s.
Start by getting an insight into Cebu’s past with a roundup of local historical sites. Step inside the Basilica del Santo Niño and catch a glimpse of the Holy Child, an image of Jesus which dates back hundreds of years and is said to have miraculously survived a fire.
Next wander around Fort San Pedro and admire the architecture built in 1565. There’s some serious and bloody history there. Before heading onto lunch, take the time to wander around Yap Sandiego Ancestral House.
Built in the late 17th century from wood and coral by Chinese merchants, the house is one of oldest in the Philippines. Today the house still stands largely from its original materials and is furnished with fascinating and centuries-old artefacts and collectables.
12pm Lunch at Abaseria Restaurant
This quaint deli and cafe serves up Filipino native fare, and you can browse the local handmade crafts and homewares while you wait for your meal.
You’ll want to sit and enjoy the homey atmosphere over a leisurely lunch. Food here is best shared. Start with a nourishing pot of Lola Tomasa’s fish and alugbati soup, and be sure to include the radish salad and crispy roasted adobo pork in your Filipino feast.
2pm The Chocolate Chamber
Get ready for an indulgent afternoon sampling the magical chocolate creations of Raquel Choa, the creative force behind Cebu’s famed chocolatier, Ralfe Gourmet.
Raquel takes the pure ingredient of cacao and turns it into an array of chocolate treats from moist cakes made from cacao and red wine to delicate truffles.
All must be paired with a traditional cup of tablea, a local Filipino drink made from pure cacao beans that Raquel’s Lola (grandmother) taught her to make. The chamber is the perfect place to pick out some quality souvenirs to take home too, spreading the joy of Cebu Chocolate.
4pm Kenneth Cobonpue showroom
Lovers of art and design will appreciate visit to award winning industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue’s hip showroom in Cebu. You can ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ at his innovative works and imagine them on show in your own home.
If you can’t afford a piece for yourself, you can also enjoy spotting his unique pieces at fancy hotels, restaurants and resorts around the world.
5pm Lantaw Native Restaurant
Ascend the winding roads into the mountain ranges behind the metropolis and enjoy a sunset drink with sweeping views overlooking Cebu City.
As night falls, head back into town, taking in the vibrant roadside market stalls along the way as the locals come out to eat.
7pm Dinner at Zubuchon
Meat-eaters would be remiss to visit Cebu and not try the world-famous Lechon which celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain rightfully called the “best pig ever!” This really is some pretty impressive roasted pork.
The meat from organic fed pigs is prepared with Zubuchon’s blend of herbs and spices then lathered in coconut oil to create a crispy brown skin when roasted over charcoal.
The pork pairs excellently with the salty, sweet and tangy condiments the Filipinos are so well known for, and washes down superbly with a Kamias fruit shake.
After all the delicious feasting, you’re going to want to kick back and relax in your resort hotel on Mactan, where the airport is also conveniently located for the next part of your Philippines journey. Or if you’re lucky, you’ve planned an extra few days to kick back and relax in Cebu paradise...