CEBU CITY, Philippines – I stood with my feet planted firmly in the sand, the wind causing my things to sway gently around me, as I tried my best to hold my camera steady. A few steps away, the water was rolling peacefully, a brilliant, striking blue-green.
It was one of Cebu's famous sunny days, and I would spend the day talking with folks who have called this beautiful place home, learning more about where they liked to spend their time when in town.
If one only had 24 hours to explore Cebu, I asked them, what shouldn't they miss?
First, I spoke to entrepreneur Peter Delantar, the founder of Vinyl Entertainment, an independent concert promoter based in Cebu. Young and full of energy, Pete had been working hard on an event for that evening – the DJ Dirty South was all set to perform at Cebu's trendly LIV Superclub.
But his suggestions for a trip to Cebu were classic activities that travelers shouldn't miss – with a spotlight on the area's nearby beaches and many possibilities for day trips.
#shareph @peterdelantar of @vinylcebu tells me what he'd do in 24 hrs in #cebu @rapplerdotcom #travel pic.twitter.com/tK4cmACWu6 — Wyatt Ong (@wyattcaraway) November 27, 2015
A trip to Oslob
Sunset watching good morning #cebu #oslob #sunset A video posted by Marie Kristine Soria (@mariekristinesoria) on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:42pm PST
Well known for being a popular (but also controversial) destination to view the whale sharks, Oslob is also home to many other beautiful places to visit, including Tumalog Falls.
Amazing #tumalogfalls #oslob #cebu #philippines #falls #worldwonder #travel #wonderlust #travelgram #igtravel #explore #wheretogonext A photo posted by massab (@massab) on Jan 15, 2016 at 12:05am PST
Stop by Carcar for lechon and chicharon
Rise early on your way to Oslob to drop by the historic city of Carcar for delectable lechon and just-cooked chicharon (pork rinds).
Check out the picture below via Instagram:
Cebu is home to the best and most tastiest lechon in the Philippines, and also adjudged the 'best pig' by Anthony Bourdain. What makes it unique is the stuffing of lemon grass and spices in its cavity, which gives it its nice aroma and tasty meat. The best for me is the lechon in Carcar market. The ultimate Cebuano comfort food. Best with 'pusô' (hanging rice wrapped and cooked in woven palm leaves and shaped like a diamond). #lechon #cebu #carcar #roastedpig #anthonybourdain #bestpigever A photo posted by Alex Oh (@alexohph) on Dec 31, 2015 at 1:09am PST
Aside from the food, you can also explore old structures built in colonial times (click here for more).
After your Oslob day trip, chances are, you might be hungry again. Peter suggests a trip to No. 9 might be just what you need.
The food scene in Cebu is vibrant and teeming with delectable gems waiting to be discovered by any curious traveler. A peek at No. 9's Instagram reveals a number of original, interesting, and just plain beautiful entrees – including one that's to be launched at Sinulog 2016.
We're launching a new dish this Sinulog weekend! Come by after the street festivities, grab some tapas and cool drinks :-) Mejillones en Escabeche Rojo at No. 9. Bar + Kitchen stays open till midnight. For bookings and reservations, please call (032) 253 9518, or visit us at www.no9restaurant.com. #no9cebu #no9restaurant #cebu #philippines #restaurant #bar #food #spanishfood #tapas #raciónes #platosgrandes #cócteles #sinulogdish A photo posted by No 9 Restaurant (@no9restaurant) on Jan 14, 2016 at 12:13am PST
"To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living." - Anthony Bourdain Solomillo de Pulmon at No. 9. Kitchen stays open till midnight. For bookings and reservations, please call (032) 253 9518, or visit us at www.no9restaurant.com. #no9cebu #no9restaurant #cebu #philippines #restaurant #bar #food #spanishfood #steak A photo posted by No 9 Restaurant (@no9restaurant) on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:26am PDT
During my visit, I kept hearing constantly about Tops – not just from fellow travelers, but also from the locals – and the unforgettable, striking views of the city it offers.
I was not able to visit myself, although Peter's suggestion is at the top of my to-do list for my next visit. These Instagram snaps from various social media users aren't making it any easier to stay away:
Tops Lookout Cebu City #cebucity #triploqal #topslookout #travelph #sonyalpha6000 #sonyimages #sonyalpha A photo posted by TripLoqal (@triploqal.ph) on Nov 25, 2015 at 2:19pm PST
Tops Lookout, Cebu. Took a taxi into the mountains, drove for about an hour. When I arrived, the city was under a cloud. I love seeing the big picture in any situation. It helps me orient and position myself better. #Cebu #topslookout #clouds #cloud #mountains #house #philippines #ph #exploreeverything #explore #travel #travels #traveler #wanderlust #instatravel #instagood #instadaily #instalike #sonyalpha #vsco #vscocam #vscogood #vscoph #vscophilippines #sonya6000 #architecture #tourist #itsmorefuninthephilippines #cloudy #city A photo posted by Travels In Philippines (@pphilippines) on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:45pm PDT
Breathe life and Learn to let go! #vsco #vscocam #vscophile #vscoph #vscophilippines #vscogood #vscotravel #vscogrid #topslookout A photo posted by Fashion Designer, Bataan x MNL (@khrisy_alegado) on Jun 10, 2014 at 8:33pm PDT
At 22, Anton Aldeguer is hard at work to make his mark on Cebu's food scene with his first restaurant Hala! Paella, right in the popular Banilad Town Center.
In the bustling, cozy space, surrounded by pans and pans of colorful paella, Anton talked to me about his perfect 24 hours in Cebu – a low-key day spent island-hopping, with a stop at his favorite café.
What to do if you have just one day in #cebu? Anton says, visit the beach n hit his fave cafe. #24hrsincebu pic.twitter.com/lEla7h7xff — Wyatt Ong (@wyattcaraway) November 29, 2015
"With Cebu being uniquely narrowly shaped, everything is pretty much 30 minutes away, so I'd start the day going to the beach, maybe going island-hopping," he says.
Here are just a few gorgeous destinations you can visit via an island-hopping package, as seen on Instagram.
Pandanon Island, Bohol
#pandanon #island #cebu # A photo posted by 여정 (@ko_yj_95) on Jan 5, 2016 at 3:37am PST
2nd day in Cebu - #hilutungan #nofilterneeded #justaphonecamera 찌우랑 섬3개돌고 스노클링2번했고 뷰티풀걸들이라는 소리는 20번도넘게들음 오늘쨩이당 #cebu #hilutunganisland #happyincebu A photo posted by yoonjoobae (@yoonjoobae) on Jun 23, 2015 at 8:32am PDT
Photo from Uncle Enon. Photo of paradise that is filled with my best memories with the family ❤️ @gigimathay #nalusuan #nalusuanisland A photo posted by B.Mendoza (@brmldn) on Jan 14, 2016 at 3:43am PST
"I'd end the day going to the mountains in my favorite little spot, Adventure Cafe, where they serve really great hot chocolate – and they have a zipline," says Anton.
Take a look at these snaps of Adventure Cafe from social media:
Last destination yesterday. A photo posted by Irene Flores Hontanosas (@bellopapoy) on Nov 22, 2015 at 12:54am PST
'10.993 km.' A photo posted by Alex Schepers (@digital.release) on Sep 28, 2015 at 11:11pm PDT
Suman with hot choco. #desserts #dessertporn #dessertgram #filipinofoodporn #foodpornography #foodpost #foodgasm #foodie #igersoftheday #igerscebu #happykiddo #instagood #instamood A photo posted by Shalah Marie Gula (@chic_xhai) on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:04am PDT
Like Anton, for Meg Eteve, a day spent in Balamban is a great way to spend time and bond with friends in Cebu.
Fittingly, I spoke to Meg, the communications director at Cebu's Movenpick resort, at the hotel's swanky Ibiza loft after a scoop of their famous Movenpick ice cream.
For the locals I spoke to, a perfect day in Cebu is about relaxing, making time to linger with laughs and good conversation, as well as the best food.
#24hrsincebu : how about a picnic? Meg Eteve @altereggie of Hope NOW PH shares her ideas. #cebu @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/DtKcE8ou8S — Wyatt Ong (@wyattcaraway) November 28, 2015
A quick dip to power up for the day is a great way to start the day, says Meg, who also suggests a trip to the municipality of Balamban, with its majestic mountains and hiking trails. "I'd take a hike, we have beautiful mountains here, there are easy hikes. Bring a picnic, hang out, trek," Meg suggests.
#cebu_city #cebu #mountain #cow #balamban #nature #nofilter #instaphoto #view #nice #love A photo posted by @kazumi_21 on Jan 14, 2016 at 4:45am PST
Chills near Mt. Manuggal! #tugnaw #parelax A photo posted by bhoun (@bonito.flakes) on Oct 31, 2015 at 2:50am PDT
Leave who you were. Love who you are. Look forward to who you will become. #balamban #cebu #cansox A photo posted by Sarah Rizaga (@himesara5h) on Jan 14, 2016 at 8:22am PST
"After which, at the close of the day, I would grab a really yummy Neapolitan pizza at La Nostra Pizzeria," says Meg.
Pizza done right @lanostrapizzerianapoletana. Thank you @mikecan A photo posted by Peter Delantar (@peterdelantar) on May 21, 2015 at 11:02pm PDT
What would you do if you had 24 hrs in cebu? @ilaputi 's _janrodriguez_ weighs in: @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/O75ALokjX4 — Wyatt Ong (@wyattcaraway) November 28, 2015
Another famous Cebu site, the municipality of Moalboal, is top of the list for Cebu-based Jan Rodriguez, the chef-owner of the fantastic restaurant Ilaputi.
Scanning Moalboal photos on Instagram reveals more of Cebu's stunning marine life – especially well known for the sardine run, where fish in overwhelming numbers swim together, sometimes creating different shapes and patterns.
"Crazy as it sounds, the sardines are found just 10 feet underwater, even snorkelers may enjoy the intense show of epic proportions," writes diver Jun Lao in a previous Rappler story. Jun took the picture above.
정어리 외계인들의 침공 ^^ #teamsidemount #TDI #테크니컬다이빙 #클럽하리 #razor #사이드마운트#정어리#sardine#moalboal#모알보알 A photo posted by KimJun (@club_hari_dive_resort) on Jan 14, 2016 at 2:21am PST
And make sure, says Jan, not to miss Tatang's Lechon.
since a lot of parties will be coming up.. and for sure lots of lechon will be served, but lines will be long too... for that, decided to have a lechon overload ahead! sakto ba @iamatimesuspender @incursionist?! #tatangslechon #bonelesslechon #lechonbelly #Lechon #cebu #cebueats #instafood #FuddeeNiXavee A photo posted by Francis Xavier Gonzalez Solis (@dookiexave) on Dec 13, 2015 at 10:10pm PST
And if you'd like to say hello to Jan and to many other friendly locals, drop by for tasty craft beers and burgers at his own Irie Gastropub.
The Ooze Burger. Bacon, Cheese, bacon, cheese, bacon, cheese, bacon, cheese, side of thick fries, bacon and cheese! #burger A photo posted by Irie (@irieph) on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:14am PDT
These are just a few of so many stunning sights promised by a trip to Cebu. What are your fondest memories of Cebu? What's on your bucket list this year? Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com
The author traveled to Cebu as part of an Eat and Greet tour to experience Cebu's dining scene and meet local entrepreneurs. The trip was sponsored by Carissa Villacorta Public Relations.