Becoming a Local in Cebu City

January 1, 1970

by Oi Meira

Cebu City, One of Paradises in the Philippines

Beaches are very famous in the Philippines. Most of the tourists look for the leisure there and enjoying the water sport. I agree! What’s more relaxing than laying down on a beach, wearing bikini or just short pants, and drinking coconut water? But there are a lot of things you can do in the cities. One of the most famous cities in this country is Cebu City.

It’s located in the province of Cebu. Now, open your map and find Cebu Island which connected to Mactan Island by a bridge. In less than two minutes, you will find this fun city easily. This city is also the most populous one after Manila. So, you might feel very dizzy while walking around the city because sometimes the road is very crowded. Not just like cities in Europe, Cebu City is full of people. They walked around the market, pedestrian, and anywhere else. And most of tourists complained about the weather and the temperature which is very hot, yet cannot be predicted. But it doesn’t make this city less fun than the others.

People of Cebu City

To be honest, three days is not enough for exploring this beautiful city. But sometimes you need to deal with your actual job in your country and let the sadness healed by saying ‘see you again my Cebu City.” So, I only have very short time for this city. But that didn’t stop me walking around with my travel buddy, Jens, to find what you can do in the city. Because I believe, traveling is not only about exploring the new place but also the learning something form the local people.

To learn something from them, you need to be a local. Well, you cannot, but at least you need to try the easy things like for example, speaking their language. Not like in Manila, people in Cebu, that called Cebuano, speak Cebuano. They don’t speak Tagalog. Learning their local language actually is not very hard, as long as it’s just a conversational words. There are useful words that I remember until now.

  • Lugarlang : it uses for stopping the Jeepney (local transportation). My local friend said, it means stop right here. You can also knock the upper side of the Jeepney.
  • Sakit : it means hurt. So if you get injured due to the sport or an accident happened, you just need to go to a drug store and tell them sakit while pointing the injured part of your body.
  • Salamat : thank you
  • Trappik : traffic. Useful when you talk about the bad traffic in the city to the taxi, habal-habal or Jeepney driver.
  • Tara : let’s go.

Before visiting the city, you might want to know the differences between Tagalog and this language. You can learn it online here.

Local Food

You can simply find a lot of food in Cebu City. But there are some famous food you must try. Balut, lechon, and JollyBee. Even if I am telling you about Balut here, unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to try it. But I tried lechon, the roasted pork. The word Lechon itself is Spanish. But well, the Philippines is influenced by Spanish culture, as Magellan first time came to Cebu in 1521. No wonder there are a lot of things in Cebu sound like Spanish.

Another one is JollyBee. If you find McDonald’s, KFC, and A&W are very familiar in Asia Countries, well they’re not in the Philippines. In Cebu, they have their local fast food, called JollyBee. Even if the food style is very western, but they put some local spices. So, the tastes of the chicken, burgers, and spaghetti are different than the other similar fast food restaurants.

JollyBee can be your savior when youre failed to find good food around.

JollyBee can be your savior when you’re failed to find good food around.

What really I like is, JollyBee has local food, called Palabok. It’s something like white, transparent noodles with local sauce. They add some shrimps too! It tastes very delicious and also very cheap. So, if you cannot find any food you really like you don’t eat pork, I think JollyBee will be your best friend and the first aid to prevent starving.

How to Get Around

Cebu City is not much different than Makati or Manila City. They have old streets, old markets, and old buildings. The similarity includes the bad traffic jam. That night, Jens and I were going back to Pit-Os from Colon Street, the oldest national road in the Philippines. We were trying to be locals. It means, no taxi, no Uber, no fancy things. So we were waiting for a Jeepney to go back home. It was around 8 pm. But the crazy thing is, there was no empty Jeepneys. All Jeepneys were full of passenger and we needed to wait for 2 hours, to wait until all people already at ‘home.’ But Jeepney is not the only public transportation in Cebu.


I find it similar to ‘angkot’ in my country. You can Google it to find out how it looks like. Some tourists don’t really want to take it to go around the city. First, it’s not as comfortable as taxi and Uber. But it’s definitely way cheaper than other public transportation. The fair starts from 7 php and I paid 14 php from Pit-Os to Colon Street. So it’s very cheap! Be ware of pickpockets, though.


Some people call it motorcycle taxi. So, it works just like a taxi. You get on the motorcycle, tell the rider in front of you where do you want to go. But make sure to ask the fair before getting on it. Because they could just higher the fair as they know you are a tourist. The fair starts from 10 php. PS: do not be shocked or afraid, this one Habal-habal can take two or even more passengers!


There are a lot of taxis forming a queue in front of big malls, hotels, restaurants, bars, office building to get passengers. You can just take taxi to get around the city. But be careful, some of them don’t want to use the meter! So, make sure you only take taxi with a meter. Or, just make sure you already deal the price to with the driver. Don’t hop in if you’re still bargaining.


This is my last option if only I were lost or didn’t get Jeepney. Uber application in your smartphone can be used in Philippines. You can simply use it as usual.

Historical Sites You Must Visit

As I told you before, I could only visited some historical sites in the city. But it’s okay, I am planning to go back to this city next year, anyway. So, there are some places I really recommend. Maybe some people are not really into these places, but they help you to know the history and city’s background better. Just like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, and Sandiego-Yap Ancestral House. While taking selfies and a lot of pictures of the old buildings, don’t forget to learn anything from the history.

Traveling to a new place can be very adventurous, fun, boring or disturbing. But a trip will just be a trip and it will be the same from country to country. What makes me in love with traveling is, I wasn’t also amazed with the beautiful sights and fun activities there. Shopping can make me happy. But there’s nothing can make me grateful except learning a lot of things from the local people. By trying to be a local, I’m also trying to learn something new. The Philippines maybe my first step to become a solo backpacker. But it’s not my last trip. Enjoy your trip, enjoy your time while becoming a local.


Oi Meira

By Oi Meira

A writer in Indonesia who loves about culture, history, and travel. I am interested in photography, but still learning to get a pro skill of travel photography. I have dreamed to be a war journalist. But now just focusing in writing and traveling.


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