Cebu Philippines Trip Report
Prelude: This started out to be what I thought was a short read but kept growing and growing. Thus I omitted much of the details I could have included. I hope you enjoy and if you want more details or specifics about certain bars or places I visited, drop me a line.
On a last minute whim in the middle of June, I decided to get away from Dubai’s hell on earth scorching heat for a few weeks. I wasn’t sure where I exactly I wanted to go but I knew it would be in South-East Asia somewhere.
I have travelled to several locations in South-East Asia over the past several years with Thailand being the most frequented location. I would guess 12 trips lasting an average of 3 weeks in various locations to include all the main cities / vacation spots except Bangkok, which has never appealed to me for some reason.
I have lived / worked in Dubai for the last 6 years and for anybody that has been here, you know there is a huge population of Filipinos. I have dated some PI girls here in Dubai and have become good friends with many. It was one of my ex-girlfriends that talked me in to going to her hometown of Cebu City.
I won’t bore you with the flight details but it was very nice to have a direct 9-hour flight with Emirates from Dubai to Cebu for about $500 USD round trip.
Since it seems most of the readers of Stickman know plenty about Thailand, I will cover several topics about Cebu and give my opinion on how it compares to Pattaya.
Accommodation: As recommended by a friend, I booked myself in to one of the nicer hotels in Cebu City directly across from Ayala Center Mall in the nice business district. Cost per night – $40. According to all the hotel sites, this was rated as a 4-star hotel but in my opinion, it is a Philippine’s 4-star hotel, which is more likely a 3-star compared to Thailand standards. Considering all aspects, it is a decent hotel especially given the price and location. Next time I plan to rent a 1-bedroom condo at about $30/night in the same building as the hotel I stayed. The room is definitely larger, more modern, and cost less. Thailand has higher standards and the price for the ‘same same’ accommodation seems to be slightly less in Thailand. Advantage Thailand.
Transportation and Traffic: The only three modes of transportation I used during my visit were taxis, Uber and my feet. I would venture out into the city every day walking for several hours taking in the sites and sounds of Cebu City. In my opinion, this is by far the best mode for quality sightseeing anyone can accomplish. I mostly used taxis / Uber during my nighttime travels as a secure and cheap way to get around. Taxi fare was very inexpensive with most fares coming in around $2 including a nice tip. Even to / from the airport was about $5 for a 45-minute ride. Traffic only gets semi-heavy during normal rush hour and especially during a hard downpour but nothing compared to the likes of Bangkok or Manila.
Jeepneys and motorbikes were available as well but with taxis being so cheap, I never found the need to use either one. Had there been a map or schedule to view for the Jeepneys, I probably would have tried it once. I was advised by a local not to take a Jeepney unless I was familiar with the names of the city districts as it would be very easy to get on the wrong Jeepney and end up far from where I intended on going. Advantage Cebu for the price of taxis / Uber and the lack of any real traffic jams.
Safety: I never once felt unsafe or threatened no matter what part of the city I was walking. Yes, there were times when I would take extra caution not to become a victim of pickpocket but that is the case with any decent size city. I never witnessed any type of aggression or argument directed at me or between two other people. That is very positive considering I was out every night enjoying the nightlife scene…more on that later.
One night while I hurriedly exited a taxi during a downpour I left my two mobiles on the seat of the taxi; one of which was an iPhone. I was about 1 minute removed from the taxi when I realized my mistake. A stranger let me borrow their phone to call my local Philippine number in hopes that my phone wasn’t on silent and the taxi driver would answer. Prayers answered, phone returned, nice tip for the taxi driver. The iPhone alone is worth about 3 months wage for the taxi driver.
Even though I never experienced anything negative during my visit, many locals were always telling me to be very careful of pickpockets and phone snatchers. I am sure it happens quite often but probably not to the extent of all the jewelry and purse snatching that occurs in Pattaya. I give a slight advantage to Cebu for safety/security but if you are the dope smoking or drug swallowing type, stay away. You’ve seen the news…drug pushers and drug users are being targeted daily.
Food: As stated several times by Stick readers, food in the Philippines is less palatable than Thai food. I agree especially when comparing traditional dishes. You do have to try the local Lechon (roasted pig) and the roasted chicken from the street vendors. It is absolutely delightful.
Just like all major cities, there are many choices of non-Asian food available and the quality was much better in Philippines than I have found anywhere else in South-East Asia. I even found some very good Cajun/Creole food (New Orleans style) at the top of Ayala Mall. I am originally from New Orleans and normally don’t like Creole food outside of New Orleans, even in the US, but this was very tasty. This is a tossup; the nod goes to Philippines for non-Asian food and Thailand for traditional local dishes.
Nightlife: I will breakdown nightlife into a couple of categories since we have different opinions on what we consider a good night out.
Live music. The Philippines is known for having an unusual amount of talented singers for some reason. It seems that every decent size city I visit, even in Thailand, there are always a few very good Filipino bands playing somewhere. It is no different in Cebu. I was surprised at the lack of bands but the ones I did see were very good. Most bands played at small establishments while the discos preferred to use a DJ. I was a little perplexed by this because all of the successful Filipino nightclubs in Dubai have excellent live bands with a DJ as filler between sets. Advantage: Philippines for the sheer quality.
Beer bars: The really big difference between Cebu and Pattaya is that in Cebu, most of the beer bars were not open-air establishments that I really enjoy. Cebu really didn’t have the ultimate place to sit back with a nice cold one in the mid-afternoon and watch the eye-candy walk by. There was a couple of places within the main bar area of Mango Square that you could belly-up to the bar on the main street and watch life go by but by no means did it compare to what you find in Pattaya. If you want to people watch during the day, head to IT Business Park; your neck will get a great workout (more on this later). Advantage Pattaya.
Discos: I am not a huge fan of discos but I will visit them on occasion to see what the young crowd is up to. I prefer to listen to live music instead of a DJ putting out beats that sound the same all night long. In Cebu, if you want to try and meet girls at night on the upper scale of the meter, then the disco is where you need to go. There are several of these in Cebu with J Ave and Liv Super Club being the most popular places. J Ave is the most popular of the several discos in Mango Square with Koreans being the majority of the clientele. The other discos in Mango Square were mostly filled with Filipinos, which is a good thing because they love to party.
Liv Super Club is located in Mandaue City that is about a 20 min taxi ride from downtown Cebu City. Liv was larger, had a much better setup than J Ave. and the guests were more laid back and down to earth. On the weekend, it is best to reserve a booth unless you plan to get there early. If I remember correctly, booths can be reserved for $40, which comes with a bottle of alcohol, mixers, and snacks. Both places had plenty of nice girls but the ones in Liv had a much better attitude and easier to talk to. J Ave had many pros and semi-pros whereas Liv was mostly normal girls out having fun for the night. I didn’t go home alone either night I visited Liv.
The discos in Cebu were nice overall but it’s not my cup of mango. On the weekend they are packed with standing room only but during the week, it’s mostly dead except J Ave and Liv. The more upscale discos seem to be on par compared to the ones I have visited in Pattaya. It’s a tossup.
Gogo Bars: Since Stick really enjoys visiting these establishments, I thought I would give him a fair warning. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. In Cebu, they are called bikini bars and they are nothing like the gogo bars in Pattaya. No nudity (at least not the ones I visited), no scripted shows, and very few head-turners. Most were overweight, past their prime, couldn’t dance, and was only interested in how many lady drinks they could extort from the customers. Speaking of lady drinks, this was the only place I was accosted by girls asking for lady drinks. If you want Pattaya-style gogo bars, venture to Angeles City or Manila. I did enjoy one particular bikini bar but only for the free pool, cheap beer, bikini clad opponent and the very strict policy of no hassling the customers for drinks. I would buy drinks for my opponent though. Advantage: Pattaya by a country mile.
Girls: The topic most readers are probably most interested in…save the best for last. This is a touchy subject since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all man have a different perspective on what traits and personality their ideal partner would possess.
Thailand on average has more girls in the upper range of 8 and above. Cebu had its’ share of very beautiful ladies but Thailand definitely has more based on percentage. Most of the girls were between a 6 and 7 but their personality, humor, body, and all around attitude makes them an 8 in their own right.
If you like your girl to have some curves, the girls in Cebu will make you very happy indeed. Many of them are very well proportioned compared to Thai girls. Most Thai girls seem to wear a wonder bra. When they take off their bra, you wonder where the tits went. The girls in Cebu were a little different. When they took off their bras, you wondered where the tits came from. This was true with about 75% of the girls I had the pleasure of ‘dancing’ with. Some of the girls you could place a coin on their ass, have them walk back and forth and it would not fall off. A little exaggeration but you get the picture.
It is far easier to meet and date normal girls in Cebu. For me, the best place to meet everyday girls was in the malls or in IT Business Park where there are literally thousands of girls that work in the call centers. Sit down at one of the many coffee shops or restaurants for a coffee or snack and an opportunity will arise to start small talk. About 20% of the time, I was able to arrange an after work drink as an icebreaker. If they were married, had a boyfriend, or was just not interested, they would almost always be willing to introduce me to a friend. These ladies are so easy to talk to you and very seldom was I just brushed aside.
Online dating is apparently very popular in Cebu; very much like Thailand but far less scammers. I didn’t attempt online dating but did talk to several expats who used it quite regularly. One expat that I got to know fairly well used online exclusively for over a year and seemed to keep his date book quite full. He had a system that weeded out scammers, time-wasters, gold diggers, the pros, and other types that was non-desirable to him. He seemed to be quite successful at dating several quite attractive ladies at the same time. His modus operandi was to date on girls that have normal jobs which consisted of working 6 days a week in most cases. Girl A would have off on Monday, girl B on Wed, girl C on Friday, etc.
Unlike the girls working in Pattaya bars, girls in Cebu bars are not barfineable. Girls working as waitresses, cashiers, etc. must stay until their shift has ended. There really aren’t hostess type girls in the beer bars. This is where I had most of my success with normal girls, so to speak. One thing that 90% of these girls love to do is go to Karaoke bars. Invite them to join you for some Karaoke after work and 90% of the time you will receive a positive response. The karaoke bars are not your typical style where it’s open mic for everyone to watch or a small open-air hut like you find in Pattaya. These were all single room type where you need not worry about your privacy or being too embarrassed to sing.
Considering everything, I would definitely give the nod to Cebu girls. First and foremost is the language barrier. There really isn’t a language barrier in PI since most can speak English comfortably at a conversational level. Second is their friendliness and outgoing personalities that makes them wonderful to be around. I know many of them come from very poor families but you would never know it. Not one word of a sick family member, house repair, school fees, etc.
Prices: Everything seemed to be as cheap if not cheaper in Cebu compared to Pattaya.
Happy Hour drinks: $1.25
Non Happy Hour drinks: $2 – $3 max
A bottle of JD with mixers in the club: $25
A decent bottle of wine from the store: $15
A bottle of Tequila for the bar staff: $20 (I did this once at my favorite beer bar because the staff was extremely nice and they were always giving me a free beer or 2).
P4P: I was quoted between $20 – $40 but never used their service. Too many non-professional normal girls available and willing but just takes a little more time and effort albeit very easy to seal the deal.
Dinner at an upscale restaurant for two: $40
Good accommodation: $30 – $40
One of the things I really enjoyed about Cebu was the lack of in-your-face P4P that is all too common in Pattaya, Bangkok, Manila, Angeles, and the like. You know it’s there but you are not reminded of it at every turn of the head. You would rarely see an old farang guy holding hands with a girl half his age, even in Mango Square, which is considered the naughty nightlife area. Another thing very noticeable was the type of expat visitors. Pattaya seems to draw their fair share of very questionable characters. Whereas in Cebu, the guys I met (visitors and permanent residence) were several steps up the social ladder compared to your typical Pattaya sexpat.
I am sure many people will disagree with what I have written but it’s my observation and opinion. Which would I recommend? BOTH!!! Both are relatively inexpensive compared to Farangland, both have beautiful and available ladies (pro and non-pro), and both will keep you entertained. If you read the entire article, it’s easy to see I prefer Cebu overall. However, if you are looking for the hardcore P4P atmosphere or the anything goes girlie bars, Cebu is not the place for you.
Pattaya is the place for all out debauchery. Cebu is the place if you really want to meet a nice girl you would consider for a long-term relationship.
I am already planning my next trip to Cebu for the New Years. This time I plan to get outside of Cebu City and visit as much of the province as possible. That will be an experience not to forget I am sure.
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