Four-day Cebu/Mactan trip

Four days of discovering Cebu City and Mactan: its history, its guitar-making industry, and its urban delights.

Four-day Cebu/Mactan trip

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by marseilles on November 19, 2005

If you're flying into a Philippine city on the way to the paradise-like countryside, Cebu City is a wonderful alternate point of entry to Manila.

On the one hand, Cebu has the conveniences of an urbanization and progress, yet without many of the accompanying problems so prevalent in Manila: overpopulation, pollution, nor traffic (it's only a 20-minute taxi ride from point A to point B anywhere in the city; Lapu-lapu City on Mactan Island is just an additional 20 minutes away).

On the other hand, the areas surrounding Cebu City are still very provincial, all not more than two hours away from the city. As a result, Cebu and Mactan Islands are a good place to enjoy the beautiful natural environment of the Philippines without venturing too far away from the city. Mactan Island has a good beach with luxury accommodations. Bohol, with the variety of its natural wonders, is just a short boat ride away, and a favorite of nature-trippers. Farther away, Malapascua Island is a pristine beach relatively untouched by development that attracts backpackers and serious divers.

On its own, Cebu City, the "Queen City of the South," is the most cosmopolitan city south of Luzon in the Philippines, and is often thought of as the city second to Manila in terms of urbanization and development. Yet Cebu City is actually first in many ways.

Historically, Cebu Island was the first site to be discovered by Western explorers in the 16th century: Magellan landed here in 1521 and was subsequently killed by suspicious locals headed by the datu Lapu-lapu on neighboring Mactan Island. (Magellan's fleet continued onto Spain after that, becoming the first fleet to circumnavigate the world.) A few years later, Cebu was the site where the first Spanish conquistadors landed, marking the start of the 300-year long colonization of the Philippine islands. Historically, then, Cebu city is the oldest post-colonization city in the Philippines.

Culturally, Cebu is home of the lingua franca of the southern part of the Philippines. The native language, Cebuano (called Visayan outside of Cebu), is the most widely spoken language south of Luzon.

The Cebuanos are cheerful, friendly, laid back, and fiercely proud of their heritage. After a visit to Cebu, it won't be difficult to see what they're proud of.${QuickSuggestions} - This is a very sunny city, so bring some sunblock and maybe a hat if you aren't used to tropical heat.

- Cebu City and Lapu-lapu City on neighboring Mactan Island seem to have spent more effort in recent years preparing the area for the future rather than looking back on its past, thus richer tours of the historical sites have not yet been developed for the interested traveler. Nonetheless, the sites are there for history buff to visit on their own.${BestWay} - The city is small, so taxi rides are cheap and very convenient.

NS Royal Pensionne

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by marseilles on November 19, 2005

It's priced like a guesthouse, but it feels like a hotel. Spanking new (when we went), with a very nice-looking reception area, this place looks more expensive than it actually is. US$17 a night gives you a standard air-conditioned room without a window, but it's clean, new, well-kept, and has hot and cold water and cable television. The location is very convenient, on a quiet street off the main road in downtown Cebu. Service is friendly and professional, though I do think it might be a good idea to book a reservation beforehand rather than simply walk in, as it seems like a popular pension house. We were pleasantly surprised to find such good accommodations in this price range, and we do plan to stay there again on our next trip to Cebu.

Guitar factories

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by marseilles on November 19, 2005

A very musical people, these Cebuanos are, and Cebu is said to be the home of the best guitar craftsmen in the Philippines: good-quality guitars at incredibly affordable prices. The trip is also a cultural excursion and will give you an up-close look of traditional guitar-making processes.

Getting to the row of family-owned guitar factories is no easy feat. The easiest thing if you don't have access to your own vehicle in Cebu is to hire a taxi for an afternoon to take you to the row of guitar factories in Abuno, Mactan Island, and wait for you there so you have a ride back.

Alegre Guitar Factory has the most impressive looking guitar factory in Abuno. The standard guitars and other stringed instruments are neatly arranged in a showroom. The top-quality guitars are in a separate showroom. The personnel can also take you to the back of the lot where you can watch the guitar craftsmen at work in different stages of guitar-making. These guitars are exported to Japan and North America.

For the serious music hobbyist, however, the best-sounding guitars (in our opinion) are made and sold by Susing's Guitars, a few meters down the road from Alegre. Some of the guitars sounded at least as good as Yamahas, for half the price. A musician and one time OFW guitarist who seemed to be a friend of the owner even played several tunes for us, to our delight.

If you have the time to come back, all the factories can custom-make a guitar for you, according to yor body and hand measurements, and using the wood of your choice. If all you want is a souvenir to bring home and adorn your living room with, each factory also has decorative mini-guitars and ukeleles for sale.
Alegre Guitar Factories
Near Mactan Airport
Abuno, Mactan Island

Lapu-lapu Monument/Magellan Marker

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by marseilles on November 20, 2005

If you're traveling through Mactan Island for any reason, the Lapu-lapu monument is a good place to stop-over for two reasons: the historical significance of the site, and arguably the best sinugba-tinola-kinilaw, the Cebu and Mactan's specialty seafood dish.

Since this is a popular tourist spot, taxis usually ply this area, but if you want to avoid a long wait for a taxi, you can, for a bigger fee, ask a taxi to bring you there and wait for you while you visit the area and enjoy your Sinugba meal.

The Lapu-lapu monument is built right on the site where, in 1521, the local datu Lapu-lapu killed Ferdinand Magellan, cutting short the latter's circumnavigation of the world. Magellan was the first Western explorer to land on Philippine shores. Lapu-lapu, on the other hand, was the first datu to resist the occupation of a Western fleet, dramatized not only in his battle with Magellan's fleet, but also in his refusal to pay tribute to the king of Spain.

A few years after Magellan's death, Spain colonized the Philippines. In 1866, the Spanish government ordered a marker built on this very site, to honor Magellan (who, though Portugese, had been conducting his explorations for the Spanish flag). The marker still stands.

In 1898, the Philippine nationalist movement (the first nationalist movement in Asia) culminated in a Revolution against Spain, and the Philippines declared their independence from Spain on the 12th of June. Lapu-lapu was soon hailed as the first Philippine hero. A statue of Lapu-lapu was thus built in front of Magellan's marker. Side by side the two markers are an ironic reminder of how a single historical event can be interpreted so differently by two peoples.


After contemplating Philippine history at the Lapu-lapu Monument, it's a short walk to the "dampa," the seafood market/restaurant. Freshly caught seafood is on sale here. Customers can also buy the seafood and have it cooked on the spot and served at the adjacent restaurant. The must-try favorite is called "Sutokil" or "STK," short for sinugba-towa-kinilaw, a combination of three dishes, each a different traditional way of preparing seafood. The "sinugba" (literally, "grilled") part of the dish refers to seafood stuffed with various spices and grilled. "Towa" or "Tinowa" ("Tinola" in Tagalog) refers to seafood stewed in hot soup. "Kinilaw" is the Philippine version of sushi: raw fish is marinated vinegar and spices where it is left to sit and "cook" for several minutes before serving. If you ask for Sutokil, you will get all three dishes, but you can just order each of the items--Sinugba, Tinowa, or Kinilaw--individually.

Sutokil is available in most restaurants in the area that serve local cuisine, but at the seafood market beside the Lapu-lapu monument, the seafood is freshest, and you can eat your food overlooking the sea, on the very shore where Magellan and Lapu-lapu fought their historic battle against each other, 500 years ago.
Lapu-lapu Monument / Magellan Marker
Punta Engano, Mactan Island
Cebu, Philippines

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