Cebu City is one of the most important cities in the Philippines. It is hailed as “The Queen City of the South” due to its importance in trade, shipping and tourism in that part of the country.
Cebu City lies along the eastern shore of Cebu Province in the Visayan region. It has a total land area of 291.2 square kilometers and a population of some 800,000 people according to the latest census. The city consists of 80 barangays divided into two districts. The native dialect is Cebuano.
Trade and Economy
While the cities of Manila and Makati are the business centers of the northern Philippines, Cebu is the trade capital of the south, Visayas and Mindanao.
Because of its location, it is only natural that business in Cebu would revolve around the sea and seafaring. The city is the country’s largest shipping hub, being home to 80% of all domestic shipping lines. Seafood is abundant in the area, and in fact one type of fish was named after the hero Lapu-Lapu (see below). Recently the outsourcing of companies to Asia has benefited the Cebuano people. Many have found jobs in call centers since English is widely spoken.
One of the Philippines’ two international airports, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, is a half-hour drive from the city. Due to its strategic location, Cebu is often used as a hopping point by travelers to other tourist destinations in the region.
Even before the advent of Spanish rule, Cebu was already a well-developed and prosperous city that enjoyed trade relations with other Southeast Asian countries. On April 7, 1521 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the island. He was welcomed and befriended by Raja Humabon, the king of Cebu. Humabon and his people converted to Catholicism and became the first first Filipino Christians. But the people of nearby Mactan Island were not so friendly, and Magellan was killed in battle by their king, Lapu-Lapu.
In 1562, more than forty years after the death of Magellan, the Spaniards under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi returned to the islands. Legaspi then established a new Spanish colony with Cebu as its capital.
Cebu City is a major tourist destination in the Philippines. Its best-known landmark is the Cross of Magellan. Legend says that it was erected by the explorer upon his landing on the island. It is sacred among Filipino Christians, who regard it as the symbol of the birth of their faith. In 1835, the local bishop ordered that the cross be moved to a wooden case and guarded in a chapel. This was to protect the cross from being vandalized by devotees who would chip away pieces at a time.
Nearby is the Minor Basilica of the Holy Infant (Basilica Minore de Santo Nino). The church is home to the country’s first religious image, the Santo Nino.
Every year in January, the famous Sinulog festival takes place. Originally a dance ritual in which dancers mimicked the motion of the river (sulog), it is now performed in honor of the Infant Jesus.