Cebu Heritage Walk

Cebu City

1565 –Miguel Lopez de Legazpi named the first Spanish settlement in the country as San Miguel until after six years when he renamed it as Villa del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus. The old Spanish settlement that was eventually promoted into a ciudad was the section near the bustling port area of Cebu City.

Although nothing much of the old Spanish quarters remain today, it’s still possible to touch the same cannons the Spaniards used to quell Muslim raiders or to kneel in front the wooden image of the infant Jesus the same manner a pagan queen knelt before the same image during the Age of Discovery.

Cebu Fort San Pedro

Cebu Fuerza de San Pedro

Our walking tour along this historic section of metropolitan Cebu allowed us to pay homage to our Spanish cultural roots and relive the city’s Hispanic heritage.

It was in the old Spanish fort where we started our Cebu Heritage Walk. Located at the port area along with Plaza Independiente, Fuerza de San Pedro was oldest military stronghold built by the Spaniards in the country. It has been occupied and modified since Miguel Lopez de Legazpi constructed the original log-palisade fort in the same site 11 days after his arrival in Cebu.

Cebu City Fort San Pedro

Cebu City Fuerza de San Pedro

We entered the fort through a narrow passageway in Cuerpo de Guardia or the main building. At end of the short tunnel, was a landscaped garden enclosed by three coral stone walls. The thick perimeter walls along with the structures within the triangular fort were constructed in 1739.

In less than 15 minutes, we have touched one of the fourteen antique cannons used by the Spaniards to quell attacking Moro pirates, passed by the three bastions namely the La Concepcion, San Ignacio and San Miguel, tossed a coin into a wishing well beside the Vivende del Teniente or the lieutenant’s quarters and peered into the Almazaros del Rivera or powder magazine of the smallest Spanish fort in the Philippines.

Cebu Shrine of Magellen's Cross

Cebu Magellan's Cross

An iconic landmark in Cebu, the Shrine of Magellan’s Cross was put up to commemorate the planting of the most important legacy of Spain in the Philippines –Catholicism. The octagonal-shaped chapel was constructed by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon in 1834. Enclosed within its antique coral stone wall and under its ondiola-tile roof is a replica of the cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. The cross was encased in tindalo wood to protect it from the habit of the pious of chipping off parts of the old wood to keep as souvenir or amulet.

Ladies in colorful local costume holding colorful candles walked up to us for a ritual prayer dance. For a small amount, they went into a trance-like state. Shuffling their feet and muttering our petitions in front of the cross, the ritual dance guarantees that our prayers have been delivered to God.

Cebu Basilica de Sto. Nino

Cebu Sto. Nino de Cebu

We entered through a narrow passageway across the shrine of Magellan’s Cross. At the other end of it was the old San Agustin Church of Cebu. Popularly known today as the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the colonial baroque church houses an important Christian relic in the Philippines –the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu.

The 500 year old image of the infant Jesus garbed in princely clothing was a baptismal gift of explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the converted island-queen Juana. Today, throngs of pilgrims patiently line up everyday and wait for their turn to get close and whisper their petitions to the Sto. Niño de Cebu.

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

Cebu Cathedral

Exiting through the basilica’s north gate, we walked along Zamora Street then crossed Calle de Legaspi. From there, we entered the premises of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

Seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu, it was established as a diocese in 1595 and archdiocese in 1934. Today, the 1834 bell tower and baroque façade are the only remnants of the old cathedral which was destroyed during Allied bombings of World War II.

Cebu Cathedral Museum

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral Museum

While the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral was rather plain and extensively modernized, its ecclesiastical museum across the street is stocked with religious and secular treasures and antiquities.

The Ecclesiastical Museum of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu is housed in a huge bahay-na-bato that survived World War II. It has served various functions in different periods as a rectory, a school, a cooperative store, and even temporary chapel during the renovation of the cathedral.

Cebu Ecclesiastical Museum

Cebu Cathedral Museum

Baby Arnuco, the resident museum guide, led us to the inner sanctum revealing gallery after gallery of church treasures. All we could do is gasp in awe.

The six galleries showcase vintage photographs, a collection of gold monstrances, cruets and chalices, priest vestments trimmed with gold and silver, antique image of every conceivable saint and so many more pieces gathered from the different churches under the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Cebu Plaza Hamabar

We left the museum bloated with information about Cebu church history. By the time we were back on the street, we realized that we need to eat before proceeding to the Parian District of Cebu.

For a parting shot for this first part of our heritage walk, we crossed Mabini Street from the cathedral museum to Plaza Hamabar. Enthroned at one end of the park is the regal statue of Rajah Hamabar a.k.a Humabon -the hospitable Cebuano chieftain who opened the portals of friendship which paved the way for Spain’s lasting legacy in the Philippines.

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. TOF–I forgot to tell you which image I liked the best! It was the image of San Miguel Archangel with his foot squashing Lucifer. The image of Lucifer seemed rather benign and not as scary as I thought he would be portrayed. A beautiful image though, and in beautiful condition. Did you have a favorite one that stood out for you?

    • Yes I agree that image of San Miguel from the town of Argao is charming (yup, devil not scary) queeniebee. I particularly like the statue of Saint Joseph which picture I posted here. I like the emotion on his face and I can imagine how beautiful the painting on the corpus centuries ago.

  2. My husband and I recently toured the museum too. We enjoyed seeing everything. I especially liked the old saint statues–they were still in such wonderful condition.
    I got a kick out of the dusty Mercedes Benz outside that the Pope had ridden in during his visit.
    I’m happy to see you sharing your observations and photos about your trip to Cebu.

    • We’re fascinated by Cebu’s heritage queeniebee. We enjoyed our tour in queen city.

      We’ll post another article about the cathedral museum where we saw the old saint statues.

      thank you for dropping by.

      • I’m looking forward to that article. I’m fascinated by the many statues of saints I’ve seen in Cebu, but of course I am most in love with sweet Santo Nino! Speaking of statues–it brings to mind the little blond curly haired Santo Nino statue in Baclayon Church in Bohol. I was surprised to see the european influence interpretation. Do you remember seeing that one there in the Baclayon Church museum?
        For me, viewing all these well-loved sacred antique statues can conjure up so many wonderful and peaceful thoughts…

        • yes queeniebee. we’ve seen that santo nino in Baclayon. I agree that there is something about old antique stautes that can be defined… but its good.

  3. it appears like a whole day should be devoted to visiting that place. there so many things to see, enjoy, absorb, and photograph. never been there before although i have always longed to go.

    thanks for the tour, happy new year.

    http://calrat.blogspot.com

    • A whole day is good enough for a comprehensive tour of the area and enjoy the amazing place ewok.

  4. That’s very interesting. It felt like I was there on this Heritage Walk. Will definitely refer to this if ever I chance upon visiting Cebu😀

    • Thank you Ferdz. We recommend that every Filipino should visit this part of Cebu.

  5. thanks for posting. i’ve never been to cebu but i feel like i’ve traveled there now. thanks!

    • Thank you for visiting Albert. There will be more about Cebu in the coming days. Hope we have inspired you to come to visit Cebu.


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