Mactan Island, Philippines: A Tale of Two Bridges, Traffic and Tourists

What travel stories do you have?

Global travel blog that features travel stories on living, traveling and growing up in cities, villages and towns around the world!


Mactan Island, Philippines: A Tale of Two Bridges, Traffic and Tourists

I’ve been living in Lapu-lapu City, Mactan Island for the past four years. I love that it’s just a few minutes from Cebu City and the mainland (which is still really an island – just a bigger one), and all the modern conveniences they have to offer, but hate that those few minutes can easily turn to hours during peak traffic hours.

I drove almost everyday from Mactan to where I worked in Cebu City, IT Park, for three years. We worked during UK business hours, which would be around 5 or 6 pm in my time zone. Without traffic, it would only take me 20-30 minutes to drive the 15-kilometer stretch, but since late afternoon is when most schools and offices close for the day, I had to leave extra early just to make it to work on time (hint: I failed miserably at this).

Mactan is separated from Cebu mainland by the narrow Mactan channel, but is physically connected by two bridges, aptly named by locals as ‘old bridge’ and ‘new bridge’. Long before I got married and moved here, it is said the bridges were able to accommodate the daily volume of vehicular traffic that traversed the bridges. However, this has not been the case for the past few years, which is why the government has thankfully initiated the construction of a third bridge (that should be completed in a few years).

I tried to make my job and the distance work, but like most long-distance relationships, it failed. When I gave birth, I finally had ‘enough’ and decided to quit just so I could spend more time with my son, instead of sitting in the car stuck in traffic, twiddling my thumbs, and daydreaming about watching my baby grow up.

Quitting my job and turning to freelance activities meant I had more time to spend with family. But at the same time, it also gave me the freedom to explore the island and get to know why so many tourists love it here.

There are probably thousands of tourists on the island at any given point in time. I say this because everywhere you go you’re bound to bump into Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Americans. This year, and for the past few years, South Korea has been the nation’s top source of tourist arrivals, with a sizable number going to Cebu.


Image source: Department of Tourism

I see Koreans so frequently here in Mactan that whenever I visit my family in Tacloban City, I am always surprised by the lack of porcelain-skinned and fashionably-dressed Koreans in my hometown! I suppose it goes without saying the tourism campaign here in Cebu is working as opposed to Tacloban, but that’s another story.

I’ve chatted with quite a few Koreans here and they tell me they love Mactan because of the number of beautiful beaches and resorts, all for relatively affordable prices. Most of them are also enrolled in ESL (English as a Second Language) schools to help improve their English skills and be more competitive in the global market. It’s probably a no-brainer for them to be honest. Here they can study on weekdays, party on weekends and, if they miss home, they can simply grab a cheap four hour flight any day of the week (it helps that there’s an international airport in the island).


An awesome night-time view of JPark Island Resort. This luxury resort is just a few minutes from our house.
(Source: Raleene Cabrera)

With the influx of mostly Asian tourists, a number of shops have recently opened in the island to cater to their culture and tastes. Plenty of culinary options have cropped up, so if my husband and I are craving Korean or Japanese food there’s no shortage of restaurants to choose from, especially in the Marigondon, Maribago and Punta Engano areas.

The Korean influence is also prevalent in the island. Just ask any youngster about K-Pop and they’ll give you a long list of Koreans they adore. I personally like to think I am past the age group that likes K-Pop, but I have to admit I love Lee Min Ho and have watched several of his telenovelas.


The new Mactan bridge in the foreground (formally known as Marcelo Fernan Bridge) and the old bridge in the background (Mactan-Mandaue Bridge)
(Source: Alfred Bonjoc Ferolino)

Another extra perk of living on an island is the number of awesome beach resorts, all within minutes from our house. The closest one is JPark Island Resort. Just a bit farther away is my personal favorite, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. What’s even more awesome is that during non-peak months, these resorts often run various promotions, and offer heavily discounted rates to attract more guests.

But it’s not all roses and fun in Mactan. Aside from the traffic conditions, crime is also an issue – although I don’t think it’s as bad as other areas. The government’s bloody fight on drugs and crime has penetrated even the most remote barangays on the island. In our barangay alone, we’ve had quite a few alleged drug pushers and couriers killed in legitimate police operations. Personally, I support the government’s campaign because I generally feel safer when I go out and see men and women in police or military uniform. It feels good to know that they are proactive in hunting down criminals and making the island a safer place for locals and tourists alike.

All in all, Mactan is a wonderful place to live in and raise a family. There are plenty of good schools on the island and plenty of activities to do – and for even more shopping and culinary options, the Cebu mainland is just a drive away (just don’t forget to pack a lot of patience for when you get stuck in traffic!).

Angie Arriesgado

Angie Arriesgado

Angie is a tough Waray-waray at heart. She quit a relatively good-paying job to spend more time with her infant son. When she’s not playing with her son, she’s busy growing her online business and producing content for various web properties. Follow her online money-making strategies and tactics at