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48 hours in Cebu

Updated: Mar 27

48 hours in Cebu
Downtown Cebu, Philippines

I hesitate to say that I have visited Cebu. Not because I didn’t like it, but because my 48 hours in Cebu were a blur. I suspect I’m not the first person in history to utter these words.

To the extent that I have any recollection of my visit to this historic city, I’ll share some, uhh… insights… food. I’ve forgotten what I was talking about.

I suppose we can start by talking about Ferdinand Magellan’s landing in 1521, or the reef diving and other water sports, or that it is sister city with Seattle, Washington. But I didn’t learn any of that on my whirlwind trip and what little I did learn I summarily forgot after consuming my body weight in San Miguel Pilsen beer. So let’s skip the important historical stuff and talk about my trip – which really means food.

Because most of my group started arriving in Cebu in the late morning, we kicked off the retreat with a meeting at Pino Filipino Cuisine (15 Wilson St, Cebu City). It was a nice place, which, despite being quite big, had a very family-oriented vibe to it. It wasn’t my favorite restaurant, but it has received some good reviews on the internet and it was one of the few things I recall about my visit, so I feel a bit obligated to mention it.

Then, after a long day of meetings we piled far too many people into a couple of taxis and went off into the unknown in search of our dinner venue, Arano’s Bar and Restaurant (29-31, Fairlane Village Rd, Cebu City). Arano’s is located in a residential neighborhood, amongst narrow roads and high walls – had we not been in a large group, I would have been concerned I was being taken somewhere to get rolled. But, we eventually found Arano’s, which turned out to be a medium-sized room with a small bar and a maximum seating of probably twelve. We were asked whether we’d like to eat on the patio, which appeared to be someone’s backyard, so of course, we agreed that would be perfect. It was raining throughout dinner, so the temperature was pleasant, and the falling rain on the tin roof was soothing. We tried a good number of dishes (Spanish mostly) and drank our share of beer, and left quite impressed. It was dinner at someone’s house. Nothing was fancy and food was served by various family members (of all ages), it appeared, and we had a genuinely good time.

The next morning started with breakfast at the Cuarto Hotel (15 Don Gil Garcia St, Cebu City), a business hotel that I found very comfortable and pleasant. Then more meetings and a walk to lunch at STK ta Bay! (6 A. Climaco St, Cebu City). STK ta Bay is a seafood restaurant, decorated like a religious museum (as far as I can recollect), and was hands-down my favorite restaurant experience of the trip. It’s the kind of place I would have eaten all of my meals, had I been given the opportunity.

Then more meetings… (fast forward) and dinner, which was supposed to be at the “best lechon restaurant on earth,” Rico’s Lechon. But, as luck would have it, Rico’s had been closed down just a couple of days earlier due to a licensing dispute with the city. So, we loaded into a couple of vehicles and drove aimlessly for a bit until we finally gave up and had dinner at ZubuChan lechon (Escario Central, N Escario St, Cebu City) instead. I should first say that ZubuChan is a chain, not the family-run Rico’s, so I wasn’t expecting much more than something to soak up the beer I had been drinking all day and that I expected I’d consume later in the evening. But, it ended up being pretty good. So, when my flight home the next morning was delayed, I ate at ZubuChan at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport - an unexpected twofer.

Ultimately, after two days in Cebu, I can say that I know virtually nothing about this (according to my research) fascinating city. The people were friendly, as they tend to be everywhere in this interesting country, and none of my preconceptions of this city (as far as I could tell) turned out to be correct. As a consequence, I am going to have to put a trip to Cebu on my bucket list.

(Photo is posted by permission; all copyrights to the photo are reserved by Mars Johnson).

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