Cebu, Philippines

Nestled right in the middle of the Philippines is the long and narrow island of Cebu, home to the country’s oldest city, Cebu City. Cebu and its 167 surrounding islands are known for their diving, mountain biking and trekking opportunities, as well as some more obscure adventure activities like canyoning and river climbing. Balance the adventure with some down time soaking up the sun on the island’s white sand beaches.

While often thought of as the Manila of the south, Cebu City is far less chaotic than its northern counterpart and home to 10 million fewer people, despite being the second most populous city in the Philippines. The city showcases some of the Philippines’ finest Spanish colonial architecture, including the country’s oldest Roman Catholic Church, Basilica del Santo Niño.

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Population 4,632,359
Languages Cebuano
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Time Zone UTC+8
Area 4,943.72 km2
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Currency Philippine Peso
Dining

Fortunately for visitors, Cebu is home to a unique and indeed irresistible way of enjoying seafood - SuTuKil. An acronym of ‘sugba’ (meaning grilled), ‘tula’ (meaning stewed) and ‘kilawin’ (meaning raw and soaked in vinegar), SuTuKil allows the diner to not only select their seafood of choice, but also decide how they want it prepared - grilled, stewed or served raw in vinegar. Look out for a restaurant called ‘STK ta Bai!’ for some of the best SuTuKil in Cebu.

Equally popular in Cebu is roasted suckling pig, known in Cebu by its Spanish name ‘lechón’. Considered the lechón capital of Philippines, Cebu is home to countless lechón restaurants and is estimated to go through more than 65,000 whole lechóns in the month of December alone. Keep an eye out for Rico’s Lechón and Zubuchon - both favoured by the locals.

Those visiting the Carbon Market for a morning of bargain hunting need not pack a lunch box. The array of colourful food stalls here will keep the taste buds more than satisfied. Local favourites include flame-grilled chicken kebabs, deep fried banana, meatballs (known as ‘bola-bola’), and rice in banana leaves (or ‘puso’). Wash it all down with a glass of ‘tuba’ - a unique alcoholic beverage made from the sap of coconut palm flowers.

Shopping

It’s no secret the Philippines boast some of the biggest shopping malls in the world. Cebu’s contribution to this reputation is SM City, a huge, four-level shopping complex near the Cebu Port. The complex is home to an IMAX theatre, a bowling centre, two amusement arcades and more than 700 retailers. Anyone on an adventure holiday should make a stop at Habagat on the ground floor to pick up some great gear at bargain prices.

Slightly more upscale than SM City and more appealing to most tourists is the Ayala Centre, a more modern complex selling a good mix of western goods and local products. The six-story dome is a spectacle at night time, lighting up the manicured gardens that surround it with every colour of the rainbow. Inside is everything from fashion retailers and fast food chains to health spas, cinemas and beyond.

At the other end of the shopping spectrum is the Carbon Market, the oldest and largest farmer’s market on the island and the place to go to find a bargain. Those willing to embrace the crowds, chaos and smells of a typical Southeast Asian market will be rewarded with an overwhelming array of goods, from clothing and DVDs to fresh foods and spices.