Tracing the earliest inhabitants of Cebu, and the Philippines, goes back way before the land was “discovered” by European seafarers. Diverse peoples came to the islands in waves, quite literally too, traveling in boats from Indonesia and the Malayan islands, as historical studies suggest. Over the centuries, migrants from India were followed by Chinese traders; then in the 14th century, Arab merchants from Malay and Borneo crossed over to the Philippines’ southern shores.
A social and political structure had evolved across the islands by the time the navigators from Europe arrived in the 16th century. The basic social unit or community was the barangay (from the Malay word for boat), headed by a datu (chief).
When Ferdinand Magellan – a Portuguese explorer who had fallen from the good graces of his king – set out in the service of the Spanish Crown to find a western route to the spice islands (spices were such prized commodities that could establish vast empires then), his miscalculation led him to the Philippines’ Samar island on March 16, 1521. Three weeks later, on April 7, Magellan anchored his ships on the fishing island of Cebu – or Sugbu to its inhabitants – where he planted a cross and claimed the land in the name of Christianity.
Cebu was already a bustling settlement and its chieftain, Rajah Humabon, was a gracious host to the newcomers from the West. Magellan and his men lost no time in befriending the tattooed natives who were persuaded, or charmed maybe by the fair-skinned visitors, to give up their pagan ways. At a mass baptism a week after, about 800 natives, including the chieftain and his wife, converted to the Catholic faith and swore their allegiance to Spain.
On neighboring Mactan island, the hostile chief named Lapu Lapu would not be dictated upon by an outsider and stood defiantly opposed to the stance Humabon had taken. In a fierce clash with the native warriors, Magellan met his untimely death in the hands of Lapu Lapu in Mactan’s shallow waters. Leaving behind their captain’s body, the remaining Spaniards retreated to their ships and soon after sailed away to continue their expedition. A single ship from Magellan’s original fleet of five made it back to Spain to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe. It bore a crew of 18 emaciated sailors and a load of valuable spices.
Spain mounted an expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi that landed in Cebu in 1565 during the reign of Rajah Tupas, a nephew of Rajah Humabon. The avenging Spaniards easily subdued Cebu, and established it as the capital of their new colony with Legazpi as its first governor. In its keen rivalry with Portugal to find new territories, this stamped a win for Spain and marked the beginning of its rule over the Philippines that would last over three hundred years.
Trade was the main source of income for the Spanish colonizers in the prosperous commercial port of Cebu. Galleons were trading ships that carried some of the most valued cargoes across the high seas like spices, silk and porcelain. Sailing out of Cebu on two separate routes, eastward to Mexico and westward to the spice islands, the galleon trade became a highly lucrative business for Spain’s coffers; but the richly-laden ships were often targets of English freebooters and marauding Muslim pirates from Indonesia.
To protect their territory, fortresses were erected by the Spaniards along Cebu’s coastline. The earliest fort was the Fuerza de San Pedro, named after Legazpi’s flagship, San Pedro. Built in 1565, it was the first Spanish settlement in the country. The small and wooden triangular bastion served as a lookout against Muslim invaders and was later fortified with thick stone walls to became a major military outpost.
While opposition to the abusive colonial government had escalated, history took a turn after the firing squad execution of Jose Rizal in 1896. A symbol of Filipino freedom from Hispanic rule, his martyrdom fueled the flames for a full-blown revolution against Spain throughout the country. In Cebu, Gen. Leon Kilat led rebels in a historic bloody battle on April 3, 1898. Fighting against superior weaponry, the Cebuano forces drove the Spanish troops to retreat to the safety of Fort San Pedro. The victory, however, was short-lived with the arrival of Spanish reinforcements.
After three long centuries, Spain’s sovereignty finally ended when the American warships decimated the Spanish fleet in the decisive battle of Manila bay in May 1898. Under the Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898, Spain officially ceded the Philippines islands to the United States.
As the Americans prepared the country for its eventual independence, the Philippine commonwealth was formally established in Manila in 1935 with Manuel L . Quezon as the elected president and Sergio Osmeña, a Cebuano, as Vice-President. By 1937, Cebu became a chartered city.
Following the outbreak of World War II, the Philippines was under Japanese occupation from 1942-45 until Gen. Douglas Macarthur made good his famous “I shall return” promise and liberated the country. The Philippines was granted independence in 1946.
For twenty six years, the nation had been the modern showcase of democracy in Asia up until martial law was declared in 1972 by then President Ferdinand Marcos in the wake of bombings and student unrest. His dictatorial regime ended with the peaceful People’s Power revolution in 1986. Democracy in the Philippines continues to flourish today, much like the country itself. Cebu is a testament to that.
The Queen City of The South, Cebu, is truly a wonderful island, with wonderful people, rich culture, and of course, scrumptuos food. Cebu also happens to be the land of many talented artists and musicians. Check them out with this list!
- Sepia Times
Sepia Time is composed of lovers — Elisha Ang, popularly known as Icy, and Luigi Balazo. These artists have produced and written songs ever since 2016. Their music is widely influenced by international artists like Paramore and Oh Wonder. Listeners would definitley feel the chill vibe Sepia Times gives off through their songs. Despite being described as sad, their songs are the type of songs that you listen to on a chilly Saturday or when you just want to hang around the park and contemplate. Their songs “Kofi”, “The Art of”, “Let Me Let Go”, “1238” are some of the songs they released.
The pop folk group, Wonggoys, is composed of a band of brothers — Gabe, Bill, and Kyle Wong. The Wonggoys drew enthusiastic applause with their pop rock with a little bit of jazz and blues compositions. They first began with singing cover songs in harmony and eventually progressed to a trip to the recording studio, and after months of writing and recording, their efforts eventually paid off and produced an album. Several live performances and one more album later, they garnered a considerable following. Their song “Wa’y Blema”, is light-hearted and focuses on enjoying the good things.
3. Mandaue Nights
Mandaue Nights is an 80’s synth-pop group based in Cebu composed of — filmmaker and singer-songwriter Karl Lucente, and music producer and arranger Gino Rosales. What makes them different from the other Cebuano acts is their 80’s vibe , this group will totally leave you feeling nostalgic. Their first single, You and I, was selected as the original soundtrack for a locally produced film, Magbuwag Ta Kay, which was shown in cinemas nationwide.
4. Three Legged Men PH
Three Legged Men PH started off when Micmic Kindica, the band’s vocalist, got invited to play for UP Cookout. Amazed by the opportunity to perform again, he formed a temporary band, composed of high school and college friends, to go on stage with him in the said event, and since then every member just kind of stuck to each other to play more music. Their music is mainly pop with hints of jazz, blues, R&B, and funk. “Spur of the Moment”, “Keep”, and “Tibok” are some of the songs everyone needs to listen to!
5. Thinking Chair
Thinking Chair first started off in church, eventually took a break from that scene, and started a band. The band’s lineup is actually new — they wanted to revive the old Thinking Chair, but some of them already moved to Canada. Their music is described as indie, soul, revolutionary, and “raw”, and is widely influenced by a lot, most especially by The 1975, Coldplay, and Private Island. “Mirage”, a song they’ve written, is said to be the most memorable song they’ve written since they have so many renditions of it and is fun to play.
A Leap into the Literary Experience in Cebu
Cebu is being constantly brought in the limelight when it comes to its beaches, delicacies, tourist spots, and its culture in general. A lot of tourists and locals spend their vacation in the province doing most common activities you can easily find in the Internet (i.e. island hopping, sightseeing, and food trip). But, if you are looking for other ways to experience Cebu, then setting foot in its literary space might be one of the unique directions to take.
Paying a visit to Cebu’s libraries
From learning one’s history to reading just any book that sparks your interest, there are a variety of libraries Cebu has to offer.
Just like any other place, the province has a dwelling for archives, books, journals and other publications that trace back from the early ages to the modern times. The Cebuano Studies Center, for example, is a special library that houses source materials, research, and other literary works covering Cebu and its culture. The center is located inside Josef Baumgartner Learning Resource Center of the University of San Carlos, Talamban Campus, which is the largest library in the Philippines by size. As soon as you walk right inside the Cebuano Studies Center, the hinting scent of antiquity will almost lure you to read every record of history stored in the shelves.
Another notable library in the province you might also want to check out is the Cebu City Public Library or also known as Rizal Memorial Library and Museum, which is widely recognized as the first public library in the country that opens 24/7 (read more about it here). The building has a neoclassical structure which makes it feel nostalgic especially for older generations. The ride of history and culture will not only come from the shelf route, but will also drift you to a room of ancient artifacts, sculptures, painting, and other archaeological finds in the museum that dates back to the old-fashioned lifestyle Cebuanos used to have before and during the colonization period in the Philippines.
If you’re the type that wants a more intimate or comfortable area to enjoy your nooks and books instead, you can check out Books and Brews Cafè located at G/F Mango Square Mall, Juana Osmeña Street, Cebu City. The place is a cafè with an extensive library perfect for bibliophiles who enjoy a scent of coffee while being taken deep into their reading experiences. This might just be your modern mini-library of choice that you’re hoping to have around the corner. [Visit Facebook]
Attending literary events and exhibitions
Cebuanos love marking their calendars for special occasions like annual literary festivals or events in Cebu, which usually happens between the 1st to the 3rd quarter of the year. The Big Bad Wolf, known as the world’s largest book sale, recently came to town and had their sale at the IEC Convention Center Cebu from August 16 to 26. What makes this event stand out among the rest every year is that majority of the bookworms in Cebu never dare to miss this as it’s the perfect opportunity for them to hoard a vast number of books that have the biggest discounts you could not imagine! Quite unfair if we leave some people out of this once in a lifetime opportunity right? So, whether you are a tourist or a local, make sure to include this in your plans soon. [See updates here]
Aside from smart shopping, stopping by at literary and art exhibitions is also a different kind of “sightseeing” experience. Cebu Zine Fest, for example, runs in a showcase room at 856 G Gallery that includes displays of art, illustrations, comics, books, poetry, photography, and self-produced merchandises set up by diverse artists from different parts of the country. The artists themselves also have their own booths and tables placed in the same area of their displays, so it’s the perfect setting for a curious mind to explore another’s. What makes this exhibition different from what people usually expect in a local exhibition is that the works showcased here are unique, uncensored, peculiar, and interesting—a manifestation of young yet sophisticated minds.
[See also future literary events and activities here]
Literature and art entice the heart of many Cebuanos. These two disciplines altogether is about expressing an idea, concept, or message in an artistic, intellectual, and creative way. The beauty and impact of its nature is the reason why many are driven to involve and contribute to its growth and recognition.
Because the people in the province are constantly putting life into their literary activities and celebrations, it has become part of Cebu’s beautiful culture that is worth to experience and appreciate.
Be it a huge event or spoken word juncture, the creative scene becomes a whole different experience if it’s in Cebu. Trying something new is also one adventure to take that is worth telling.
So, what’s not to like?
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