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Cebu City

The City of Cebu (Cebuano: Dakbayan sa Sugbo, Filipino: Lungsod ng Cebu) is the capital of the Cebu province in the Philippines and is the second most important metropolitan center in the country. The city lies on the eastern shore of the island of Cebu and is the first Spanish settlement in the country. It is the country's main domestic shipping hub and is home to more than 80% of the country's inter-island shipping companies. Cebu is also the main hub, outside of the capital, of international flights into the country and is the most important center of commerce, trade, and industry in the Visayas and Mindanao, the southern parts of the country. It is because of this and other important aspects that Cebu City is dubbed the Queen City of the South. According to the official 2007 census, it has a population of 798,809 people.

Cebu City is the center of a metropolitan area called Metro Cebu, which includes the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, Naga. Metro Cebu has a total population of more than 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 of Consolacion, 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 is located.


As early as 3,000 years ago, Cebu, Zebu, Zzubu or Sugbu, was already a prosperous settlement before it was colonized by Spain. It had trade relations with China and the other countries of Southeast Asia.

On April 7, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu. He was welcomed by Rajah Humabon also known as Rajah Hamabar, who, together with his wife and about 800 natives, were baptized by the Spaniards on April 14, 1521 and are considered to be the first Filipino Catholics. Magellan, however, failed to successfully claim the Philippines for the crown of Spain, having been slain in neighboring Mactan Island on April 27, 1521 by the chieftain Lapu-lapu.

On April 27, 1565, Miguel López de Legazpi, with Augustinian Friar Andrés de Urdaneta, landed in Cebu. Legazpi renamed the city on January 1, 1571, from San Miguel to Villa del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus. During this six year period, Cebu City was the capital of the newly established Spanish colony. (See also: Manila Galleon)

The province of Cebu was created under Act No. 2711 on March 10, 1917. It is the home province of Sergio Osmeña, Sr. who succeeded Manuel L. Quezon as Commonwealth president during World War II.

On January 2007, Cebu City co-hosted the 12th ASEAN and 2nd East Asian summits along with neighboring Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities.


Cebu City has a land area of 291.2 km². Of this, 55.9 km² is classified as urban, while 235.2 km² is classified as rural. Its geographic coordinates are . To the northeast of the city are Mandaue City and the town of Consolacion, 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 is located.

The city is politically subdivided into 80 barangays. These are grouped into two congressional districts, with 46 barangays in the northern district and 34 barangays in the southern district.


The city is an important cultural center in the Philippines. The city's most famous landmark is Magellan's Cross. This cross, now housed in a chapel, was supposedly planted by Ferdinand Magellan when he arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1521. It was encased in hollow tindalo wood in 1835 upon the order of the Augustinian Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon to prevent devotees from taking it home chip by chip. The same bishop restored the present template, or kiosk, located at the present Magellan street between City Hall and Colegio del Santo Niño. Revered by Filipinos, the Cross of Magellan is a symbol of the beginning of Christianity in the Philippines.

A few walks away from the Magellan's Cross is the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, an Augustinian church which was elevated to the rank of minor basilica in 1965 during the 400th year celebrations of the Christianization of the Philippines held in Cebu. The church, which was the first to be established in the islands, is built of hewn stone and features the country's oldest relic, the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu.

Cebu City is also host to the popular Sinulog festival, held every third Sunday of January in honor of Santo Niño, the "Holy Child". The Sinulog is a dance ritual of pre-Spanish origin. The dancer moves two steps forward and one step backward to the rhythmic sound of drums. This movement resembles somewhat the current (sulog) of the river. Thus, the Cebuanos called it Sinulog.

When the Spaniards arrived in Cebu, Pigafetta offered, as a baptismal gift, to Hara Amihan, wife of Rajah Humabon and later named Juana, the image of the Santo Niño (Child Jesus). With Magellan gone, the natives likewise honored the Santo Niño de Cebu with their Sinulog. Because the Augustinian missionaries appreciated native culture, the Sinulog was preserved but limited to honoring the Santo Niño. Once the Santo Niño church was built in the 1500s, the faithful started performing the Sinulog in front of the church, the devotees offering candles and the dancers shouting "Pit Señor!"

During the annual feast of the Santo Niño, held every 3rd Sunday of January, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, which houses the original icon, turns into a dancing hall after the solemn mass, with all the devotees executing the Sinulog. The dance continues during the procession in front of the carroza which bears the statue along the streets of Cebu up to late evening.

In 1980, the city authorities of Cebu made the Sinulog part and parcel of the religious feast of the Santo Niños. A mardi-gras atmosphere was added, the innovation becoming more colorful each year. The religious and the earthy sometimes overlap each other but, as a whole, there is much fun for Cebuanos and tourists alike who find in the Santo Niño festival that part of every one's childhood that must stay like Santa Claus and halloween.

In the early 2000s, one can see the widening gap between the secular Sinulog hosted by the City of Cebu and the religious Sinulog of the Agustinian priests. While most enjoy the secular celebrations, those of religious persuasion have been dismayed by the commercialization of the religious holiday.


Cebu City is a chartered city and thus is actually independent from Cebu Province. Registered voters of the city cannot vote for provincial candidates unlike its nearby counterparts (Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Talisay cities) that form part of Metro Cebu. It is the capital of the province mainly because the provincial capitol is located in it. There were proposals however during the time of Governor Lito Osmeña to create an "administrative district" that would be independent from Cebu City. This would literally mean carving out Cebu City's Barangay Capitol where the provincial capitol and other provincial offices are located. The plan however didn't push through and was even followed by other proposals like the transfer of the capital to nearby Balamban town.

Cebu City is governed mainly by city hall, composed of one mayor, one vice-mayor and sixteen councilors (eight representing the north and eight representing the south). Each official is elected publicly to 3-year terms. The chief of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) also sits in the city council. The day to day administration of the city is handled by a city administrator.

Tomas Osmeña is the mayor of Cebu City. He was elected in 1988, and re-elected in the 2004 Philippine elections. Michael Rama is the vice mayor.


More than 80% of interisland vessels operating in the country are also based there. Recently, the entry of business process outsourcing (BPO) firms such as call centers have contributed much to the growth of the local economy. Such has made the city together with the nearby cities that form part of Metro Cebu as the country's second important economic center.

It was built by the city government through a loan and is envisioned to play a driving role in the economy especially that congestion, given the fact that most of the city's land area is mountainous, would definitely be an issue in the future.

Most businessmen have acknowledged that the city must work hard in attracting direct foreign investments


The Cebu Metropolitan Area has all the necessary infrastructures sufficient enough for its pace of urbanization. The city is readily accessible by air via the Mactan-Cebu International Airport located in Lapu-Lapu City which has direct flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, China, Palau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Qatar, and South Korea. There are also direct transfer flights via the capital's Ninoy Aquino International Airport that readily connects the city to other destinations in the world. The city mostly gets its power from an interconnection grid with the Leyte Geothermal Power Plant which also powers majority of the Visayas Islands. There are also coal-fired power plants though these have been controversial due to its impact to the environment. Another coal-fired power plant is nearing completion and is envisioned to make the city independent from the interconnection grid once completed. Distribution of electricity is provided by the Visayas Electric Company (VECO).

The city is served by a domestic and international port which are handled by the Cebu Port Authority. Much of the city's waterfront is actually occupied by the port with around 3.5 kilometers of berthing space. The domestic port readily gives access to nearby islands and provinces. The city's central location makes it as an ideal transshipment hub. It is in fact home to more than 80% of the country's interisland vessels plying domestic routes mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Telecommunication facilities, broadband and wireless internet connections are readily available and are provided by some of the country's largest telecommunication companies.

In the mid 1990s the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill was constructed to ease garbage disposal within the city. It is however nearing its lifespan although the Provincial Government is planning to build two sanitary landfills to serve both the northern and southern parts of Metro Cebu including Cebu City. In June 2005, the city fully implemented the segregation of wastes as mandated by law.

Mass transportation throughout the city and the metropolis itself is provided by the popular jeepneys. There were previous plans of setting up a mass railway system but it was deemed not feasible as of the moment due to the high construction cost that it will entail and the uncertainty of making the routes profitable.


Cebu City is one of two centers of education in the country, the other one being the Manila Metropolitan Area. It currently has nine large universities each with a number of campus branches throughout the metro, and more than a dozen other schools and colleges specializing in various courses such as Medicine, Engineering, Nautical courses, Nursing, Law, Computer and IT, etc.

Among these schools is the University of the Philippines, Visayas - Cebu College (U.P. Cebu) - a satellite campus of the University of the Philippines, Visayas - Miag-ao, Iloilo (U.P. System - Visayas). It has currently 8 courses and has plans of expansion and development. It is located at Brgy. Camputhaw in the Lahug district of Cebu City.

The oldest educational institution in the Philippines is the University of San Carlos and has four campuses around the metropolitan area. Before gaining university status, it was originally called Colegio de San Ildefonso and was established in 1595 by the Jesuits. It is currently headed by the SVD.

Another catholic university in Cebu City is the University of San Jose-Recoletos which was founded on 1947. According to its profile, it offers an academic environment equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and technologies conducive to the academic development in consonance with the Catholic faith. It is currently headed by the Augustinian Recollects and has 2 different campuses within the city excluding a 1 proposed campus outside the city.

The University of Cebu-Banilad opened in June 2002, first had a modern eight-storey building. With the projected increase in enrollment in SY 2004-2005, a nine-storey building was constructed in the same campus. This is one of the campuses that the University of Cebu (UC) have. The University of Cebu - Main Campus, offers more courses such as Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT), HRM, Computer Engineering, BSED and others.

The newest university, Cebu Doctors' University (formerly Cebu Doctors' College) was granted university status on November 2004. It is the first and only medical university in the Philippines and has just recently relocated to a nine-storey main building at the Cebu Boardwalk in neighboring Mandaue City thus closing its old campus near the then Cebu Doctors' Hospital (now Cebu Doctors' University Hospital).

Cebu Normal University was established in 1915 as a provincial normal school, a branch of the Philippine Normal School. It became an independent institution in 1924, a chartered college in 1976, and a university in 1998. It is one of the oldest educational institutions in Cebu City.

The Asian College of Technology (ACT), first founded in 1988 as the Asian Institute of Technology, is known for its best computer training.

Also located in the city is the University of the Visayas, billed as the first university in Cebu City (but not the first school/institution which is the University of San Carlos).

Other noteworthy institutions in the city includes Velez College, the Cebu Institute of Technology and Southwestern University.

Many foreign students also come to Cebu City to study since education is relatively cheaper here. Most of them are Iranians and Nepalese who come to study dentistry and medicine. In recent years, many Koreans have come to Cebu to study English.

Cebu City has 68 public elementary schools, 23 national high schools and 28 night high schools. These night high schools are operated by the city government. The city has a literacy rate of 97%.


Tourism continues to contribute much to the local economy, not just of the city itself, but to the entire province. Because of this, the city hosted the 1998 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF). The city also hosted the East Asian Tourism Forum (EATOF) on August 2002, in which the province of Cebu is a member and signatory.

On early 2006, one of the island's famous landmarks was formally reopened under a new name, Marco Polo Plaza, after more than two years of closure. The hotel complex was formerly occupied by Cebu Plaza which was the first deluxe hotel in the province. It opened in the early 1980s and was viewed by some as a symbol of the province's economic growth.

There are a number of shopping establishments in the city, the most popular of which are the SM City Cebu, Ayala Center and Robinsons Plaza. There are also other smaller malls and stand-alone department stores. Throughout the years however, the establishment of "strip malls" which offers some sort of a town center environment have become the trend.

Away from the city, the Philippine Taoist Temple is a Daoist temple situated in Beverly Hills, a premier community within the city. The Philippine Taoist Temple gives a commanding view of Cebu City and the nearby cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

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