Traveling is not always pretty. Sometimes the reality is not tastefully designed, safe and clean. The street markets in Cebu are dirty, smelly, crowded and noisy. They will irritate your nose, eyes and you might get robbed, but you will get to experience authentic Philippines. And this is where I also find the beauty of the country, in the true places like that. You may spot beautiful handicrafts, and flowers vendors, skilfully presented fruits and vegetables and taste the weirdest foods ever. In the fake world, where machines took over so many activities, it’s interesting to see the Filipino’s daily life and the street markets in Cebu are great opportunity for that. You can get lost in a narrow dirty street, spoil you taste buds with new meals and experience the authentic Philippines like a local.
Visiting the street markets in Cebu City
I love to visit street markets whenever I travel. There is the vibrant life happening, the real people and simplicity. Markets in Asia such as Myanmar or Thailand, in the Middle East such as Iran or Turkey, were my favorite places to visit in the cities. Moreover, buying from local markets supports small producers and farmers from the region. It’s a great way to help the economy, and you are sure to get the fresh products at the best prices. By supporting local businesses you help them to survive, feed their families and pay the bills. The street markets in Cebu are lively, full of colors and kids running around and saying “Hi”. The live of authentic Philippines is just there on the dirty streets and smelly corners.
The streets markets in Cebu which I present, are all in downtown area. Once you get to see the historical sites such as fort, St. Nino Basilica and Magellan’s cross, the markets are in a walking distance. Chock full of everything you can imagine and get the best prices in Cebu. You can see what people eat here, what kind of jobs they have, what types of entertainments and how polluted is the country. This can be a great visit of the authentic Philippines and discovering the culture or a big disappointment if you don’t like going off the beaten path.
Colon Street – the oldest street in the country
The historical street in Cebu which got the name from Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) and it’s considered the oldest street in the Philippines. The Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived here to establish a colony in 1565 and planned a town structure. Before, Colon was the center of business, very good shops and offices. It was also where all the happenings took place such as social and cultural events. The street witnessed the rise and fall of the economy and political competence over the years.
Nowadays, Colon Street is dirty and nasty, but you can get things in the great prices from clothes to fake GUCCI bags and other goods. You can see the real life, traffic and the vendors not only in the shops but also on the sidewalk, street, moving around, simply – everywhere. You may encounter pickpockets so be careful of your belongings.
Coming from the St.Nino Basilique towards Coron street, you may notice the street with food stands all along with traditional Filipino food. Delicious soups, sea foods and meat, all good looking and very cheap. This is where I tried the shrimps and squid in the black sauce as well as for the first time the sea grapes – sea weed which you eat raw. Quite an interesting experience, worth trying. Another surprise was waiting in the kitchen…
Taboan Market – a danggit lovers paradise
This public market is a paradise of Cebu delicacies. The first one is dried fish, which you can see in every form and size possible. The smell is disgusting but such an interesting experience to see skilfully displayed dried spinefoot or rabbitfish, which is popularly known as the danggit. Cebu is considered to produce the best danggit in the country and the Taboan Market is the best place to get it in the reasonable price. Mounds and basketfuls of dried fish offer a variety of choices, sizes and shapes. You can also get a dried mango there. The smell of the dried fish sticks to your clothes after some time, so be sure that you don’t have other plans then a shower, after visiting Taboan Public Market.
The second delicacy you can find on Taboan Market is the Cebuano chorizo and other meat packed in the colons for barbeque. You can even see men packing meat unbelievably fast, like machines. If you are looking for a local experience that is definitely the place to be, make shopping and try to talk with Filipinos which are very hospitable and friendly.
Carbon Market – the biggest farmer’s market in Cebu
Carbon Market is the biggest one and the oldest farmer’s market in Cebu. Typical Filipino market with vendors selling all possible goods. Here come all the fruits and vegetables from the farmers of Cebu. Walking from the city center you will first come across the flowers market. On the other side hand made baskets from Bohol, straw bags and plates. Such a great hand work as well as unique and cheap souvenir from the Philippines. Plenty of stands with beautiful flowers for bouquets and funeral arrangements. Later you will see fruits, veggies, fresh fish and sea food, clothes, shoes and whatever you can imagine. There are chickens, eggs, cocks for fighting and butcher’s shops.
This is place for local people, and you will see dirty kids playing around, they wanted me to take pictures of them all the time. Be aware, that you will be the only tourist there, so keep an eye on your belongings. You enter the markets in Cebu are your own risk.
It happened that I was there 2 days after a fire which destroyed the houses nearby. Over 600 families were left without a house. All the buildings were just black, and people were trying to clean the mess. That disaster was really sad to see. People are so poor there, living simple life with the very basic things and conditions.
Experience authentic Philippines
The Philippines is not just the white sand beaches and turquoise waters which I showed you from the Palawan Island or Siquijor. The country also struggles with overpopulation. This neighbourhood made me see the poverty of people in the Philippines. Houses from wood or some simple materials looked terrifying. So were the dirty kinds playing around and asking for money.
I cannot describe the shock when I came to see the rivers passing through the city, all looked like a garbage dump, so black and stinky. Huge population does not help the poverty problem and the pollution. That’s the reality of the Philippines most of the tourist don’t see hiding on the paradise islands. Seeing this kind of pictures makes me focus even more on responsible tourism practices and giving my bit to the world.
Where did I stay in Cebu?
I chose the quiet hotel Palazzo Pensionne with an urban touch decoration and comfortable beds. This is where I experienced the real Filipino hospitality as all the staff were so kind and helpful. Complimentary breakfast, hot showers and wifi were all what made my stay a blast for letting my hair down from the hassle and bustle of the city and a hot shower after visiting the street markets in Cebu.
If you are looking for a good hotel with spacious rooms and simplicity, Palazzo Pensionne will be a great choice. I really appreciated the silence at night, and I could finally sleep well as Palazzo is not in the crowded downtown but in the residential area, still withing the center of Cebu. They also have a cafe, which offers meals thruout the day at reasonable prices. I can highly recommend this simple yet elegant accommodation for travelers in Cebu.