Singing Cebu City, Philippines

Pick-up hoops, Cebu style
  • Pick-up hoops, Cebu style

Although it’s still debated which country invented karaoke (an abbreviated compound word meaning “empty orchestra” in Japanese), a Filipino was definitely the first to patent it in 1975. And in my brief Filipino travels, Cebu City proved to be a legitimate karaoke capital. All the singing footage in "Filipino Flair" was taken in Cebu City or on Cebu Pacific Air. These Visayans don’t shy away from live performance.

Cebu City, known as the "Queen City of the South,” is the fifth-largest city of the Philippines with around some 800,000 ang mga tawo. Its residents speak Cebuano, one of the eight major dialects spoken in the Philippines, as well as the Tagalog and English that all Filipinos learn in school.

It’s a place reminiscent of many parts in Southeast Asia, as you walk past roosters roaming, or caged, on the street. It’s reminiscent of towns in Spain when you pass tiny bakeries like Muy Bien – just one of the numerous influences of Spain’s first permanent Filipino settlement here in 1565. Hop into one of the ever-present American jeeps left over from WWII, known as “jeepneys”, and arrive at IT Park. You’ll find yourself in an American setting surrounded by 25-plus-storied condominiums and smart, trendy restaurants - it seems just a matter of time before 7-Elevens start popping up.

My plans fall through to go to Kawasan Falls on my second day. Cebu City offers other enticing day trips: the islands of Bohol and their Chocolate Hills, the Mactan Islands’ beautiful beaches or numerous diving spots. But I don’t have time for that. My goal is to take a walk through history here in downtown Cebu City.

“You shouldn’t go down there, especially with your nice camera. It’s dangerous,” is the reply I get from more than a few locals. But all I really need is one person to confirm what I want to do.

Instead of feeling danger as I meander the streets past the Magellan Cross, Fort San Pedro and other historical landmarks, I ask three ladies to watch my Nikon D40x camera and mobile phone while I join in a pick-up basketball game. It’s the first time I’ve played full-court basketball in sandals and the first time that I’m forced to be a center, not a guard – talk about foreign.

After two games, complete with friendly pushes, competition and a crowd looking on, I graciously thank my camera guardians and I’m off.

Billy, the friendly security guard, and Luke, one of the funniest Australians I've ever met.

Billy, the friendly security guard, and Luke, one of the funniest Australians I've ever met.

About a block away from my hostel, a security guard (with a semi-automatic weapon hanging on his shoulder) waves at me and says, “Hi Dominic!” I briefly met him two days earlier, and the guy remembers my name. It’s a perfect end to a beautiful day hanging with the Cebuanos.

I’ve been in contact with the Cebu Couchsurfing community for over a month, starting back in the States. It’s a community of extremely open and helpful people living in Cebu. Turns out that on my last day a booze cruise has been organized.

It’s a boat of about 40 individuals, mostly locals with a mix of foreigners. Ages range from 21 to 42, and we’re all there to do one thing: have fun. It’s the Filipino way – smile, emit positive vibes, drink up, and of course, sing. Forty strangers effortlessly turn into forty friends of mine just five and a half hours later.

My Cebu mission is now complete. Time for some AA BBQ, a few more drinks, and some sleep for my flight to Manila tomorrow…

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Great Video, Looks like the Red horse and San maguel beer was flowing...; ) I hope more people visit the Philippines.... I love the Green Day "Basket case," Drunk babel on Lyrics... ha ha

What a great story! I love reading these type of stories that give you the history background along with the current day events. Who knew that karaoke meant "empty orchestra"! I love it! The singing video was hysterical....anyone having fun yet!

Yes, that's how we do it! Great video and article!

Diegoreds: Yes, the Red Horse was flowing, but also the Tanduay and Vodka....

wallydiane/mayanb: Salamat!

Karaoke, sounds like my kind of city! Another awesome article. Great pic at the top too, the buildings and the background look very cool!

Booze cruise sounds awesome. Great article - thanks for sharing. And lovin' the photo you got posted up there.

Aww. This post surely makes me happy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about our city. Oh, I hope to catch you on your next visit. I'd be happy to let you see more of Cebu.

Definitely loved reading this article. It is quite refreshing that even after a warning not to go down the streets of Colon, you still went and even enjoyed a basketball game with the locals. More so, you trusted people to guard your valuables while you shoot hoops. NICE! And great picture of the Heritage site in Pari-an by the way.. You can't be any more CEBU CITY than that!

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