A few weeks ago I wrote an article describing 11 Ugly Things About Cebu. I was anxious when it went live, because I thought it would hurt a few people. After all, those were some nasty things and it’s bound to offend a few people in one way or another.
However, instead of hate mail, I received a lot of responses from fellow Cebuanos who had the same exact sentiments: that these problems were very real and that they needed to be fixed. Despite these “ugly things”, a lot of these responders expressed their love for Cebu as well. That they want to live here; that Cebu is still home and it’s beautiful.
And I thought, if I can list 11 ugly things about Sugbu, surely, there’s 11 other things that make it beautiful, right? So here are 11 beautiful things about our island home:
The Bisaya Language
Lahi ra gyud ang Bisaya, bes. I know it’s ironic because I’m writing this article in English, but for me, nothing says “home” like our isug and gahi accent. I love Bisaya. I’m so glad that our schools are now teaching the mother tongue to youngsters; I had to learn lawom nga Binisaya the hard way by reading one too many Super Balita editions (where I consequently found a racy and very SPG fiction column called “From Junquera With Love”. It put Fifty Shades of Gray to utter shame).
I love how we only have three vowels (A,I,U) and how the words fall from the tongue. I love reading Bisaya poems, and short stories and listening to Bisaya jokes on the radio that only a full-blooded Bisaya can find funny. I love the words dagitab, kawanangan and bidlisiw, as well as chuy, inday and payter. The Bisaya language defines us as a people, and it’s one of my favorite parts of home.
I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of street parties. I don’t appreciate strangers showering me with beer or smearing me with poster paint. But I love Sinulog. Try walking around Downtown during those nine days of novena. Banderitas everywhere, people clutching their Sto. Ninos to their chests and the Sinulog beat spilling from Super Metro’s speakers onto the street. It’s festive. Beautiful. Utterly Cebuano. I even have this theory that Cebuanos who live abroad would do the Sinulog dance if and when they hear that tell-tale beat.
But that’s not the best part.
You know what gives me goosebumps? Bato Balani Sa Gugma. Every single time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first novena or your ninth; participating in the Gozos just moves you in a very deep and personal way. To witness that sea of people move as one is awe-inspiring. Even if you don’t believe in the Sto. Nino, this is, at least, a testimony to our culture and our sense of identity and I think it’s very beautiful.
The Cebu mountains are dramatic AF, wherever you take them in. My favorite is when I watch them light up from the distance. My dad used to take us to joyrides around the SRP, when it was still a new thing and its sidewalks were still painted red. From there you can see the mountains loom over the city like giants and watch the lights from those fancy houses in Banawa and Guadalupe glow like fireflies. It was the most magnificent view and it makes me wax poetic. Of course, you can also go on a habal-habal and enjoy being in the mountains; the view from the top is also breathtaking.
The sea, Cebu’s pride and joy. Me and my family went snorkeling at Hilutungan some years back and I couldn’t believe that that kind of marine life thrived in a very commercial island like Mactan. The corals and sea life were just beautiful. Farther out, you can even experience a sardine run and be surrounded by a school of fish. Pescador Island off of the coast of Moalboal took my breath away and Malapascua’s extensive coral garden just made me wanna stay underwater for a bit longer. In short: our marine life is crazy beautiful and is worth protecting.
Sometimes, it breaks my heart that affordable beaches, especially in Mactan, are becoming less and less accessible. But still, I’m thankful because that means we get to explore the gorgeous beaches and marine life in other places. I hope that we can protect and preserve our seas so that the future generation can enjoy them.
The Cebu experience is not complete until you’ve done a round-South trip. From Barili to Santander, I’ll be that one person with her face glued to the window, just taking in all that beautiful, beautiful countryside. I was literally fangirling on my first roadtrip, marveling at the cliffs and the blue sea. I wanted to pull over every couple of miles, just to take pictures. And fervently wished for the provincial government to create wider roads so people like me can safely pull over and take photos without fear of being run over by a Ceres bus.
Many locals and tourists enjoy the south for its beaches, sights and food. There’s the legendary lechon of Carcar, the beaches of Moalboal and Alcoy, the gazillion waterfalls of Samboan, the torta of Argao. There’s just so many things to love about the south, and I adore it to a fault.
Secret Food Places
One thing I love about the city: food places that you have to find in nooks and crannies. Cebu’s food scene is literally homegrown. As in, the businesses build restos and eateries right in their homes and you have to walk around a couple of eskinas to find them.
Case in point: Capitol. Every eskina has food. There’s Yakski, Camden, Backstory Burger and Bucket Shrimp blocks or mere corners away from each other.
Other examples include the crowd favorite 10 Dove Street, which was named after the street in Sto. Nino Village, Banilad. Then there’s Mama’s Little Secret in Mandaue, where you sometimes have to knock on the gate to get your burger fix and Kairos where they text you the exact location of their rooftop resto. Don’t get me started on the various pungko-pungko that dot the city.
I can go on and on and on about these secret food places. It’s like a treasure hunt, food version. Giant fast food chains may have infiltrated Cebu, but for me, nothing beats the taste of these homegrown secret food places.
I’m very lucky to have grown up in a time when Cebuano rock music was on a high. There was Urbandub, The Ambassadors, Faspitch and Missing Filemon. Moshpits, cheap beer and Myspace— those were the days. Currently we have Vispop and I can’t be more thankful to the people behind the whole initiative to bring Bisaya music to the radio. They’re keeping it alive and it is beautiful. Vispop may not the guitar-shredding, double-pedalling music that I enjoyed in the past but I certainly love it now, nonetheless.
Laid-back Island Life
This is one thing that I don’t ever want us to lose. We’re a growing city; consumerism will be inevitable. Even so, I hope we never lose that laid back island life attitude that we have. That chill vibe we take with us everywhere. The easy nods between people, the unique ability to sit down anywhere and relax. That go-with-the-flow attitude that lets us roll with the waves.
Our Sense of Humor
The Cebuano sense of humor is unique. Sometimes it’s gara-on, sometimes it’s sharp and witty and a lot of times it’s just plain inamaw. It’s so unique that when you translate a joke to Tagalog or English it loses its essence and doesn’t become funny anymore. Some things are just hilarious when told in Bisaya and that’s wonderful.
Cebu is nothing without its people. Strong-willed, stubborn, passionate, kind and proud people. That’s all, really.
The Indescribable Feeling of Home
It’s simple enough: Cebu is beautiful because it is home. A lot of us may travel far and wide and see places beyond our wildest dreams, but Cebu and its seas and buildings and mountains and jokes, will always be home. It’s where your heart belongs and if you love it, you’ll take care of it.
There’s many ugly things about Cebu, but it’s not too late to fix them, if we all put our efforts together. These beautiful things about Cebu are a reminder on why you have to keep fighting for it, keep improving it and not let it be some dead metropolis. If you love Cebu, take care of it. She’s the Queen City of the South, and queens have to be treated with reverence and respect, after all.