The Philippines Expat

An expat blog and local guide to culture, food, travel and the nightlife in Cebu City, The Philippines

50 Things To Do In Cebu This Weekend

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Whether you are on vacation in Cebu or are a resident/expat living here, you might find yourself wondering what to do, particularly during long weekends such as Holy Week. Despite living here for over a year and a half, I’m still yet to explore some of the fantastic activities this island has to offer, although I do plan on doing most of the below before I eventually leave this place. In this post I have listed all of the fun and interesting things to do and see in Cebu that I can think of, although if I missed anything then feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments box.

I love Cebu sign

1. Swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob Swimming with whale sharks Cebu must be one of very few places where you can do this – you can swim with sharks without a cage or any sort of protection. I haven’t been myself but supposedly it’s safe as the whales are constantly being fed by local fisherman while you’re swimming, and you’re not allowed to get too close to them. They have an underwater photographer and it would also be a great opportunity to strap on a GoPro camera. It’s probably not for the faint hearted but certainly a unique thrill.

2. Check in at the Mövenpick Hotel and Beach Resort Mövenpick beach resort Cebu You don’t need to check in to the hotel to enjoy the fantastic facilities – they welcome day-trippers and aside from the private beach, they also have a swimming pool, hot tub and the Ibiza beach club, which is a large decked area great for cocktails and dancing to local DJs. My own personal experience was slightly soured by someone very unsubtly spending most of the afternoon ogling my girlfriend, but for anyone other than myself it’s well worth visiting. Oh and they also have a great menu, although as you’d expect it’s a costly day out.

3. Hang out at the Rock Cafe, Mactan

Rock Cafe Mactan Cebu

Flip flops – totally Rock ‘n’ Roll

Situated close to the Mövenpick in Mactan, this bar is a very cool place to hangout. It feels like what I imagine a rock star from the seventies’ basement would look like i.e. loads of authentic rock music paraphernalia and incredible artwork on the walls. They also have a pool table, a British food menu, and weekly live music events.

4. Face your fears on the Extreme Edge Coaster & Skywalk, Crown Regency Hotel edge coaster cebu If you’re feeling brave and don’t suffer from vertigo, then take the elevator to the 35th floor in Crown Regency for an adrenaline rush. The skyride travels around the edge of the top of the hotel, and you are tilted in such a way in that you have no choice but to look all the way down. If that isn’t scary enough, you can also walk on a glass panel that circumvents the top of the hotel. You are tied to the top as you walk round, so it’s perfectly safe, although again this will really test your bravery.

5. Party till dawn in Mango Square J Ave Dancefloor If you’re looking for a place to party in Cebu City then J Ave or it’s neighbour ‘Alcology’ are where you’ll most likely end up. The party doesn’t stop till daylight hours and if you’re not fussy about overcrowded bars or very loud music and want to find someone to hook up with, then this is your place.

6. Watch a movie in IMAX 3D

IMAX 3D Glasses Cebu

Although there is an IMAX cinema back home in London, it’s both difficult and expensive to buy tickets there, so I very rarely went. By comparison, the IMAX cinema in Cebu always has available seats and although tickets are twice the cost of regular cinema tickets, they’re still cheap by western standards (around £5.30/$9). As a movie lover, it feels like a great privilege to have this on my doorstep.

 

7. Go Shopping in SM City Cebu Shopping in SM When you’re done with your IMAX movie, then SM has a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants to hang out in. The most popular store is Forever 21 and the entire mall has regular 3 day sales, so it’s a popular place with locals. My personal recommendation would be to try the Ramen Noodle burger at the Japanese restaurant in the north wing ground floor.

 

8. Embarrass yourself singing Karaoke Karaoke in Cebu
There are hundreds of karaoke venues in Cebu so if that’s something you’re into, then you’re spoilt for choice. I never did karaoke before moving to Asia, and it’s still not something I would do when sober, but after a few Red Horse beers it’s actually very good fun. Embarrassingly enough I actually had to sing in front of my entire office of over 100 people the first week I was here, and I still have nightmares about it!

 

9. Take a dip by the beautiful Kawasan Falls kawasan-falls-pana-4 If you do a google image search for ‘Cebu’ then this is likely to be one of the first images you’ll see, as it’s something Cebu is famous for. I haven’t been myself but I went to a similar place in Samal Island, and if it’s anything like that then I’m sure it’s a great place to swim.

 

10. Enjoy a taste of France at La Vie Parisienne

La Vie Wine Shop

Known for it’s delicious freshly baked croissants, macarons and the best wine shop in Cebu, this picturesque French bakery and wine bar is a must for anyone in Cebu. It’s a very popular place with locals and tourists, and they have weekly live DJs on Friday nights. It really is the perfect place to spend a chilled out evening with friends, and if you’re hungry they also have an adjoining restaurant called La Maison Rose, which as you might have guessed serves typical French dishes like Beef Bourguignon and Duck a l’Orange. Read my full review here.

 

11. Stargaze in IT Park

Stargazing in IT Park Cebu

Sometimes the best things in life are free, and if you’re looking for a cheap and relaxing activity, then you can be totally ‘kilig’ (sweet) with a loved one by chilling out under the stars.

 

12. Play Beer Pong at Cable Car

Beer Pong Cable Car Cebu City

If you’re looking a fun drinking game then  head over to Cable Car where they hold weekly beer pong tournaments, with big prizes for the winners.

 

13. Take an imaginary ride in an old school VW Beetle at Scrapyard VW Beetle Scrapyard Cebu

Scrapyard is located right next to Cable Car, so after you’ve won the beer pong tournament head over to the next building. It’s also a cool place to drink and chill out, and probably the most artistic place in Cebu. If you are a fan of modern art then it’s worth checking out as the entire building is littered with modern pieces, including this very fetching VW Beetle.

 

14. Eat a burrito at Army Navy, IT Park Coverrr-army-navy-it-park   Known for it’s army bunker-style arch, this American themed restaurant serves delicious burgers and burritos. They have a burger known as the ‘bully boy’ which I have tried and all I can say is that the name is very appropriate. It’s a triple burger with all the trimmings and is only for the extremely hungry. Typically though I go for the burritos, as they are all delicious and they have a number of options including all day breakfast, vegetarian, chicken and beef. I’ve tried all of them and have never been disappointed, so this is a great place to eat for both healthy eaters and if you want to pig out. They also serve excellent crispy fries.

 

15. Ride a Jeepney Foreigner riding a jeepney in Cebu

For locals this is probably something you do on a daily basis, but for foreign tourists and expats like myself it’s actually a fun experience as we don’t have buses like this in our own countries, and it really is an authentic Filipino activity to ride a jeepney. Just be careful riding it late at night as the jeepneys can be a target for local criminals, and always be careful of what’s in your pockets.

16. Get a massage

Massage in Cebu

Whether you’re looking for a ‘happy ending’ or just a regular massage, you have a lot of options in Cebu. Just make sure you don’t ask for ‘additional service’ in a place that is unlikely to offer it as they might get offended. I’ve been to both the Crown Regency and La Esperanza De Masaje massage centres, and both were incredibly relaxing. The massage I got at Crown Regency hotel though was undoubtedly the best massage I’ve ever had, and I could have stayed on that table much longer than the 75 minutes allocated.

17. Get a sweat on at the Gym

Working Out at Power Gym Crown Regency Cebu

With all the partying you’ll be doing while in Cebu, it’s important you don’t forget about your health. The gym I go to is the Power Gym at Crown Regency, which anyone can become a member of for 2k PHP a month or 5k for 3 months (or free if you’re staying at the hotel). There is also a Fitness First at Ayala and several other small gyms dotted around Cebu. There is one gym that someone told me about recently which supposedly is just 60 pesos per visit (about 80p / $1.35) although most of the cheaper gyms here don’t have air conditioning, which is great if you really want to lose weight and sweat out the alcohol from the previous night, but not if you just want a more comfortable workout experience.

 

18. Catch some rays at Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island Cebu

Bantayan Island is just off the northern coast of Cebu and was ravaged last year by Typhoon Yolanda, but it has reportedly recovered from this now and is well worth visiting if so. I was fortunate enough to go here before the storm (literally just the week before), and with all the problems that the island’s inhabitants have gone through over the last 6 months, I’m sure tourists would be welcomed with open arms. It’s a bit of a trek to get there (4 hours on a bus and a 2 hour boat ride), but definitely worth it for the experience and pristine beauty. My top tip would be to take a boat trip to Virgin Island, which has one of the best beaches in the Philippines.

 

19. Enjoy a cold Red Horse at KOA Tree House

Red Horse at KOA Tree Lounge Cebu

For a chilled out night with live music, head over to KOA Tree Lounge on Gorordo avenue. It’s a great place to chill out on a Friday night with a few beers and to listen to some cool local bands playing. Generally the music is mostly reggae/rock ballads, so it’s a relaxing atmosphere.

 

20. Get a great view of Cebu at Lantaw Native Restaurant View of Cebu City from Lantaw Native Restaurant

If you’re looking for the perfect vantage point over ‘The Queen City of the South’, then Lantaw Native Restaurant has exactly that. Located up in the mountains, it boasts impeccable views of the city as well as excellent food. It gets pretty cold at night though so you might want to bring something warm to wear.

 

21. Fire off some rounds at the Ultima Sharp Shooters Club Ultima Sharp Shooters Club

This is Cebu’s first (only?) indoor shooting range, where you can choose from a number of weapons like an M4 Rifle, a Shotgun, and a revolver. Located in the basement of Crown Regency, this could be a great activity to release stress.

 

22. Try the best Pizza in Cebu at Pizzeria Michelangelo’s pizza-capricciosa

Until recently, this was the number 1 restaurant in Cebu according to Tripadvisor, and when you sample the food there it’s easy to understand why. The restaurant is owned by an Italian and it shows in the quality of the pizzas and pasta dishes. They also deliver, although they don’t appear to have a website so ordering might be a challenge!

23. Eat Lechon

Lechon Cebu

If your diet/religion doesn’t restrict you from eating pork, then you must try Lechon. Due to The Philippines previous hispanic colonisation, they have been heavily influenced by Spanish culture, including their language, religion and the food that they eat. Lechon is originally a spanish dish but has been embraced by Cebuanos and cooked here for hundreds of years. You can find Lechon at any local mall and is something normally eaten at celebrations and parties.

24. Learn Bisaya bisaya-greetings

As you can see from the above table, ‘Bisaya’ is actually a different language from Tagalog (pronounced Tagahlog rather than tag-a-log) – the official language of the Philippines. What amazes me is that many Filipinos can only speak one or the other – my girlfriend only speaks Tagalog and so is as clueless as I am when someone speaks to her in Bisaya! However, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about becoming fluent because everyone here speaks good English, which is why it’s one of the world’s largest suppliers of call centres for western companies. Having said that, if you can learn a few phrases then the locals will be very impressed.

25. Hang Out at the Tree Lounge Tree Lounge Cebu

Not to be confused with KOA Tree House, the Tree Lounge is an outdoor bar located behind Neo Neo restaurant. It’s owned by an expat living in Cebu and most of the clientele are also expats, so if you’re a foreigner travelling alone or are new to Cebu and want to make friends then this is a good place to start. It has a friendly chilled out vibe with regular live music events, as well as serving some great burritos.

26. Eat Jollibee

Jolibee Delivery

Jollibee is the main fast food chain of the Philippines, mostly serving chicken with rice or sweet spaghetti and they are literally everywhere. The first time I went there I simply wanted a chicken burger, and was confused when they only had a beef burger or chicken on it’s own. Why don’t they have a chicken burger? It is a chicken fast food chain after all. Anyway, I’m not personally recommending that anyone reading this should eat here, but it is a part of the local culture and something different.

27. Try the English Food at Urban Cellar Urban Cellar

Whether you’re from England or not, you might like to try some (relatively) authentic English dishes. I say relatively because I had the fish and chips there, which was nice enough but they don’t have the same kinds of fish in the Philippines, so it will never taste the same without Cod or Haddock. However, you can also watch football here on the big screen inside, so it is as English as it gets here in Cebu.

 

28. Watch Football at the Emerald Isle Irish Pub Emerald Isle Irish Pub

Premier League games aren’t currently shown on local channels in the Philippines, so if you want to watch football then your only options are to either stream the games on a laptop or go to one of the bars showing the games. As mentioned in 27., Urban Cellar does also show the games. However, I struggled to find a good seat the last time I went there and it’s usually pretty crowded, so I prefer to go to The Emerald Isle Irish Pub which is just next door. They also have a great food menu and I had some delicious quesadillas there.

29. Take a dip at Portofino Beach

Potofino Beach Cebu

A popular spot with locals, Portofino beach is probably the closest beach to Cebu City and much cheaper than going to one of the resorts like Movenpick. If you just want to go to the beach and aren’t fussed where then this is a decent spot.

30. Go to one of Cebu’s Girly Bars

Arena Cebu

Cebu is famous for it’s ‘girly bars’ and as such, there is a lot of sex tourism here. Surprisingly, the girls aren’t actually allowed to take their clothes off which I find bizarre (which might explain why it’s called a girly bar and not a strip club). However, you will still be overcharged for drinks as is the case in regular strip clubs, and when one of the girls working there sits down next to you, you will also be strongly encouraged to buy them an overpriced drink too. If you want some adult entertainment then this is the place for you, although if you are well-travelled then don’t expect it to compare to places like Thailand, and the majority of the girls working there aren’t especially attractive.

31.  Get breakfast at the Pancake House, Ayala Terraces

Hawaiian Eggs Benedict Pancakes Cebu

I love pancakes. Eating them makes me both nostalgic and homesick, and they are a great weekend food. The Pancake House in Ayala Terraces serves the best pancakes in Cebu, and they have some delicious varieties like Hawaian Eggs Benedict Pancakes (as shown above).


32. Get a Tattoo

RusselRacho

Although this might not be for everyone, if you are considering getting a tattoo then the Philippines has some of the best tattoo artists in the world, and Cebu has a great selection of tattoo artists to choose from. As you might expect, tattoos are also much cheaper here.

33. Get a haircut

barbers

Although most things in Cebu are much cheaper than the rest of the world, getting a haircut is probably the biggest difference in price. I used to get my hair done for around £7 which equates to 522 PHP or $11.75. Here, you can get a perfectly good haircut for just 100 PHP – less than 20% of what I used to pay. If you want to go to a proper salon, even that would just be around 400 PHP including a head massage, and different staff to cut and style your hair, so you can really go all out on pampering yourself here.

 34. Eat Balut

Unborn duck embryo anyone?

Unborn duck embryo anyone?

Not for the squeamish, Balut is an unborn duck embryo that has been allowed to mature for 16-23 days before being cooked and subsequently eaten. The local guys typically eat it when they’ve had a few red horse and want to improve their virility when they get home, although a minority of Cebuanos actually eat balut. It’s definitely something to try if you are an adventurous eater like myself, but just to warn you it did nearly make me throw up so try it with caution.

35. Go for a hike in the mountains

IMG_4440_DxO

If you want a different kind of experience from the girly bars and nightlife in Cebu, then you might like to try some mountain hiking. Cebu has several incredibly scenic paths that you can take, which will allow you to really appreciate the beauty of the island while taking in the mountain air.

36. Try a Gourmet Burger at Irie Gastropubliko

Umami Burger and Truffle Fries at Irie Gastropubliko IT Park Cebu

Irie Gastropubliko is as it sounds – a gastro pub. They have a mixture of internationally themed dishes, although perhaps ‘American’ is the most evident. They have a fantastic selection of burgers (as well as steaks) and the Umami burger is particularly delicious, they also have the best fish and chips in Cebu (better than the English Urban Cellar bar). Aside from the food, they have many imported and rare beers, along with healthy milkshakes and an excellent playlist. This is my favourite restaurant in Cebu, and I’ve eaten pretty much everywhere.

37. Go Jogging in IT Park

pac.david.raymund.bob.jogging.070917.02.400w

If you want to follow in the footsteps on Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao then you can do just that by jogging in IT Park. IT Park is probably the only place in Cebu with pavements and lots of open space to run around in. Late at night the air should be cool enough to enjoy some outdoor running and there wouldn’t be much traffic there at that time either, plus it’s completely free and healthy, so there’s no excuse not to!

38. Go Ziplining

img_9445

Unless your opinion of ziplining has been ruined by South Park’s ‘I Never Should Have Gone Ziplining’ episode, then this is another thrill you can enjoy in Cebu. If you do a Google search you’ll see that there are actually multiple destinations where you can zipline, although the above photo from the theme park in Tambayan looks especially exciting.

39. Relax on the sandy shores of Badian

Badian Beach Cebu

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t fantastic when I went here, although that didn’t stop me from enjoying the beach at Badian. Again it’s around a 3-4 hour ride from Cebu City but still a lovely area to visit. Also very close to Kawasan Falls which could be seen in the same trip.

40. Play Golf

Altavista Golf Country Club Cebu

No popular retirement destination would be complete without a golf club or two, and Cebu actually has quite a few. The above picture is of the Alta Vista Country Club, which looks quite spectacular. The membership, green fees and club rental are significantly lower for most of the courses here than they would be in western countries, and there are several good quality courses to choose from. As with any golf course, you are still required to dress appropriately.

41. Watch live music at the Outpost

The Outpost is a large outdoor and covered/indoor area where all the cool kids of Cebu hang out. The benches are made of skateboards and there is deliberately placed graffiti in some parts. You’re unlikely to see too many foreigners here but that shouldn’t put anyone foreign off from going there as it has a relaxing vibe and good live bands.

42. Learn to Fight like Pacquiao at ALA Boxing Gyms

ALA Boxing Gym

The Philippines has one of the richest boxing histories of any nation, and ALA Boxing gym has trained a number of their World Champions, including “Gerry Penalosa, Malcom “Eagle Eye” Tunacao, current WBO Minimum Weight World Champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, IBO champion Noel “The Eel” Tunacao, and WBC Light Flyweight Champion Rodel “Batang Mandaue” Mayol” (source: ALA Boxing). Anyone is welcome to walk-in or join one of 5 gyms and as you can imagine, they have the best coaching you can get as an amateur.

43. Try the Belgian Waffles at Brussels Café

Belgian Waffles

Possibly the only Belgian restaurant in Cebu, Brussels Café has both excellent food and excellent drinks. Belgian Waffles are the obvious choice, while they also have a fantastic selection of imported Belgian beers.

44. Try Durian

Durian from Davao

While Durian is actually grown in Davao, it’s sold all over the Philippines and if you are new to the country then it’s a must to try this controversial fruit. I say controversial because in many international hotels it is banned on account of the pungent smell, and any local stores/street food sellers will likely reek of it. However, the taste is unique and I’m quite partial to it in small doses. Try a durian shake at any fruit shake vendor and I’m sure you’ll love it.

45. Dine with a view at Sky Lounge by Blue Elephant

Sky Lounge by Blue Elephant

I’m due to visit this place this week so I’ll be sure to write a full review of it soon, but judging by the pictures, this is a great place to eat out in Cebu. It overlooks Ayala Center and there’s clearly a great view up there. I imagine the food is probably good too as I’ve eaten at the other Blue Elephant Restaurant in IT Park and it’s undoubtedly the best Thai food I’ve had here, so I’m really looking forward to experiencing this place.

46. Go Diving in Dumaguete

Dumaguete Diving

Cebu (and the Philippines in general) is supposedly one of the finest diving areas in Asia, with Dumaguete being the most well-known spot locally just off the southern coast of Cebu. They have expert divers to assist you and it would certainly be a great place for anyone to test the waters.

47. Roll the dice at the Waterfront Hotel Casino

Waterfront-Cebu-City-Hotel-and-Casino-2

Judging by the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Vegas. The Waterfront Hotel is one of the most reputable hotels in the city and is also known for it’s excellent casino. I haven’t been to the casino itself but if you have money to burn then I’m sure it’s a great place to spend the evening. The Waterfront Hotel is just opposite IT Park as well, so there’s a lot to do in that area.

48. Buy knock-off replicas in Colon

Colon Cebu

If you want to buy the fake clothes and pirated DVDs that Asia is famous for, or even want to purchase some very cheap fruit and veg, then Colon (pronounced Collon rather than it’s unfortunate spelling) is an option as they have thousands of stores that sell those kinds of things. One word of warning though, this is not an especially safe place for foreigners. If you do want to go here, only go during the day and keep your phone and wallet in a zipped pocket, and don’t carry valuables in a backpack or anything that can be easily snatched away. Personally I don’t go here and most likely never will, but I do know of foreigners going here and successfully purchasing items without being robbed. Co-incidentally, while searching for an image of Colon I stumbled across this article of a foreigner getting attacked here, which is an interesting read. Generally Cebu is a safe place but I wouldn’t advise staying in a hotel anywhere near Colon.

49. Dine at one of the many excellent restaurants at Ayala Terraces

Ayala Terraces Cebu

Ayala has most of the best restaurants in Cebu City. Supposedly the no. 1 restaurant according to Tripadvisor is an Australian place called ‘Canvas Bistro Bar Gallery’ which is located here. My personal favourites include the Vietnamese/Thai place called Lemongrass, the Greek restaurant Cyma, Mesa Filipino Moderne and the Thai restaurant Banana Leaf. Also located here is the Pancake House I mentioned earlier, and there is even a T.G.I Fridays for those who want a taste of America. I have been here so many times and yet there are still many places that I’m yet to discover (like the Australian restaurant) so if you’re stuck on where to eat then Ayala is always a good choice. Aside from restaurants they also have great stores selling designer clothes and watches (which are just as expensive as they would be in the west unfortunately), as well as a cinema and some cafes. There is even a Fitness First gym if you want to get some exercise.

50. Check in at the Shangri-La Hotel, Mactan Island

Shangri La Mactan Resort

If money is no object, then undoubtedly you should stay at this incredible resort in Mactan. Shangri-La Hotels are an internationally known brand and from what I’ve heard this place lives up to all expectations. It has its own private beach, huge swimming pools, excellent food, a spa and massage centre, and pretty much anything you could want from a hotel. The only drawback is that Mactan is a good 45 minutes away from central Cebu City but if you stayed here then I’m not sure if you would want to go anywhere else. You don’t actually have to check-in here however, you can visit for the day and sample the beach and delicious food, so if you can go then I’m sure it’s worth it.

I probably could have written 100 or 1000 things to do in Cebu City as there really are a lot of things you can do here, and there are many things that haven’t even been included. However, you’ll certainly never be bored in the ‘Queen City of the South’ and although it might not have as much natural beauty as places like Palawan or Boracay, it really is a cool place to live and to visit. As mentioned in the first paragraph, feel free to add your tips in the comments section.

  • LeafCanoe

    Jonny, this is a very cool list. Are you interested in posting such local expertise on a location based mobile app? If yes, we would like to invite you as a beta tester to try out our new iphone app, while it is still in the development stage.

    This is a quick demo of the app.

    http://youtu.be/o3LLtIqpLAI

    If this looks interesting to you, please email us at beta@leafcanoe.com

    • Jonny Lis

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the post.

      I’d be happy to take part but the only problem is I just switched from iPhone to Samsung – I’m assuming your app isn’t currently on Android as well?

      • LeafCanoe

        Jonny, unfortunately, we only support iphone at this moment. However, do you still have the iphone? I am asking because the app doesn’t require network to record places and you can upload your work and navigate online content when WIFI available.

        Are you still interested, please let me know. Daijie

        • Jonny Lis

          Sure, I still have it. I’ll have a look on my old iPhone when I get a chance. Send me the instructions to jonathanlis7@gmail.com, looks interesting.

  • JunetteA

    AWESOME! Loved this article. I’ve been living in cebu for about 3 years now and I still havent gone to all those places. Thanks! definitely checking them out!!!

  • Kevin Maglinte

    Nice article :) dude

  • dar

    Hi! Do you know where to buy good quality English biscuits in Cebu?

    Those that look like this? http://www.ezrapoundcake.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/biscuits-7.jpg

    Thanks!

    • Jonny Lis

      Well firstly that’s not a biscuit, that’s called a scone in England. I’m pretty certain there will be nowhere that sells that here. If you shop at Rustan’s in Ayala or Banawa then they sell a lot of imported English food from Waitrose but I doubt they would have that. I’ve never been to S&R but supposedly they sell a lot of imported food so you could try there I suppose.

  • http://www.twitter.com/zhaquiri Phil

    I have to say something about the system they have in place in Oslob for swimming with the whale sharks. My relatives from the USA came to Cebu for a vacation late last year (just after the big earthquake). We went to Oslob mid-October, and with us was one Caucasian guy (my aunt’s bf) and my half-white cousin (girl in my display pic, the product of another aunt and another Caucasian guy). If you want to swim with the whales, they make you sign your name in some notebook. Trouble was, they made us (pure Filipinos in the looks department, regardless of current nationality) sign in one notebook, while my aunt’s evidently-foreign bf and my half-white cousin had to sign in another. They were very specific about it, too: “Ang mga kano diri pasulata sa ilang pangalan (The Americans can sign their names here)” (Note: “kano,” short for “Amerikano,” is many Cebuanos’ blanket term for all types of Caucasians — not necessarily racist, in my opinion, just ignorance), and then they charged them DOUBLE the price they charged us Filipinos, even though we’re from the same group. We tried to fight it but eventually had to give in because they insisted it’s just their “patakaran.” Besides, we were there to swim with the whale sharks, not to argue about prices. I’m just disappointed by their patakaran. They charged them double *because* they’re white. No other reasoning behind it — just that they’re white/foreign. That’s lame.

    The swimming with the whale sharks part was nice, though. They look like adorable Pokemons, but their body’s surface actually feels quite like sandpaper (you’re not allowed to touch them at will, by the way, unless they swim to you and are directly in your way). Some of them had barnacles, too. Also, their mouth looks big, but it’s really just wide with a very narrow opening. Finally, be warned, because they smell like fish (gasp! haha).

    • Jonny Lis

      Hi Phil,

      Yes that is rather disappointing but I’m sure this ‘foreigner tax’ applies in many places. For example, when I leave the Philippines once a year at Christmas to see my family, I have to pay over 3k pesos just to leave the country, for no particular reason at all.

      It still wouldn’t put me off from swimming with the whale sharks though – sounds like you had a great time!

      • http://www.twitter.com/zhaquiri Phil

        Yeah, true. Foreigner tax definitely applies in many places. I only had that one story to share, though, because my relatives from the US don’t come here that often and that was my only first-hand account on ‘foreigner tax’. We also spent two days in Boracay and (thankfully) never had to deal with foreigner tax, so we had that going for us…which is nice.

        So, do you just pay the 3K? Have you ever tried to fight it and demand for an explanation? I mean, 3K may ultimately be a small price to pay if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, but I wish there weren’t people like that. However, I guess there are way too many variables to consider why some people/organizations do what they do.

        • Jonny Lis

          Unfortunately yes, I did pay it (3 times now). I asked what it was for and all they could tell me was that it’s procedure. I’m happy to pay tax when it makes sense, but me leaving the country is of no expense to the airport or local government.

          They are very strict at the international airport in Mactan, as if you don’t have the right documents/visa then they literally won’t let you on the plane (I heard about that happening to someone here). So I’m sure if I refused to pay it the same would happen to me.

          Anyway, I still love living in the Philippines so it hasn’t changed my perception of this wonderful country. Thanks for the warning about the whale sharks anyway, I’m sure it’s worth the foreigner tax!

          • http://www.twitter.com/zhaquiri Phil

            Good that it hasn’t changed your perception. I’m sure any given place has its own set of cons, anyway. Swimming with the whale sharks is definitely worth the foreigner tax! Definitely give it a go. I may not be a fan of their practice, but the experience itself was very nice.

  • Mariven

    Great tips! I’m a true blooded Filipino but have never been to Cebu in my 47 years of existence until last year (October 2013) when i had to start working here. Have lived in Albay (try visiting that place too) from birth to my university years. Thereafter worked in Makati the entire time before i came to work in Dubai from 2005 til last year. In Cebu, haven’t been anywhere except Ayala Mall, SM City and once every 2 months to S & R. So your articles are really of big help to me. Now i can explore more. Yes, accomodation here is quite expensive. I am renting a very tiny studio flat close to IT Park and paying 10k per month. That sort of 1 tumbling from the bed and you’re out of the door or the bathroom. Everywhere inside the unit from the bed is 1 tumbling away. Thank you for writing about Cebu.

    • Jonny Lis

      No need to thank me! Haha this is exactly why I write about Cebu – to be informative and give advice on things to see and do! Sounds like you’ve lived in some fascinating places – how does Cebu compare to Dubai and Makati for you? Where would you choose to live?

      • Mariven

        Dubai is very different from Cebu and Makati combined….way more cosmopolitan. What i like in Cebu though is how the taxi drivers would round off your fares. Say for a php 50.50, they won’t anymore take the 50 cents. It amazes me. If that’s in Manila it’ll be rounded off to php 55.00 or to any higher number divisible by 5 or 10. As i haven’t gotten around Cebu yet, i cannot compare. But given the chance, i will live in Dubai…it’s always dry being summer most of the year. Rains makes you stay at home.

  • http://tweetphiladelphia.com/ Eric Van Buskirk

    My God. You’ve absolutely killed it with this piece. I had a company in Cebu for 3 years, living 1/2 in usa and 1/2 there and I still keep up. I kid you not, this may be the single best “to do” piece of writing I’ve ever seen for Cebu. I love that you’ve covered many different types of activities: the city is not for everyone, but there’s enough to do that IF you know of all 50 you mention it’s hard not to find a good time. This post will keep me coming back to your blog regularly!

    • Jonny Lis

      Thanks so much again Eric, really means a lot! Originally I was planning on writing 101 things to do but it took such a long time to compile this list that I stopped halfway.

      Yes I completely agree – there’s really a lot going on in Cebu but perhaps people coming here for the first time wouldn’t know what to do, or even people who do live here haven’t tried everything, which is why I thought a list like this would be helpful. So glad you enjoy reading my blog anyway!

  • Charli & Ben

    Wow great inspiration! We’d love to dive with whale sharks. I can’t believe you haven’t been out exploring more! Cebu looks ace!

  • Alex

    I’m glad your blog came alive again. I’m impressed with your list there, very useful, and you have something for everyone. I don’t know if you’ve been to Olango island where the bird sanctuary is. The birds had come and gone when I was there but apparently they transit there between Siberia and Australia. I’ve also done windsurfing on Tambuli beach resort (Mactan) some years back.

    As for saying what you want to say re Typhoon Yolanda, Anderson Cooper did his piece on CNN, next day he had to leave. There was petition on the internet to draft him to run for the highest position in the country! I guess that says it all.
    Cheers

    • Jonny Lis

      I’ve never been to Olango to be honest but sounds pretty cool.

      Yeah well I’m glad he said what he said about the typhoon, I can’t really afford to take the risk though. I saw the local news the other day though and apparently only half of the money donated to charities actually went to the people that needed it, which is a great shame.

  • Ashton

    Great post . Thanks to you I have found the Power gym . Probably the best gym in Cebu I think due to the weights and cardio equipment and location. Maybe see you in there one time I am also an English guy living here.

    • Jonny Lis

      Hi Ashton,

      Glad you liked the post and took my advice on board! Yeah I also think it must be the best gym in Cebu although admittedly I’ve not been to any others. I actually work right next door above metrobank, so it’s very convenient for me to go there as well. Yeah sure, feel free to say hi if you see me in there

  • esc

    I’m from Cebu but haven’t been to all these places you’ve mentioned. Nice work!
    There are a lot of nice places however, to go to that were not mentioned here. But those mentioned were already something. Like! :)

    • Jonny Lis

      Hi there yes I completely agree that there are many more than 50 things to do and a lot of fantastic places in Cebu not on this list. However, after writing over 3000 words I got a bit tired! Glad you enjoyed the article anyway

  • teeny2

    The Kiwi Lodge does a fair fish & chips

  • Jonny Lis

    The time mentioned is based on my own personal experience – that’s how long it took me to get there.

  • andrew

    nice & helpful blog hope when I’m in Cebu we van catchup for a Beer

  • Carl

    Nice article. Me and my friends are 20 years old and looking to do fun things. I like the whale shark swimming and zip lining. Anything else you reccomend?

    Carlohcarl@gmail.com

    thanks

    • Jonny Lis

      Hi Carl, you could also check out the beaches at Bantayan or Bohol which are just a few hours away, or go to Kawasan falls which is another area of natural beauty.

      In the city itself the main things to do involve eating and partying, which I guess you want to do as well? I’d recommend playing golf in Mactan if you’re into that, or definitely get a cheap massage from one of the numerous places to get that done. I’m also a big fan of the karaoke bars here in cebu.

      Hope that helps?

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