An island country consisted of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a popular tourist destination for many Koreans. Out of the many islands, Cebu of Philippines will awe you with its splendid marine life and Filipino culture. Here are the activities you should experience in Cebu and some advice for aspiring travelers.
Scuba Dive in the Ocean
As the Philippines is an island country, marine activities are strongly recommended whatever island you go to. There are programs that teach you from the basics where you can learn how to breathe in water, make underwater signals, equalize, and use the basic scuba diving equipment. Since around 90% of the tourists in Cebu are Koreans, it isn’t very difficult to find an instructor who can teach in Korean. After learning the basics, you will be given a chance to dive in the deeper waters with a native guide. There, you can see all sorts of vibrant underwater plants and sea creatures that you’ve only observed in photos, including corals, clownfish (better known as “Nemo”), sea anemones, and many colorful groups of tropical fish. If you’re not time-pressed, you might also consider obtaining a scuba diving certification by taking the Professional Association of Diving Instructors Open Water Diver course.
Watch the Cebu Dream Show
Cebu Dream Show is an evening showcase which features traditional dances from various islands and festivals, a magic show, an acrobatic performance, and a comical lip-sync performance. This show is highly recommended if you’re interested in finding about the Philippines’ culture in a short amount of time. Along with the performances, explanations are displayed on the screen giving the brief historical and cultural background of each dance.
Here, you’ll be able to see the Banga or Pot Dance of the Kalinga of the Mountain Province, where women balance earthen pots on their head; Singkil dance of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao, where dancers step in and out of bamboo poles rhythmically; Olango Bird Dance, which was meant to console the hearts of warriors that died in the battle between the Spanish and the Filipinos; and many more. Festivals or fiestas such as the Sinulog-Santo Nino Festival of Cebu and MassKara Festival of Bacolod are portrayed as well. One disappointment was that there were so many European female dancers and not as many Filipino performers as expected. Another show commonly watched is the Amazing Show which is a little distance away from the Cebu Dream Show.
Visit Historical and Religious Sites
In the early 16th century, Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in the Philippines and began spreading Catholicism. Since Cebu was the first place they set foot, historically and religiously, the province has a significant meaning. In fact, Cebu used to be the Philippine’s first capital, which shows how important the province is to the country.
Since Catholic missionaries arrived from Spain, Catholicism has become the major religion in the Philippines, with around 82.9% of the population believing in it. In Cebu City, Cebu’s capital, you can see the Magellan’s Cross, a Christian cross that was planted by the explorers following Ferdinand Magellan’s orders. Also, there is Basilica del Santo Niño, or the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child, which is the country’s oldest Roman Catholic church. Here, you can admire Santo Niño de Cebú, a vested statue of baby Jesus and one of the most important religious images in the Philippines, encased within bulletproof glass.
A short distance away from Cebu City is the Mactan Island, still part of the Cebu Province. Stop by the Sto. Niño de Mactan Parish Church to admire its stunning stained glass and
inner decorations. On your entrance, you’ll notice a holy image of Jesus on the cross, radiating light. Additionally, like many places in the Philippines, you can see a replica of Santo Niño de Cebú surrounded by flowers. The church is much quieter than the Basilica del Santo Niño and has fewer tourists. Since it is a local church, you’ll meet some local believers praying in the chapel. Interestingly, churches in Philippines have a small stool beneath your feet which you use for kneeling down and praying.
Next, you should tour the Mactan Shrine which contains Magellan Shrine and Lapu-Lapu Shrine. The two shrines are erected each in honor of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and a native chieftain Lapu-Lapu. The Magellan Shrine is a memorial tower with names and carved on the top and Lapu-Lapu Shrine is a 20 meter high bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu. Lapu-Lapu is regarded as the first Filipino hero because he was the first native leader to resist foreign invasion. Even the city, City of Lapu-Lapu, is named after him.
It is strange and at the same time fascinating to see a tribute to Magellan, someone who colonized the country. Moreover, the amusing fact is that the two fought against each other as enemies in the 1521 Battle of Mactan, yet their shrines are right next to each other. The battle was a decisive victory for Lapu-Lapu and the natives, and Magellan was killed in battle.
-Go on an Island Hopping Tour
Island hopping tour is an amazing choice especially if you’re visiting in a good weather. Take a close look at the ocean and you’ll notice a point where the water changes color to a beautiful emerald green. There are also some parts of the ocean that differ in color from left to right. On the boat, you’ll be able to experience Cebu’s peaceful currents, cool winds, and splendid sky. Snorkeling and fishing are common activities offered as part of the tour. While snorkeling, beware of jellyfish drifting in the water. They sting.
-Receive a Massage
Roaming around the city, you can find many local shops that offer full body massage and foot scrub. Relax quietly for an hour in a dark, private room as an employee massages your stiff muscles from neck to toe. Some places provide fragrant body oil treatment as well as a soft body scrub, leaving you both refreshed and sweet-smelling. You can control the intensity of the massage by asking the employer to make it stronger or weaker.
Cebu offers a wide variety of dried tropical fruits to take back to family and friends, the most popular being dried mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, and papayas. Ranking exists based on the amount of artificial preservatives the product contains. A wise choice would be to keep the higher-ranked and more expensive fruits to eat inside your family and give out the more affordable ones as souvenirs. 7D Mangoes, a commonly-known and accessible brand, makes nice presents for people back at home.
Other than snacks, Cebu has renowned lotions and skin care products and its offerings in local products and accessories are quite remarkable as well. Not only that, Cebu is a great place to go shopping for natural latex products. There is an experimental corner where you can try sleeping on the mattress and pillow made from natural latex. Such products are only available for purchase in limited parts of Southeastern Asia.
- Choose the method of traveling that best fits your style and purpose.
While planning for your trip, you’ll have to make the decision whether to travel in group tour package or by yourself. Both methods definitely have their pros and cons.
Group tour package in Cebu’s case is extremely well-developed for Korean tourists. This method is recommended for elderly adults, families, and people busy with other duties before the trip. It requires much less effort planning and in most cases, is cheaper than traveling independently. The downside is that you’ll be touring the same routes as many other Koreans and hearing Korean throughout your trip, almost to the point that Cebu will feel like a warmer Seoul. In addition, because you’ll be moving according to a planned-out schedule, you might have to go to places you’re not really into or miss out on places you want to go. Nonetheless, the places you haven’t looked forward to can give you the best experiences. Furthermore, the tight schedule made by touring companies will keep you moving and doing something throughout the trip. If you’re worried about staying lazily in your hotel room throughout your travel, go with a group tour package.
Those who are more enthusiastic in their trips and are in for adventure and unique experiences should travel individually. This allows you more time to enjoy Cebu the way you want to. It also gives you more contact with the foreign country and a new culture. However, this could be tiresome because you’ll have to find your own lodgings and food and research the country in advance. Still, it’ll be worth the trouble the trouble as you’ll soon find yourself relishing your independency from the touring companies.
Tipping is not customary in Korea so it may be unfamiliar at first; however, you’ll get used to it in a few days. Before you leave your hotel room or a restaurant, make sure to put a dollar bill on the table. Also, remember to tip your massagist, your luggage carrier, and your guide. It is convenient to think that every service you receive require tips unless you are otherwise instructed. Hotel workers often receive 1000 won as tips, but in other places, one dollar bills are mostly used.
- Do not go out after dark.
As Philippines is a country where owning guns is legally permitted, it can be dangerous in the streets after dark. It is strongly recommended that you stay inside your hotel at nights. Plus, even when wandering around the streets in the morning and afternoon, wear your backpack in front to avoid theft.
- Do not make eye contact with the local children.
Cold-hearted as it sounds, it is the advice every local guide gives to his or her team. Local children will often ask you for money or try to sell you necklaces and bracelets. You shouldn’t respond to them unless you’re willing to buy the products they’re selling. Otherwise, they’ll become extreme nuisance to you, following you around.
- Put on sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen habitually to protect yourself from the strong ultraviolet rays. It’s advisable that you cover yourself up with handkerchief and arm cover as you’ll see many guides and working people doing.
- Drink bottled water.
Tap water in the Philippines can make you sick because of its sanitary problem and high level of calcium. Make sure to use bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. There are Korean markets where you can purchase various sizes of bottled water.
- Keep some Peso.
Since dollar is widely used throughout the country, tourists tend to change money into only dollars. Keeping both pesos and dollars is more efficient and economical. There are places that accept only pesos and often there are places that charge absurd prices if you pay with dollars.
BY Jiin Jeong ’17