The Fascinating History of Cebu as Gleaned from Its Exciting Tourist Attractions
I love the Philippines. In particular, I’m nuts about Cebu, one of the country’s amazing, most colorful cities. My memory of Cebu haunts me like the old romantic song of Dean Martin that beckons … “Return to me.” And I do. Every chance I get to travel to Southeast Asia, where my job periodically takes me, I sort of sneak-in at least a 2-day side trip to Cebu.
Like most countries colonized by the Spanish conquistadores dating back to the 16th century, the Philippine archipelago, made up of more than 7,000 islands, isles and islets teeming with lush greenery and long, meandering beaches covered by fine, beige-colored and some, by pure, powdery white sands, has become an Asian-Pacific melting pot.
Among its residents and transients today, one will find the old-rich Spanish families, obviously from generations of the early Spanish Peninsulares , and World War II-scarred Americans, who, with an entrepreneurial mind had either set-up small to medium-sized businesses or married into middle class Filipino families.
There are the British and other European nationals who had the foresight to appreciate the great potential the country’s resources held. During the latter years, other Asians like the Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese began to feel so comfortable in this rich Philippine soil they started to pitch their own tents and transformed these eventually into what are now strongly, thriving communities contributing to the nation's modern-day growth.
Through the years, inter-marriages among these nationalities and “the natives” (colloquially known as Pinoys) had brought forth a flurry of beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous Filipino girls, winning crowns in world-renown beauty and talent pageants… one of the top reasons I keep coming back to Cebu. But hey! That’s another story. For now, I’d like to take you on an intriguing look-see into the fascinating history of Cebu.
Sinulog, pronounced as “See-noo-log” is a Cebuano word meaning “like the movement of water currents”. And like a strong undercurrent that can grip you… this… one of the most festive, colorful events in the cultural spectrum of the country can hold you in awe. Like a delectable, mouth-watering Kobe steak served on your table, it sizzles. Its frenetic, mantra-like beat from the hundreds of drums during the grand parade cries out for you to let your hair down, join the street dancing and go wild.
Sinulog is actually an ancient ethnic dance performed by the early Cebuanos to pay homage to their gods. With Ferdinand Magellan’s coming in 1521 and his gift of a Sto. Niño (Child Jesus) statue to Rajah Humabon’s wife, the event not only introduced Christianity to Cebu but it became a foundation for the Sinulog’s relevance. A depiction of Queen Juana raising the Sto Nino and blessing her subjects to ward off illnesses and demons became an integral part of the Sinulog Festival.Read More »
It was in 1521, that the first ever European to arrive in the Philippines, Ferdinand Magellan was recorded. He planted a giant black cross to symbolize the coming of the Roman Catholic Faith in a sacred spot, around which a small chapel was built on what is now known as Magallanes St. in Metropolitan Cebu.
This marked the beginning of Christianization in Asia. Interestingly, much like the Sistine Chapel, The ceiling of this quaint little chapel had paintings depicting various eras and events of Cebu's history. Magellan’s Cross remains in the very same spot where it was supposed to have been originally planted but its protective wooden overlay, said to have been chipped away by people, believing it had miraculous healing powers had been damaged and now has been encased in Tindalo wood and properly secured. Magellan’s Cross is located in front of the old Cebu City Hall building.Read More »
Built in 1565, by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Father Andres de Urdaneta, this basilica houses the oldest and most celebrated relic in Philippine Christian history: The image of Senor Santo Nino (Infant Jesus). This was actually a present given to the reigning Queen Juana by Ferdinand Magellan during her baptism in April of 1521. Sometime after, a fire destroyed the structure but was rebuilt in 1602 and restored in 1740.
In a novena every Friday, thousands of devotees kneel and pray at the Basilica and every 3rd Sunday of January a giant celebration known as The Sinulog Festival, much like a Mardi Gras is held throughout Cebu.Read More »
Known to be one of the most revered Filipino figures in history, Lapu-Lapu is considered Philippines’ earliest hero for resisting foreign domination. At the time, the chieftain of the area, Lapu-lapu and his men defeated Ferdinand Magellan, leader of the Spanish fleet and his troops in the famous Battle of Mactan. The Lapu-lapu monument stands within the Mactan Shrine facing Magellan Bay in Lapu-lapu City.Read More »
Perched atop a hill overlooking the entire city of Cebu is this quaintly beautiful viewing deck, popularly known as TOPS. Rising 2500 ft above sea level, Tops is located in the Northern part of the city in the town of Busay, a short 30-minute drive from downtown Cebu.
It affords visitors and sightseers a breathtaking, postcard-perfect view of the city’s skyline, the modern, tropic island of Mactan and Bohol province’s majestic mountains. In the early evening when the sun sets in all its glory, Tops becomes perfect for love-crazy newlyweds, honeymooners hiding from relatives and friends and romantic lovers who might feel like Anthony and Cleopatra reigning over Egypt.
For some old-fashioned family-bonding, the place has cozy spots for picnics or even some nature-friendly camp sites where you can pitch your tent if you decide to stay overnight. Bring some light sweaters though as the night mountain air could be a bit chilly.Read More »
Sitting on a high plane about 300 meters from sea level is this temple of worship for Taoism, a religion that adheres to the teaching of ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tze. One might see the entrance to the temple as a mini Great Wall of China, with a chapel within the grounds, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well.
One of the sacred rituals is the climbing of the 99 steps, said to represent the 99 chapters of Taoism Scriptures and where, when one reaches the top (If he’s still got the energy) lights up joss sticks and have their fortune told by monks.Read More »
One of the few remaining landmarks of Spanish colonization in Cebu that still stands is Casa Gorordo. Located on Lopez Jaena street in Barangay Parian, Casa Gorordo was built by Alejandro Reynes Y Rosales. Sometime in 1863, it was sold to Juan Isidro de Gorordo and since then, till 1979, it housed several generations of the Gorordo family including the first bishop of Cebuano roots, Bishop Juan Gorordo.
The house stands as a representation of a typical Spanish home, giving the visitor an idea of what it was like to lead an “Illustrado’s” life. It was mostly constructed with wood and stones while the floor was laid out with Molave and the roof with Terra Cota tiles. After undergoing some renovations but keeping its natural, Spanish aura, it opened to the public as a museum in 1983 falling under the Cultural Heritage program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation.
Enjoying the recognition of being the oldest and smallest fort in the country, Fort San Pedro served as a stronghold of Filipino revolutionaries towards the end of the 19th century. Heading the ground-breaking rites when work first begun on May 8, 1565 was Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. Completed in 1738 with an inside area of 2225 square meters, 20 ft high walls with 8 ft thickness and towers about 30 ft high from the ground, it helped the Spaniards ward off Muslim raiders.
During the war years, 1941-1945, Fort San Pedro served as an army camp for Japanese soldiers and after the Liberation of the country, for American troops. Today it is under the care and auspices of the National Museum, which displays gold coins, lockets and other artifacts taken from the old Spanish galleon, San Diego.
Carbon Market, the century-old and largest public market in Cebu is a vibrant hub of all types of vendors and merchandise. It has become a major tourist spot because it offers a wide selection of inexpensive Filipino souvenirs, local food and snacks and Filipino-culture-inspired clothing for men and women. Located in the heart of the city, it was named after the Cebu railroad’s coal depository and where it now stands used to be the terminal of the railway line. Carbon market, today continues to be an accessible source of practically anything related to Cebu.
Colon Street in the downtown area of Cebu, regarded as the first and oldest street in the Philippines, having been a part of the original town’s design made by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565.
In previous decades it gained some notoriety as a sort of a red light district where street women walked its long stretch in search of the fast buck. Today, Colon Street has evolved into a hub of commercial activities with the establishment of shopping malls, restaurants, movie theaters and fashion boutiques, helping to regain its fascinating history-laden past.Read More »
Inaugurated on June 14, 1938 by President Manuel L. Quezon, the Cebu Provincial Capitol is situated along Osmeña Boulevard and serves as the seat of the provincial government. It is known for its elegant ballroom designed in an art deco style and with its enormous crystal chandeliers and full length windows one tends to conjure images of a fairy tale setting.
A focal landmark for Cebu in the heart of the city is a rotunda cum park with a quaint-looking, picturesque fountain constantly oozing with what seems like fresh mountain water. It is the famous Fuente Osmeña Circle.
Recently constructed in 2012, this chapel was in honor of a canonized young Visayan saint, by the name of Pedro Calungsod, Located beside the SM Seaside city,(under construction) it boasts of a rather modern design but with unmistakable solemn walls and ceiling making the place perfect for prayers and meditation.
This much-visited shrine is within the Manastery of the Holy Eucharist in Sibonga, Cebu, run by Marian monks. On a huge, beautifully-designed wooden altar sits the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary encased and painted in gold. This is the place where, sometime in 1998, it is said the Virgin Mary image shed tears. Today, people continue to believe in its miraculous healing powers as the testimonial letters of healed people fastened near the altar appear to affirm.