Snapshots of Cebu – Day One

Backdating – over Halloween and All Saint’s Day last year I took advantage of the long three-day weekend to meet up with Kiva Fellow/compatriot in the Philippines Ed Coambs, and we proceeded to have a good time in Cebu. My overall impression of Cebu was otherworldly – especially in comparison to Cagayan de Oro, where I had been living. There weren’t many beautiful old stone churches in Cagayan like the Basilica of Santo Niño.

Snapshot of Cebu - Basilica of Santo Niño

Complete with many landmarks commemorating the landing (and death) of the great European explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the weighty layers of history made themselves felt as I walked through the streets of Cebu. In a way Cebu is like a mash-up of Boston, for the history, and Miami, for the beautiful beaches nearby and modern amenities – including the biggest SM City mall in the Philippines, as my HSPFI co-workers informed me. You really can’t ask for any better than that.

Snapshot of Cebu - Beach

Unfortunately the weekend started off on a slightly traumatic note, as our taxi arrived at Magellan’s Cross and was immediately surrounded by a crowd of child beggars. The taxi driver did his best to shoo them away, but we ultimately had to brave wading out and through the crowd as the kids followed us and begged for money. I wished there was a prescribed action that one could take when facing child beggars – we didn’t give them any money, but I felt horrible about myself anyways. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a particularly compelling passage in her latest book Committed about her encounter with child beggars in Cambodia:

I picked up my pace and walked faster toward the hotel. The crowd of kids tagged behind me, around me, in front of me. Some of them were laughing and blocking my way, but one very little girl kept pulling at my sleeve and crying out, “Food! Food! Food!” By the time I neared the hotel, I was running. It was shameful.

So much of my experience as a Kiva Fellow in the Philippines was about poverty – but somehow nothing I’d experienced before made me feel quite as shocked and ashamed as being surrounded by all those child beggars in Cebu.

By the time we made it to Magellan’s Cross, the child beggars had scattered – probably because there were security guards posted by most of Cebu’s tourist attractions. So Ed and I admired the cross, as a sign underneath proclaimed that “the original cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan on this very site April 21, 1521” was encased in the visible cross of tindalo wood.

Snapshot of Cebu - Magellan's Cross

We then wandered over to the Basilica of Santo Niño, which was just a short five-minute walk away from Magellan’s Cross.

Snapshot of Cebu - Basilica of Santo Niño (2)

There were lots of visitors in the Basilica, but the church still exuded an atmosphere of peace. The courtyards I found to be especially beautiful and serene.

Snapshot of Cebu - Basilica of Santo Niño, Courtyard (2)

Ed and I ambled out of the Basilica…

Snapshot of Cebu - Basilica of Santo Niño (2) Snapshot of Cebu - Basilica of Santo Niño (3)

…and I asked if he’d be interested in walking back towards a big, interesting-looking sculpture we had passed in the taxi earlier on the way to the Basilica. I had seen it in some sort of promotional image for Cebu, and thought it must be another famous landmark. It was a hot morning, but Ed gamely said yes and we proceeded down the streets of Cebu, walking past another beautiful stone church on the way.

Snapshot of Cebu - Church Snapshot of Cebu - Old Tree

Turned out that the sculpture I had saw was the Heritage Monument in Parian Park.

Snapshot of Cebu - Heritage

The pride, unity, and cultural wealth of a race emanate from a people’s sense of self and history; from the early Filipinos, to the dawn of European colonization, the revolution of 1896, the birth of the Philippine Republic. The heroic contribution of the Cebuano people and the saga of events, which transpired on the islands of Cebu, are vital elements in the formulation of the nation we know today

Snapshot of Cebu - Heritage (2)

Snapshot of Cebu - Heritage (3)

The adventure continues on Day Two in Cebu…

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    • Markin Gomez
    • March 5th, 2010

    Can’t wait for day 2 =) Nice post.

  1. Very wonderful post.I like your adventure in Cebu bai. There are so many places to see in this wonderful place. It’s good that you spent your day looking at the historical landmarks and attractions in Cebu. Nice kaayo bai!

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