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Introducing Cebu City

As far as most visitors are concerned, Cebu City is Manila minus the mayhem. Its traffic is chaotic, but not insane. Its size and layout can actually be understood, rather than merely endured. And - sigh - hardly any of the taxi drivers here are employed by Satan.

With a vast seaport, an international airport, two giant shopping malls, a modern business park and several universities, Cebu City has achieved metropolis status without coming to resemble the ninth circle of hell.

But before we get your hopes up, bear in mind that its virtues are comparative. With apologies to a few Peace Corps veterans and the like, if we were to draw a portrait of the average foreigner here, it would be of a self-exiled, twice-divorced, chemically dependent middle-aged man with a much younger Filipina on his arm. Sound familiar?

Cebu City isn't Manila, but that doesn't make it a place we'd want to be spending our holiday.