Cebu City is not exactly the place to be if you want to be around nature. Or even a single tree or blade of grass, as you’ll quickly find that the Queen City of the South is just a vast expanse of concrete. That is, until you get outside of the city to the foothills, where the natural beauty of the islands takes over again, and the island of Cebu is certainly a wonderful place. But greenery is sorely lacking inside the city, to the point where there isn’t even really a park I found to workout or take a walk in my six months living there.
Overview of the Ayala Mall
There is, however, Ayala Mall, which substitutes as the community center, meeting place, and yes, even as the only exposure to nature you’ll find in the city. First off, Ayala is in a central location, and you’ll find that most of the nice international hotels are purposely located within walking distance. So too are several big call centers, banks, and business parks.
Ayala Mall is made up like a huge horseshoe, with three sides of stores, restaurants, etc., climbing three stories high. The outdoor terrace on those three levels lines the stores, and that’s where most people walk around, and people watch. But inside the mall, you can walk around (while feeling the gloriously cold AC) and get anywhere you need to go, just like any other mall.
But back outside, within the “horseshoe,” is a park-like setup, with plenty of green lawns, trees, well-manicured bushes, and walkways and sitting areas so patrons can meander around and enjoy the outdoor setting, daytime or night when it’s well lit. There’s also a big stage where they have concerts, events, fashion shows, and other conferences.
Now I’m not a big “mall person,” but it’s inevitable that I ended up at Ayala Mall at least once a week to hang out or even for practical purposes. They have a nice big supermarket, Metro, as well as a two-story Starbucks that’s nice for coffee lovers (as well as several other coffee shops), a great multiplex cinema, and plenty of restaurants. Two of the more popular ones with foreigners include the U.S. chain TGIF, although I find their prices to be absolutely ludicrous (even more expensive than their menu in the U.S.!). Also, Social on the very top roof deck is a great resto-bar, and a cool place to hang out and have a few beers and mingle at night. But there are a few fantastic local restaurant chains with Filipino food, too.
I’ve also noticed a slew of Korean restaurants, KTVs, and clubs, as Cebu City is now a huge landing place for young Korean students, who take over their own establishments. But Ayala Mall has something for everyone these days, as well as offices where you can buy a phone plan or reload your phone (Globe or Smart), as well as pay electric and other utility bills, or wire money through Western Union, etc.
I just wish the mall opened earlier because it’s a 10 am start time, so it’s not a place to get breakfast, and transportation can be hard at busy times, as the row of taxis is quickly consumed on the weekends, evenings, or especially when it rains!