Philippines Day 4: Exploring Cebu

OK so day 4. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:30 so the shuttle picked us up at 5:30 from our hotel for the 30 minute ride back to the airport. Cost was the same at 150 pisos pp and we got there right after 6 after picking up a few other people on the way. The line was pretty long to get in (the airport was still opening and we had to go through FIRST security) Again we had to show proof that we already had tickets to get through this security point. Once in, we went to one of the 3 booths, they weigh your carry on (and this time we could only have 1!!) and then you go through 2nd security… which ironic enough there was a guard sitting there telling you the machine was broken and to just go on through haha but he was checking our boarding passes at least. Then once again like an hour before our flight they started boarding and we were off a few minutes early.

Once we landed in Cebu, we praised the money gods for working ATMs (as both of us had basically no cash) and we spent a bit of time sorting out how to get to Oslob. The cheapest option is the BUS, but everyone was horrifying us with tales of 5-6 hour bus rides with no potty brakes and in some cases, no AC… that wasn’t appealing. But the people in the airport were chalking up a private car to be over 3000 pisos (like 60+ dollars) and we’d still be in traffic.. with just a bit more flexibility on stops.

Ultimately we left the AP scammers behind, took a grab cab (which saved us nothing.. ended up being a metered cab instead of like UBER) and headed to our first historic site in Cebu.

Fort San Pedro

It took us 45 minutes from the airport to get there but the cab dropped us off out front, I bought my ticket, Tippe attempted to buy a ticket but they didn’t have enough change for our recently ATM drawn bills so we both got in for 30 pisos.  

The fort is beautiful and reminiscent of St. Augustine but even smaller! It was hard to imagine this defending all of Cebu back in the day but I guess it did the trick since it is still standing. A bit of history:
It was built by the Spanish under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi, first governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. The original fort was made of wood and built after the arrival of Legazpi and his expedition. In the early 17th century a stone fort was built to repel Muslim raiders. Today’s structure dates from 1738 and is the oldest triangular bastion fort in the country. It was the center of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. During the Philippine Revolution at the end of the 19th century, it was attacked and taken by Filipino revolutionaries, who used it as a stronghold.
Following the revolution, the US stepped in and with the victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, the Spanish era in the Philippine Islands came to an end. The fort then became a part of the American Warwick barracks during the American regime. From 1937 to 1941 the barracks were converted into a school where many Cebuanos received their formal education. 

During World War II from 1942 to 1945, Japanese residents of the city took refuge within the walls and when the battle to liberate the city of Cebu from the Imperial Japanese forces was fought, the fort served as an emergency hospital for the wounded.
From 1946 to 1950, Fort San Pedro was an army camp. After 1950sm the fort faced being demolished to replaced by a City Hall, however the people fought back and in 1957, the city council commissioned “The Lamplighter”, a religious sect, to manage a zoo subsidized by the city within the fort courtyard.

By 1968, the façade, quarters and walls of the original structures of Fort San Pedro were so obliterated that only the two towers were recognizable. Plans for the restoration of the fort was started and the zoo was relocated making the fort what it is today. 

About the Fort

The fort is triangular in shape, with two sides facing the sea and the third side fronting the land. The two sides facing the sea were defended with artillery and the front with a strong palisade made of wood. The three bastions are named La Concepción (SW); Ignacio de Loyola (SE), and San Miguel (NE). It has a total inside area of 2,025 square metres (21,800 sq ft). The walls are 6.1 metres high by 2.4 metres thick (20 feet high by 8 feet thick), and the towers are 9.1 metres (30 ft) high from the ground level. The circumference is 380 metres (1,248 ft). The sides are of unequal lengths and the one fronting the city is where one may find entry into the fort. Fourteen cannons were mounted in their emplacements most of which are still there today.

After the fort we put our next destination into Google Maps and since it was only a 10 minute walk, headed there on foot. While it was an easy walk, it wasn’t the best showcase for a city. There wasn’t always a side walk, traffic didn’t seem to pay much attention to street lights, and the street warers were VERY persistent and pushy. We did pass a 7/11 which was great to go in, get some cold water and a snack, as we carried on our way to our next stop:

Magellan’s Cross

The cross is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street just in front of the city center of Cebu City. While the “visible cross” is not the original, it is said to encase the original. The original cross was planted there on March 15, 1521 by Portuguese and Spanish explorers, as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu. There are 2 beliefs as to why the original cross is not visible. First that the encasement was designed to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross for souvenir purposes in the belief that the cross possesses miraculous powers. Second, that the original cross was destroyed or disappeared after Magellan’s death and the cross today is a replica that was planted there by the Spaniards after they successfully Christianized the Philippines.

Either way, the cross is cool to see for what it represents to a deeply religious country. The painted ceiling on the inside of the chapel was the main highlight for me, and since you’ll definitely want to see the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, you may as well stop in to see the cross.

Santo Niño Basilica 

After the cross which is in the main square, you follow a small alley to get to the Basilica. There is a security checkpoint there to get through where they search bags… both Tippe and I looked at each other with a big laugh thinking about emptying out all our luggage in our backpacks. Luckily there was a small cafeteria right there that we decided to camp out in with one of us watching the bags while the other explored the Basilica grounds.

 The party worship grounds outside the old basilica 

It was a breeze going through the bag check after that lol. The square beyond that is pretty magnificent. It included a museum and the actual Basilica on one side, and on the other, a “pilgrimage center.”  The center was built to hold the mass crowds who congregate for Holy Mass on Fridays and other Religious festivals. Essentially it reminded me of St. Mark’s Square in Rome, if the Philippines had its own version.

 The small skirt wrap they gave me to cover my legs… which basically went to just past my shorts and right above my knee. 😛 Too tall. 

The Santo Niño Basilica, (Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebú) is a minor basilica in Cebu City in the Philippines that was founded in the 1565. The oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, it is built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebú was found during the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi (you follow me, same guy that built the fort..) The icon, a statue of the Child Jesus Christ, is the same one that was presented by Ferdinand Magellan to the chief consort of Rajah Humabon upon the royal couple’s christening on April 14, 1521. It was found by a soldier forty years later, preserved in a wooden box, thus marking the spot and day when the first church would be built. The first church to be built on the site where the image of the Holy Child was found was burned down on November 1, 1566. It was said to be built by Fr. Diego de Herrera using wood and nipa (a type of palm tree. A new church was started in 1605 and finished in 1626 but was again burned down in March 1628. The 3rd model was begun 1628, this time using stone and bricks (a great innovation at that time), but the construction was stopped because it was found to be defective.

The present building was started on February 29,1735 and completed in 1739. It’s actually a lovely symbol of community coming together as the church in the area did not have means to complete it on its own. So, the parishioners of Opon and San Nicolas contributed materials, while the people of Talisay contributed labor.

Between 1739 and 1889, the church underwent multiple renovations including adding the windows, but the church retained much of its original features.
In 1965, His Eminence Ildebrando Cardinal Antoniutti, Papal Legate to the Philippines, conferred the church the honorific title Basilica Minore upon the authority of Pope Paul VI. As a Minor Basilica, it is given precedence over other churches and other privileges. Pope Paul VI at the time, said it is “the symbol of the birth and growth of Christianity in the Philippines.”

The Heritage of Cebu Monument 

After visiting the Basilica we had one last stop to see in Cebu city: The Heritage of Cebu Monument.
We’d somewhat debated going to see this since we were closer to the South Terminal Bus stop at the Basilica, but after deliberation, it would only add 15 minutes of walking and we decided it was worth it… That is still being debated in my mind. On one hand, the monumnet looked and was cool. But the walk there was HOT, long, and again not the prettiest part of town. At one point we had a homeless person trail us several blocks asking for money for food. Everytime we’d speed up and out walk him, but he would catch up as we had to wait for traffic at intersections. Luckily once we got to the monument, we spent long enough looking at it and wandering around (out of view) that I suppose he lost interest. Either way it was a hot nerve wracking walk.

Another church we passed on our way to the monument 

The monument itself is massive and interesting, but the information plaques are all largely sun faded (so you couldn’t read about what you are seeing) but here’s what I learned: The Heritage of Cebu Monument is a tableau of sculptures made of concrete, bronze, brass and steel showing scenes about events and structures related to the history of Cebu. The construction of the monument began in July 1997 and it was finished in December 2000.  The structures depicted in the Heritage Monument are the Basilica del Santo Niño, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Saint John the Baptist Church, the Magellan’s Cross, and a Spanish Galleon. The scenes depicted in the Heritage Monument are the baptism of Rajah Humabon, a procession of the Santo Niño, a Roman Catholic mass, and the Battle of Mactan between Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan. The persons depicted in the monument include the late president Sergio Osmena Sr. and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

I also learned that apparently the area the are the monument is located in was home to the residences of the most prominent families in Cebu during the Spanish period. It wasn’t that glamorous when we walked through there but there are apparently a few private museums close by that depict what the houses and life looked like back in the day.

After the monument, we braved the walk to the bus station. Luckily it looked like we’d be walking by a college and through much more populated areas. The bus station also borders a mall which was nice as we headed into the AC of the golden arches (McDonalds) to try SEA’s nuggets, picked up some proper sun screen for me, and then went in search of our next ride.

Faithful as ever to trying McDonalds in every country I go to

The bus station was pretty chaotic with lots of buses going the direction you need to go ( I mean… there’s only 1 highway to get to Oslob) we told a friendly looking driver which direction we were headed and he said he could drop us off at our hotel. Great. Then for me I hopped into the restroom (which I should’ve used at the mall) as they wanted 10 pisos for the honor of using a very short stall with no paper. Then we boarded our very CHEAP, but no AC bus. It wasn’t very full so we stationed ourselves at the back, each in our own row next to an open window. I was still terribly fearful of this ride turning out to be 6 hours, but the bus driver told us 3. It turned out to be 3.5, so still better than expected and my bladder and I somehow made it just find. Likely from being dehydrated and hot the whole time haha. Several people would get on the bus selling wares while we were still in Cebu. We bought cold water from one person for 15 pisos, but other than that, the Mcdonalds held us over.
As our stop was coming up, we both watched our approach on Google Maps wondering if the bus driver would truly remember after 3.5 hours where to drop us off… He didn’t haha. And I didn’t know how to ask to stop so as we passed the sign for our hotel, I hopped up and yelled STOP. It worked! haha but was definitely NOT how the locals do it. (I still don’t know the secret.) It was a huge relief to get off the hot bus and an even bigger relief to have a nice clean bathroom at our hotel. YAY! I made it! (this bus ride was probably the biggest stress of the entire trip for me) haha

 The little restaurant at our hotel resort 
 Our hotel was RIGHT on the water with amazing views down the coast on either side 
Not to mention a pool complete with water slide! 

We made right around 5 but were pretty pooped from the walking with our packs, HOT day, and all the traveling. So we took it easy and lounged around the fantastic resort we had, even trying some of their food. (I got fried chicken which was pretty decent, if not quite filling.) Our resort was right on the water but on the wrong side of Cebu for stellar sunsets… either way the lighting was nice and we enjoyed the views while it gradually got darker.

Day 4 Costs:
Shuttle back to Airport: $2.90
Flight from Coron to Cebu: $43.75 pp
Taxi from Cebu airport to Fort San Pedro: $6.30
Fort San Pedro Admission: $0.60
Snacks/water from 7/11: $1.50
McDonald’s lunch: $3.90
Water on bus ride: $0.30
Bus ride to Oslob: $2.60
Dinner at hotel: $2.90

Sascha’s Resort Oslob: $9.50 pp

Day 4 Total Costs: $30.5 without the flight, $74.25 with flight

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