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Cebu Top Tourist Attractions: In the New Normal
A year ago, COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and the Philippines and travel has been one of the activities which have been placed with most restrictions. For someone who is fond of traveling, this pandemic must have given you the frustrations due to postponed or canceled travel plans. But that was a year ago, now the world had started to move on and adapt to the new way called New Normal.
What does “New Normal” mean? This term had been very familiar and widely used over social media, the internet, television, establishments, and everywhere else around the world when we started to recover from the effects of COVID-19. This term basically means a new lifestyle, a new way at work or school, a new way to do our everyday activities, and a new way to travel with consideration of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the Philippines, the government has reopened tourist visits for both local and foreign travelers, but then it is important to make sure that travel is allowed to your specific destination since some areas in the Philippines may still be under some tourist restrictions. Because the requirements to travel may change from time to time, always check the official local guidelines for the latest updates on restrictions and necessary requirements that may affect your travel plans.
1. Check for the latest travel restrictions in your place of destination:
Visit official web pages and other websites such as the Department of Tourism, the Department of Foreign Affairs, or the local website of the province that you would like to travel to for you to get accurate and official information. You don’t want to book your ticket and end up canceling or rebooking it just because you did not check first.
2. Complete all needed documents:
For tourists, documents such as travel or tourist pass, medical certificate or clearance, travel itinerary, round trip ticket, and hotel accommodation may be needed. Just make sure to bring and complete all needed documents for your travel to avoid travel hassles. Again check out the latest requirements as this may change from time to time.
3. Don’t forget to include sanitizers in your backpack:
In most public areas nowadays during the pandemic, hand sanitizers are everywhere as this is mandated by law in establishments, but just make sure to bring some for you to use whenever needed. Always sanitize your hand whenever it touches something that other people also touches such as doorknobs and rails.
4. Always wear protective gear and maintain social distancing:
Wearing a face shield and face mask in public areas is mandatory in the Philippines, these two are essential when you travel as well to Cebu. You may not be allowed to enter an establishment without the shield and the mask. Medical grade or cloth masks can be used, masks with valves are not allowed. The social distancing of 1-2 meters has also been mandated, although most forget to abide by this, this is important as some locals may not be wearing masks and face shields.
5. Do not travel when you are feeling off:
If you have flu-like symptoms, don’t travel, no matter if you have booked your tickets already or not.
Travel Destinations in Cebu in the New Normal
Cebu is a group of islands that are located in the central part of the Philippines. It consists of the main island and 167 surrounding beautiful and natural islands and islets. Cebu City which is the second metropolitan area in the Philippines is the oldest city and the first capital of the country.
Because of its geographic location, Cebu has been one of the major places for trading even before the historic arrival of the Spaniards. It also serves as a gateway to a lot of tourist destinations in the Philippines including Bohol, where the famous Chocolate Hills can be found, Boracay island, Puerto Princesa, and a lot more.
Rich cultural heritage, exotic history, beautiful and mesmerizing beaches, scuba diving sites, rich mountain areas, unique cuisine, and warm people are Cebu’s best for travelers.
- Must-Visit Historical Tourist Destinations
If you are a lover of historical and cultural and religious adventures, Cebu is rich with attractions depicting the interesting history of its past and broad and colorful cultural heritage and religious attractions.
1. Mactan Shrine:
Mactan Shrine is located in Lapu-Lapu City where the Mactan Airport is also located. The shrine is believed to be the approximate location of the Battle of Mactan. In this historical battle, Lapu Lapu, whom the city has been named, one of the chieftains, and an estimated 1500 natives fought against soldiers led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who came to Mactan Island in April 1521 to bring catholicism. Lapu Lapu and his men who were resistant to accept Ferdinand Magellan and his cause won against this battle and colonization were delayed for about 44 years. The shrine hosts two monuments, the monument of Lapu-Lapu as he was honored for his bravery to protect his village and for Ferdinand Magellan for bringing Catholicism to the Philippines and the Santo Nino (Baby Jesus) to Cebu.
2. Simala Shrine:
Situated in an uphill of Lindongon, Simala, Sibonga, Cebu, Simala Shrine is actually a church and is famous among the locals and tourists alike. This place is most visited and is packed with people especially during Holy Week and other Catholic activities celebrating the Virgin Mary. Just like other churches and monasteries in the Philippines, the Shrine was closed to the public during the height of the pandemic but was reopened in December 2020. Because of its magnificent and “castle-like” aura, people who are not even religious could not resist exploring the place. Its unique structure, serene atmosphere, and the majestic view is a must experience for tourists. When you get here, aside from wearing a face mask and face shield, and observing social distancing, visitors are reminded to keep silent and avoid making unnecessary noise.
3. Taoist Temple:
By JuanPiso – Own work
“The Cebu Taoist Temple is located in the Beverly Hills subdivision in Lahug, Cebu City, and was built in 1972. Its location is elevated about 360 ft above sea level and could be reached through private vehicles only. The place has been opened to worshippers and non-worshippers alike. The entrance to the temple is a replica of the great wall of China and is a breathtaking view. Not only that, you will have to walk up to an estimated 120 steps of stairs to reach the main of the temple which will give you a dual view of the city and the green lush mountain area of Cebu. One can get a relaxing and “worth it” feeling as one feel the fresh breeze of air and the mesmerizing architectural design of the temple.”
4. Sinulog Festival:
Celebrated every 3rd Sunday in January in honor of Santo Nino (Baby Jesus), this religious tradition is one of the unique, colorful, vibrant, and biggest festivals in Cebu. This activity is being participated not just by the locals of Cebu but all over the Philippines. People from different areas in the country book their flights and reserve ahead for this wondrous day. The festivity showcases colorful street dancing with drums and bugles from different groups of all ages all over the Philippines sponsored by their respective region. Religious and non-religious visitors wouldn’t want to miss witnessing this fantabulous sight. Hundreds of small stalls for face tattoos and souvenirs lined up on the street as well so you can shop and get memorabilia of the festival.
However, the 2021 Sinulog Festival physical and virtual celebrations were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One can only hope and pray to see the vibrant and fun-filled celebration again next year as this festival is being held annually.
- Must-Visit Scuba Diving Sites
The Philippines was awarded as the Best Overseas Diving Area (overseas category) at the Marine Diving Awards 2020 in Tokyo, and the Philippines also received nominations as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination and World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 27th World Travel Awards. Cebu is among those places in the Philippines known for its spectacular, rich, and natural under the ocean flora and fauna. Scuba diving in the Cebu oceans is an experience ocean explorers and scuba diving fanatics shouldn’t miss when you visit Cebu.
Although scuba diving is one of the activities that was restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic, in October 2020, diving was tagged as a non-contact sport or activity and was again allowed during the pandemic in the Philippines. But before going on a dive, one needs to be reminded of the new normal rules in scuba diving:
- Scuba Diving in areas placed on GCQ (General Community Quarantine) and MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) are allowed to operate. Since this may change from time to time, check the latest update on restrictions of the scuba dive site you want to visit.
- Bring your own diving gear and equipment box. Strictly no borrowing.
- Bring and apply liberally hand disinfectants throughout the day whenever necessary.
- Spitting to defog your gear is prohibited. Soap and shampoo are advised to be used as a defogger and is mandatory to be available in diving centers.
- Wear face shield and mask when not on actual dive and when interacting with other people.
1. Pescador Island:
A lot of divers who have visited Pescador talk about the “Pescador Experience.” This is an exciting and mesmerizing experience you shouldn’t miss when you visit Cebu. The Island which has been turned into a marine park is located in the municipality of Moalboal in Cebu and is considered Moalboal’s Jewel. The island is known for the sardine run which seems like thousands of them forming like a tornado is breathtaking to witness. You can find a variety of ocean life here like scorpionfish, stonefish, snappers, school of barracuda, frogfish, and a lot more. Turtles are common on this island too. On the west side of the island, you will find the “Pescador Cathedral”, a cavern or funnel starting at 18 meters dropping to 40+ meters, with pockets, bridges, and swim-throughs. Currents can be a bit tricky sometimes but you will surely have one of the most unforgettable diving experiences in your life.
2. Mactan Island:
This island is one of the famous diving spots not only in Cebu but in the Philippines. Many diving centers are open here since diving was allowed during the pandemic, but it is best to book This island is very accessible since this is also where the international airport is located, so if you have limited time in Cebu but you want to experience and witness its rich marine life, then the island will not disappoint you.
Mactan island and its surrounding island has diverse, colorful, and rich marine life. You will see snakes, frogfish, barracudas, leaf fish, mandarin fish, groupers, scorpionfish, blue-ribbon eels, nudibranchs, rainbow runners, pufferfish, clownfish, sweet lips, moray eels, drummers, harlequin fish, butterflyfish, pipefish, and many others. In the bigger marine sanctuaries, there are schooling mackerel and jacks, turtles, stingrays, and occasionally bigeye trevallies. Some dive spots are home to thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks.
Dive sites such as Tambuli, Agus, Marigondon Cave, Talima Marine Sanctuary can be accessed through Mactan Island.
3. Malapascua Island:
Malapascua is a small island of 2.5 kilometers in length and 1-kilometer width. It has a long stretch of white sand beach and is home to a small community. Located at the tip in the north part of Cebu, one will have to travel about four hours to Daanbantayan and take a 5 minutes boat ride to the island.
The island is a very popular diving spot in Cebu and is ideal for diving beginners. It offers a great and exciting experience for newbie divers as the dives here are easy to do but would inspire and thrill newbie divers to do more dives. Malapascua is famous for the thresher shark dives in Monad Shoal, here you can swim with the thresher sharks as much as you want and a lot of dive experience from unspoiled coral gardens, reefs and wrecks, night dives, wall dives, and a lot more.
Cebu indeed has rich marine life and a lot of diving spots, you can also visit the Olango group of islands which are adjacent to Mactan Island, Nalusuan Island, and Hilutungan Island which can’t be missed out during island hopping and notable for great snorkeling experience, and Capitancillo Island wherein a unique spot called the Rendez-Vous is located, is a deep gorgeous wall down to 180 feet to the different sloped walls a unique underwater fauna and flora.
4. Swimming with Whale Shark in Oslob:
The whale watching was suspended for about 4 months during the height of the pandemic but it has already resumed starting August 2020.
This thrilling and breathtaking swim with the whale shark can be experienced in Oslob. You will have the opportunity to decide to see them from the boat or you can snorkel or dive to see the whale shark closely. About 5-10 whale sharks are noted to visit the site every day as fishermen feed them.
It is truly exciting to swim with these majestic animals but it is important to follow instructions and make sure you and whale sharks are safe.
5. Kawasan Falls:
Kawasan Falls is located in Badian and is near Moalboal. This natural waterfall is a three-stage cascade of clear turquoise water from the mountain springs of the Mantalongon mountain range. The waterfall in the first stage is the largest and is the one which tourists mostly visit, you must climb to about 15 minutes to reach the second one, and must climb higher to reach the 3rd one. Canyoneering adventure is a popular activity in this area. It starts at Canlaob river downstream going to Kawasan falls.
- Attractions at Cebu Transcentral Highway (Mountain Tour)
The trans central highway of Cebu is considered as one of the best innovations on the island in terms of transportation. The 33-kilometer highway is snake-like resting in the lush green mountains as it stretches from the east coast of Cebu City to the west coast in Balamban. This road is famous for bikers because of its notable winding road and relaxing cold temperature and natural green environment. This area here can be compared to the famous Kennon Road in Baguio.
Camping sites, strawberry garden, flower gardens such as Sirao Flower Garden, wide vegetable gardens, can be found here and is open to the public. Mountain adventures such as Ziplining, Sky biking, trekking, horseback riding can be experienced as well.
1. Temple of Leah:
One of the recent attractions along the Cebu Transcentral Highway which is gaining local and foreign interest is the Temple of Leah which is dubbed as the “Taj Mahal” of Cebu. This structure was built in 2012 on a mountain top in Busay as an expression of the love of a wealthy businessman in Cebu to his late wife named Leah. This Greco-Roman like big structure overlooks the city of Cebu.
Although tourism was suddenly halted in Cebu due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the beautiful, scenic and breathtaking tourist spots here have been reopened for travelers to see and experience. Just make sure to check updates on travel requirements to your specific destination before you plan your travel.
Cebu is indeed one of the places in the Philippines a traveler must not miss or you will surely miss a travel experience you might regret in your life. Cebu is a very rich, vibrant, and diverse island. From interesting and world noted historical sites, world-famous beaches, and scuba diving experience, to exciting nature and mountain eco-adventures and a lot more.
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