Is Cebu the most typical city in the world?

Yes, Cebu, Philippines.  That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Now consider some non-economic factors. What is the world’s most important and widely spoken language? English. Along with the native Cebuano and Tagalog, English is widely spoken in Cebu, and present on most of the signs. And what about religion? Christianity registers as the most common religion in the world, and the dominant religion in Cebu is — you guessed it — Christianity.  Islam, Hinduism and various native religions are also represented, as well as variants of folk Catholicism and folk Islam, mirroring the syncretic nature of religious belief in so many other countries.

Asia is the world’s most populous continent by far, and the Philippines (of course) is in Asia. Score another point for the typicality of Cebu. Yet there are also Spanish and Spanish colonial influences, and at times I felt like I was in Latin America more than Asia. That broadens the global connections of Cebu.

Also notable is Cebu’s North American heritage, as the Philippines was a de facto U.S. colony from 1898 to 1935. The native culture is still very much its own, but there are more superficial markers of U.S. cultural influence in Cebu, and in the Philippines more generally, than in almost any other emerging economy. There are lots of fast food restaurants, American casual dress is widespread, and basketball is much beloved.

What else? Most of the world’s population now lives in cities, and Cebu is the second largest metropolitan area in the Philippines.

Cebu is also pretty close to global median income.  And here is the penultimate line:

I therefore nominate a 30-year-old Cebu mother as the epicenter of human existence.

Rico Lechon and Cafe Laguna are two places you might consider eating at.


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