Now, let the showdown begin!
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?
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.