In the olden days, Cebu was home to people of Malay origin who observed pagan and Muslim beliefs before Ferdinand Magellan discovered the island in 1521. Magellan was also responsible for making Cebu the first capital and the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines. The Spaniards greatly influenced the local communities in terms of religious customs, culture, arts, and architecture.
Various heritage sites in Cebu showcase its rich and colorful history. Let’s take a look at some of these wonderful places:
Fort San Pedro
This magnificent structure is the oldest and smallest triangular fort in the country. Fort San Pedro was built in the 18th century and it served as an army garrison during the Spanish regime. Nowadays, it’s a historical park that’s under the care of the National Museum. Inside its walls, you’ll find a museum filled with historical artifacts from the Spanish Galleon San Diego, a trading ship transformed into a warship. It sank a short distance away from Fortune Island, Nasugbu.
Plaza Independencia is a symbol of the independence of Cebu from the Spanish and American colonizers. It features an obelisk that was built to honor the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. It’s also located in the same area as Fort San Pedro making it very accessible to tourists.
Malacañang sa Sugbo
The stately building was erected in 1910 and was also used by the Bureau of Customs until 2004. Eventually, it became the official residence of the president in the Visayas during former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s reign. As of the moment, the building is undergoing renovations since it’s being converted into a museum.
In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan reached the shores of Cebu and he ordered his men to plant the cross to mark the birth of Christianity in the Philippines. In an effort to preserve it, the artifact is enclosed in a big wooden cross and is housed in the famous octagonal shrine that features a ceiling painted with murals that depict the momentous event. This attraction is easy to locate since it’s between the Basilica del Santo Niño and Cebu City Hall. Make sure to check out Magellan’s Cross during your heritage tour around Cebu.
Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño De Cebu
Founded in 1565, the Basilica features the oldest image of Sto. Niño (the child Jesus) that was given by Magellan to Queen Juana, the chief consort of Rajah Humabon, during her christening ceremony on April 14, 1521. The revered image has a vast number of devotees and every 3rd Sunday of January, the entire Cebu pays tribute during the famous Sinulog festival.
Rajah Humabon Monument
Rajah Humabon plays a significant role in Cebu’s history. In 1521 when Magellan arrived in Cebu, it was Humabon who sat on the throne as King of Cebu. The Spaniards were welcomed by Rajah Humabon and it was a huge opportunity for them to propagate Christianity on the island. The monument pays tribute to the late king who was considered to be the first Filipino chieftain who converted to Christianity. He and his wife, Queen Juana became an inspiration for the locals to accept Christianity.
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
This historical church is a prime example of Spanish colonial architecture. It also functions as the ecclesiastical seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cebu. The magnificent cathedral showcases thick, solid walls that can withstand natural calamities that are typical in the country.
Cebu Cathedral Museum
The Cebu Cathedral Museum was originally an old colonial house and it showcases numerous antique religious items and local handiworks. Some of the exquisite artifacts include the silver etched altar at the chapel, the carved portion of the lobby’s floor, and the Mercedes-Benz that was used by Cardinal Vidal and Pope John Paul II during his visit to Cebu.
Heritage of Cebu Monument
The show-stopping monument is composed of various sculptures depicting different historic scenes. It’s made of bronze, concrete, steel, and brass. The renowned artist Eduardo Castillo started working on it in 2000 and it took him 3 years to finish it. You’ll find this heritage site in the heart of the Old Parian district – an area that prominent Filipino businessmen and Chinese merchants used to inhabit.
The Colon Obelisk marks the start of Colon Street – which was established in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Lagazpi and it’s also the oldest street in the entire country. The street got its name from Cristobal Colon, the Spanish explorer commonly known as Christopher Columbus in the Western world. It’s just two blocks away from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral so you only need to walk for a few minutes to reach it.
Jesuit House of 1730
This remarkable structure is considered to be the oldest heritage house in the country. It was the residence of the Jesuit Superior of Cebu before they were banished by the Spaniards. It’s located inside a warehouse and its architectural details were well-preserved. Once you go in you’ll see interesting artifacts such as pottery pieces, an antique telephone, a cash register, a jukebox, and red clay ceiling tiles.
The main house was built using cut coral and large uncut timber was used for posts that support the heavy terracotta roof. Some of the original components such as the wooden floor and the corbels were also preserved while other parts were replaced with new materials. It’s highly recommended that you include this attraction in your Cebu walking tour itinerary.
Oslob Church, formerly known as Nuestra Señora de la Immaculada Conception, is said to be one of the oldest churches in Cebu. The church got its old name from its patroness saint – the Immaculate Conception. The church was originally established under Boljoon in 1690 however in 1848 it eventually became independent. Similar to other churches in the Visayas region, it was constructed using coral stones that were glued together with eggs. Back in 2008, a fire destroyed the church and gutted almost the entire interior including the altar and rectory. Miraculously, the image of the Immaculate Conception and other religious statues survived the fire since they were encased in glass.
The Cuartel Ruins are located just beside Oslob Church and it was erected to house Spanish troops that were assigned in the area. This impressive structure features double rows of arches and was built using thick corals. Although it was built in 1860 and was left unfinished, the local government was able to preserve it. Another historic attraction found in the area is the incredible statue of Father Julian Bermejo, also known as El Parroco Capitan or El Padre Capitan. Father Julian was the one who initiated the building of the defense system against the Moro invaders. It also included a chain of watchtowers built along the bays of various towns in Southern Cebu, starting from Santander and reaching as far as Carcar.
The great thing about Cebu is that it has numerous historical and heritage sites that are located close to each other. You can also opt to hire a friendly Cebu based tour guide who will help you navigate this amazing city.