A tourist visiting Cebu City for the first time may well be turned off by some of the city sites. The city has several world class resorts, hotels, beaches and dive sites. It also has some areas of the world’s most devastating poverty. Cebu City is the capital city of the Cebu Province and it is the second largest city in the Philippines following Manila. I always feel at home in the city and lived in the city before building my home in the rural Cebu Province of Camotes Islands. Cebu City is a mix of the old and new, rich and poor, good and bad and pretty and ugly. There is also the mix of clean and really dirty or filthy. The rule for anyone going to Cebu for the first time is to not make a snap judgment.
My first trip to Cebu City was in February 2004. I went to the Philippines to meet a girl (Judith) now my wife. I flew into the Cebu-Mactan Airport and was met by Judith and one of here sisters. My flight started in Florida and the last leg of the flight was from Hong Kong. The Cebu International airport is just a little outdated, but very functional. Once outside of the airport doors I saw waves of people waiting to meet people coming off of the flight from Hong Kong. The airport was not all that busy when I arrived and I think my plane was the only arriving flight at the time. As people from my flight walk outside of the airport door they were bombarded with shuttle, taxi and V-hire greeters, all trying to get a fare. I met Judith just outside the airport doors. She, her sister and I all jumped into an old Kia Taxi and we were off to my hotel.
The taxi was old and not very well maintained. The Air conditioner didn’t work and the window wouldn’t go down. Of course that didn’t matter as I couldn’t close the door because the door latch was broken. So, I got lots of air. The hotel was about a 30 minute drive from the airport. As we traveled the city streets I saw crowded sidewalks made even more crowded by the many sidewalk vendors and street vendors. Some of the roads we traveled were moderately maintained while others were in very poor condition. The roads were crowded with many types of cars, but mostly Kia’s and Hyundais. There were also a lot of Jeepneys, a Philippine traditional method of travel. A jeepney looks like a stretched army jeep with a hardtop and a large cargo area used for two benches for passenger seating. Jeepneys are normally painted with several different colors and lots of chrome. Many of the jeepneys are poorly maintained and most have bald tires and the braking systems may be questionable. Also, there were lots of small motorcycles.
After traveling just a few minutes I decided that the most dangerous vehicle in Cebu was the Jeepney, the Taxi and finally the motorcycle. The jeepney drivers tend to rule the road and stop on either side of the road to pick up or drop off passengers. I saw many jeepneys cut both lanes of traffic off just to drop off people and then saw others swerve quickly to the side of the road cutting off traffic so the driver could jump out of the jeepney to urinate along the side of the road. Taxis are no better, but pose a slightly smaller threat because the vehicles are smaller than a jeepney Motorcycles seem to be a danger only to the motorcycle driver and passengers and anyone walking along side the road or on the sidewalk. Motorcycles make their own traffic lanes on whatever little shoulder the road may have to offer or sometimes drive on the painted divider line as a narrow roadway to make an extra traffic lane for themselves. At other times I saw motorcycles throttle down sidewalks weaving around pedestrians. Yet, the pedestrians seemed little concerned of the carelessness and just continued on their way.
As we continued on our way to the hotel we drove through many different areas of the city. Some areas were very old and the buildings looked as though they were ready for demolition years ago. Many buildings and store fronts are concrete with plywood or corrugated steel sheets added to broken windows and steel bars cover the window or plywood. I can’t imagine what would be worth the cost of the steel bars as the buildings were so poor. I was sure the contents within were no better. I noticed several small store fronts with one big open widow covered with chicken wire. These little stores are about the size of a small closet and there are dozen of these little stores on every street. They are called sari-sari stores and sell just a very few items such as canned fish, rice, snacks, cigarettes and so on. Most of these little stores are attached to the front of private houses and are crudely constructed of unpainted plywood and tin roofs. Most of the Sari-sari stores block the sidewalk, forcing people to walk on the road to get around the protruding plywood box. Other Sari-sari stores have a small table or tables along the narrow sidewalks for their rum buying customers and a karaoke machine assist in blocking the sidewalks.
In many of the old areas the…