Thursday, December 8, 2011

the showdown: Manila vs. Cebu

For the frugal traveler, both cities appeal easy on the pocket. But the question begs: which city will snatch supremacy in the battle as tastier, livelier, cheaper and friendlier to the traveler on a shoestring budget?

Now, let the showdown begin!

Street Food
The adventurous traveler will be rewarded with isaw, fishball, balut, adidas, helmet, betamax, kwek-kwek and silog in every street in Manila with high pedestrian traffic. In Cebu, there are barbeque sa larsian, siomai sa tisa and larang sa pasil. These food are best eaten in a dingy side street under the blanket of fumes from passing cars. Be reminded though that street food here may not be as clean as the ones you would find in Bangkok, KL or Singapore. So, who's the winner for the cheaper thrill (I doubt on the tastier part) and for on the street food experience?

 verdict: Manila

Cebu's size may just be a fraction of Manila's but there's a likely chance you'll get lost in Cebu. The culprit? Maze-like jeepney routes and lack of train lines. Manila is easy to map out with its MRT and LRT train lines. The train lines will definitely save you from the monstrous Manila traffic jam. Once you master how Manila's transport system works, you'd be fine.

In Cebu, the redeeming quality is in taxi cabs because everywhere in the city seems to be only 15 minutes away. You'll have the luxury of taking the cab from any point. Take note though that if you look probinsyano or is not familiar with the address, the taxi driver will make use of the maze to his advantage and will drive you in a loop. You'll end up paying more.

verdict: Manila 

Manila has The Fort, Eastwood, Morato and Malate while Cebu has Asiatown I.T. Park. But wait, we are talking about budget thrills here and then good food, good music, wanderlust spirits, the whole package! Conspiracy Garden Cafe and Penguin Cafe is definitely a nice place to hang-out while in Manila! In Cebu, there's a place called The Outpost which gathers the same crowd as well. It's a draw in terms of good vibes. But then again, its boils down to price: beer in Cebu sells at P60.00-P80.00 a bottle while in Manila it doesn't go below P100.00.    

verdict: Cebu

Each Christmas season, MEPZ football field beside Marina Mall in Mactan becomes a shopping yard for factory overruns. Not just Nike, Levis, Adidas, Timex, Pentax and Gap but high-end brand like Calvin Klein as well. They can go as much as 70% cheaper! These are genuine products that simply did not make the cut in quality control because of wrong stitch and slight defect. Don't even begin asking about export quality furniture and lamp shades because they can really come cheap during this season.

But all year round, Manila is the hands down shopping mecca! From gadgets to clothes down to black market viagra, all of these can be bought at a cheap price! And I'm not just talking about Greenhills Shopping Center only. There's Divisoria and Tutuban, too!

 verdict: Manila 

Most foreign travelers would recommend to stay out of Manila the quickest way possible because it's ghastly, it's chaotic and like the city itself, most hostels are infested with rats and cockroaches! Too much of Alex Garland's (author of The Beach) The Tesseract! We sympathize with them. Well, we used to, until we discovered a quaint hostel  in Malate area, in Pension Natividad after a friend who was U.S. peace corp volunteer recommended it. I'd have to say it's good value for money. About Friendly's Guesthouse and Malate Pensionne, we've read mixed reviews about them and will have to find out ourselves.

In Cebu, Sugbutel is, by far, the cleanest, the cheapest (P100.00/bed if you book 30 days prior, AC room) and the safest (CCTV all over the place) but it simply lacks character. Just prepare your ear plugs because you will be sharing the whole floor with (we are talking about 200 plus) other people, mostly local transient guests.

 verdict: Cebu

Sights and Quick Escape
Historical landmarks are plenty in both cities. The sights though different are of equal significance in the Filipinos search of a national identity. Heavy,  ah! Nosebleed. We can't argue with that.

Manila as the capital has the airport which serves all major airlines flying to major destinations in the country. But when we say quick escape, we mean something--the crowning jewel of Cebu City which is hard to match. Clean air, fresh seafood, a quick swim and island hopping are just 20 minutes away. Go on a booze cruise in Mactan, escape to the rolling hills of Busay or go wakeboarding in Danao--away from the busy city all in a jiffy. Also, being located in the epicenter of the throbbing energy of the archipelago, nearby islands like Bohol, Camotes, Bantayan and Leyte are short boat rides away.    

photo source

verdict: Cebu

The winner is... drum rolls please....
it's a draw! 

What do you think?

*This is a first of a series of articles where Philippine cities, beaches, towns, travel bloggers, budget travelers and everything in between will duke it out.   


  1. i'm pretty sure you will have a grand time in cebu ivan! happy travels~

  2. Awesome post! Enjoying your blog, btw - a Cebuano in Manila

  3. thanks for stopping by, Ed. happy to know you're enjoying.
    happy travels~

  4. RV, panalo ka talaga magsulat. I have not been to Cebu, pero dahil sa iyo napapag-interesan ko na maslalo na nung nalaman ko may 100 peso/bed lodging pala. :)

    Curious lang ako, paano mo nalaman na nag-eexist yung black market viagra?

  5. thanks a lot, Josiah!
    re: viagra, i heard it through the grapevine. can't prove it yet kasi i don't need one pa naman. hahaha

    safe travels and don't forget to book at least 30 days before your arrival sa sugbutel. otherwise, you will pay regular which is 350/head. and yes, bedding is not included pa sa P100. better bring a sleeping bag or pay 25.00 extra :)

    safe travels, dude!

  6. great post! Ikaw na ang naka-maximize ng Cebu. heheh! I headed straight to Northern Cebu to visit Malapascua dati. Hindi ko nahimay ang city itself. Well marami kasi nagsasabing parang Manila lang. Mukang tama nga ako. Pero I love how you compare it. Cebu on a different view.

  7. salamat naman at nagustuhan mo ang aking munting handog, ahehehe :)
    balik ka sa cebu ulet at namnamin ang alindog niya, himay-himayin ng maayos :D

  8. Larsian is <3 salamat kena doi, chichi and edwin na nagdala sakin dun. though i end up like smoked bacon because of the enclosed area!

  9. hahaha. yemen!
    by the way, i hope na try mo ang balamban liempo, ron! better than lechon (daw) :D

  10. nah lechon in Cebu is still better than balamban liempo..haha puro taba lang yun!

    Nice comparisons and entry, though I'd still choose Cebu over Manila kasi biased ako sa lugar ko..haha :P


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