IF you have only eight hours to spend on a layover in Cebu City, which is a pity because Cebu is such a beautiful city, here is a short list of places to visit and get a feel of this famous queen city of the south.
I had been to Cebu City countless times in the past but the last time was over a decade ago, so I booked a private tour for eight hours with a travel agency to hit the top attractions the city has to offer. You can rent a car if you are familiar with the city but if it is your first time and time, you may have a challenging time finding your way around.
Sirao Flower Farm
The tour driver picked me up from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport early in the morning and we made our way toward the farthest and highest point in our itinerary—the Sirao Flower Farm which is also called Cebu’s “mini-Amsterdam.” A top tourist attraction, the farm boasts of a sprawling landscaped garden filled with a colorful profusion of plants and flowers—a perfect backdrop for photos.
Tops Skyline or Tops Lookout
This is the perfect spot to see the breathtaking panorama of Cebu, Lapu-lapu and adjacent islands. I happened to be there on a bright clear day and the view just stretches out to forever. There are food stalls, bars and souvenir shops you can browse for gifts. At night you can see the city lights but then I didn’t have that luxury.
Perched on a hilltop at the Beverly Hills Subdivision is the Taoist Temple, a temple that is free and open for everyone. Be prepared to walk up and down several flights of stairs. Photos are allowed everywhere except for the altar and the saints. The terraces of the temple provide a superb view of Cebu City.
Temple of Leah
We stopped by the Temple of Leah but construction is ongoing. The Temple is Cebu’s version of the Parthenon featuring Roman architecture.
This is Cebu’s most famous landmark where Ferdinand Magellan planted a cross in 1521, claiming the Philippines for Spain. Here, devotees pray and offer candles while regular visitors just gawk and take photos.
Basilica del Santo Niño
A few feet away from Magellan’s Cross is the Sto. Niño Basilica founded in 1565. Outside the church, women wearing religious costumes offer candles previously blessed for sale to the devotees.
Fort San Pedro
Check out the museum that displays well-preserved Spanish artifacts and read about the history of this stronghold built by the Spaniards in the 17th century. There is so much history in this fort. Most of the cannons are still there.
Heritage of Cebu Monument
Learn everything about Cebu’s history summarized in a tableau of sculptures at the Parian District, created by local artist Eduardo Castrillo.
Yap-San Diego Ancestral House
Just across the street is a chance to travel back in time to this ancestral house reputed to be the oldest Chinese house outside of China. The Yap-San Diego house has hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Built in 1675, the house was owned by Chinese merchant Don Juan Yap and his wife Dona Maria Florido and has remained in the family for generations.
Check your time allowance if you have a flight to catch because traffic is heavy from Cebu City to Mactan especially late in the afternoon. Just plan a longer visit next time.
Watch out for more photos about each and more destinations in Cebu City.