Cebu from an Outsiders Perspective

I had a very odd reaction about Cebu, although we went there after spending a month in Palawan, after originally being in Manila and Albay (my province) for some time.

The first thing I MUST say is that, Cebu is NOT typical of the Philippines, and Cebuanos are NOT typical of most Filipinos.

My boyfriend and I came to Cebu with high expectations, with both of us thinking that the place would be as nice as many websites portray it to be. But no! His first comment when we checked in to the hotel was that, very few people there seem to smile, unlike in most other parts of the Philippines. And after two days, I then found myself expressing so much dislike to this part of my home country. We have seen many unsmiling faces in Cebu, and shop staff that just ignore you. It was hard to believe because our visits to Manila, Albay, Boracay and Palawan were so different. The experiences in those areas were so much nicer, and people were much more friendly.

All my boyfriend’s previous comments in the Philippines have all been positive with just a few negatives. This was the FIRST mainly negative comment in the Philippines that he has ever made. This says something in itself about our experiences there.

My comments, almost every day, revolve around the apparent arrogance of many of the locals, the tricycle drivers, the taxi drivers and many shop staff. I know that my attitude had never been like that; not in Palawan, Manila or even in Australia while we were there.

I even had trouble being understood, as many Cebuanos don’t understand Tagalog which I’ve always known to be the closest dialect to the Filipino language. I also had trouble understanding the Cebuano dialect as most Cebuanos would answer me in Cebuano, no matter how nice and polite I asked them in Tagalog. We now wonder if the Filipino language is taught in schools in Cebu, or are Cebuanos just so arrogant that they refuse to accept the national language. I do not usually use the word “arrogant” but it seems to be very applicable there.

There were also some who tried to converse in Tagalog, but they seem to find it difficult, and I wonder why. They learn Tagalog in school, and most TV programs are in Tagalog, so why? Why do they seem unable to understand and speak the national language.

I’ve never been so aggravated with people of any area. There has not been a day that we haven’t witnessed this arrogance and insensitivity, other than the day that we did NOT leave the room, and that made Cebu so perfect. There are also some nice people in Cebu of course, but they are outnumbered by the not so nice ones.

As a Filipino, and Cebu being part of the Philippines, and Filipino/Tagalog language being the national language, and being taught in schools, I would expect people from Cebu to be able to speak our common language. And I can’t understand why most of the people in Cebu cannot speak the national language. I am from Bicol, we also have our own dialect, called Bicol, but we all speak the national language when needed. This adds to my curiosity why the Cebuanos cannot do the same.

We made a mistake in coming to Cebu. We should have gone to Boracay instead. Our original plan was to stay in Cebu for two months, but after one week, we have then decided to cut it short and leave after our initial one month reservation.

I’ve read a blog about Cebu by an American woman traveling the world. Reading comments and reactions of some of her readers, who I assume are from Cebu, has made our feelings of Cebu even worse. I will not be surprised if I will get the same comments here, once they find this article.

I can’t blame them for defending their place though, because that is only a normal reaction. But one should defend their area by LOGIC and not by attacking someone personally, which is, in my opinion, a sign of stupidity. This kind of people are a shame to Cebu. Instead of defending with anger, just recognize the real problems as described by visitors, and try to change for the better. Unless of course they do NOT want any non local visitors in Cebu.

They promote their place as a tourist destination, so do they consider other Filipinos visiting Cebu as tourists or not? If they do, then surely the national language is very important, as it is after all, supposed to be the language of all Filipinos. It is also called respect to those non-Visayan or non-Cebuano speakers. As far as I know, Visayan dialect isn’t taught in schools, and is only spoken in the Visayan and some parts of Mindanao region. So Cebuanos must not expect that everybody can speak and understand their dialect because that is a very arrogant behavior. Their excuse of saying “You are in our area, so speak our dialect. Don’t expect us to speak Tagalog for you.” is very arrogant.

Some Cebuanos have said that the only important languages in Cebu are Cebuano and English, but that, i think is wrong. The NATIONAL language should be the prime important language in the entire country, and NOT a local dialect. Other Filipino regions recognize this.

What is different in Cebu ? One answer we have heard is that the Cebuanos speak good English, so it is OK. However, This is not the case when compared to other Philippine regions. The percentage of GOOD English speakers seems lower in Cebu than in the other regions we have visited. This isn’t to make fun of any specific Filipino group, but who in the Philippines are known to have a funny way of pronouncing English or Tagalog words? Examples include: Chess instead of Cheese and Penk instead of Pink. My point is, why choose to be proud of a foreign language, when they choose not to use their own National Language.

As a generalization, maybe 2 out of 10 people in Cebu is Okay (and I include my Cebuano friends in that 2 out of 10), compared to like 7 out of 10 in other parts of the Philippines, in my opinion.


Coming up with a title for this post was not easy. So many possible titles to choose from…

  1. Oh Shit, I landed in Cebu
  2. Get me out of here
  3. Gates of Cebu
  4. Why did I come here?
  5. A Bicolana in Cebu

Jul 21, 2013

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