WHEN YOU THINK “CEBU”, you are probably thinking long white beaches and a technicolour underworld of tropical fish. Maybe a waterfall or a beach resort? Cebu City is the gateway to all that, and for most people, nothing more. One of the biggest cities outside Manila, it’s noisy, dirty, and either run down or being developed. Despite its obvious drawbacks, I found it to be a pretty good shithole to spend a few days wandering around, on my way from here to there.
Cebu City is probably the reason very few people come to the famous island of Cebu.
It's noisy, chaotic, falling down in parts.
Poverty can be confronting. Street kids are common, and can even sleep standing up.
The sights around the island are better. While it is a bit of a shithole, it's a pretty likable shithole.
There are some famous old monuments for girls to get the 'gram going.
The streets buzz with activity at night.
Street markets pop up over many parts of town.
Its large produce market, Carbon, is both friendly and fascinating.
And cottage industries surprise the wandering visitor, who may want to buy a hand made Virgin Mary statue. Or not.
Filipino food wins no awards, but Cebu City was OK for tucker, starting with this portside Cheap & Cheerful chicken and stew.
Pavements fill with frying things in the evening as busy city folks spill out of workplaces.
I had several good pork dishes in town, including this roadside serve.
Plenty of enterprising Cebuano ply the streets in the daytime too, selling snacks and meals from carts......
....and bicycles. These leaves contain either sweet sticky rice treats, or steamed chicken/rice.
A number of restaurants cater to passing trade, often with talented bands playing. Goat curry, can't go wrong.
Basilica del Santo Niño is the country's oldest catholic church, and a pigrimage spot. Architecturally, I didn't think much of it, but there was plenty of people watching to do.
Casa Gorordo is one of the nicest old houses in Cebu, having survived revolutions, wars and development since the 1850s.
The 1680 coral and stone built Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is said dubiously to be the oldest Chinese house outside China. It's an eclectic collection of religious artifacts, family heirlooms and some scary dolls.
Chinese and Spanish influence can be seen right through to the smiling staff.
Cebu City is much more than its monuments and old houses. There is a lot going on.
I spent a lot of time kicking around Carbon Market, where poverty and opportunity sit side by side, kids play while their parents try to turn a peso.
The market area begins just near the port, and spreads for several blocks in different directions.
Footpaths overflow with fruit.
Fresh greens are piled high.
Younger ones sell from mobile carts.
Animals, live and dead, are traded. This poor cock is not bound for the pot, but for the ring.
A street full of treats from the sea......
.....with some weird and not-so-appetising offerings.
There was even an outdoor pool hall, complete with the dodgy looking hustlers you'd expect to find hustling.
Everyone at Carbon was welcoming, and usually OK for a pic or two.
Everywhere I went was like that, too, people busy making a living, but not too hard pushed to smile.
Cebu City may never feature in Conde Nast, but if you can ignore the warts, it's got its charms.
And gets a thumbs up from me.