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Rising Star of Asia Cebu

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There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a well-deserved sojourn, away from your stodgy office cubicles, away from the tepid, monotonous regime of getting on a subway train, where faces of strangers are usually mopped blank.

If what you need is a sizeable rejuvenation of your human batteries, a touch of genuine human warmth and plonking yourself into relaxation mode, the city of Cebu would suit just fine. Located within the vast Philippines archipelago, Cebu rests within the large floating mass of Cebu Island, and is also the country’s oldest city. Upon arrival at the Cebu Mactan International Airport, time seems to stand still as a sobering sight awaits. Clearing immigration checkpoints aren’t exactly the country’s forte, but it’s worth the time, and queue, once you tread through the glass doors and into the balmy sunshine!

Also known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is a treasure trove combining the intricacies of the city’s history, the mouth-watering local cuisine as well as its trademark beaches. It’s a juxtaposition of the modern-era city, a little tilt of the hourglass where time crawls backwards and places you right smack within the technological crossroads of Cebu. It’s a refreshing experience that implores you to start walking, to begin exploring, and find out for yourself why this place is one of the most popular destinations in Asia. It’s a challenge really to earmark a starting point – with the slew of interests jostling for your attention – but it’s always favourable when the locals speak a smattering of English!

This at least ensures your way home when you’re stuck staring at a dead alley, or cuts out desperate gesticulation to a perplexed taxi driver. Cebu’s historical ties with Spanish conquistadors back in the 1500s casted a heavy influence on the city’s architecture. Many of these heritage buildings are still standing, spotting Filipino-Spanish flavours that reek of history and looking magnificent. The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is one classic example. The oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, this structure has been defying time since the 16th century.!

A museum now resides within, showcasing the history of Christianity in Cebu, a quite massive parade of antique relics, priestly vestments and ultra-vintage furniture. Do not be alarmed if you see several toys around, as they’re presents from devotees to the Child Jesus. Adjacent to the basilica is a chapel that houses the Magellan’s Cross – a Christian cross that was planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. A point to note, the original cross is actually enclosed within the wooden cross, due to people chipping away parts of the original and keeping them as souvenirs.

The reason? They believe that the cross contains miraculous powers, although cynics say the original specimen had already been destroyed when Ferdinand Magellan – the Portuguese explorer who led an expedition to Cebu in 1521, died. As you walk on along the congested, sometimes uneven streets, you might be keen to find out what an olden quality Filipino house looks like. If that’s the case, the Casa Gorordo Museum would be a shining example.

Erected in the 1850s, this architectural gem combines both Spanish and native influences, incorporating the usage of Mactan coral stone for walls on the lower quarters, and wooden pegs for nails – holding together Philippines hardwood for the upper living quarters. This building is owned by the Gorordos, one of the leading families in Cebu with substantial influence within the community. Within each country, anywhere in the world, there’re choices that depict the culture and symbolise the locals’ taste buds.

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