Cebu City is the oldest city founded in the Philippines, (seven years senior to Manila) and vestiges of Spanish colonial times still remain in its local language, food and culture. It began as a small fishing village in the central Visayan region, later becoming a bustling trading port by 1521 because of its strategic location in the heart of the Philippines. By 1898 the Spanish were pushed out by American intervention, prompting a revolution for the entire country, and in 1937 the city of Cebu was officially named.
Today, the city is booming and is fast becoming a major economic hub of the Philippines, next to Manila. Cebu thrives on it history as a focal point for the major tourism that comes through the city and its islands. The famous Sinulog festival happens every year to commemorate their devotion to the Santo Nino, and to showcase the rich cultural significance of their native dance of the same name. Historically, the native dance predated Magellan's colonization but would later be enveloped within the Christian conversion. Today, the annual Sinulog festival is one of the largest in the country, bringing in visitors from all over the country.
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Visit Casa Gorordo Museum, which showcases household items dating back to the late 1800s. The San Diego Ancestral House in the oldest part of the city is a well-preserved home full of antiques and and traditional furniture.
Explore the islands and sandbars surrounding Mactan Island on a private outrigger fitted with beanbags, an iPod dock, WiFi and a cooler full of drinks. Cruise the calm seas around Cebu and snorkel or dive in one of two marine reserves. For lunch, dock at a stilted restaurant over the water and order seafood still swimming in the cages beneath the water.
Cebu is a fantastic foodie destination. It is best known for lechon, a succulent, spit-roasted pig stuffed with herbs and done to crispy perfection. Grilled seafood, roasted chicken and Spanish-influenced desserts are also quite popular.
Head into the old part of the city for a guided cultural tour. Cebu City is the oldest city in the Philippines: its most significant landmark, the 16th century St. Niño Church, houses the cross that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted on the shores of Cebu when he arrived in 1521. Nearby is Fort San Pedro, an old Spanish fort erected in 1565.
Shopping malls abound in the city, but to get a sense of local color, head to the street markets of Colon, where dried fish, tropical fruit, locally made guitars and shell handicrafts are sold. For higher quality merchandise, shop at locally owned boutiques selling home goods and furniture made from local materials, as well as packaged delicacies.
An hour before the sun sets, head to the mountains. Tops is a large stone terrace that is a 40-minute drive from the city center. At 2000 feet above sea level, it offers a breathtaking view of Cebu and the islands surrounding it. Alternatively, sunset is also spectacular here, but it tends to get crowded.
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With new flights, classic resorts, waterfall adventures, natural wonders, and whale sharks, Cebu in the Philippines is a hard destination to beat.
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