Every set of interview questions I’ve received in the past year has, in some capacity, asked the unanswerable: which is your favourite city?
To live? Regardless of where I move in the interim for work, I’ll always end up in Cagayan de Oro. We have the completely laidback lifestyle, the food, the sunshine, the natural landscape, good education and decent traffic that oddly begins at 2pm and ends around 6pm.
To visit? El Nido hands down. I’ve never had a trip more eyeopening and culturally immersive than my few days there (but I’ve raved enough about that on countless occasions, so I won’t do it here).
And for work? I’ve been working in Manila so much over the past five years that it has reached a point of second-home familiarity. I take the MRT in between meetings and appointments (there are way weirder sights to see in the MRT than a nerd in a suit) and can fairly well navigate dinner reservations, real estate market conversations and food fads of the moment.
Davao I hardly know at all – and the bleary eyes and deadened brains from too much of a laidback environment even beyond Cagayan de Oro’s, and time ticking deliverables and staring at screens hardly lend the best capacity get to know either. Stick with what
what you know: no smoking zones, a relatively secure feeling everywhere you go and the confusion if you were to speak Bisaya or Tagalog to a Davaoeno.
“Bakit ka inana?”, “Ilagay mo nalang diha”
But Cebu (oh Cebu) is a different story. No matter how many times I go, for work or for pleasure, the magic doesn’t seem to wear off. I am told that the façade disintegrates quite quickly once you actually live there. “The most beautiful beaches in the Philippines are in Cebu”, two of my former bosses even told me years ago and both have an impressive travel experience.
Cebu’s fuchsia shadows and yellow lights after dark make heady late nights working from your windowsill quietly poetic. Brutally early call times for work and meetings are softened by sunrise along the coast – one of those tear-inducing sights to be absorbed in solitude with the stupidly cliché strains of an accordion puncturing your imagination.
You really can lock yourself up in a romantic sepia bubble, only allowing yourself to be rudely awakened to deal with logistical nightmares like the entire disfranchisement surrounding your photo studio for the day being blocked off for a marathon, or traffic. Oh the traffic. And the traffic still does exist, however, manageable than how vicious & being caught stationary in Manila with all the road raged drivers or how disobliging it is in Cagayan de Oro; which is unfairly attributed by a lack of appropriate traffic rules, parking areas and the failure of adequate urban planning with tiny roads (with vehicles double parking) that lead to very significant streets.
And that is why I’ll never ever bother learning how to drive. My road rage is too intense
In Cebu, districts aren’t the only corners that catches the eye, but even the oddest alleyways and seemingly creepy dark corners provide a surprise cafe or showroom. One sample would be Camden, who, was an epitome of this post & how social media marketing and the correct aesthetic veering away from mass marketing can provide a cult following that would search for where it is, even if it was nestled somewhere you wouldn’t imagine where a place would be located.
Circa 1900, which was always a favorable option, opened another house, aptly called Casa Dos, right across it. Architecture that doesn’t disappoint its predecessor, interior that was heavily influenced by, and objectively almost authentic, European culture that complimented its menu (again, I am against restaurants that offer the same dish of corned beef & eggs, or any other common dishes, in a white place. Why on earth would I dine there with overpriced meals that could be bought at any other fast food chain? Or even, make at home.)
Further to the spectacle, Cebu’s ambiance is truly international, and so increasingly season less. There’s something about the geography of the island that makes the sun give off every photograph a natural golden glow, a gradient pink hue sunset with a dash of vermilion & a bit of lavender, and an air of unabashed sophistication, that, unlike Manila, or even Davao or Cagayan de Oro, never fails in providing the delicate scenic deliverable required.
Although it does strangely rain right pass noon, but only for an hour. A theory is that because it’s an island, with moderate mountains that shield it but passes by so fleetingly. And unlike Boracay’s blush pink sunsets, you have the option of the city’s luxury and privileges as opposed to settle just for another shoreline.
So Cebu, it seems, embodies both realms of cold hard commerce (plus a little leverage for some shopping and late night outs while we’re at it), and the oft other-worldly realizations of genius minds that feed the soul and remind those who care why we put ourselves through this minefield of an industry, rather than admiring from safety afar. Sure, my mother is always the first to remind me in times of work-related hysteria that fashion isn’t saving any lives. Touché. But it does create beautiful things. Cebu creates beautiful things.
More on that later.
For now, here are a few recent Cebu trip highlights for your visual appetite.
1. Scenic view of the Waterfront Hotel from Circa Dos.
2. Camden Cafe’s 2nd floor that deserves a 1975 soundtrack.
3. Manhattan game too strong across the business districts in the city.
5. Multi-cultural dining design appreciation post at Maison de Rose.
6. Lavish interior at Circa Casa Dos, reminiscent of an Hermes showroom
7. Instax whoring with the Cebu Squad.
8. Personalized Gucci iPhone 6 + casing from Edge Grind.
9. Our #SouthsideBrunchStories at Camden Cafe.
10. Reversible satin bomber jacket from Zaful.
11. Circa Dos’s facade doesn’t disappoint its predecessor. Or any art enthusiast.