The Island of Cebu
The history of Cebu goes way beyond 439 years ago when the island became a province at the start of the Spanish colonization.
Long before that, Cebu was already the center of trade of what is now the southern Philippines, dealing with traders from China, Malaysia, Japan, India, Burma and other parts of Asia.
Cebu already had an organized social structure before the Spaniards came--- with small groups headed by a datu who served as leader. A datu governed his community, settled disputes, made decisions, protected his village from enemies, led them into battle, and received labor and tributes from his people. The position being both a political office and a social class, his authority was taken from his lineage, although his power depended on his wealth, the number of subjects and his reputation for physical prowess.
A community ranged from 30 to 100 households grouped as a barangay and was one based mostly on kinship. Aside from the datu, there were free men called timawa and then the olipon. Spanish reports called the role of an olipon as dependent rather than a slave, because of the absence of violence and harshness notable in European slavery.
People in Cebu then were called pintados because men were heavily tattooed. Lavish ornaments such as gold jewelry were used not only by women but also men.
Prior to Spanish colonization there were already permanent townhouse-looking wooden structures where the datus lived. Ordinary people lived in field cottages or balay-balay that were on stilts: hagdan (house ladder) was a common sight, with floors (salog) made of bamboo or wood and roof (atop) made of palm tree shingles.
In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan and his troops arrived in Cebu, were warmly welcomed by Rajah Humabon’s community which converted to Christianity.
But Magellan was not received well at the island of Mactan, where he was slain by the local chieftain, Lapulapu. Cebu remained free until Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in 1566.
It was then the start of the transformation of Cebu’s civilization under the Spanish regime: Catholic churches were built, priests ruled communities alongside civil leaders, watchtowers were scattered along the island to guard against Moro raids.
On the economic and cultural side, fiesta celebrations were embraced, new agricultural products were introduced, royal decrees led to commercial and agricultural expansion and the establishment of elementary schools in every municipality.
From 1872 to 1896, however, extensive propaganda against abuses of Spaniards was done, a sugar crisis ended the agricultural prosperity Cebu province enjoyed and in 1892, sugar barons or hacienderos were forced to declare bankruptcy.
The Philippine Revolution began against Spain in 1898, but before the fruits of independence could bloom, the Americans troops arrived, United States sovereignty over the Philippines was declared and in February 7, 1900 , the Filipino-American war against Spain ended.
The rest of Cebu ’s history was then tied to events in the country and the rest of the world: World War II, Japanese occupation, postwar reconstruction, Philippine independence, then the declaration of Martial Law, and so forth.
But amid all these events, history has witnessed the valiant spirit of the Cebuanos--- principled and resilient, exercising hard work and high standards of morality and professionalism that have since made Cebu a cut above the rest.
Even before the Spanish colonization, Cebu already played a vital role in trade and commerce in Asia because the island has been gifted with a natural harbor. Its channel is deep enough to accommodate the flow of goods through international cargo sea vessels, and the Mactan island serves as protection from winds and current.
Cebu’s weather promises to be good for business because typhoon activities are minor and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year. Moreover, the island is not located within any earthquake belt, there is no known active volcano and its international airport has been large enough to connect the island to several continents.
Its public administrators have been known to be development-oriented, steering Cebu to greater heights by putting in place infrastructure facilities needed for economic growth.
Cebu has at least nine economic zones that offer to cut bureaucratic red tape by providing a much easier system for investors, plus incentives.
Cebu is number one because of good fiscal management: it ranks highest among the country’s provinces in terms of assets and cash in bank.
Most importantly, Cebu ranks number one because of the current unity that has never before been seen in any province: unity among elected officials, unity among business groups, unity among its people, and unity between the private and public sectors.
There are many universities and other educational institutions that serve as magnet to students from other provinces, a major factor of a highly skilled and efficient workforce in Cebu.
Cebu Province has a total population of more than 3 million. Cebuano is the native tongue. While Filipino is commonly understood and spoken, the English language is widely used in business transactions and educations.
Cebu is best from December to May when the weather turns dry. it is coolest from December to February, hottest from March to May. Temperature can rise as high as 36°C/97°F in the summer. The rainy seasons begins in July bringing refreshing percipitation to Island and cool breezes.
Philippine Standard Time is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime.
DRESS/WHAT TO BRING
Wear natural-fiber, lightweight clothing. You'll feel more comfortable. Bring shorts, hat, sunglasses, bathing suits, insect repellent, flashlight, sun block cream, tough shoes for walking, rubber slippers for the beach.
The Barong Tagalog is the acceptable formal wear for men. Shorts or sleeveless shirts should never be worn when visiting churches, mosques or temples.
Most areas in Cebu are supplied with 220 volts, 60 cycles. A plug with 2 flat parallel prongs is the norm.
The Philippine currency is peso, divided into 100 centavos. Next to the peso, the US dollar enjoys wide acceptance. Most foreign currencies can easily be changed at banks, hotels, and authorized dealers. Foreign currency is not readily taken by establishments in Cebu. Major foreign credit cards may be accepted only at mjor hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants. Visitors are advised to bring a sufficient amount of change in small bills or coins.
MOST BUSINESS HOURS
Banks - 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday; Government agencies and offices - 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday; Private firms - 9am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. Most department stores stay open on Sundays and holidays.
Bellhops expect a tip, as do waiters, taxi drivers, haidressers, beauticians, and porters. Most hotels and restaurants add 10% service charge on top of the government tax. Tipping 5-15% of the bill appropriate if no service charge is included.
Getting around Cebu, one may take a colorful jeepney or a bus at a minimal fare. Tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars) are popular in outlaying areas and in the suburbs, quiet notably within Mactan Island. Taxicabs are widely available.
CULTURE & LIFESTYLE
Cebu is a kaleidoscope of varying cultures and lifestyles, a meeting of east and west, a fusion of things traditional and modern.
This is influenced by the various phases of Cebu: being the spot where Philippine history began, becoming the cradle of Christianity, experiencing American and Japanese occupation, and later on transforming itself into a regional hub of everything--- from arts and craftsmanship, to business and information technology.
These, plus the convergence of various personalities and groups from varying backgrounds give the island a culture and lifestyle that is uniquely Cebu.
Traditions remain unchanged over the years, while every taste of things that are modern is embraced.
Forty-four towns and seven cities, various urban centers and countryside, islands and mountain ranges, age-old crafts and new technology. These diverse factors give the many faces of Cebu but still, all lead to one culture of excellence and piety, and a lifestyle of stylish fun all rolled into one.
Rice is the main staple for Cebuanos. Being an island-province, fish (fresh or dried), crabs, seashells, shrimp and other seafood are a common sight in most tables, although pork, chicken and vegetables are equally accessible as well.
Barbeque and puso (hanging rice or boiled rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves) have become customary. Fast-food abound, although international restaurants--- whether European, Korean or something else, are everywhere.
But what is most interesting in Cebu are the various delicacies native to each towns and cities comprising the province. These local food products are showcased during exhibits and when the caravan of the Provincial Government-initiated Suroy-suroy Sugbo tourism program stops by in each place.
TRADITIONS and FIESTAS
Famous among a myriad of festivities in the province are the Siloy Festival of Alcoy, Mantawi Festival of Mandaue City, Kadaugan sa Mactan of Mactan Island, Palawod Festival of Bantayan Island, Haladaya Festival of Daanbantayan to name a few. Not to forget, the Sinulog Festival in honor of Señor Sto Niño de Cebu which is celebrated every third Sunday of January.
Siloy Festival, celebrated every last Saturday of August, pays tribute to Patron Saint Rose of Lima. This festival promotes the Mag-abo Forest which shelters the renowned but endangered black shama (siloy).
Mantawi of Mandaue City, meanwhile, illustrates the city’s heritage and identity as industrial center through floats, food festival and trade fairs. The Kadaugan sa Mactan commemorates the historic battle between the Spanish leader Ferdinand Magellan and Mactan Chieftain Lapu-lapu.
Of the many islets in Cebu, perhaps the most well-known is the Bantayan Island. During their Palawod Festival every last week of June, locals and guests alike participate in street dancing which captures the traditional fishing, a livelihood inherent in the island.
The more than 40 festivals in Cebu province are highlighted in one grand event, the Festival of Festivals organized by the Cebu Provincial Government during its annual founding anniversary celebration every August.
Being part of a tropical country, Cebu is lined with pristine white sand beaches perfect for weekend and holiday getaways. Famous resorts include Alegre Beach Resort in the municipality of Sogod, renowned for its white powdery beach and efforts in marine wildlife preservation.
At the sunset coast of Cebu another prominent tourist destination is the Badian Island Resort and Spa. A first class resort, it boasts of crystal blue waters, fine white sand beaches and the splendor of nature in the little island basking at Badian Gulf.
Sanctuaries also abound in the province. One of these is the Olango Wildlife Sanctuary, six miles off the east coast of mainland Cebu. The island play host to a total of 77 species of migratory birds in the East Asian Flyway.
For nature and butterfly lovers, a must see is the Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery. It houses about 53 butterfly species and different kinds of moths.
Down south, Moalboal has the biggest Orchid Display in South East Asia. Take in the majesty of vast orchid varieties from Asia, South America and Hawaii which are cultured in the Orchid farm.
Cebu province offers a wide range of recreational activities- from diving spots to golf courses, from heritage walks to eco-tourism adventures.
In the metropolitan, entertainments centers thrive with vibrant discotheques and bars, specialty shops, savory restaurants and dinning areas, internet cafes and distinct shopping malls.
The most celebrated patron saint in Cebu is the Señor Sto Niño de Cebu, the Holy Child Jesus. The original statue is housed in the Basilica Minore del Sto Niño, near the famous cross erected by the Spaniards.
Historical accounts say the image was given by the Portuguese Captain Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Cebu Chieftain Raja Humabon for their pledge of allegiance to the King of Spain. This event is depicted in the Sinulog Festival.
Majority of the population in Cebu are Roman Catholics. Spanish-era churches are dotting the coasts of Cebu province. One of the oldest in Central Visayas is the one in Boljoon, Cebu, which is more than 400 years old and is currently undergoing renovation.