Exploring Cebu: UNESCO Creative City of Design

Exploring Cebu: UNESCO Creative City of Design

Cebu, a province in the Philippines known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, has recently earned the prestigious title of UNESCO Creative City of Design, the second city to earn the title in the Philippines next to the City of Baguio. This designation recognizes Cebu’s remarkable contributions to the design world and its commitment to fostering creativity and innovation. Join us on a journey through Cebu, as we explore its thriving design scene and its driver to earn the UNESCO Creative City status.

A team from the Creative City of Baguio composed of the Department of Tourism (DOT) led by Regional Director Jovi Ganongan, the City of Baguio Tourism Council (CBCC), The Baguio Tourism Office, and the Baguio Tourism Council had a tourism exchange with the Creative City of Cebu and the UNESCO Global Geopark of Bohol to explore possible collaborations for the creative and tourism sector.

At the heart of Cebu City, creativity pulses through the streets. The city’s vibrant atmosphere is a reflection of its status as a UNESCO Creative City of Design. We have a chance to visit galleries and several creative hubs. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find evidence of Cebu’s thriving design culture, from beautifully designed public spaces to innovative architecture and public art installations.

Culinary experience

Our adventure begins with Cebu City’s culinary wonders, a tantalizing journey through a diverse tapestry of flavors that reflect the province’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant food culture. At the heart of this experience lies the world-famous Cebu lechon, a crispy-skinned, tender-meat roasted pig that serves as the province’s culinary crown jewel. Our guide brought us to Rico’s Lechon where they don’t only serve great lechon but also develop their own vinegar sauce. Here we learned to eat the Cebuano way, no Mang Tomas sauce as this will affect the real taste of Cebu lechon, just use plain soy sauce and vinegar with chili and a cold San Miguel Beer. Some of us can’t get enough of their suka lami and decided to buy some to take home.

Beyond lechon, our culinary experience expanded to seafood like the sutukil, a medley of grilled, soup-based, and ceviche-style dishes, showcasing the freshest catches from its coastal waters. Cebu’s culinary scene seamlessly blends tradition with innovation, offering a delightful and unforgettable feast for the senses that captures the essence of this Queen City of the South.

A Musical Journey

Even the night atmosphere was filled with Cebu’s music as we passed by several music lounges. The guide herself made our tour lively as she mixed singing with her commentaries. Cebu’s music scene is a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary influences, echoing the province’s rich cultural tapestry. From the rhythmic beats of traditional Visayan music to the vibrant sounds of modern pop, rock, and reggae that fill the airwaves, Cebu is a province that pulses with music.

Creative Entrepreneurs

Cebu’s UNESCO Creative City status has given rise to a flourishing community of creative entrepreneurs. We met local designers, artisans, and craftsmen who are pushing the boundaries of creativity in fields such as furniture design, fashion, and architecture. Their innovative creations have not only earned them recognition within Cebu but have also captured the attention of the global design community.

Cebu also produces some of the best guitars, the factories are renowned as the beating heart of the Philippines’ guitar-making tradition. These workshops and factories, often nestled in the province’s scenic landscapes, are where skilled artisans transform locally sourced woods into exquisite musical instruments. With meticulous craftsmanship and a dedication to preserving age-old techniques, Cebu’s guitar makers produce an array of guitars, from classical and acoustic to electric models, each with its distinct character and tone. These establishments are not just places of production but cultural hubs where tradition meets innovation, and where aspiring luthiers learn the art from the masters. Cebu’s guitar factories not only craft instruments but also craft the province’s identity as a global center for exquisite and soulful guitar craftsmanship.

Kenneth Cobunpue’s design seamlessly blends traditional craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics.

Of course, Cebu is also home to many designers. We had the chance to visit the hub of Kenneth Cobonpue. Kenneth Cobonpue is a globally acclaimed Filipino designer whose innovative and sustainable creations have left an indelible mark on the world of furniture and industrial design. Known for his ability to seamlessly blend traditional craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics, Cobonpue’s work is a testament to his commitment to preserving Filipino heritage while embracing modern design principles. His iconic furniture pieces, often inspired by nature and crafted from locally sourced materials, have graced the interiors of homes, hotels, and public spaces worldwide. As a visionary and a pioneer in sustainable design practices, Kenneth Cobonpue continues to inspire both aspiring designers and seasoned professionals, showcasing the creative potential of Filipino craftsmanship on the global stage.

Designing for the Future

Cebu’s design community is not just focused on aesthetics; it’s also dedicated to designing for a sustainable future as explained by Kae Batiquin, manager of the Holicow. Holicow is a group of designers, manufacturers, and crafters, mostly based in the Visayas region of the Philippines, who are passionate about sustainability. Batiquin said the association collaborates with partner communities to develop, produce, and market sustainable, fair trade products that responsibly tap a community’s skills and resources and supplement their livelihood.

Department of Tourism Cordillerag Regional Director Jovita Ganongan visits the Holicow Creative Hub. From left, Kae Batiquin, Jovi Ganongan & Debbie Palao.

As a Creative City of Design, Cebu has embraced the principles of sustainable design and is actively working to address pressing global challenges, such as climate change and urbanization. We’ll explore eco-friendly initiatives, green spaces, and sustainable design projects that demonstrate Cebu’s commitment to a better world.

Collaborative Spirit

Cebu’s membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network has fostered collaboration and exchange with other Creative Cities around the world. We’ll witness the power of cross-cultural dialogue and mutual learning as Cebu engages in partnerships and initiatives that enrich its design landscape.

Celebrating Cultural Heritage

Design in Cebu is deeply rooted in the province’s cultural heritage. Our journey takes us to heritage sites and museums that showcase the rich history and traditions of Cebu. From intricately designed indigenous crafts to beautifully preserved historic architecture, Cebu’s design story is a celebration of its cultural roots.

The Future of Cebu’s Design

As we conclude our travelogue through Cebu, we’ll reflect on the significance of its UNESCO Creative City of Design designation. Cebu’s creative spirit, dedication to sustainability, and celebration of its cultural heritage have positioned it as a global design leader. The future of Cebu’s design scene is bright, promising continued innovation and a lasting impact on the world of design. Perhaps Cebu can teach the creatives of Baguio so much more to become globally competitive.

Conclusion: Cebu’s Design Odyssey

Cebu, a UNESCO Creative City of Design, is a testament to the power of creativity, innovation, and cultural preservation. Its streets are a canvas of design excellence, its entrepreneurs are pioneers of sustainable practices, and its heritage is a source of inspiration.

Although we got our UNESCO title ahead of Cebu, Baguio City is still young when It comes to tapping the global market. There is so much to learn from Cebu. Baguio has all the potential to grow with its unique culture-driven creative communities. However, I believe they should gain more knowledge in innovation, collaboration, sustainability, and marketing to tap the global market, where Cebu has succeeded. – Story and Photos by Carl Cariño Taawan


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