Just like people, places acquire fancy nicknames that are most often remembered for their outstanding characteristics. So welcome to Cebu City also known as the Queen City of the South, the Cradle of Christianity in the Far East, Home of the First Filipino Freedom Fighter, Scion of the Philippine Islands, and the Guitar Capital of the Philippines.
After a few days in island of Limasawa, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan with more than 200 men sailed to the port of Sugbo, which his Italian chronicler Antonio Pigafetta transcribed in various occasions as Zubuth, Zugbu, Zubu then finally Cebu. Led by local chieftain Raja Humabon, the natives played gracious host to the westerners. On April 14, 1521, a mass was held by Magellan’s chaplain Fray Pedro Valderama where a wooden crucifix was planted on the site. Claiming Cebu in the name of Christ, what followed next were the conversion of the 800 natives and the mass burning of pagan idols.
Cradle of Christianity in the Far East. Upon arriving in Cebu we did as the one million plus visitors a year who come to the city do. We went to the Shrine of Magellan’s Cross. Neither folklore nor written history is clear as to what happen to the original cross planted in 1521. One famous historian suggested that the original cross could have been chopped into pieces and used as firewood centuries ago while old time Cebuanos claim that the one presently enshrined in the kiosk is the original cross and is miraculously growing an inch bigger every year.
Whatever happened to the original physical cross is immaterial. The Magellan’s Cross is synonymous to Cebu and Cebu as the Cradle of Christianity of only Catholic Nation in Asia.
Home of the First Filipino Freedom Fighter. However, not every one in Cebu welcomed the new order imposed by Magellan. The war-like people of Mactan led by Lapu-lapu expressed strong resistance to the conquerors. On April 27, 1521, a fully armed Spanish force ready to silence Lapu-lapu’s people was massacred by Mactan warriors. The once proud Magellan lay dead on the beach in Mactan Island where a marker was built in 1866 to honor his service to the Spanish crown.
A heroic statue of Lapu-lapu was erected inside the Mactan Shrine to celebrate the victory of the First Filipino Freedom Fighter.
Guitar Capital of the Philippines. While in Mactan, we took the opportunity of buying a Cebu made guitar. Guitars, mandolins (banduria), banjos and ukeleles are world-class products of Cebu. The center of the guitar making industry is in Mactan Island.
No one knows who made the first guitar in Cebu but what is certain is that guitar makers in Mactan are considered to be among the world’s finest craftsmen. We’ve learned that only one guitar maker is responsible in an entire production to ensure the quality of every piece. That’s amazing.
Scion of the Philippine Islands. While the history of guitar-making industry in Cebu is uncertain, the timeline of the oldest city, oldest religious image, oldest military fort and oldest street in Philippine can be tracked down in the downtown area.
Almost half a century after Magellan’s arrival in Cebu, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi reclaimed the island by force. After pillaging and razing a village, a Spanish soldier named Juan de Camuz found an image of the infant Jesus unscathed in one of the houses that they’ve set on fire. Believing that the image was the same Santo Niño given by Magellan to Raja Humabon’s wife, Queen Humamai (Later named Juana) 44 years earlier, Legaspi ordered the image to be enshrined in a church and later named the Spanish settlement near the busy port area as Villa del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus.
In Legaspi’s words: Cebu shall henceforth be called the Scion of the Philippine Islands, and the divine influence of Christianity shall go fort from Cebu to every part of the archipelago, and across the seas to distant shores. In our Cebu Heritage Walk and tour of Parian District of Cebu, we paid homage to the Sto. Niño de Cebu–the oldest Catholic image in the Philippines, touched a cannon mounted on the parapet of the oldest and incidentally the smallest fort in the country at Fort San Pedro, and walked along Calle Colon –the country’s oldest street.
Queen City of the South. Perhaps inspired by the many “firsts,” the pioneering and competitive spirit has continued through out the following centuries. Today, Cebu City is hailed as the Queen City of the South due to its importance in trade and industry in Visayas and Mindanao. As one of the most urbanized settlements in the Philippines, Cebu is an ideal gateway for trips to various outlying tour destinations. The dreamy island of Bantayan is just a good hours away from Metro Cebu, and more of the island’s romatic heritage can be experienced by traveling south to the towns of Carcar, Argao, Dalaguete, Boljoon and Oslob.
To say there is more to discover in Cebu is an understatement. We will be sharing more of our breathtakingly diverse experience in the island province in the upcoming post.