While the densely populated cities occupy the coastal areas, almost all of Cebu's land area consists of the highlands, the hilly and mountainous region in the center of the island.
Politically, the highlands are part of the cities. For example, a vast area of mountain territory is technically part of Cebu City on one side of the island, and Balamban town on the other island. Moreover, a large proportion of the mountainous area around Cebu City is classified as a watershed area. Due to these and other factors, development in the highlands has hardly taken place, which is probably a good thing, allowing the way of life in the highlands to be preserved.
Having said that, unlike the forests of Mindanao or Palawan, the highlands of Cebu have long been devoid of tribal inhabitants. In addition, a large amount of deforestation has taken place.
The highlands are sparsely populated and maintain an economy which is a mere blip on the economic map of the province. The three agricultural products that are exported to the cities are mangoes, cut flowers, and vegetables. The mango trees are, however, almost entirely owned by city folk, and the peasants who baby the mango trees - spraying the trees and individually protecting the fruit from birds and insects with paper pockets - and secure the harvest only receive a meager income.
In addition, a large proportion of highlanders eke out a living turning bamboo into barbecue sticks, for which there is an insatiable demand in Cebu City.
This is tiring work. Mountain folk wake up at at the crack of dawn - around 5 AM - and fashion the sticks by carefully splitting, shaving, and sharpening the bamboo. The sticks are then laid out to dry in the sun, to evaporate the natural moisture content. About a hundred sticks are packed into a bundle, which retails for 5 pesos. The mountain folk sell it to dealers at about 2.50, or around 5 cents. Other mountain products include charcoal and firewood, where profit margins are even slimmer.
City folk will tell you that the mountains are bleak, desolate, and cold. They are correct, though I'd prefer to use the words quiet, peaceful, and cool.