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Monday, March 2, 2009

This internet cafe is playing Celine Dion's greatest hits on a loop

I'm in Cebu City and it's not pretty.

Not that there aren't some beautiful sites here. But you know you're in for a rough trip when, as he drives you from the airport to your hotel, the cabbie tells you not to walk outside at night because it's dangerous. Yeppp...

A 5-hour flight from Seoul--during which Melissa and I were "forced" to watch the abysmal Twilight--brought us here here verrrryyy early this morning. A few hours of much-needed sleep later, we power-walked our way through the city in an effort to see all the main sites before heading to the beach tomorrow. The result? Exhaustion, sunburn and a few good pictures. There's not that much to see here so we're definitely happy to spend the rest of the trip on the beach.

After a hearty breakfast, we ventured into the sun and heat to see Basilica Minore del Santo NiƱo, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. This 16th century stone building is massive and absolutely stunning. Many people were visiting the basilica, either offering up prayers or touching various Christian relics.

Last night, our driver mentioned that there were no Americans in town this time of year and we assumed he was joking. But so far, Cebu is about as diverse as Korea, as in, it's completely homogenous. We've been stared and whistled at far more here than ever in Seoul. It's bizarre.

The basilica is at the southeast corner of the city so while there, we checked out Magellan's Cross (anticlimatic as the original cross is preserved inside a huge wooden facade) and Fort San Pedro, which has been used by various occupying forces over the centuries.

One of the best finds of the day was a fair trade store selling locally-made Filipino goods, from teas and dried fruits to dreamcatchers and candle holders. It's nice to feel like my purchase is actually helping someone and being used for something good, not just going to finance a sweatshop.

Cebu has by far the worst urban poverty I've ever encountered. Beggars are everywhere, the streets are dirty and it's definitely not a "must-see" city. It's so sad to see children everywhere asking for money and selling cheap trinkets, and I wish there was something I could do to help them, but it's impossible. It's one of those situations that leaves me so thankful to be American, which is in itself a terrible feeling as I get to escape in a few days while most people here will live and die impoverished.

Neither Melissa and I have much energy to do anything else in Cebu tonight and as the sun has set, we're probably just going to grab some dinner and enjoy one of the perks of our hotel -- cable TV complete with CNN and BBC. Yes, we're both journalism nerds.

Mactan Island tomorrow!