For the first time, a visitor to Cebu City may be excluded from some of the city's attractions. There are several world-class resorts, hotels, beaches and diving sites in the city. In addition, poverty is devastating in some areas of the world. Cebu City is the capital of Cebu province and is the second largest city in the Philippines after Manila. I always feel at home in the city and lived in the city before building my home in the rural province of Cebu in the Camoti Islands. City Shibu is a mixture of old and new, rich and poor, good and bad and nice and ugly. There is also a mixture of clean and really dirty or dirty. The rule for anyone who goes to Cebu for the first time is not to make a quick judgment.
My first trip to Cebu City was in February 2004. I went to the Philippines to meet a girl (Judith), now my wife. I flew to Cebu-Mactan Airport and was greeted by Judith and one of the sisters here. My flight started in Florida and the last leg of the flight was from Hong Kong. Cebu International Airport is only slightly outdated, but very functional. Once at the airport gate, I saw waves of people waiting to meet people coming off flights from Hong Kong. The airport was not so busy when I arrived and I think my plane was the only one arriving at that time. As the people on my flight strolled in front of the airport door, they were bombarded with a shuttle, fees and congratulatory rentals, all trying to get a fare. I met Judith right outside the airport door. She, her sister and I jumped into an old Kia Taxi and headed to my hotel.
The taxi was old and not very well maintained. The air conditioner is not working and the window will not lower. Of course, it didn't matter since I couldn't close the door because the door cover was broken. So, I have a lot of air. The hotel was about 30 minutes drive from the airport. As we walked through the streets of the city, I saw crowded sidewalks made even more crowded by the many sidewalk and street vendors. Some of the roads we traveled were moderately maintained, while others were in very poor condition. The roads were crowded with many types of cars, but mostly Kia and Hyundais. There were also many jeeps, a Filipino traditional method of travel. The jeepney looks like a stretched army jeep with a solid top and a large cargo area used for two benches for seating passengers. Jeeps are usually painted in several different colors and very chrome. Many jeeps are poorly maintained and most have bald tires and the braking system may be doubtful. There were also very small motorcycles.
After traveling for just a few minutes, I decided that the most dangerous vehicle in Cebu was the Jeepney, Taxi and finally the motorcycle. Jeep drivers tend to drive and stop on both sides of the road to pick up or drop off passengers. I saw many jeeps cut off both lanes of traffic to drop people off, then I saw others quickly deviate away from the road, interrupting traffic so that the driver could jump off the jeeps to urinate along the side of the road. Taxis are no better, but they are a bit less of a threat since the vehicles are smaller than jeeps. Motorcycles appear to be a danger only to the driver and passengers of motorcycles and to anyone walking on the road or on the sidewalk. Motorcycles make their own traffic lanes on whatever little shoulder the road has to offer or sometimes drive along the painted dividing line as a narrow roadway to make extra traffic lanes for themselves. Another time I saw motorcycles descend on sidewalks, crowded around pedestrians. Yet the pedestrians seemed a little concerned about negligence and just continued on their way.
As we continued on our way to the hotel, we went through many different areas of the city. Some areas were very old and the buildings looked as though they were ready for demolition years ago. Many store buildings and facades are concrete with plywood or corrugated steel sheets added to broken windows and steel bars cover the window or plywood. I can't imagine how much the cost of steel bars would cost, because the buildings were so bad. I was sure the content in it was no better. I noticed several fronts of small shops with one large open widow covered with chicken wire. These small shops are about the size of a small closet and there are dozens of these small shops on each street. They are called sari-sari shops and sell only very few items such as canned fish, rice, snacks, cigarettes, etc. Most of these small shops are attached to the front of private houses and are roughly constructed of unpainted plywood and tin roofs. Most Sari-sari shops block the sidewalk, forcing people to walk on the road to bypass the protruding box of plywood. Other Sari-sari stores have small tables or tables on narrow sidewalks for their customers who buy rum, and a karaoke machine helps block the sidewalks.
In many of the old areas, sidewalks are filled with vendors, tents, or some other type of shelter that sells goods. The sidewalks belong to the sellers, and the pedestrian is left to find his own way around the ugly obstacles. These small sidewalk shops are blocking the storefronts and I still wonder why the shopkeepers allow the shopkeepers to block their stores. Old neighborhood streets and sidewalks in most areas are dirty. Garbage is all over the streets, chickens are tied to utility poles or street signs, as are dogs. Many of the old homes along the city's commercial streets may or may not have running water and sewer. Many people use the streets and sidewalks as their bathroom and even the sidewalk bathroom. The infrastructure of the old neighborhoods is almost non-existent. There is poor drainage, poor sewage systems and electrical pipes hanging low to the ground with hundreds of wires attached casually to a steep pole. I often wonder how trucks do it under these wires without hitting the wire. In many cases, larger trucks really hit the wires and kill power to much of the city.
The only thing that stood out to me as we passed all these areas in the taxi was the people who all seemed happy. Despite what I saw as great poverty and dire living conditions, these people or at least many people were happy. Although most of the people I saw were running down the sidewalks, walking around in their daily routine. I thought these people did the same thing as other people in every major city in the world. Still, my first visit to Cebu City opened my eyes to the fact that at least the city was affected by poverty or had a large population living in poverty.
After about 30 minutes of taxiing we found ourselves in a much nicer area of the city and there, as an oasis amidst all the poverty, was this beautiful hotel and a large modern shopping center next to it, as well as several large modern well-maintained high-rise buildings. The scene was a big difference to the old parts of the city. This area can be found in any modern city in the US and looks a lot like the commercial area of a US city. The area is called Ayala Business Park and Ayala Mall. This is modern Cebu City and is everything you would find in any modern city.
Once at the hotel, Marriott, I checked out a very nice room and we all went to the dining room for a nice lunch. Shortly after, we just Judith and I, as her sister, went home. Then Judith took me through the park to Ayala Mall, just a five-minute walk away and once inside the mall I was amazed. The stores were the same as in the US, Ace Hardware, Levi, MacDonald & s and so on. Plus, there are several Filipino department stores and many different types of restaurants and cafes. All store staff spoke English and most Filipinos who went through the shops spoke English. Others used a mix of English and their native Cebuano. All signboards in the store are written in English and restaurant menus are written in English. In many ways, I felt like I was just traveling 20 plus hours from Florida to be in a city in the US.
Although there were many other foreigners in the mall, many Filipinos were walking around asking where I was from, and overall they were all very friendly to me. While at the mall I bought some souvenir items to take home, and Judith and I did a lot of window shopping. I was happy to see that the prices of most things in stores were very cheap compared to the US. At that time, one US dollar bought 56.00 pesos. Today, it's a dollar to about 44.00 pesos. It's still a good deal, but today I'm careful about my expenses. By mid-afternoon, I was ready for a little sleep after my long flight to Cebu. Judith got home, and I retired to my hotel room.
The next morning Judith was at the hotel bright and early and had breakfast at the hotel, after which we went to see the city and some of the beach resorts. Cebu has wonderful and beautiful resorts and all very accessible. The resorts are well maintained and modern. The largest population of resort clients is foreigners and Filipino staff. I'm quickly changing my mind about the city from a poor third world to a modern commercial and tourist city with a few old areas that need a lot of help.
During my trip to Cebu, we entered the old Colon area. Colon is the oldest street in the country and has several attractions. However, Colon is a dirty area of very old and poorly maintained buildings. Prostitution is a major problem in the large intestine as well as street crime. There are some great markets and great bargains to be found in Colon, but not an area for the new tourist to wander alone. Hotels can be offered for a really cheap price in Colon. Some only $ 20.00 a night, but these hotels cater to those who take girls off the street, and the girls and rooms are really dirty. Last year Judith and I stayed at two different hotels in Colon. We entered the city for our monthly shopping from the Camotes Islands. We decided to try the hotels as they are cheap and close to many of the foreign markets. I would never stay at any of these hotels again. The best words to describe them are old, dirty, rat-infested and full of prostitutes. Both hotels seem to cater to lonely foreign men and any girls that men can find at Colon's bars or on the streets. The area has several small bikini bars with bar girls (prostitutes), also called GRO. Unless you are looking for a prostitute, there is little reason to go to Colon after dark and even then one has to be very careful. This is not to say that all of Colon is bad. There are some nice shops and restaurants in Colon. I like to shop in the Colon area, but one has to be careful in Colon.
During my first visit, I saw most areas of Cebu and felt safe at all times. Of course, we didn't get into the old parts of town after dark. Rather, we were in the resorts or around Ayala Park and these are all very safe and enjoyable areas. I would recommend Cebu City to anyone who wants to go to a great resort and spend time on a beautiful beach, dive, take a boat trip from the outer islands and not spend a lot of money. There are just so many things to do in Cebu City and so many great things to watch. A stay at one of the resorts is very affordable for only about $ 60.00 per night, with some reaching $ 250.00. Dinner at restaurants is also very cheap. Food at nice restaurants can only cost $ 10.00 to $ 20.00 for two people, I had a wonderful time on my first visit. However, I did have Judith for my guide and my girlfriend. I'm not sure I would have liked Cebu City as much as I did if Judith wasn't with me on my first trip.
Shortly after my first visit to Cebu City, I moved from Florida to Cebu City in 2004. At that point, Judith and I were engaged to get married and wanted to live in the Camotes Islands. However, we decided to live in the city while looking for land to build a house in Camotes. The Camotes Islands are a rural province of Cebu and only two hours from the city by boat. We rented a brand new two bedroom house in Cebu City's Lahug area. The monthly rent was only $ 125.00 plus our TV cable for about $ 15.00 a month. The house was on a hill overlooking the city and close to everything needed. Lahug is a very nice area and now there are many new housing units being built in the area. Our monthly budget while living in Lahug was approximately $ 700.00 and included rent, utilities, food, taxis and even many dinners at restaurants and entertainment. I guess if we were still living in Lahug, the budget would only be a few dollars a month.
Just a few weeks after moving to Lahug's house, I felt like Cebu was my city and I really enjoyed the life of the city. The city has a lot to offer the foreigner and the city is always trying to attract more foreign retirees. It really is a foreign (expelled) friendly city. The largest group of foreigners in Cebu are Koreans, followed by Americans, Australians, Britons and Japanese. There is no racial tension or problems in the city, which I am aware of and the city is very safe. However, like any major city in the world, there is crime, but if common precautions and precautions are used, one can have a happy life in Cebu City. Driving in the city is something I've never tried and I don't think I'll ever drive in the city. Taxis can get you almost anywhere in the city for $ 1.00 to $ 2.00 and that's good for me.
Shopping in the city is great and there are products from around the world in Filipino stores. Many grocery stores stock Western brands, so you never get your favorite home food from home. Outside markets throughout the city offer great bargains and it's always fun to negotiate prices with suppliers. The city offers cable TV and offers many US broadcasts and news programs. You can go to the movies and see a new movie for about $ 1.00, and popcorn is only a few pennies. The city has been growing since I moved to the Philippines. There are many new housing units that cater to foreign buyers, new high-rise buildings and resorts continue to attract foreigners. The two main malls in the city, Ayala and SM are expanding. Many of the roads have been upgraded, as has the infrastructure in many areas. The city is the main attraction of tourism and is always trying to attract more tourists and more foreign retirees.
Each expat on a monthly pension of about $ 1,000.00 can live like a king in Cebu City. You can live on less than $ 1000.00, but I think $ 1000.00 is the right figure if you include saving every month for emergencies, home trips, and medical needs. The city has many good hospitals and medical expenses are much less in the Philippines. Good dental care at very reasonable prices is also available in the Philippines. Many people go to Cebu for medical or dental vacations. Just remember that if you think you want to move to Cebu City, do your homework. Do you want to live in a new country? do you want to part with your family and grandchildren? if you are married, how does it feel for your wife to live in Cebu? If you have young children, do you want them to live in a new country and what about their education? Do you have the patience and understanding to learn and live in a new culture? Do you have money to live a good life in Cebu without having to find a job? Do you have enough money to cover any type of emergency that may require five to ten thousand dollars? Finally, what is your reason for wanting to live in a new country? If you can be honest with yourself and have a positive answer to the above questions, then maybe Cebu City is for you?
Remember, too, that the Philippine economy is struggling. Filipinos with four and six-year colleges drive taxis or work as clerks at the store. Unemployment in the country is across the roof. Poverty is a major problem in the country. With all the beauty of the Philippines, poverty continues to plague many Filipinos and their futures, creating an ugly face on an otherwise beautiful country. Just this week on November 8, 2007, an 11-year-old girl in Manila living with her mother, father and little brother in a gorgeous city hanged herself. The reason left in the girl's note was because of the poverty her family lived in. The father can't find a job for months, and the mother only works for $ 1.00 a day. Малкото момиче имаше точно преди нощта да поиска от баща си P200.00 за училищен проект. Бащата нямаше парите, малко под $ 4,00. Всичко, което момичето искаше, беше да завърши училище и да си купи нов мотор. Проста мечта, сложна от тежка бедност в страна, бореща се за преодоляване на политическата корупция и кражби. Моля, не забравяйте, че това, което може да прекарате само за един ден във Филипините, е това, на което един филипинец може да трябва да живее един месец. Бедността наистина отнема живота.
Наистина обичам моя начин на живот във Филипините, но отне малко време, търпение, разбиране и няколко жертви, за да живея във Филипините. Направих няколко грешки, преди да дойда тук и няколко, откакто живея тук. Нямах достатъчно пари, когато дойдох тук през 2004 г. Направих няколко пътувания обратно до Флорида, за да свърша някои договорни работи и след това се върнах на любимите си острови Камотес. В момента съм далеч от дома си по договор за преподаване. За мен обаче си струва цената да имам само няколко месеца в годината в моя рай, наречен острови Камотес, Себу, Филипини. Мисля, че всеки, който търси страхотна ваканция, ще се наслади на Себу Сити. Тези, които искат да се пенсионират на скромна пенсия, могат да живеят добре тук, но просто бъдете сигурни, че животът в нова държава е точно за вас. Преди да вземете решение да се преместите тук, разумно е първо да дойдете на почивка и да видите града сами. Тогава можете да решите дали това е животът, който искате. Още веднъж за мен това е рай.