CEBU CITY—The adventure unravels when your plane lands at Mactan Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City, where billboards offer a visual feast of Cebu’s beach destinations and cultural heritage sites.
But how to choose the places when you only have 48 hours to stay in Metro Cebu?
“The key is to pick destinations that are close to each other but serve as excellent resources for guests to learn Cebu’s history and heritage,” said Raine Baljak, Miss Cebu 2016.
Going around Cebu— specifically the three major cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu—is made easier with ride-hailing mobile apps, such as Uber and Grab, and the operation of SM’s myBus system, which can take guests to the airport, pier and SM malls.
But since traffic congestion is getting worse, it is important to pick a hotel within the city center if a visitor plans to do tours on the first day, said Robby Alugar, overseas relations manager of an international freight forwarding company.
Alugar, who accompanies overseas clients, recommends checking in at Quest Hotel across Ayala Center Cebu and only a few meters away from an Islands Pasalubong Center outlet. An overnight stay in a deluxe room for two persons with buffet breakfast costs P4,400, based on a mock booking made via Agoda.com. The rate can go lower when there are flash deals and promos.
It is advised that travelers take a late morning flight and arrive in Cebu in time for lunch.
From the airport, myBus, a comfortable and convenient public transportation alternative, will take you all the way to SM City Cebu. From its terminal, you can walk to CnT Lechon branch (just across the mall) for a taste of Cebu’s world-famous charcoal-roasted pig.
Proceed to the hotel to check in and freshen up for a three-hour culture and heritage tour around Cebu’s historical district.
In the heritage district of Parian in the downtown area, three lifestyle museums are worth visiting for a glance at how the past generations lived, said Louella Alix of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
She recommends Casa Gorordo, which used to be the residence of the first Cebuano bishop; the Jesuit house, which is owned by businessman Jimmy Sy and said to be the oldest house built in the Philippines; and the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house.
“The architecture alone will remind us that once, we knew how to build homes for the tropical climate … high ceilings and wide windows for good ventilation, high second floors to keep floodwaters at bay,” Alix said.
Nearby is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Cebu, and beside it, the Archdiocesan Museum of Cebu on Gomez and Mabini Streets, which houses the ecclesiastical treasures of the archdiocese.
For the authentic Cebu experience, Jun Barretto of Cebu Trip Tours includes Fort San Pedro, Plaza Independencia, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño and the Kiosk of Magellan’s Cross in his tour package.
Fort San Pedro is one of the original Spanish enclaves. Plaza Independencia was established in 1600 and was first named Plaza de Armas, a public square used as a military training ground.
The religious may visit Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño and light a candle for every prayer intention.
Wind up the tour with two dinner options: a seafood dinner at Lantaw Restaurant at South Road Properties or the trademark barbecue-pusô (hanging rice) pairing at Larsian in midtown near Chong Hua Hospital. At Larsian, eat with your hands like locals do. You can also ask for “siomai sa Tisa” (think Chinese dimsum), best dipped in a mix of chili paste and soy sauce.
Slow down with a cup of coffee or tea in Robinsons Cybergate. By the time you’ve calmed down from a hearty dinner, Cebu’s vibrant nightlife emerges, evident by the lights from Crown Regency Hotel and Towers.
If you fancy an evening thrill, Sky Extreme Adventure on the 40th to 45th floors offers a drop zone, tower zip and paramount climbing wall. It is open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.
At the end of a long day, request for a full body massage at the hotel.
Beach and ‘sutukil’
On Day Two, check out and spend the morning with a visit upland to the Taoist Temple, Temple of Leah and the Sirao Flower Farm. Head back to the city for lunch at Matthias BBQ on A.S. Fortuna Street in Mandaue City. Better yet, go to Sugbo Mercado, a year-round weekly food market showcasing the best of Cebu and new players in the local food industry.
While beach destinations, such as Bantayan Island (northern Cebu) and Moalboal (southern Cebu) are worth visiting, they simply can’t fit in a 48-hour stay. But don’t worry, you can still have that beach experience in one of Mactan’s resorts.
Travel website company, TripAdvisor, puts Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa, Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island, and Crimson Resort and Spa as its top Cebu beach hotels based on guest reviews.
Try dining in one of the “sutukil” restaurants in Lapu-Lapu. Sutukil is coined from “sugba” (grill), “tuwa” (boil) and “kilaw” (sliced fish cooked in vinegar)—a classic Cebuano trio of dishes.
Book an early afternoon flight back to Metro Manila (or your home province for that matter) so you have time to buy “pasalubong” in the morning.
Since you are already in Mactan, where the airport is located, you can buy lechon from Rico’s at Mactan Promenade. The food package meets airline standards.
For Cebu delicacies and specialties, such as dried mangoes, dried fish, and chicharon, Islands Pasalubong offers a one-stop shop. It has a branch in Mactan Marina Mall near the airport.
Leave Cebu with memories of the past and experiences from the present, with the promise to go back in the future to explore its countryside. This time, spend more than 48 hours.