Cebu - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Cebu


The island-province of Cebu sits in the centre of the Philippine archipelago and is served by international and domestic charter flights to and from its airport. As Cebu is also a shipping crossroads, it is a good jumping-off point for island-hopping to the tropical islets of the central Visayas region. Within easy reach are the caves and lagoons of Calanggaman and Gato; the beaches of Argao, Oslop and Carmen; and the favourite dive spots of Moalboal, Badian, Mactan and Olango.

The Cebu metropolitan area is the country's second-biggest city, and, along with its adjacent Maktan Island, has become a bustling package-tour destination, particularly for Japanese visitors. It abounds with shopping malls, fast food outlets, casinos, golf courses and all-inclusive resort hotels to cater for the holidaymakers who come to enjoy the sandy beaches and glorious balmy weather.

Cebu's main claim to fame is its colourful festival, held every third Sunday in January, known as the Sinulog. The festival is a religious celebration wherein various tribes in dazzling costumes hold aloft images of the infant Jesus. The revellers wend their way through the city streets from early morning to evening, singing and dancing.

Cebu is also the country's oldest Spanish colonial city and has several historic landmarks, including the original cross, planted by Magellan in 1521 when he baptised the first group of Filipino natives into the Catholic faith. The cross is now housed in a roofed kiosk in Magallanes Street. Downtown Cebu is dominated by Colon Street, the oldest street in the Philippines, dating from the 16th century and today is lined with stores, shopping malls, office buildings and movie theatres.

Information & Facts

The official language of the Philippines is Filipino, but English is widely spoken. Tagalog is the most predominant of the many dialects or local languages spoken throughout the islands.

The currency of the Philippines is the Peso (PHP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Major credit cards are widely accepted in the cities and tourist destinations. Banks do not always accept travellers cheques, but a receipt of purchase is useful. ATMs are available in the major cities. US dollars are widely accepted in Manila and other tourist areas and are the easiest currency to exchange; otherwise Euros and Pounds Sterling can also be exchanged in banks and hotels. Banks open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, but their ATMs are open 24 hours. It is best to carry pesos when travelling outside of major centres.

Local time is GMT +8.

The oldest religious relic in the Philippines, an icon of the infant Jesus, is housed in the Basilica Minore de Santo Nino. The icon miraculously survived fire and other catastrophes through the years since it was first presented by Magellan to Queen Juana in 1521. The church itself was originally built in 1565, but was rebuilt in 1602 after a fire. One of the top sights in the Philippines, a trip to the Basilica Minore de Santo Nino is highly recommended even for non-religious tourists.

Numerous islets and beaches are connected to, or easily accessed from, the Cebu metropolitan area as day trips. Mactan Island is linked to Cebu City by a bridge and is the site of hundreds of beach resorts, most of which offer full scuba services and watersports facilities. Olango Island offers pristine white sandy beaches, while Kansatik, southeast of Olango, features an underwater mountain festooned with coral, sponges and colourful fish. Olango is also a paradise for bird watchers. A short drive north of Cebu City is Sagod, offering caves, beautiful beaches and some excellent dive spots. Capitancillo Islet, a little further northeast of Sagod, sits at the centre of a coral reef that extends for about two miles (3km). Calanggaman Islet, in the same area, features black coral and caves. Gato Islet has lagoons, coral reefs and a sea-snake breeding ground. On the south-western shore of Cebu Island is Moalboal, another world-renowned dive destination, and Badian Island nearby has more underwater attractions and a five-star beach resort. Sun seekers also relish Argao, about two hours drive from Cebu City, where the beaches of Kawit, Mahawak and Mahayahay are picture-perfect.

The Casa Gorordo Museum was originally the home of the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu. It is now restored and serves as a re-creation of a typical Filipino home of the late 19th Century, furnished with religious relics, paintings, antique furniture and household items. The museum also showcases some contemporary art exhibits.

Fort San Pedro, located at Cebu City's wharf area, was the nucleus of the first Spanish settlement in the country. It began as a single triangular bastion, built in 1565, and was not completed for another 200 years. Over the centuries the fort has been put to several uses, including a watch-tower to counter pirate attacks in the 1700s, a prison for local rebels during the Philippine revolution, a US army barracks, and during World War II, a prison camp. Today the fort has been turned into a museum-park, giving visitors to Cebu a glimpse of the island's history.

Located in the Basak district, this private museum created by late lepidopterist Professor Julian Jumalon houses his unusual collection of mosaics, which are made up of butterfly wings. The garden of Jumalon's home continues to be a haven for thousands of butterflies, and the 'lepido mosaics' are displayed in the salon. Unusual and fascinating, the Jumalon Museum is a great attraction in Cebu City.

The Filipino province of Bohol's most famous tourist attraction, and a regular feature on lists of the top 10 things to see in the Philippines, the area known as the Chocolate Hills is a geological marvel: a vast plain consisting of 1,776 conical hills formed from grass-covered limestone. Near the end of the dry season (April or May), the hills turn a chocolate-brown colour, and start to resemble enormous molehills. On seeing the Chocolate Hills, visitors will at first be incredulous that the preposterously symmetrical hills were not man-made; however, as you climb the observation deck and get a sense of the scale of the area, you will realise that such a feat could not have been achieved by human beings. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most alien landscapes you will encounter anywhere on earth, an excursion to the Chocolate Hills is a must for anyone on holiday in the Philippines.

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