Cebu is one of the Philippines’ most prosperous regions, second only to Luzon in terms of economic importance. It is also home to some of the best beaches in the world, making it a prime destination for tourists who love the sun, sea, and sand. But, the Queen City of the South is not just islets and white-sand beaches. There is plenty more to visit here that does not involve sailing through or diving into its pristine waters. Here are some non-beach Cebu tourist spots to include in your itinerary.
Magellan’s Cross - Image Credit: SamTan
The Philippines is largely a Catholic country, with the religion being a cornerstone of most Filipinos’ identity. It was in Cebu where the spread of the said religion began. The story goes that upon Ferdinand Magellan’s discovery of the archipelago in 1521, he ordered his fellow explorers to plant a Christian cross, symbolizing the first contact of Europe and Catholicism in the island and its inhabitants. It was also at that time when Raja Humabon, along with his family and subjects, were baptized into Christianity.
Centuries after the said event, the cross has been regarded as a holy item by visitors from different parts of the country. They began chipping parts of the relic to take with them as souvenirs until it began to fall apart. To protect the remaining wood, it was said to be encased in a new wooden cross that now stands at the center of a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. However, others theorize that the original wood was actually destroyed or stolen not so long after it was put in place. While the story is still contested to this day, Magellan’s Cross remains a popular pilgrimage site for devout Catholics as well as locals and foreign tourists.
Cebu Taoist Temple
Cebu Taoist Temple - Image Credit: Juan Piso
Tucked within the city in Beverly Hills Subdivision is one of the top Cebu tourist spots you should not miss—Cebu Taoist Temple. Built in 1972 by the city’s Chinese community, two different temples can be found in this attraction: the main temple and the Phu Sian Temple. The main temple sits 270 meters above sea level and is Cebu’s center of worship for Taoism, a religion that follows the teachings of Chinese Philosopher, Lao Zhi. The latter temple, on the other hand, is for the adherents of Buddhism and was built by Chinese Buddhist, Dharma Master Weichi in 1979.
Of the two temples, the only one open to the public is the main temple. The entrance here is a replica of the Great Wall of China and the temple itself has several parts, including a chapel, library, wishing well, and a souvenir shop. A lush garden ideal for meditation is also found within the temple grounds, along with a spacious balcony where you can take in the scenic view of the city below.
Sirao Flower Garden
Sirao Flower Garden - Image Credit: MJ Magallon
If you have a love for greens and blooms, be sure to drop by at Sirao Flower Garden, which is in a more elevated spot in Busay. Commonly referred to as the “Mini Amsterdam,” this attraction features fascinating rows of colorful flowers. However, unlike in Amsterdam where tulips reign supreme, Celosia flowers in red, yellow, orange, and purple are the highlight in this garden, along with daisies and sunflowers. There are also numerous “Instagrammable” spots within area, perfect to fill in your feed and that of your friends with excellent photographs.
There is a good back story of how the garden came to be. A couple planted flowering plants which they intended to harvest and sell on All Soul’s Day. However, they have notice that the garden was starting to draw visitors, which made them decide to allow the flowers to bloom and grow. Since then, Sirao has become one of the most recommended Cebu tourist spots, and the owners continue to improve and renovate the whole place to please visitors.
Temple of Leah
Temple of Leah - Image Credit: Oh Carol
You don’t need to fly to Rome to see and experience Roman architecture complete with granite columns. At the top of a hill in barangay Busay in Cebu is the seven-storey Temple of Leah, which was built in 2012. Constructed as a symbol of Teodorico Adarna’s undying love and ceaseless devotion for his late wife, Leah Albino-Adarna, the 500 square meter attraction houses the favorite items of the latter.
The gate of this attraction opens to a driveway that leads straight to a courtyard that features granite floors and a marble fountain—reminiscent of the ancient upper class Romans’ atrium. Visitors are also welcomed by the spectacular view of Cebu upon reaching the attraction. Different parts of the main building are also adorned by a wide variety of Grecian statues, while the main stairs that lead to the portico is guarded by two golden lions. A nine-foot bronze statue of Leah greets visitors upon entering the structure. Aside from the shrine, there is also a museum, art gallery, and library inside—all of which hold the personal belongings of Leah. This place is now one of the most visited Cebu tourist spots and is a perfect stop for those who want to experience a slice of Rome without breaking the bank.
Cebu Heritage Monument
Cebu Heritage Monument - Image Credit: Joal Perocillo
Cebu has a rich history and this is well-depicted in a popular landmark tableau found in the heart of the city—the Cebu Heritage Monument. Made from a combination of steel, brass, and concrete and created by national artist Eduardo Castrillo, this sculpture showcases many of the important events that shaped Cebu as it is today. From the time Raja Humabon was baptized into Christianity to the Battle of Mactan to the beatification of Saint Pedro Calungsod. Aside from historical events, the monument also features many of the popular sites in the city, including the Basilica Santo Niño, Saint John the Baptist Church, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Magellan’s Cross, and the Spanish Galleon. While at it, you can also pay a visit to other nearby places of interest, including the Casa Gorordo Museum, the Cathedral Museum, and Cebu Provincial Museum, all of which are just within the vicinity of the monument.
These are just five of the recommended Cebu tourist spots you should visit when you happen to be vacationing in the area. Considering the city’s rich history and culture, the are many other places of interest here that you can explore and partake in a historical, cultural, and educational journey.