How to Blend in with Cebuano People as a Tourist

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Improve your travel experience by knowing how to connect with Cebuano people.

For an authentic experience in Cebu, you have to learn how to live among the Cebuano people. 

You need to learn their language, adapt to their customs, and even adjust to the island’s climate. 

It may be impossible to look the part, but you may get a few locals to think that you’re a long-time resident with enough knowledge of Cebu and Cebuano culture. This is definitely something that Filipinos will admire and appreciate.

Following important traditions on the island shows that you respect and care about the Cebuano way of life. You don’t want to make a negative first impression that may lead to some unwanted attention. 

How you present yourself is just as important not only for respecting the culture and traditions, but also for your safety as a traveler. Blatantly showing you’re a tourist with no clue what you’re doing can make you a prime target for petty crimes. 

So how do you behave when getting around Cebu? 

Here is a quick rundown of what you need to know when blending in with the Cebuano people.

For Starters, Relax and Stay Chill

Keeping a low profile helps when visiting the many Cebu tourist spots.

There are several dead giveaways for when you don’t know what you’re doing. The more obvious it is, the more likely you will get noticed by people around you.  Keep a low profile by presenting yourself like one of the locals. 

To do this, observe how Cebuano people dress. Many Filipinos are up to date with the latest fashion trends, even when it comes to vintage finds from some of the island’s most renowned thrift stores. 

While you can dress up fashionably at local events and pop-ups, it’s best to keep things subtle when in crowded areas like tourist spots.

Consider wearing plain shirts when going to the mall or running errands, and avoid wearing any clothing with the word CEBU printed on it. That definitely screams, “I’m a tourist here!”

Get something light, comfortable, and loose to adapt to the island’s humidity. Make sure it isn’t too revealing either, as the Philippines is a mostly Catholic country. This means that many locals wear something modest when out in public.

Travel light as well when walking around crowded areas. Carrying large backpacks with tons of equipment will attract pickpockets and snatchers.

Bring your absolute essentials like your wallet, phone, and hotel room keys. Aside from keeping your belongings safe, it makes walking around easier as well. 

Speak like the Cebuano People 

Socializing with Cebuanos is better when you can understand the Bisaya language.

Communication is extremely important in a foreign country, so you should try to at least learn Cebu’s local dialect, Bisaya. Luckily, it isn’t that hard to learn. 

A study by the Philippine Statistics Authority (2020) showed that Bisaya is the second most used dialect inside Filipino homes, amounting to over 4 million households, accounting for 16% of the study’s respondents. 

There are lots of avenues to learn the language, from online classes to website articles, but interacting with native speakers will always be the most effective. This is how most foreigners start out when learning the language. 

Mastering the Bisaya language can help in socializing with the locals. Many Filipinos understand English fairly well, but some still prefer to speak in their native tongue. 

Aside from preventing any misunderstandings, locals will definitely appreciate a foreigner attempting to speak to them in their native language.

Learn about Local Currency and Ways of Paying

The cost of living is relatively cheap for dollar-earning individuals, which is why it is a retirement hotspot among many foreigners. 

An article on (2023) points out that budget travelers can spend around 30 to 50 dollars a day on everything, from accommodation to recreational activities. 

Aside from getting to know the country’s exchange rate, familiarize yourself with how transactions are made. There are several methods of payment used, but some are preferred more than others. 

In the Philippines, cash is king. Some retail stores don’t have online payment options available, so make sure you have a few bills and spare change with you when going out. 

Visit any money changer in Cebu to have your local currency changed to the Philippine peso. This is extremely helpful when you need to purchase something at the local convenience store or for public transportation. 

If you insist on cashless payments, some locations allow e-wallets such as GCash and Maya, so do a bit of research on how to use these before going to Cebu.  

Follow Local Customs 

Take note of how Cebuano people treat each other, so as to not come off as rude or disrespectful. Filipinos are very friendly and hospitable, but there are some etiquettes to follow as well, especially when in religious places or when you’re a guest in someone’s home.

Cebuanos have great respect for the elderly. If your Filipino friend introduces you to one of their elderly family members, show your respect by doing the mano po gesture, wherein you gently take an elder’s hand and bring it up to your forehead.

Aside from this, Cebuanos follow the Asian tradition of leaving their shoes outside when entering someone’s home. Some temples and churches follow this tradition as well. 

Filipinos tend to invite people to share a meal with them when they’re at the dining table too. You don’t have to accept the invitation right away, but eating with them is definitely a memorable experience, and it’s a great way for you to connect with the locals.

Project Confidence

Now that you’re familiar with how things work, getting around Cebu and approaching the locals should be a breeze. Keep in mind that confidence also works wonders even when you’re trying to keep a low profile.

The key is to not make it obvious that you’re a tourist to avoid unwanted attention. Keep your head up and give a warm smile to the people you interact with.

Avoid looking at your phone a lot of the time, as this is an obvious sign that you’re trying to figure out where to go. Keep it moderate.

Your confidence will also rely on your knowledge of the place you are visiting. Research ahead about important things like how locals act, the prices of things, and even how to effectively communicate and maintain a stoic persona. 

Being confident and knowing what to do will prevent anyone from taking advantage of you, helping you stay vigilant wherever you go. 

You may not look like a local, but knowing how to blend in with Cebuano people helps with having a safe and memorable travel experience.


  1. “Tagalog is the Most Widely Spoken Language at Home (2020 Census of Population and Housing).” Philippine Statistics Authority.
  1. “The Ultimate Guide to the Trip to Philippines Cost in 2024.”’re%20a%20budget,%2470%20to%20%24100%20per%20day.
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