If you think you have seen enough of Cebu City, schedule your next visit at the height of its Sinulog Festival and be prepared to be swept away. I’ve been to Cebu four times already, but it was my first time to experience Sinulog and to actually explore the southern part of the island. Expect Cebu to be at its grandest as it celebrates the Feast of the Holy Child Jesus, or Sto. Nino. Even the littlest corner gets smokin’ ready for the festivities.
It wasn’t really part of my life’s ambitious mapping that I see Sinulog this year. But for a 29-year-old man whose passion for traveling went downhill last year, feeling the energy to be in Cebu for the country’s biggest festival three days before the celebration’s main event is like phoenix rising. Even when financially-challenged and with no hotel reservations or the slightest idea on where to spend our first night in Cebu, my friend A and I, gave in to our wanderlust.
A and I found our selves in the middle of Fuentes Avenue where thousands of festival dancers from all walk of life converged for the much-awaited streetdancing competition. We lost count of the number of participants, got amazed at the kind of production value that each group painstakingly worked on, and developed so much respect for the dancers who endured more than 10 hours of gyrating but still managed to smile through it all. A lot has already been said about Sinulog’s streetdancing competition, but since it was my first time to experience such, it was easy to say that I was blown away.
The other face of the merriment, though, took place at the Basilica del Sto. Nino. Devotees, thousands of whom came from Cebu’s neighboring islands, gathered here to attend mass and get a glimpse of the Sto. Nino. Filipinos’ religiosity is definitely one for the books.
We intended to explore Cebu’s southern towns the next day, but the flood of tourists and devotees at the South Bus Terminal hindered us from doing so. We decided instead to just stay in the city and go on a walking tour in downtown Cebu. If you are like me who fancies the grittiness of old places, downtown Cebu is not a disappointment. From Colon, the oldest street in the Philippines, we made our way around until we got to the Basilica del Sto. Nino, Magellan’s Cross, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Fort San Pedro, and the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House.
On our third day, the transit crowd finally subsided and we were on our way to sampling the best-tasting lechon in the archipelago. The entire day was spent pigging out on Carcar lechon and chicharon (A, an Adventist, thanks Jollibee’s strong presence in the country). Although not the best diet for people who are hypertensive like me, Carcar’s foodie gems are just too tempting to be ignored. Anthony Bourdain, famous American chef and television personality, would have found heaven had he been at the Carcar City Public Market on a Sunday when close to 100 lechons are prepared to perfection.
Carcar, known as the Heritage City of Cebu, is also home to some of Cebu’s most interesting ancestral houses. Four of these houses are considered as Heritage Houses of the Philippines. Also a point of interest is Carcar’s St. Chatherine’s Church which dates back to 1859, here viewed from Ang Dakong Balay (The Big House), another Heritage House.
Just 20 minutes from Carcar is the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, popularly referred to as the Birhen ng Simala. Located in the town of Sibonga, Marian devotees troop to this place to pay respect to the miraculous Blessed Virgin Mary.
I planned to visit Oslob for a story on its whale sharks that I was working on, so when we found out that it’s just an hour drive from Simala, we decided to go even when our money wasn’t enough anymore and we didn’t have any extra piece of clothing with us. 😀
Oslob made news December last year because of whale sharks being fed in the area. We were up by 5am, in time for the whale shark interaction that started at 6am. While a part of me was concerned about the welfare of the whale sharks, I secretly wished the people of Oslob find a more “environmental” approach to sustain their budding tourism, especially since most of the people we’ve met in Oslob were extra nice and kind to us.
Back in the city, I made sure I experience Pongko-Pongko once again before I flew out of Cebu. My friend Au took me to one of the Pongko-Pongko hotspots two years ago and I liked how the dining experience was so casual it reminded me of the streetfood scenery in Hanoi. I was on my own at this point since A had an early flight back to Manila.
Before going to the airport, I decided to drop by a guitar factory and acquainted myself with the dying guitar-making industry. Kuya Ramon, the salesman of the factory, told me their production dwindled in the last five years. This is a shame, really, since I think the best guitars are found in Cebu.
And then, there was Lapu-Lapu. Funny, but it was my first time to see him in “flesh.” Which made me feel like it was my frist time all over again in Cebu.
- Juanderkid is still feeling under the weather, so pardon the lapses. Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
Tagged: Anthony Bourdain, Basilica del Sto. Nino, Birhen ng Simala, Blessed Virgin Mary, Carcar, Cebu, Cebu City, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, chicharon, Colon, Fort San Pedro, guitar, Hanoi, heritage city, heritage house, juan;, Lapu-Lapu, lechon, Magellan's Cross, old houses, Oslob, pongko-pongko, Simala, Sinulog, Sinulog Festival, Sto. Nino, tuki, whale sharks, Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House