Stephanie Santana finds Cebuanos eager to show her their home…and pose for the camera.

CEBU WAS A LAST-MINUTE TRAVEL DECISION for my friend and me — it came about thanks to a cheap flight and proximity to South Korea, where I’m currently living. Many people I knew who’d been said there wasn’t much to see besides the beach. I’m glad I didn’t listen.

We were only there for less than a week but got around — we walked Cebu City, traveled around the island, and took a day trip to neighboring Bohol to see the Chocolate Hills. What I tried to capture in my photos were the in-between, ordinary moments of traveling in Cebu. As a temporary visitor, I was most fascinated by these glimpses into the everyday lives of Cebuanos.


Cocks minus the fighting

This enthusiastic guy wanted to show us his two fighting roosters, but one was apparently too tired to fight for us at the moment. The photo above was taken after he'd bent down to pick up the unwilling rooster. Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines and is a very popular pastime and betting activity.


Getting to Carbon Market

Jeepneys are a cultural icon in the Philippines, and you will definitely spot them en route to Cebu City's Carbon Market, downtown. Originally leftover US army vehicles from World War II, they're now used by private companies as the local public transport system. They're typically brightly decorated to compete for customers' attention.


Cebu meat market

On our search for souvenirs, we thought we'd take a quick detour into the meat market. Once inside, the wet floor and sticky humid air really brought out the smell of freshly cut meat as butchers were trying to entice us to their stalls. Well, except for this guy on his break. The meat market actually brings a lot of tourists into Carbon Market, which, over 100 years old, gets its name from the fact that it used to be where coal was unloaded.


The cool kid

"Take my picture," said the tan boy with the blonde hair. So I did. And he was happy to see it. A thumbs up and "good job" were the responses I received. Photo taken near Carbon Market.


Cebu puppies

At one point when exploring Carbon Market, we took a wrong turn and wound up in the back alleys with restaurants and homes. There were also many stray dogs living in the alley. This new mom had found a crate for her pups, but they kept falling out. When I went to help put them back, these children joined me, and I let them take over while I snapped photos. Afterwards, they requested their own photoshoot and were excited to pose for the camera. As for the pups, someone finally came and moved the box to the ground.


Shooting the kids

Here's another of the puppy kids. After each shot, I'd show them the camera screen and they'd lose it.


Home by the sea

I was led to edge of town by a kind lady who saw my friend and I looking lost in the alley behind Carbon Market. She asked if we wanted to see the ocean. At first I was hesitant to follow, since I literally had to pass through people's homes to get to a view of the water, but everyone was friendly and eager to have their photo taken.

Despite being a central location of commerce and business, Cebu had the highest percentage of impoverished families in the Philippines according to the 2009 Official Poverty Statistics conducted by the National Statistics Coordination Board.

At port

With the air hot and sticky, many neighborhood kids were jumping into the ocean on a Thursday afternoon. This view is near the main port of Cebu City, which docks vessels such as those from Cokaliong Shipping Lines. The domestic service travels to 12 different ports on the surrounding islands that make up the Philippines.


The Chocolate Hills, Bohol

The hills get their name from the fact that when the grass turns brown, they look like Hershey's kisses. A romantic legend of the hills' formation tells of a giant who fell in love with a local girl, Aloya. When she died the giant couldn't stop crying, and his tears formed the hills. A more lighthearted version tells of a giant animal that kept eating all the villagers' crops. The villagers decided to trick the animal by giving him rotten food, which he couldn't stomach and subsequently crapped out, forming the hills. Finally, a third story is of two dueling giants who hurled rocks at each other to the point of exhaustion. They eventually decided to become friends but left behind their rocks.


Hot weather calls for a swim

My day trip to Bohol was organized by a local tour agency. While some things were, for lack of a better word, "cheesy" -- such as the karaoke-styled singing aboard a river boat cruise -- the journey offered unexpected surprises, like these two boys catching a ride. They first swung off a tree, and then swam over to hang onto the boat's mooring rope.


Mobile beauty pageant

After a disappointing visit to the Orchid Gallery in Moalboal (nothing was in bloom), I took a tricycle to what I hoped would be a more pleasing view at the beach. The bumpy ride turned out to be pretty entertaining, as I got a front-row view of this parade of cars carrying children going to a wedding...or a beauty pageant, perhaps?