Cities are like people. They have their own brand of personalities. And for each city, there are probably one or two spots that encapsulate what it is about. For Cebu City, the two areas that best represent it would have to be Colon Street and Carbon Market. They may not be as posh as Cebu Business Park or IT Park, but they are definitely more memorable. What adds to their charm is you can find anything and everything Cebuano in these places.
To know how significant these landmarks are, it helps to know their history. Uncovering their past not only helps you realize how deeply ingrained Cebu City is and why they best represent the Queen City of the South.
Colon Street, Cebu is the oldest street in the Philippines. It was established during the time of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and easily became a center of commerce. The first businesses set up shop in Colon and because of the economic growth, it eventually became a place for social events and functions. Because of all the commercial activity, naturally a lot of other establishments started popping up. For example, four of the major colleges and universities in Cebu City are located on or built near Colon street, namely, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of San Carlos, University of the Visayas, and University of Cebu. Here’s another little known fact: some of these schools are almost as old as the street itself. This just goes to show that Colon was a pivotal component of Cebu even back then.
Throughout the years, Colon Street evolved along with the city. Now you can find several malls, fast food chains (some of which are the oldest restaurants in Cebu), and even cinemas. It has also become a hub for transportation. If there’s any place you need to go in Cebu, you’ll most likely find a jeepney route that would get you there (or at least somewhere nearby). Travellers can also find Cebu City hotels, inns, boarding houses, and other forms of Cebu accommodation in this street. However, some of them are located within the seedier areas of Colon, so be cautious when choosing a place to lodge.
But if you are purely interested in shopping, you can go about it in two ways. First, you can shop inside some of the malls found there, such as Metro Gaisano and Elizabeth Mall. Or you could try your luck by exploring any of the stalls and shops on the street. As a precaution, always be mindful of your wallet and other personal effects. The point is you can definitely find what you’re looking for either way.
While Colon Street continues to develop, what hasn’t changed is the fact that it is still a major commercial hotspot. From street vendors, pawnshops, restaurants, cafes, and even supermarkets, you can buy just about anything in Colon.
For more than a hundred years, Carbon Market has served as Cebu’s largest and most popular public and farmer’s market. It got its name because it used to have a depot where coal was deposited back when Cebu had a railroad system. Another theory is that it got its name due to the fact that it was where large amounts of cinders were disposed of. However it got its name, there’s no denying that it is a major commercial center for local produce, goods, and handicrafts.
Because of how large the market is, it is appropriately divided into several units, such as the following:
You can find Freedom Park right across the entrance of the University of San Jose-Recoletos, and the very end of the park is near the South Road Properties. It is also walking distance away from attractions, such as Basilica del Sto. Niño, Magellan’s Cross, and Cebu City Hall.
Basically, this is where most of the farmers, craftsmen, and trade people sell their goods. Most of them have their own stalls, but there are others that simply set up along the sidewalk. Some of the goods sold here include fresh flowers gathered from the mountains of Cebu, local delicacies (e.g., buwad, balut, sinugba, ginamos, dried mangoes, etc.), clothes, produce, assorted meats, school supplies, and pastries. Freedom Park is at its busiest during the late evening to early dawn because that’s when the farmers sell their crops. In short, you can buy just about anything here and it is open day and night.
This is the relatively unknown portion of Carbon Market, but it is just as fascinating. While Freedom Park is mostly known for perishable goods (or even some accessories), the barracks is where you can find furniture items and even some handicrafts (all of which are locally made). Motorists and drivers could also park their vehicles in the barracks because it has a rather spacious parking lot. Because of the size of the goods, the stalls in Warwick Barracks are much bigger compared to the stalls in Freedom Park.
Because Colon Street and Carbon Market are close to one another, you can travel between the two fairly easily. There are numerous jeepneys you can ride if you are in a hurry, but if there’s no rush you can also just walk. Along the way, you can find plenty of street vendors selling different sorts of products. From street food, clothing accessories, and even some gadgets. While you can shop anytime, there are parts of the year wherein both locations are livelier than usual. Notable periods include the holidays, January (due to the Sinulog festival), and June (recognized as Cebu Business Month). During these times, Colon and Carbon hold night markets wherein more sellers come out of the woodwork. Talk about a bustling Cebu City nightlife.
Despite how old Colon Street and Carbon Market are, they are still recognized as the go-to places for budget shopping in Cebu. You could say that they are intrinsic parts of the local trade industry in the city. But more than that, they are cultural landmarks. Indeed, no visit to Cebu City would be complete without visiting these attractions.