A 'cebu'llient holiday

Filipino

Balmy weather, pristine beaches and luxurious resorts are major attractions in Cebu, the second biggest city in the Philippines.

Our first programme in the beautiful and attractive city of Cebu, which is to the south of Manila, was adventurous. We had a feel of the city from a height of 425 feet from the ground. We sat in the ‘Edge Coaster’, which is supposed to be the only one of its kind in the world. As it went round the edge of the building, an operator tilted the car upwards to a maximum of 55 degrees, giving us a bird’s eye view of the city.

The Skywalk Extreme, at a height of 416 feet, also attracts many visitors. We walked around the edge of the building on a specially erected platform, while being tied to a safety harness. Our coach, who encouraged us to try some bold tricks and stunts, floored us with the ease with which she guided the tourists on this dangerous walk. The guide took care and released the wheels of the harness, while standing precariously on the edge of the platform specially built for the skywalk. We walked out proudly with certificates declaring that we had completed the exercise successfully.

Our next stop was at Lapu Lapu Shrine in Lapu-Lapu city. A 20-foot-tall statue has been erected on the shore of the Sulu Sea to mark the bravery of the Filipino. Historical evidence says that Lapu-Lapu, a native chieftain, had surprised Spanish soliders and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the Battle of Mactan in 1521. Magellan also finds a prominent place in this city.

Our next stop was Allegre’s guitar factory, located in the narrow roads of Lapu-Lapu City. The city is famous for manufacturing guitars. The Allegres have carved a niche for themselves and are known to make custom-made acoustic guitars. One can find guitars with prices ranging from a couple of thousand pesos to a lakh pesos. The expensive ones are handmade and hence take up to three months to make.

With the sun beating down heavily on us, we headed to the Taoist Temple, built in the Beverly Hills locality of Cebu. The shrine is nestled between lush green trees and a small hillock. The area is dominated by high-heeled Chinese and they have built a beautiful temple amidst the greenery. The entrance to the temple has replicas of the Great Wall of China and a dragon. The temple includes a chapel, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well. The spacious balconies offer a scenic view of downtown Cebu. An interesting ritual amongst devotees here involved the washing of one’s hands and dropping two blocks of wood. If the blocks faced upwards after being dropped, the devotee could then make a wish. A devotee gets three chances to try his or her luck. The temple has 81 steps, representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures.

We proceeded to Minor Basilica of Santo Nino, a 16th-century church. It was supposedly built on the spot where the image of the Santo Nino, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus, was found by Spanish explorers in 1565, and preserved in a burnt wooden box, which was left behind during the 1521 Magellan expedition. The Basilica has a detailed pictorial representation of the major events in its history.

The other important landmark in Cebu is the Heritage Monument. It showcases the significant and symbolic events in the history of Cebu from the time of Rajah Humabon to the recent beatification of Cebuano martyr Pedro Calungsod. The monumental sculptural tableau is the work of national artist Edgardo Castrillo.

Cebu is known for fine food products. Tourists would love to taste Cebu’s lechon, considered to be the best in the archipelago. Lechon or roasted pig is served with plum or other sauces, vinegar or with other seasonings and accompaniments. Other items are budbud — sticky rice or boiled cassava is shaped into cylinders and wrapped in banana leaves. Biko is a dish made from sticky rice, cooked in coconut milk and mixed or topped with caramel. Another speciality of this place is dried mango slices.

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