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Culture and Lifestyle - Cebu Provincial Government

Cebu is a kaleidoscope of varying cultures and lifestyles, a meeting of east and west, a fusion of things traditional and modern.

This is influenced by the various phases of Cebu: being the spot where Philippine history began, becoming the cradle of Christianity, experiencing American and Japanese occupation, and later on transforming itself into a regional hub of everything — from arts and craftsmanship, to business and information technology.

All these, plus the convergence of personalities and groups from varying backgrounds give the island a culture and lifestyle that is uniquely Cebu.

Traditions remain unchanged over the years, while every taste of things that are modern is embraced.

Cebu Province has 44 towns and seven cities, various urban centers and countryside, islands and mountain ranges, age-old crafts, and new technology.

These diverse factors give the many faces of Cebu but still, all lead to one culture of excellence and piety, and a lifestyle of stylish fun all rolled into one.
Cebu, being one of the most densely populated islands in the Philippines, served as a Japanese base during their occupation in World War II which began with the landing of Japanese soldiers in April 1942. The 3rd, 8th, 82nd and 85th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army was re-established from 3 January 1942 to 30 June 1946 and the 8th Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary was reestablished again from 28 October 1944 to 30 June 1946 at the military general headquarters and the military camps and garrisoned in Cebu city and Cebu province. They started the Anti-Japanese military operations in Cebu from April 1942 to September 1945 and helped Cebuano guerrillas and fought against the Japanese Imperial forces. Almost three years later in March 1945, combined Filipino and American forces landed and reoccupied the island during the liberation of the Philippines. Cebuano guerrilla groups led by an American, James M. Cushing, is credited for the establishment of the "Koga Papers", which is said to have changed the American plans to retake the Philippines from Japanese occupation in 1944, by helping the combined United States and the Philippine Commonwealth Army forces enter Cebu in 1945. The following year the island achieved independence from colonial rule in 1946.


Rice is the main staple for Cebuanos. Being an island-province, fish (fresh or dried), crabs, seashells, shrimp and other sea foods are a common sight in most tables. Pork, chicken, and vegetables are equally accessible as well.

Many Manila-based industrial and commercial firms maintain branches in Cebu City. Warehousing and assembly plants for wholesale trade are important to the economy. Textiles, footwear, processed foods, vegetable oil, furniture, and chemicals are leading products. Other manufactures include cosmetics, candles, pearl and aquamarine jewelry, and sistas (guitars and ukuleles), the latter primarily made on Mactan Island. The city is easily accessible from all points on Cebu Island. A coastal railway reaches from Cebu City north to Danao and south to Carcar, and highways cross the nearby Cordillera Central. During World War II, the city was almost destroyed by the Japanese in May 1942, but the port was left intact. The city was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged. Its layout follows the configuration of the shoreline, with the main business district adjoining the port area. Urban residents are concentrated nearby, and population influx has contributed to a housing shortage. Suburbs are located to the north and south along the coastal plain.

Barbeque and puso (hanging rice or boiled rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves) have become customary. Fast-food abound, although international restaurants — whether European, Korean or something else, are everywhere.

The cultural and commercial core of the central Visayan region, Cebu was opened to foreign trade in 1860. It was chartered as a city in 1936. Although it imports few foreign goods, it is the main collection centre for such interisland commodities as copra, abaca, sugar, timber, and fish. Cebu is a major point of passenger traffic by air and sea and is served by an airport at Lahug and an international airport across the harbour on Mactan Island.

But what is most interesting in Cebu are the various delicacies native to each town and city comprising the province. These local food products are showcased during exhibits and when the caravan of the Provincial Government-initiated Suroy-Suroy Sugbo tourism program stops by in each place.

Coal was first discovered in Cebu about 1837. There were 15 localities over the whole island, on both coast; some desultory mining had been carried out Naga near Mount Uling, but most serious operations were at Licos and Camansi west of Compostela and Danao. Active work ceased about 1895 with insurrections, and no production worked for more than ten years. A topographic and geologic survey of Compostela, Danao and Carmen took place in 1906. The Compostela-Danao coalfield contained about six million workable tons. The tramroads, one from Danao to Camansi, one from Compostela to Mount Licos, were undertaken in 1895, together with a wagon road built in 1877, from Cotcot to Dapdap.

Traditions and Fiestas

Famous among a myriad of festivities in the province are the Siloy Festival of Alcoy, Mantawi Festival of Mandaue City, Kadaugan sa Mactan of Mactan Island, Palawod Festival of Bantayan Island, Haladaya Festival of Daanbantayan.

Cebu City, city, Cebu Island, south-central Philippines. Located on Cebu Island’s eastern coast, it is protected by offshore Mactan Island and by the inland Cordillera Central. It is one of the nation’s largest cities and a bustling port. Its harbour is provided by the sheltered strait between Mactan Island and the coast.

A must see also is the Sinulog Festival in honor of Señor Sto Niño de Cebu, which is celebrated every third Sunday of January.

Siloy Festival, celebrated every last Saturday of August, pays tribute to Patron Saint Rose of Lima.

Sinulog Festival is the largest fiesta (festival) in the Philippines. Held every third Sunday of January, it commemorates the Child Jesus, the Lord and Protector of Cebu. The Sinulog is a dance ritual of pre-Hispanic indigenous origin. The dancer moves two steps forward and one step backward to the rhythmic sound of drums. This movement resembles the current (sulog) of what was then known Cebu's Pahina River. Thus the name Sinulog.

It promotes the Mag-abo Forest that shelters the renowned but endangered black shama (siloy).

Mantawi of Mandaue City illustrates the city’s heritage and identity as industrial center through floats, food festival, and trade fairs.

Cebu City is the center of a metropolitan area called Metro Cebu, which includes the cities of Carcar, Danao, Lapu-lapu, Mandaue, Naga, Talisay. Metro Cebu has a total population of about 2 million people. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located in Lapu-Lapu City is only a twenty-minute drive away from Cebu City. To the northeast of the city are Mandaue City and the town o fConsolacion, to the west are Toledo City, the towns of Balamban and Asturias, to the south are Talisay City and the town of Minglanilla. Across Mactan Strait to the east is Mactan Island where Lapu-Lapu City and an aquarium attraction are located.

The Kadaugan sa Mactan, meanwhile, commemorates the historic battle between the Spanish leader Ferdinand Magellan and Mactan Chieftain Lapu-lapu.

Of the many islets in Cebu, perhaps the most well-known is the Bantayan Island.

Losing favor for his plan of reaching the Spice Islands from king Manuel I of Portugal, by sailing west from Europe, Magellan offered his services to king Charles I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). On 20 September 1519, Magellan led five ships with a crew of 250 people from the Spanish fort of Sanlúcar de Barrameda en route to southeast Asia via the Americas and Pacific Ocean. They reached the Philippines on 16 March 1521. Rajah Kolambu the king of Mazaua told them to sail for Cebu, where they could trade and have provisions.

During their Palawod Festival every last week of June, locals and guests alike participate in street dancing, which captures the traditional fishing, a livelihood inherent in the island.

The more than 40 festivals in Cebu province are highlighted in one grand event dubbed the Festival of Festivals, which is organized by the Cebu Provincial Government during its annual founding anniversary celebration every August.

The Sinulog Festival celebration lasts for nine days, culminating on the final day with the Sinulog Grand Parade. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession is held at dawn with a statue of the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City, decked with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Catholicizing (that is, the acceptance of Roman Catholicism) of Cebu is performed. In the afternoon, a more solemn procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the event.


Being part of a tropical country, Cebu is lined with pristine white sand beaches perfect for weekend and holiday getaways. Famous resorts include Alegre Beach Resort in the municipality of Sogod, renowned for its white powdery beach and efforts in marine wildlife preservation.

In Mactan Island, Megaworld Corporation's Mactan Oceantown is a 25-hectare business park near Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa. The project will be home to high-tech offices, a retail center, residential towers and villages, leisure facilities with a beach resort frontage.

At the sunset coast of Cebu, another prominent tourist destination is the Badian Island Resort and Spa. A first class resort, it boasts of crystal blue waters, fine white sand beaches and the splendor of nature in the little island basking at Badian Gulf.

Beaches, coral atolls, islands and rich fishing grounds surround Cebu.

Sanctuaries also abound in the province. One of these is the Olango Wildlife Sanctuary, six miles off the east coast of mainland Cebu. The island play host to a total of 77 species of migratory birds in the East Asian Flyway.

Cebu's extensive port facilities and its proximity to intra-Asian shipping and air routes are major factors which led multinational companies to establish offices or factories on the main island, as well as in the island of Mactan, where they are clustered in special economic zones known as the Mactan Economic Processing Zone 1 (MEPZ-1) and the Mactan Economic Processing Zone 2 (MEPZ-2). Due to its burgeoning furniture-making industry, Cebu has been named as the furniture capital of the Philippines. Cebu's other exports include: fashion accessories, guitars, coconut, coconut oil, dried mangoes, carrageenan, gifts, toys, watches, cameras, electronic components and housewares.

For nature and butterfly lovers, a must see is the Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary and Art Gallery. It houses about 53 butterfly species and different kinds of moths.

Down south, Moalboal has the biggest Orchid Display in South East Asia.

If there is a place that I would recommend to the visitor and tourist to visit besides Ilioilo city, it would be Cebu, the queen city of the south. Let me take you to Cebu. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

Take in the majesty of vast orchid varieties from Asia, South America, and Hawaii which are cultured in the Orchid farm.

Cebu province offers a wide range of recreational activities — from diving spots to golf courses, from heritage walks to eco-tourism adventures.

Cebu is one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines, with Cebu City as the main center of commerce, trade, education and industry in the Visayas. In a decade it has transformed into a global hub for shipping, furniture-making, tourism, business processing services, and heavy industry.

In the metropolitan, entertainments centers thrive with vibrant discotheques and bars, specialty shops, savory restaurants and dining areas, internet cafes and distinct shopping malls.


The most celebrated patron saint in Cebu is the Señor Sto Niño de Cebu, the Holy Child Jesus.

In the 1980s and 2000s, the city authorities of Cebu added the religious feast of Santo Niño de Cebu during the Sinulog Festival to its cultural event. In 2012, Cebu introduced Life Dance, the biggest outdoor dance party in the country outside Metro Manila.

The original statue is housed in the Basilica Minore del Sto Niño, near the famous cross erected by the Spaniards.

Historical accounts say the image was given by the Portuguese Captain Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Cebu Chieftain Raja Humabon for their pledge of allegiance to the King of Spain.

Arriving in Cebu City, Magellan, with Enrique of Malacca as translator, befriended Rajah Humabon the Rajah or King of Cebu and persuaded the natives of allegiance to Charles I of Spain. Humabon and his wife were given Christian names and baptized as Carlos and Juana. The Santo Niño was presented to the native queen of Cebu, as a symbol of peace and friendship between the Spaniards and the Cebuanos. On 14 April Magellan erected a large wooden cross on the shores of Cebu. Afterwards, about 700 islanders were baptized.

This event is depicted in the Sinulog Festival.

Majority of the population in Cebu are Roman Catholics. Spanish-era churches are dotting the coasts of Cebu province. One of the oldest churches in Central Visayas is the one in Boljoon, Cebu, which is more than 400 years old and is currently undergoing renovation.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in Mactan Island serves as the main gateway to domestic and international routes to or from Cebu City and other islands in the Visayas region. In the last 15 years, MCIA's passenger traffic has grown at an annual average of 21% for international passenger traffic. The airport is the second busiest airport in the Philippines in passenger and cargo traffic. The plan for a new terminal expansion of the airport is underway and estimated to cost $240 million under a public-private partnership program of the Philippine government. The new terminal will host international flights while the old terminal will host domestic flights.


Cebuano literature, as most literary works in the Philippines, started with fables and legends of pre-colonial Philippines along with Spanish influences. Since the local alphabet was not widely spread in the Visayas, most of the literature produced was oral, handed down to generations.

The population of the Central Visayas is predominantly young with about 37 percent of its population below 10 years old. This is very evident in the very broad base of the population pyramid in the region which has prevailed since 1970 but at a declining rate. A decline of 2.29 percentage points in the proportion of household population below 15 years old was noted from 1980 to 1995. Conversely, an increase of 3.06 percentage points was observed in the 15-64 age group during the same period. The population of the region is evenly distributed between male and female. However, the male population in the region has been increasing at a faster rate compared to the female population.

These were documented by the Spanish Jesuit Fr. Ignatio Francisco Alzinal.

During the American period, Vicente Sotto, now called the Father of Cebuano Literature, wrote the first short story Maming and was published in the first issue of his newspaper, Ang Suga.

Survivors of the Magellan expedition brought tales of a savage island in the East Indies with them when they returned to Spain. Consequently, several Spanish expeditions were sent to the islands but all ended in failure. In 1564, Spanish explorers led by Miguel López de Legazpi, sailing from Mexico, arrived in 1565, and established a colony. The Spaniards fought the King, Rajah Tupas, and occupied his territories. The Spaniards established settlements, trade flourished and renamed the island to "Villa del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús" (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus). Cebu became the first European settlement established by the Spanish Cortés in the Philippines. In 1595, the Universidad de San Carlos was established and in 1860, Cebu opened its ports to foreign trade. The first printing house (Imprenta de Escondrillas y Cia) was established in 1873 and in 1880, the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion (College of the Immaculate Conception) was established and the first periodical The Bulletin of Cebu ("El Boletin de Cebú") began publishing in 1886. In 1898, the island was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War. In 1901, Cebu was governed by the United States for a brief period, however it became a charter province on 24 February 1937 and was governed independently by Filipino politicians.

Sotto’s reputation as a playwright started after he wrote and directed the first Cebuano play entitled Elena.

Ang Suga became the medium for publication of Cebuano writers. From that, a community of writers gradually grew to include the names of Florentino Rallos, Filomeno Veloso, Marcial Velez, Timoteo Castro, Segundo Cinco, Vicente Ranudo, Dionisio Jakosalem, Selestino Rodriguez, Filomeno Roble, Juan Villagonzalo, Leoncio Avila, and Filemon Sotto.

In 2013, Cebu ranked 8th worldwide in the "Top 100 BPO Destinations Report" by global advisory firm, Tholons. The Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an organization of Cebu's businesses, is promoting the city's growth and economy on information and communications technology, with the aim of making Cebu the premier ICT, software and e-services investment destination in southeast Asia. Data gathered by the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) 7 showed that of the 98 BPO and IT companies operating in Cebu, 32 offer voice operations while 66 companies offer non-voice operations. Of the 95,000 employed by the industry, more than half or 50,000 are in the non-voice sector. In 2012, the growth in IT-BPO revenues in Cebu grew 26.9 percent at $484 million, while nationally, the industry grew 18.2 percent at $13 billion.

However, their contributions to the Cebuano literature were lost to subsequent generations.

Legendary works consist of Felicatas by Uldarico Alviola in 1912, Mahinuklugong Paglubong Kang Alicia (“The Sad Burial of Alicia”) by Vicente Garces in 1924, Apdo sa Kagul-anan (“Bitterness of Sorrow”) by Angel Enemecio in 1928-29, and Ang Tinagoan (“The Secret”) by Vicente Rama in 1933-34.

At present, Cebuano writers are being encouraged to re-establish Cebuano literature.

While national newspapers have presence in the island, Cebu has English-language local newspapers - The Freeman, Sun.Star Cebu and Cebu Daily News: and Cebuano-language newspapers - SunStar SuperBalita owned by SunStar, and Banat News owned by The Freeman. Each of the local newspapers sell cheaper than their national counterparts.

Institutions like the UP National Writers and Iligan National Writers conduct workshops in which in every seminar, Cebuano works are being dissected and discussed by panelists.

In 1998, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature opened the Cebuano short story category.

The name "Cebu" came from the old Cebuano word sibu or sibo ("trade"), a shortened form of sinibuayng hingpit ("the place for trading"). It was originally applied to the harbors of the town of Sugbu, the ancient name for Cebu City. Alternate renditions of the name by traders between the 13th to 16th centuries include Sebu, Sibuy, Zubu, or Zebu, among others. Sugbu, in turn, was derived from the Old Cebuano term for "scorched earth" or "great fire".

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