Preparations are currently underway for 2021, when Cebu will be celebrating the 500th year since its Christianization. It just goes to show how rich Cebuano history is, and how much has happened since Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed on our shores in 1521.
There are a lot of ways you can discover a city’s history–but what better way than exploring the remnants of yesteryear.
Here are some spots in Downtown Cebu that deserve a visit, places that have witnessed the city’s changes through the years.
Fort San Pedro
Built by the Spanish under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the fort is significant for being the first Spanish settlement. It served as a military defense structure during the more tumultuous parts of history, but is now a favorite venue for weddings and photoshoots.
A. Pigafetta Street, Cebu City
Open everyday from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM
For inquiries, call +63 32 256 2284
One of the most iconic landmarks in Cebu, this site is said to be where Magellan planted a cross when he arrived on the island. Since then, the original cross had been enclosed in newer, stronger wood. It stands inside a stone structure, where murals of the first mass decorate the ceiling.
Open everyday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño
Founded in 1565, it is one of the country’s historic landmarks, and is home to the oldest religious relic in the country–the wooden image of the Santo Niño de Cebu. It was said to be a gift from Magellan to the chieftain’s wife, Hara Amihan, who later converted to Christianity and was called Reyna Juana.
The Basilica is an important fixture for the Sinulog, the annual festival in January that celebrates the Santo Niño.
Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City
For inquiries, call +63 32 255 6697
Just a short walk from the Basilica is the oldest street in the country. Although the area suffered considerable damage during World War II, many American-era structures remain standing there today. These days, it’s a great place to go bargain shopping, whether for clothes, cooking ingredients and home decor.
The Heritage of Cebu Monument
If you can only make one stop on your tour, then this monument should be it. The massive sculpture includes all the major moments in Cebu’s rich past. The piece was created by national artist Eduardo Castillo, and stands in the heart of the old Parian district, the old residential district for prominent Cebuano families.
Sikatuna Street, Parian, Cebu City
1730 Jesuit House
With Año 1730 etched above its entranceway, the Jesuit House is one of the oldest houses in the city. Tucked inside a warehouse, the house has been preserved, with a gallery showcasing Old Cebu. Old photographs, maps and furniture give guests an idea of how they lived centuries ago.
Zulueta Street, Parian, Cebu City
Open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Mondays to Saturdays
For inquiries, call +63 32 255 5408
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
Another house-turned-museum, this old residence is built with coral stones and hardwood. Now it has a number of decorative pieces on display, including antique home decor, religious figures, period furniture and old dinnerware.
Lopez Jaena corner Mabini Street, Parian, Cebu City
Open every day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Around the block from the Yap-Sandiego House is Casa Gorordo, home of Cebu’s first bishop Juan Gorordo. Constructed in traditional bahay na bato style, the living spaces are on the second floor. The rooms are decorated with antiques from various historical periods, with several of the family’s actual heirlooms on display.
Eduardo Aboitiz Street, Cebu City
Open everyday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
For inquiries, call +63 32 255 5645
Last on the itinerary is the largest museum in Cebu province. The structure is what was once called Carcel de Cebu, a prison built in 1870. Designed by Domingo Escondrillas, the Spanish-era structure was made of coral stones that are believed to have come from the demolished Parian Church. Artifacts from the pre-Spanish era to the Japanese occupation are on display in the different galleries.
MJ Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City
Open from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
For inquiries, call +63 32 239 5626