In the Philippines, 7-Eleven’s are a bit of a social gathering place.  There are a good number of tables and chairs where you can sit and be seen.  The college kids seem to love them, especially the one in Downtown Cebu City as there are several colleges in the area.

The 7-Eleven is located at the corner of Osmena and Colon Streets. It’s a busy intersection with lots of foot traffic in the area.  It’s surrounded by a little bit of everything, drug stores, street vendors, banks, Internet cafes and clothing stores.

Downtown Cebu City an Interesting Area within Cebu City

The first time I stayed at CebuView Tourist Inn was three or four years ago. I had always stayed at or near Osmena Boulevard, I took an immediate liking to this area of town.  It is known as the Downtown area of Cebu City.

For me, it’s more “colorful”. Not in the sense that it has more colors, in fact, it might be a little grayer because it is older. It7-Eleven Colon Street Downtown Cebu City is the interesting people that I enjoy. Now sometimes these interesting people are also a pain in the backside.

Many are poor and often have something to hustle. People are out here making a peso here and there anyway they can. Many Filipinos run shops out of their homes. There are sidewalk convince stores too. The gentlemen next door sells everything from potato chips to Chinese herbal “Viagra”.

I suspect I could buy just about anything I could think off right in front of my hotel. Both legal and illegal. There are tons of cheap DVDs for sale and software too. All right on the street, out in the open.

The area is known as a good place to buy cheap electronics.  It looks like there are a lot of refurbished items for sale in some of the shops.  I’m not much of a shopper but I’d rather go shopping here than in a mall. It is hot though and  can be a bit chaotic.

At night there is a night market on Colon Street. It’s not far from my hotel and easy for me to walk to when my lungs don’t feel like they will explode due to contracting the latest virus floating around town as they do right now.  There are stalls in the streets, kind of like a cross between going to a state fair and going to a flee market.  The night market can be found outside of the 7-Eleven and runs for several blocks up and down Colon Street. Colon Street is the oldest street in the Philippines.

Homeless in Downtown CebuThere are several colleges nearby, San Carolos University and University of the Visayas are two of the more notable ones. This of course leads a large number of extremely beautiful Filipina.  A word of caution though, there is no seventh or eighth grade in the most of the Philippines. Kids go from the sixth grade straight into high school. That means they often start college at 16. So they may look and act like their upperclassmen they may still land you in prison for a long long time. I can’t tell the difference between a 16 year old girl in a college uniform from an 18 year old young woman in the same uniform.

Girls still in high school are easier to spot if they are in uniform. They will almost always be in skirts and they will have some kind of socks on.  College girls might be in slacks but almost never wear socks while in their skirts.  Like I said before, that college girl might be 16 or 17.  Personally, I avoid even looking in the direction of underage girls as I don’t wish to add to the mostly false belief that foreigners are specifically coming here for underage girls. Sure that happens but it’s not common. I am trying to help you to avoid problems.

Sir, What Can I do For You?

A few weeks ago, I was very sick and had to go to the store despite feeling as if I might die. One of the ladies working the streets ambushed me on my way out of the hotel. She followed me all the way to 7-Eleven and was waiting for me when I came back out. I had probably already told her about 10 times, I don’t want a girl. She kept offering me a “younger girl”. Once before she even said “18” and held her hands up to make a quote sign and gave me a wink wink to suggest not really that old.

This time as I was on my way back to the hotel, I was carrying two 1.5 liter Coke Zeros and they were heavy in my weakened state. My lungs felt like they were going to burn through my chest. She was still bugging me. This time she asked “What can I do for you”? I told her to “Go away” haha. Now, I’m usually more respectful of all people but I was sick of her, out of breath and in a very foul mood.   I completely refuse to give someone money to get them to leave me alone. Anyway, she had tried to get money out of me a few times before but hasn’t bothered me since that night.  Now though, as soon as I see her, I shake my head no before she even ask.

Followed me Into 7-Eleven too?

I think she sent one of her girls in but I’ll never know for sure. Cute girl, looked like 17 to me but said she was 22. Walked up to me and asked for my phone number. Now I knew this was too good to be true but I figured I just might get that one in a billion good luck Filipina. Okay, I wasn’t hopeful but you know what, if you always say no, you’re gonna get nowhere.  So I gave her my number.

I didn’t hear from her until around 6am, I guess that’s quitting and she needed a place to sleep.  I really don’t know but thatSleeping In Hot Sun is when she finally sent me a text message asking where my hotel room was. That I didn’t give her. I asked, something like “You want me to pay you, right?”  She confirmed that she did. I told her I wasn’t interested but she kept texting.  I explained that I only want to spend time with a woman because she likes me and not because I paid her. That didn’t seem to compute with her at all haha.

She kept texting but I finally just laid the phone down and turned off the sound and vibration.  She repeated the same thing the next day but after that, I didn’t hear from her again.

If there is a Filipina with me when I walk to 7-11, then I don’t get overwhelmed with these offers.  If there is not a Filipina with me, I try to walk on the street instead of the sidewalk.  This will keep the number of attempts to sell me a girl and other things I don’t want down substantially. Getting on the sidewalk, that’s like walking into the carpeted area at Sears in the 70’s for as soon as you did that, you’d be pounced by several salesman haha.

Sidewalk for a Home

There is another reason I often stay off the sidewalks when possible. You have to watch where you’re stepping. Homeless people like to use the awnings of the stores for their shelter.  They sleep all along the sidewalks, especially after the shops close for the night. This provides shelter from the rain.

Some have only a flattened out cardbox for a bed while others have built various types of beds and often use cardboard boxes for their bed covering and sometimes to provide some degree of privacy. At times you need be careful where you put your feet down or you might step on a sleeping human being. Usually though, they are hugging the walls and are not really in the way.

You’ll see moms with their children. I often see one young mother breast feeding her child. Children that appear to be at least three years old.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a couple standing up hugging the wall with the man standing directly behind her. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing until I passed by and noticed the lady had her paints wrapped around her ankles. So, you need to fill in the blanks here.

Safety in Downtown Cebu

I don’t know but I strongly suspect the crime rate in this area of Cebu City is higher than many other areas. My perception is that it is safer than Mandaue or Lapu Lapu as the crime rates in those two cities seem very high. Both have an increased gang presence from what I can tell and there are seems to be a lot of organized crime in Mandaue.

You’re more likely to be at risk of pickpockets in Downtown Cebu City.  I have never seen any criminal activity here butArmed Guards in Downtown Cebu there are drugs being used and sold and girls working the streets. Where there are those kinds of activities going on, crime is usually not far away.

There are two ATM’s on Osmena Street and I try to use those only during the day so that an armed guard is present. Do not wear jewelry here, the thieves may cut it right off of you.  Don’t put your wallet in your pockets and that includes your front pocket. I had my phone in one front pocket and my wallet in another a few years ago and both disappeared one day.

One good alternative is a money pouch that goes around your neck and is worn under your clothes and then keep a small amount of cash in your pocket. I usually keep my spending cash in my front shirt pocket.  That’s also a good place to secure your phone. I would not walk around with my phone in my hand here.

I enjoy this area of town.  It’s a great place to take photographs.  Pretty girls, interesting street people and a little bit of everything to point my camera at.

Have you spent time in Downtown Cebu City? What is your impression of the area? Hate it, love it, or indifferent? I like it but I wouldn’t suggest it is for everyone.  Every now and then you need to get a little rude and just tell people to “Go away” haha.

Photos: All photos taken by me. The first shot is of the 7-Eleven at Colon Street and Osmena. The second shot is of two homeless people. Mom can often been seen nursing her child, the child with sad eyes.  They completely break my heart. The mom is very sweet. I’ve never seen her high or using.  She enjoys my taking her picture and though she sometimes ask for help, she ask me for 1 peso only. The napping man photo was taken when it was very hot and there really isn’t much to do oter than sleep. It’s too hot for anything else. The final picture is of two guards during an armored car cash pickup.

By Rusty Ferguson

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