As soon as I stepped off the plane in Cebu city I could feel the humidity. I knew the next 7 days were gonna be awesome, simply because of the warm weather. It’s a much needed break from rainy Busan and work that my friends and I had been looking forward to.
Cebu is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines and also the birth of Catholicism. Santo Nino basilica is the center of the city and after a look around, we headed to the next main sight that was recommended, the Taoist temple which is located in the wealthy suburbs of Beverly Hills.
Our last day was spent hotel crashing the Hilton located on Mactan island (same island where the airport is located) to get some beach time. All the beaches are located on this island but are privately owned by the hotels. The Hilton was fairly quiet and very luxurious.
A lot of time was spent in taxis since local transportation in Cebu consists of jeepneys which people jump into the back of and the routes are painted on the sides. It was too chaotic and dangerous we felt for 4 girls to jump into those in the middle of Asian traffic.
Our 2 days in Cebu was enough time to see the city. There aren’t many touristic sights and going out after dark proved to be slightly scary. Even the foreigners were afraid when we approached them for directions. This is due to the poverty in Cebu which can be seen in every corner of this city. Families living off the streets with toddlers is truly heart-breaking. There also doesn’t seem to be too much tourism or even foreigners for that matter. Cebu is like any other big city in Asia that has a distinct divide of the rich and poor. You really feel rich in the Philippines where 40 pesos (about $1) can get you around the city in a cab. It reminded me much of Thailand where massages and meals are cheap cheap!
The ideal place to escape the heat are the malls which are clearly designed for the tourists and foreigners. You need to pass through metal detectors and searched before you enter and the malls are designed to really make you feel at home and forget where you really are. These malls were created only with these foreigners in mind and it’s sad to see such money and resources go to waste when it could be spent towards helping the locals that are really in need.
The first culture shock of being in the Philippines was that everyone spoke English! Even as they spoke Tagalog, parts of English was always meshed together in their sentences, similar to how they speak Hindi or Tamil in India. This made our trip so much easier because we were able to communicate and figure things out without wasting much time.
The second biggest difference was tipping – you must tip EVERYWHERE and after living in Korea where tipping in non-existent, you totally forget about the etiquette and it soon becomes annoying.
Cebu is definitely not on the backpacker’s list of must-see Asian destinations. However it has somehow crept into the east Asians quick getaway destinations due to it close proximity to Japan and Korea. There were heaps of Korean restaurants and Korean business flourishing in Cebu and we were told that many Koreans move there for these business opportunities. Of course places like the Hilton cater to these tourists, who only see what they want to see and can stay far away from the chaos of the real city.
Even though I already know how money brings luxury in Asia, my heart still bleeds when I go to places like this where this injustice is more apparent than in most other places.