Location, Location, Location!
By Butch Carungay, November 9, 2021
There aren’t that many places in the world where one can enjoy the perks of living in a metropolis while having both the ocean and the mountains in very close proximity. Barcelona, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro are perhaps the best known of such cities. Cebu, while not nearly as sprawling or famous as any of these towns, is blessed to have sea and summits all within its compact city limits.
The beaches adjacent to the city’s historical core have long been lost to centuries of “progress”. However, the white sand and world-class facilities of the resorts on nearby Mactan Island are a mere twenty minutes away. From lazing on the beach to treating onself to a gastronomic feast to enjoying a wide variety of water sports, the number of activities one can engage in so close to the center of Cebu City is truly astounding. Once can even rent a banca (local outrigger) for the day to explore the many islets and sandbars that dot the surrounding seas.
Equidistant from the city’s center is Kan-Irag Peak, which – at nearly 700m above sea level – is the highest moutain within Cebu City’s boundaries. It may not a well known fact that 70% of the city’s land area is in its sparsely populated upland barangays. So even prior to the pandemic, there were already a few commercial establishments located there that catered to the needs of long-time mountain afficionados. However, when COVID19 hit, business in the bukid boomed. Cebuanos quickly realized that the crisp mountain air, panoramic vistas, and lush vegetation benefit both physical and mental well-being. The Cebu City Tourism Commission quickly added Cebu’s Highlands and Eco Tourism as a priority area and is working on a multitude of projects to promote accredited establishments, maintain standards, enforce policies, build capacity and develop even more tourism products.
Traditional activities associated with the uplands such as hiking, biking and camping are now complemented with farm to table cuisine, road-side stalls, picturesque flower gardens and outdoor art installations. A Farmer’s Market on the grounds of the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel every Saturday started off with a few tents but has now since expanded exponentially – in both size and scope.
Cebu City’s coast, despite not having a swimmable beach, is undergoing even more transformative changes as most of the city’s mega-projects are centered there – particularly in the 300-hectare reclaimed quarter collectively known as the South Coast Properties (SRP). First occupied by the massive SM Seaside City in 2015, SRP was then augmented by the 50 hectare township City di Mare and its Il Corso Lifestyle Mall. In 2019, Cebu Ocean Park, the largest of its kind in the country opened up their oceanarium which has both marine and terrestrial species. Most recently, the Cebu-Cordova Link Exchange, the longest bridge in the Philippines was connected and should be able to service the expected 50,000 vehicles a day in a few months.
Another substantial new development to come online in 2022 will be the Nustar Resort which is envisioned to be Cebu’s premier 5-star integrated resort housing the region’s largest casino gaming floor.
Source: Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc.
Adjoining the SRP are two initiatives that are finally starting to revitalize the once-decaying and dilapidated historical core of the city. The first to be realized — also in 2022 — will be Cebu’s first National Museum. Located in the old Aduana Customs House, this structure at one point also became the Malacañan sa Sugbo — where the President of the republic would preside when in town. Equally exciting — but larger in scope — is the wholesale redevelopment of Carbon Market into a modern and first-world public market, retail, lifestyle and, transportation hub by the same team that redeveloped the award-winning Mactan Cebu International Airport.
Source: Cebu2World Development Inc.
Cebu Business Park – the city’s premier commercial enclave – has seen a number of notable new structures rise that will soon be joined by Cebu’s first edifice designed by the big-name international architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Inspired by Cebuano creativity and craftsmanship, this 32-storey mixed-use structure dubbed Masters Tower will be anchored by the city’s first 5-star luxury property to be operated by Sofitel, the renowned French brand.
Source: Cebu Landmasters Inc.
These are just a few of the many exciting initiatives that promise to redefine the city’s-built environment in ways that could not be dreamt of a mere few years ago. With its beautiful topography, a newfound spirit of urban regeneration and multiple prestige projects in the pipeline, Cebu City is indeed well poised to continuously flourish as the Philippines’ Queen City of the South.