Scorching solar glares warms up the vibrant metropolis of Cebu, another day in history is about to commence and to be added into it’s thread of wonderful pages. Having been the seat of power and bastion of Spanish colonization, it paved the way as the first established capital of this archipelagic nation and the cradle of Christianity.
Today, it is now an emerging cosmopolitan, with the massive influx of tourist arrivals both local and international annually, copious natural and man-made destination , proliferation of various ventures, the once sleepy fishing harbour has gone a milestone and hailed the “Queen city of the South.”
Ambling around Cebu is accessible by foot, that if one just walked through, everything became familiar contrary to the common misconception about Cebu. As for the me, the delicious sense of disorientation is that Alice-in-Wonderlandish effect of being lost and just bump into things by surprise, to quote from Justina Chen, “Getting lost is just another way of saying ‘going exploring.” It is a positive approach to the situation as it was said not all who wander are lost. Right?
With this in mind, let’s gather up and brace ourselves in exploring the wonders of Cebu city in a memorable heritage walk.
Being the seed of Christianity in the continent of Asia, religion has been the biggest catalyst in influencing the lifestyle, culture , craft and culinary in the Philippine society during the Spaniards heyday and still up to now, which are every evident all across the country and Cebu is never an exception.Thus, an excursion in Cebu is never complete without visiting some of it’s remnants of it’s glorious past.
Our first destination is the iconic symbol of Cebu, the Sto. Nino de Cebu enshrined in his majestic throne at the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño . It had been a major destination for pilgrims, pious parishioner, historical enthusiast and a tourist alike. Sto Nino de Cebu is a religious relic of the Child Jesus given by Father Pedro de Valderrama all the way from Spain as a baptismal present to the Native’s Ruler that dates way back in 1651. The Basilica itself is also is significant in its own merit as it showcases the ingenuity, finesse and artistry of the Filipinos ancestors apparent in the intricate carvings and details in the facade, interior and the whole church. Making it a must visit for every tourist. Additionally, there is a museum, a library, a pilgrim center and a chance to witness a group of old ladies doing the original Sinulog dance, a prayer through dancing. Sounds great, isn’t it?
It is located at the heart of the city bordered by three major streets in Cebu namely Osmeña Boulevard, D. Jakosalem St, P. Burgos St. and the Plaza Sugbo. However, the main entrance is along Osmeña Boulevard. Accessible local transportation , taxi and by foot.
In a just stone throw away from the Basilica del Sto. Nino is the Magellan’s Cross. Another tourist flocked site of Spanish origins. The significance it holds in the Philippines, is the first marker of discovery of the island and a profession of great devotion of the faith by the Spaniards. To date, it’s almost five decades of existence since it was planted on the same exact location. Regrettably, the original wooden cross is encased with tindalo wood and secured it inside a small chapel called “kiosk” with fresco that depicts the tale of it’s existence.
A common marker to this place it is situated right in front of the old Cebu City Hall building. No tourist had been lost to find this one since it very visible around the vicinity.
A few blocks away from the Basilica del Sto. Nino and Magellans Cross, lies the smallest fortress in the Philippines, the Fort San Pedro. Beautifully seated at the centre of the Plaza de Independencia, stands imposingly against the alluring landscape and well manicured bermuda grass, with might and honor are the ruins of the moss covered coral walls, of Fort San Pedro welcomes every curious and inquisitive passer bys and tourists to come and see the treasure he holds. Built under the leadership of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi during the 1563, it served as a look out for Spanish for the evading Moro pirates and upcoming enemies. Now, it was far by miles in it’s usage, presently serves as a depository of Cebu’s historical transformation. In the site, you can see for yourself a wide collection of historical significance, some remnants of war and many other valuable items. Recently, beneath the grounds of the plaza, some pre-Hispanic human bones and some earthenware were unearthen together with some artifacts which included gold death masks, a pair of gold earrings, a Thai bluish-green “guan” celadon, jars and other earthenware. Making it as an archaeological field site. But for common people, its a haven for relaxation, unwinding and solitude amidst the bustle and hassle of the busy metropolis life under the centuries old trees around and the breeze of the near by ocean provide a soothe feeling.
Still a walking distance away, you can trail your way into the Chinese mestizos elite and socialites dwelling place during the 16th Century of Cebu, Parian district. Chinese had been the long running galleon trade partners of Filipinos and in fact, they were able to establish its own market ghetto and rose to power and played in shaping the landscape of Cebu’s rich history. With this, our next destinations just a few of the existing evidence of this Golden Years of Parian,The Sandiago – Yap Ancestral House. Build under the strong influence of the Chinese culture blended with a touch of Spanish built in 1675 by Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florido. It encapsulated the long bygone era and architecture, with this religious preservation and maintenance. This structure is a stand out in contrast with this surrounding, inside it one will find treasure and artifacts that aged older than anyone in the room. Seemingly “old rugged house” the initial reaction would like but adjudge not for this is valuable our generation is left to have. While there, one should drop by the 1730 house and indulge in a truly riveting time travel to the early days of historic Parian. 😉
Still in Parian, a few steps away from the Ancestral house of the Sandiego y Yap, is a colossal tableau depicting and immortalized by an award winning sculpture and artist, Eduardo Castrillo. This humongous monument tell the tale of Cebu from its humble beginning by the docking of Spanish fleet down to the establishment of Cebu. A unique way of telling the story to everyone, locals and the foreigners.
Getting to The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home is across the towering Heritage of Cebu monument on the side of Mabini Street at the junction of Lopez Jaena. It is very accessible by any means of transport.
In a nearby corner of Parian district, Casa Gorordo is standing proudly a 19th century structure showcases the strong Spanish influence evident in the architecture. A typical house during that era, a combination of coral stone as the base of the ground and Molave wood served as floors and ceiling. With the use of capiz shell as window, it was an epitome of Spanish house of its time. Originally built for Alejandro Reynes y Rosales but later bought by a Spanish merchant, Juan Isidro Gorordo in 1863. The house have significantly lived by four generations of the Gorordo family e including Bishop Juan Gorordo, the first Filipino bishop.
Casa Gorordo Museum is located in Lopez Jaena Steet a few metres away from the Sandiaego- Yap Ancestral house. After a stay at the museum, let’s moved into the most celebrated and bustling street of Colon.
Congested traffic road, crowded streets,noisy and a danger zone these perhaps are the words that utters if you ask any local about Colon. It might be long gone this oldest street in the country lost its glorious reputation,those name coined after the an Italian navigator, Cristoforo Colombo (Spanish: Cristóbal Colón.)
It was on the 19th century, had its pinnacle, when the elites lived in the most prominent street the Spaniards made as the Pueblo de Europeans . Elaborate and elegant residential and commercial buildings are sprouting and dominated on both side of the street. The forebears of prominent names in Cebuano society like Briones, Gantuangco, Lu Do, Rallos, Osmeña, Singson, Cuenco, and Martinez, among others.
Presently, only the left few are visible ones such as movie houses, learning institutions, ancestral house converted to shopping mall or commercial building and many others. At the end of Colon Street there was a standing obelisk. It signifies the historical root of the street, showing the people it’s the oldest of its kind in the country.
Truly Spaniards left a vivid legacy that lives on until the modern day Filipino. An excursion in Cebu is never complete without visiting those front runners of Cebu’s historical places. True enough, there are still more to visit and to explore around Cebu, just waiting for you to stumble.
For a change, let take a time to know the roots of our ancestors , value them and to foreigners open your eyes and witness the unique historical journey this melting pot of the south.
Take a look at Cebu in different perspective, as I borrow the words of George Santayana, ” We tend to be very superficial and run short of historical sensibility. We have to learn history.” History is our backbone towards the future, the gateway to the road of future we are taking.
To make things easy for you. I have here the link to take you around the city. Cebu Map
Thanks for dropping by.
Disclaimer: Photos credit to owners.