Cebu (560 kilometers, an hour by plane and 24 hours by ferry south of Manila) is located in the middle of the Visayas and is regarded as a gateway to the region, with plane connections to Hawaii, Hong Kong and other Asian cities as well as destinations in the Visayas and the Philippines. Cebu embraces the main island of Cebu, which is 230 kilometers (140 miles) long and 40 kilometers (25 miles) at its widest point, and 166 smaller islands. Cebu Island is densely populated, with most people around Cebu City, with a central spine of craggy hills.

Cebu has a few remnant from the Spanish colonial period but is known mainly for its diving sites and beach resorts, and its fortunes seem to rise and fall with its resorts. Tourism dropped as the government owned Argao Resort deteriorated and closed in early 2000s and was revived when the fancy 359-room Shangri-la Macatan Island resort opened. Macatan Island has the highest concentration of resorts in the Cebu area. Most of the coastline resorts have facilities, equipment and instruction for scuba diving, windsurfing, jet-skiing and sailing. On the north side of Cebu island there is an excellent diving cliff at Sogod. Many people get around in rented cars or motorscooters.

Cebu province covers 4,943.72 square kilometers and is home to about three million people and has a population density of 590 people per square kilometer. About 750,000 people live in Cebu City, the capital of Cebu and the second largest city in the Philippines. The topography of Cebu is characterized by narrow coastlines, limestone plateaus, and coastal plains but with predominant rolling hills and rugged mountain ranges traversing the northern and southern lengths of the island. Although Cebu's steep mountains reach over 1,000 meters, the island lacks substantial forest cover. In the towns of Bogo, San Remigio, Medellin and Daan Bantayan at the northern tip of the province, considerable flat tracts of land are found. Of the three biggest islands, Mactan and Bantayan are relatively flat while Camotes is hilly. Some of the Camotes Islands are covered completely with coconut plantations.

Cebu is about 10 degrees north of the equator is hot and humid during the entire year, with rainfall less evenly distributed by season than it is in Manila. The hottest weather is generally from March through June. Nights are usually pleasant from August through February, with the daytime high temperature ranging between 29 degrees and 34 degrees C (85 degrees and 94 degrees F) . Cebu is south of the typhoon belt, but it is occasionally hit by strong storms

Cebuano is the dialect in the province, which is also widely spoken in the Visayas and Mindanao. Tagalog and English are also spoken and understood. Many of the migrants to An increasing number of people are migrating into the city from elsewhere in Cebu province. Many of the migrants come from the neighboring islands of Bohol and Leyte, in search of work. Large numbers of Chinese have traditionally been involved in trade and running small shops, There is a small Indian community. The Cebuano version of the Visayan (or Bisayan) language is generally used; Visayan is also spoken in the rest of the central Visayas and in most of Mindanao. Almost everyone in Cebu City proper understands a certain amount of English; the better-educated and business people speak it well. Spanish and Chinese are still spoken by the mestizo (mixed blood) groups.

Among the important industries and economic sectors are tourism, agriculture, copper and dolomite mining, industrial parts assembly, food processing, footwear, handicraft, rattancraft, woodcraft, metalcraft, garments, shellcraft, ceramics, basketware, rattan and wicker furniture, cement, costume jewelry, giftware, fertilizer, stonecraft, food products and preserves, electronic devices and vehicle assembly.

Magellan Arrives in the Cebu Area

Cebu is where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot in Philippine soil back in 1521 and the Spanish set up their first settlements. But before the Spaniards came, trade with the Chinese already flourished in the province. When Magellan arrived on present-day Mactan island off the island of Cebu a local king pretended to covert to Christianity to enlist Magellan's crew "to fight and burn the houses of Mactan to make the King of Mactan kiss the hands of the King of Cebu...because he did not send a bushel of rice and a goat as tribute."

Pigafetta wrote: the "lord of the aforesaid island...sent one his sons to present the captain-general two goats, saying he would keep all promises with him, but because of the lord...Cilapulapu (who refused to obey the King of Spain) he had not been able to...And he begged that on the following night he [Magellan] would send but one boat with some men to fight."

In the fight that ensued 60 armor-clad Europeans were pitted against 2,000 near-naked Mactanians. Pigafetta wrote: "The captain-general resolved to go there with three boats...[with]...sixty men armed with corselets and helmets...and we so managed that we arrived...The captain...[told]...the lord of the place and his people that, if they agree to obey the King of Spain and recognize the Christian king as their lord, and give us tribute, they should all be friends. But if they acted otherwise they should learn by experience how our lances pierced. They replied they had lances of bamboo hardened in the fire and stakes dried in the fire, and that we were to attack them when we would...

"When day came, we leapt into the water, being forty-nine men...the other eleven men remained to guard the boats... Immediately they perceived us, they came about is with loud voices and cries, two divisions on our flanks, and one around and before us. When the captain saw this he divided us in two, and thus we began to fight. the hackbutmen and crossbowmen fired at long range for nearly half an hour, but in vain [our shafts] merely passing through their shields, made of strips of wood unbound, and their arms...When those people saw this...they fired so many arrows and lances...we could hardly defend ourselves.

"Then they came so furiously against us that they sent a poisoned arrow through the captain's leg. Wherefore he ordered us to withdraw slowly...And those people shot at no other place but our legs, for the latter were bare...Our large pieces of artillery, which were in the ships could not help us, because they were firing at too long a range...And the followed us, hurling poisoned arrows...very close to [Magellan's] head. “

Magellan's Death

Pigafetta wrote: "But as a good captain and a knight he still stood fast...fighting thus for more than an hour. And as he refused to retire further, an Indian threw a bamboo lance in his face, and immediately killed him with his lance, leaving it in his body...All those people threw themselves on him, and one of them with a large javelin...thrust it into his left leg, whereby he fell downward. On this all at once rushed upon him will lances of iron and of bamboo."

"They slew our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Then, seeing him dead, we wounded made the best of our way to the boats, which were already pulling away. But for him, not one of us in the boats would have been saved, for while he was fighting the rest retired."

Seeing that there was no chance in rescuing anything other than his dead body the men fled to their boats, and no European ever laid on eyes on Magellan again. The men tried to trade as "much merchandise as they desired" for the bodies, but the islanders refused. "They intended to keep him as a perpetual memorial."

Spanish Arrive in Cebu

After Magellan’s voyage, Spain sent four more expeditions. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, commander of the fourth expedition, renamed the islands after the heir to the Spanish throne, Philip, Charles I's son. Philip, as King Philip II, sent a fresh fleet led by the Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to the islands in the mid-16th century with strict orders to colonise and Catholicise. In 1565 an agreement was signed by Legazpi and Tupas, the defeated chief of Cebu, which made every Filipino answerable to Spanish law. [Source: Lonely Planet]

Legaspi captained a small fleet of ships led by the San Pedro that arrived at Cebu in the Philippines in late April 1865. One of his ships made the critical discovery of the route from the Philippines to Mexico. Other Spaniards, including Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, had made it to the Philippines from Mexico but were unable to get back.

Legazpi arrived with 400 settlers and a group of friars. Some say the Philippines was formally established as a Spanish colony when Legazpi and Sikatuna, the chief on the island of Bohol, signed a treaty with their own blood. Legazpi established the first permanent settlement, called San Miguel, on Cebu. He reached Panay in 1569 and Manila in 1571 and died 1572.

According to Lonely Planet: “Legazpi, his soldiers and a band of Augustinian monks wasted no time in establishing a settlement where Cebu City now stands; Fort San Pedro is a surviving relic of the era. First called San Miguel, then Santisimo Nombre de Jesus, this fortified town hosted the earliest Filipino-Spanish Christian weddings and, critically, the baptisms of various Cebuano leaders. Panay Island's people were beaten into submission soon after, with Legazpi establishing a vital stronghold there (near present-day Roxas) in 1569. [Source: Lonely Planet =]

In 1571, realizing that the could not sustain their colony in Cebu in the central Philippines, the Spaniards moved north and began building a fortified city on Manila Bay, which has world class harbor and is accessible to the open Pacific Ocean and Asia. The city quickly attracted merchants who made a major trading center.

Cebu City

Cebu City is the oldest Spanish city in the Philippines and the second international gateway to the Philippines. Sometimes called the Queen City of the South, it was visited by Magellan on his round-the-world voyage. The Spanish had their first capital here before they moved onto Manila. Cebu City had the earliest sustained contact with the Western world of any Asian city and was the initial seat of Philippine Christendom. But even before the Spaniards came, trade with the Chinese already flourished in the province.

Today, Cebu City is a thriving, highly urbanized center. Like Manila, it has its share of snarled traffic, piles of garbage and polluted air but is not on the same league as Manila. Being the second largest metropolitan area in the country after Manila, migrant workers from neighboring islands in Visayas contribute immensely to the working population. Very little from the colonial period remains.

The capital of Cebu Province and a trade and commerce center for the Visayas and Mindanao, Cebu City has a population of around 950,000, with about 2.9 million in metropolitan area. The city, commonly referred to only as Cebu, is on the island of the same name in the Visayas, The city itself sprawls over a large area and has a congested business district around the port, one of largest seaports in the Philippines. Because of the destruction during World War II, the Spanish character of Cebu City has largely lost except in some old houses down back streets, in the exteriors of several churches, and in an 18th-century triangular fort. Colo Street is the oldest street in the Philippines.

Metro Cebu (Cebu metropolitan area) includes several cities: Cebu City, Mandaue City, Toledo City, Talisay City, Lapu- Lapu City and towns of Balamban, Asturias Consolacion and Minglanilla. According to “Cities of the World”: “Although most of the city was rebuilt between 1945 and 1947, it has a decayed look as many buildings were hastily constructed of low-quality materials. A large part of Cebu City consists of narrow passageways lined with crowded, frame structures. However, the number of modern office buildings, wide avenues, and substantial contemporary houses is rapidly increasing. Traffic is a hectic mixture of "jeepneys," taxis, cars, motorcycles, horse carts, and motorized tricycles.”

Tourist Information: Regional Office VII, G/F LDM Bldg., corner Legaspi and MJ Cuenco Sts., 6000 Cebu City, Tel: (6332) 254 2811 / 254 6650, Fax: (6332) 254 2711, Airport Office Tel: (6332) 340 8229, E-Mails:,, Website:

Sights in Cebu City

A monument to Ferdinand Magellan's cross, raised here in 1521, is among the many points of interest. Others include the Basilica of San Agustín; the Basilica del Santo Niño, which houses a statue of the Child Jesus that dates back to 1521; and the museum of the University of San Carlos, where precious artifacts from Cebu City and Mindanao are kept.

Very little from the colonial period remains. The only surviving relic of Magellan's voyage is a crowned figure a Christ child in the Basilica del Santa Niño. It is the oldest religious relic in the Philippines. Other Magellan-related monuments include a statue of the Magellan, a bronze statue of Lapu Lapu (the leader of the island warriors that killed Magellan), a cross purportedly but most likely not planted Magellan to mark the spot where the first Filipinos were baptized.

Fort San Pedro is the smallest Spanish outpost in the Philippines, while the Casa Gorordo and Yap-San Diego Ancestral House give a glimpse into residential life in Cebu during the Spanish era. The Museo Sugbo showcases the province’s history. And if you can brave the cacophony, walk down Colon Street, the oldest street in the Philippines.

Malls like Ayala Center and SM City provide a range of shopping, dining and leisure activities for various budgets. For real excitement try the Edge Coaster more than 130 meters off the ground, or go for a Sky Walk at the Crown Regency Cebu. The famous Sinulog Festival, which celebrates the child Jesus, happens every third Sunday of January. The city hosts a wild, colorful street party attracting revelers from around the Philippines and the world.

Entertainment and Restaurants in Cebu City

Cebu’s version of Filipino favorite lechon— juicy pork meat and crisp, roasted pig skin — is arguably the best. The late food travel television personality Anthony Bourdain called “the best pig ever”. Zubuchon and CNT Lechon serve some of the best lechon in Cebu. Other delicious Filipino dishes can be best enjoyed at Café Laguna, the Golden Cowrie Native Restaurant and Abuhan. Sophisticated palates will enjoy the international buffet and vegetarian menu at Shangri-La Mactan’s Tides and Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s Cafe Marco, or the savory Chinese offerings at the Cebu Waterfront Hotel & Casino’s Tin Gow. Gustatory exploits can also be had at Nonki (Japanese), Café Orchidia (Italian) and La Marea (try their best-selling warm brownie cups).

No visit to Cebu is complete without a taste of its nightlife. Dive into a little debauchery at hip spots in IT Park or Crossroads. Or just park yourself at your hotel bar. Treff boasts inventive dishes and a beautiful glass-and-white façade, while the scenic Blu Bar & Grill was named one of Asia’s best bars by Travel + Leisure Asia. There are also wine and dine opportunities at the Ayala Center and SM City.

Kamagayan is the largest and most organized red light district in in Cebu city. At night girls hang out outside the brothels while pimps, with tatoos and ponytails, roam the streets and sidewalks looking for customers. In recent years the district has tried to clean up its image.

Getting Around and Getting to Cebu

According to ASIRT: 1) Traffic is congested during rush hour. 2) Arterial routes are being upgraded, new street signs and modern traffic lights installed and a large bus terminal constructed. 3) Timing of new traffic lights can be changed during rush hour to improve traffic flow. 4) Traffic enforcers oversee traffic flow, respond to road crashes and enforce traffic laws. Colon Street is heavily traveled. 5) Mactan-Cebu International Airport is located in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island. Two bridges link the island to Cebu City. Airport is about a twenty drive from Cebu City. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), PDF, 2012]

Transport is provided by buses, taxis, jeepneys, minibuses, multicabs, motorcycle taxis, tricycles and trisikads ((pedicabs powered by bicycles). A motorcycle ride costs Php 50 minimum fare; a Jeepney Ride can be as little as Php 30 minimum fare 6) Police randomly check for public transportation vehicle drivers using invalid licenses. 7) Over 2,000 trisikads serve the city. Trisikads are not permitted to use national highways, except from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Can use barangay roads anytime. 8) Trisikads are also banned from entering Agora Market in Barangay Lapasan (Lapasan Village). Drivers may pick up passengers at designated, low-traffic areas in the village.

ASIRT on roads and vehicles in Mandaue City, a suburb of Cebu City: 1) Many streets are in poor condition. 2) Streets often lack adequate drainage facilities. Flooding is common on many streets during heavy rains. 3) The law bans passengers from riding on the roof or hanging onto the back of jeepneys or other vehicles. Applies to public transport vehicles or personal vehicles. 4) Crosswalks are marked with white reflective stripes. 5) Drivers are required to stop for pedestrians using crosswalks. Pedestrians must only walk on sidewalks, shoulders or crosswalks. When walking with a child, the child must walk to adult’s right.

By Air: There are daily flights to Cebu via the Mactan-Cebu International Airport from Manila and key cities in the Philippines. Philippine Airlines offers service to many cities in the Visayas. There are also as scheduled flights from Hong Kong, Singapore, Narita in Japan, Incheon in, South Korea By Land: Buses bound for Cebu leave from Dumaguete, Oriental Negros and Bacolod, Negros Occidental every hour. It is also possible to take your car here via a Roll On-Roll Off (RORO) ferry. By Sea: The Cebu City Port service the inter-island sea vessels on the Cebu-Manila-Cebu route from the different major cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. Shipping lines run regular services to Manila, as well as many neighboring ports. Some offer cabins, but most have only deck passage; the ships are crowded, dirty, and unsafe.

Near Cebu

Metro Cebu (Cebu metropolitan area) includes several cities: Cebu City, Mandaue City, Toledo City, Talisay City, Lapu- Lapu City and towns of Balamban, Asturias Consolacion and Minglanilla. Mandaue is a rapidly growing city located in Cebu Metropolitan Area on eastern coast of Cebu Island. The city is directly across from Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island. The Mactan-Cebu Bridge and Marcelo Fernan Bridge link Cebu City with Mactan Island.

Magellan’s Cross commemorates the moment Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted a wooden cross on Cebu’s soil to mark converting its locals to Christianity. The seas around Cebu are clear, warm, and fish-laden. Beaches, mainly privately owned, are found both in Cebu City and Mactan, about a 45-minute drive.

Olango Island off Cebu supports the largest concentration of migratory birds found in the Philippines. Many birds migrating from Russia stop here en route to Australia. “The Bird Island of Central Philippines,” is a critical stopover of up to 50,000 migrating water birds at one time flying the East Asian migratory flyway.

Other than an often-bouncy but scenic car ride around the circumference of Cebu Island (which would take about two days) or to Mactan Island, no land touring is available. Trips to nearby islands can be rewarding, although public facilities are often lacking. Although the area is good for small boating, no docking facilities currently exist. A one day Hike w/ Guide will set you back about Php 1,300. A fishing trip organized by Cebu Wetland Resort costs Php 450 per person. Kayaking from the Cebu Wetland Resort costs Php 200 per person.

Beaches and Diving Sites in Cebu

Numerous coral islands and sand-bars are located in the straits between Cebu and Bohol. There are many scuba diving opportunities. Attractive sea shells can still be found, but commercial shell collectors are rapidly reducing the supply. Only a few minutes away from Cebu City are numerous white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and swaying palms.Mactan Island is a coral island and famous scuba diving and beach site. It is also the site of the Export Processing Zone. Malapascua Island is endowed with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, and the west coast is ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The sleepy little market town of Moalboal was one of the first places where scuba diving caught on in the Philippines. From here, you can dive straight off Panagsama Beach, which is home to an extraordinary array of coral, anemones, sponges, and a swarming host of brightly colored reef fish.

Cebu Diving Sites include Olongo Island, known for it beautiful coral gardens, dense fish populations and interesting rock formations; Moalboal, a diving headquarters for Cebu with superb drop-offs with sheer cliffs, overhangs and caves; Gato Isle and Badian Island, known for its sea snakes, tame fish and wonderful coral formations; and Buyong and Marigondon, with good drop offs and night diving. Other dive sites include Buyong beach and Pescador Island.

As a diving destination, Malapascua was "discovered" fairly recently, only in the early 90s. The island was first known for its wide white sand beach, known as Bounty Beach; it has also become known for its beautiful coral gardens and excellent dive spots nearby, including Monad Shoal, an underwater plateau where thresher sharks and manta rays can be sighted on a regular basis. To date, this is the only place in the world where divers can reliably sight thresher sharks.

Patrocinio De Maria Church Complex in Boljo-on

The Church complex of Patrocinio de Maria (50 kilometers south of Cebu City) is in Boljo-on, Cebu. The church structure and complex still boast of its original features; the roof, walling, ceiling, ornamentation, and setting. Repairs that were done in the recent years, but these repairs did not affect the integrity of the church and setting. The design of the structure, use of materials is in conformity with the setting and location. To date it is still used as a church and convent.

The Church complex of Patrocinio de Maria was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: “The Augustinian Friars built the church of Patrocinio de Maria in the 18th century. The church and convent still uses clay roof tiles for its roof. The complex was a fortress church. With in the complex are; block house at the front left side of the complex served as a watch tower, a school at the left rear side built in the 1940's, series of wall ruins, and an 18th century cemetery. Numerous church artifacts are intact. The ceiling painting was done by local painters in the 1920's. The church walls are made of coral stone. The façade is ornamented with ecclesiastic symbols. A pipe organ was installed in the 19th century at the choir loft. [Source: UNESCO]

Boljo-on (also spelled Boljoon) began as a small Christian settlement named Nabulho. It became a visita or chapel of ease of Carcar in 1599, with the small chapel being dedicated to the patronage of the Virgin Mary. It was elevated to a parish on October 31, 1690, by Father Francisco de Zamora, Provincial of the Augustinians, as a result of the increasing number of Christians in the area. In 1782, earlier buildings in Boljoon were destroyed by pirates.The present church was built by Augustinian priest Father Ambrosio Otero in 1783. Construction of the church was continued by Father Manuel Cordero in 1794 and completed by Father Julián Bermejo.Father Bermejo also built other structures as part of Boljoon's defense network, such as the watchtowers and blockhouse.

Mactan Island

Mactan Island (off Cebu Island) is one of the most developed areas in the Philippines. Known mainly a dive and resort center, it contains among other things a ten-meter ledge, right off the shore, where snorkelers feed the fish. The nearby Hilutungan, Nalusuan and and Talima Islands, have lots of marine species and healthy reefs, in waters five to 12 meters deep, ideal for divers but beyond the range of snorkelers. Macatan Island is also where Magellan died, which means of course he never made around the world. Of the 300 or so men that left Portugal with him only 14 made it back alive.

A plaque on Mactan read: "Here Lapu Lapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader, Ferdinand Magellan, Thus Lapu Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression." There is Other Magellan-related monuments include a statue of the Magellan, a bronze statue of Lapu Lapu (the leader of the island warriors that killed Magellan), a cross purportedly but most likely not planted Magellan to mark the spot where the first Filipinos were baptized in 1521.

Among the resorts are Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa, a “sprawling” place with guestrooms with balconies, affording you sweeping views of well-manicured grounds, pools, al fresco dining nooks, a health spa, private beach, and of course, the sea. Plantation Bay Resort and Spa Award was voted one of the world’s top resorts in Readers’ Choice Awards in Condé Nast Traveler This vast plantation-like facility has a huge man-made swimming lagoon (one of the largest in the world) is lined with handsome, plantation-type guest cottages that seem to come straight from the Caribbean. Abacá Boutique Resort made it on the Condé Nast Traveler Hot List. Small is beautiful, it started its success as a low-key restaurant and expanded to a tastefully rendered boutique resort with Filipino accents.

Whale Sharks in Tan-awan, Oslob

Tan-awan, Oslob (four hours from Cebu City) is a place where whale sharks are fed so tourists can view and swim with them. Whale shark watching is open from 6:00am – 12:30pm everyday the whole year round except on Good Friday. Viewing is limited to 30 minutes. All whale shark watchers must undergo orientation at the Briefing Center on the rules for interaction with whale sharks The following are the rules: 1) No feeding of whale sharks by unauthorized personnel; 2) Do not touch, ride, or chase a whale shark; 3) Do not restrict normal movement or behavior of the shark; 4) Do not use flash photography; 5) Do not create splash when entering the water; 6) Maintain a minimum distance of five meters from the head, six meters from the tail. Public buses from Cebu take about four hours to reach Tan-awan. Taxis and private vehicles take about three hours depending on the traffic.

In 2013, David Loh of Reuters wrote: “Tan-awan, in the southern Philippines island of Cebu, used to be a sleepy village that never saw tourists unless they were lost or in transit. Yet now they flock there by the hundreds — to swim with whale sharks, the world's largest fish. Whale sharks are lured to the Tan-awan coastline of the Oslob district by fishermen who hand feed them small shrimp, drawing divers and snorkelers to see the highly sought-after animals, known as gentle giants of the sea. But the practice has sparked fierce debate on the internet and among biologists, who decry it as unnatural. [Source: David Loh, Reuters, March 12, 2103, March 13, 2013 /]

“'Some people are asking that we stop feeding, but if we stop feeding, what is our livelihood?' said Ramonito Lagahid, vice chairman of the Tan-awan Oslob Sea Warden and Fishermen Association (TOSWFA). 'We have to go back to fishing.' Lagahid says there have always been whale sharks in Tan-awan. He remembers seeing them even when he was young. 'They are always around when we go out at night to collect uyap,' he said, referring to a kind of small shrimp that the whale sharks are fed. 'Many times we have to stop fishing because the whale sharks are around.' /

“The whale shark 'interaction area' is the size of a soccer field, some 80 meters off the beach, and feeding takes place from 6am to 1pm. Eight to 10 whale sharks show up on average, but some mornings see as many as 20. Word about the whale sharks got out globally ago via Internet postings from witnesses, and tourists began flocking to the village both from the Philippines and around the world. Most days see several hundred, but 2012 numbers peaked with 1,642 on Good Friday in 2012. /

“Fees for foreign tourists range from 500 pesos ($12.29) to just watch the whale sharks, to 1,500 pesos — plus normal scuba diving charges — to dive with them. The money is pooled and each villager who works that day, as a guide or boat driver, receives 1,000 to 1,500 pesos — a good fee for the rural Philippines. The results are clear. Many new brick houses line the short stretch of road leading to the feeding beach. 'It is easier working in the whale shark area. I can earn a lot of money', said Aikie Lagahid, 23, Ramoncito's nephew and a fisherman who now works as a whale shark spotter and boatman. 'In the morning we take the guests out, and in the afternoon, we play basketball.' /

“Tourists are delighted as well. 'It (the whale shark) is really big, so it was really an experience,' said Cecilia Buguis, a Philippine tourist. 'I would definitely tell my friends about it. But not everybody is thrilled. Biologists, in particular, are afraid that the feeding will create long-term problems. It is very rare, according to Italy-based environmental group Physalus, to have so many whale sharks in such a small area so regularly. Feeding from a boat close to humans is also extremely unnatural. 'It looks like being in a zoo, a circus, looking at the animal walking up and down being fed. This is not a natural behaviour that you see,' said Alessandro Ponzo, the president of Physalus. 'The experience that you have ... is not the same as when you see them in the wild, in their natural environment. What you learn here is that wild life is (fine) to be exploited as a tourism attraction.' /

“Biologists fear that the situation could lead the whale sharks to develop abnormal social behaviours, such as increased aggression or competition between the animals. The close contact could also lead to the spread of disease and parasites. A Facebook page, 'Stop Whale Shark Feeding in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines,' says the feeding is an 'exploitation of both the fish and the people.' It has 881 likes. Animal rights groups say they understand the importance of tourism as a source of livelihood, but emphasize that it has to be done in a sustainable way in order to become a long-term possibility. /

“Physalus is evaluating the effects of tourism and feeding on the behaviour of whale sharks and hopes their research will help the local government manage whale shark tourism and minimize the environmental impact. 'You should stop the detrimental effect to the shark, but you should also improve the livelihood of the community as well,' said biologist Samantha Craven, the group's project coordinator in Oslob. 'Real eco-tourism is something entirely achievable.' /

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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