Cebu City, heavily urbanized as it is, still has its old world charm. You need not leave the city to see a glimpse of history as there are still many buildings and structures from the Spanish and American era that still stand amidst the many tall, modern buildings in this bustling metropolis.
Below are 10 of the oldest structures any history buff – tourist or otherwise – should not miss visiting.
Fort San Pedro
This Fort was built under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi. It is located in Plaza Indepedencia, near pier 1. Originally, the fort was made out of wood but was later reinforced with stone to repel Muslim raiders.The structure dates back 1738 and is the oldest triangular bastion fort in the country.
Fort San Pedro has been used as an army garrison, a rebel stronghold, prison camp and at some point, the city zoo. Today, the old stronghold has been converted into a historical park. This walled, peaceful garden is a perfect place to escape from the chaos of downtown Cebu. There is a 30 pesos entrance fee that comes with a guided tour inside the fort.
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño (plus the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral )
Also known as the Santo Niño Basilica, it was founded in April 28, 1565. The Structure was completed in 1739-1740 and it holds the relics of the Santo Niño de Cebú, the oldest Christian image in the Philippines. It was originally given in 1521 as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Lady Humamay, the chief consort of Rajah Humabon. The Basilica was built on the spot where the image was found by Juan Camus, a Spanish soldier during the Spanish expedition led by Miguel López de Legazpi. The Basilica complex is located in the city block bordered by Osmeña Boulevard, D. Jakosalem St, P. Burgos St. and the Plaza Sugbo where the Magellan’s Cross is located.The complex also holds the Pilgrim Center, where masses and novenas are held every Friday, as well as a museum which displays antique relics.
After visiting the Basilica, head down to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, located a block away in Mabini Street. The cathedral was completed in 1909 and was rebuilt in 1950 after World War II where only its facade, walls and belfry remained intact after the bombings. Visit The Cathedral Museum of Cebu found next to the cathedral that showcases many photos and relics of church architecture and religious artifacts, many of which are from the Spanish colonial times.
Museo De Parian or Jesuit House of 1730
It is assumed that the house was built in the year 1730s. But historians and architects have collected some evidence that indicates that the house was built before that. However, some also say that the house was built after the said year so this alone gives the relic yet another mystery yet to be solved.
It is located in the Pari-an district of Cebu City and was originally owned by the Villa family, one of the wealthy families of Cebu. It’s presently owned by the Sy’s and has been converted to a museum, housing memorabilia and artifacts from the Spanish era, as well as showcasing the rich culture and influence of the Chinese to our history. The museum has a 30 peso entrance and is found in Zulueta St. in Parian.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
It was originally owned by a Chinese merchant named Don Juan Yap and his wife, Doña Maria Florido, and is found in Mabini Street, Pari-an (a block away from the Jesuit House). The Yap-Sandiego house is unique compared to other ancestral homes because of how it was constructed. It’s heavily influenced by Chinese architecture. The house’s roof and walls are 95 percent original and the house itself has not gone through major renovations. Inside, you can find numerous antiques and religious artifacts. The house is open for visits from Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., for P50 per person.
What makes this tourist spot unique is the fact that you can actually hold the relics it houses.
This museum was once a private home built in the 1850s. the lower part of the house has coral stone and the upper-storey is made out of pure Philippine hardwood. It even uses wooden pegs, not nails, to keep it together. It was the home of Juan Gorodo, the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu. At present, the museum is home to many relics and antiques, showcasing the lifestyle of the Filipino people during the period from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. the grounds also has a beautiful garden were you can sit and enjoy the view of the house. The museum is closed for renovation at the time of writing but will be opening soon.
Malacañang sa Sugbu
Also known as the Malacañang of the South, it’s the official residence of the President of the Philippines in the whole Visayas and named after the presidential house in Manila, Malacañang Palace. Before it became the official residence of the Philippine president, the building was called Aduana or Customs Building, and was originally built in 1910. It used to house the office of Cebu City’s Bureau of Customs. In 2004, then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo converted the building into Cebu’s very own Malacañang. Today it serves as a vital historical site and tourist attraction. It’s found at Pigafetta St., Cebu City, near Pier 1 and Fort San Pedro.
The structure was built in 1914 and was owned by Pedro Gotiaoco, a Chinese trader from Fookien province in China. It was one of the first commercial buildings in the city. The building has a touch of neo-classic, American period architecture which can be seen through its arcaded facades. The Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum Foundation Inc. (SCHMFI) plans to convert the building into a museum that would celebrate Chinese heritage in Cebu. Today, the lower side of the building showcases a tarpaulin wall that showcases the influence of Chinese culture to everyday Filipino life. The building is found in M. C. Briones Avenue, across Cebu City Hall and is just 20 meters or so from Malacañang of the South.
Compania Maritima Building
Found at the north end of the Cebu South Coastal Roads at the South Road Properties, we know this building today to be Compañia Maritima building. However, in the 1930s it operated as the Shamrock Hotel. The building was built in 1910 and was known as the Fernandez Building. It was owned by the Fernandez Hermanos, Inc and was originally built as an office for the Manila Steamship Company. By the 1930’s Mike Ryan occupied the building and operated the Shamrock Hotel there. The first Shamrock bakery and restaurant was also located here. After the Second World War, the building was repaired and was occupied by the Comapnia Maritima, one of the biggest shipping companies in Cebu. Today, the building is unoccupied and serves as a historical landmark. This is again close to the Malacañang of the South and Gotiaco Building.
Rizal Memorial Library and Museum
The structure is named after the Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal, and is found along the busy Osmeña Boulevard. The building started construction in 1937 and was inaugurated on Dec. 30, 1938. Previously, all three of its floor spaces served as library areas. But today, the Cebu City Public Library occupies only the ground floor while the museum is found on the second. The museum showcases a wide collection of antiques, furniture, woodcarvings, and sculptures donated by prominent Cebuano families. You can also see archaeological finds in the display. The Rizal Memorial Museum and Cebu City Library is open from 8 a.m. to 12 n.n. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Compania Maritima Building.
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
Also known as Bradford Church, it’s the first Evangelical Church of Cebu. The church began construction on the three-hectare land along Jones Avenue in 1912. By 1913, it was fully operational, with the official name Bradford Memorial Church. The compound where the church stood also housed two dormitories and mission houses. By the Second World War, the structures in the area was almost wiped out, expect for parts of the church. By 1948, the Bradford church became known as the Church of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). The century old church is still operational to this day.
If you’re interested in seeing and learning more about Cebu City’s (as well as other neighboring city’s) history and heritage, you might want to go museum hopping with your friends and family or even join the Gabii sa Kabilin (Night of Heritage), which is an annual event spearheaded by The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI). During this evening, the many museums in the city extends their opening hours to midnight and welcome tourists, students, history junkies, and anyone who wants to know more about the Cebu’s rich history and culture. The event happens every last Friday of May in time for the Philippine National Heritage Month and International Museum Day.
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