Casa Gorordo

An authentic Spanish mansion with period furniture, Casa Gorordo freezes in time the lifestyle from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. It was the home of Cebu’s first Filipino bishop.

The house was owned by the Reynes-Garces family before it was bought in 1863 by Juan Isidro Gorordo, father of Juan Gorordo–who served as bishop of Cebu from 1910-1932.

The stone and tile structure, restored and maintained as a museum, is one of few remaining houses called balay nga tisa/house of tiles, which was the building of choice of Cebu’s local elite in the 1800’s.

The house’s lower floor walls are made of coral stones, and it bears all features typical of a balay nga bato: spacious interiors with ventanillas or vents below the window sills, sliding Capiz windows, and tugas posts and 12-inch wide floorboards.

An arch with intricate carvings of plants and birds separate the dining room or comedor from the landing and living room. At the end of the dining room is a kitchen typical of that period when the house was built.

Sliding doors open up into a wide balcony or azotea that runs by a long section of the house. Beside the house was built a new service building inspired by 19th century architecture and the garden, which has been landscaped, has been the venue of many social gatherings then and now.

Casa Gorordo, which was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1991, was opened by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) as a museum in 1983.

Museo Sugbo

Museo Sugbo is housed at what was once called Cárcel de Cebú, designed in 1869 by Domingo de Escondrillas, the lone architect in Cebu at the time. It was for 135 years the biggest jail of Cebu.

In a twist of fate, these centuries-old stone walls that once was a prison for iniquities, is now a keeper of antiquities.

Museo Sugbo is now home to several galleries, among them:

The Pre-Colonial Gallery traces over two thousand years of the pre-history of Cebu. Among its highlights include a collection of stone tools dating to the Neolithic (3,000 BCE-500 BCE).

The Spanish Colonial Gallery begins with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and the conquest of Cebu by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Among the highlights of this section include the first letter ever sent out of the Philippines dated May 27, 1565 from Legazpi to King Philip II.

The Katipunan Revolution and the American Colonial Gallery houses a collection of the memorabilia of the Katipunan in Cebu and the memorabilia of Gov. Sotero Cabahug, builder of the Cebu Capitol.

The War Memorial Gallery houses medals, armaments and vintage bombs as well as documents related to the brutal years of the Japanese Occupation in Cebu up to the Liberation in 1945.

The National Museum – Cebu Regional Branch has two large galleries in another building across the MPHH and the museum quadrangle provide rare artifacts from excavations conducted in Cebu as well as a changing exhibition of objects and artifacts that are part of Cebu’s history.

Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery is the first community media museum gallery in the country. The gallery contains photo frames with captions of pre-war and post-war journalists of Cebu with captions on their contributions to Cebu journalism. It also contains equipment like a Minerva letterpress, an ink knife, radio microphones and a Royal Quick Deluxe typewriter. The gallery contains several QR Code markers that make the exhibits interactive.

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

Before you now this church is nothing short of magnificent: its squat form and thick walls and trefoil-shaped pediment decorated with carvings of phoenixes, leaves and flowers, clamshell medallion, and images of two saints.

The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is a fitting ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

It didn’t always look this way, though.

For years, it was in various states of disrepair, historian Resil B. Mojares wrote in his book Casa Gorordo in Cebu, Urban Residence in a Philippine Province.

The church was established as the seat of the Bishop when Cebu became one of the suffragan dioceses of or dioceses overseen by the Archdiocese of Manila on August 14, 1595 and, like others built during the period, started out as a structure of wood and nipa, according to the Balaanong Bahandi, a book on the Sacred Treasures of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

According to the same book, a stone church was successfully completed during the latter part of first Cebuano Bishop Juan Bautista Gorordo’s term from 1862 to 1934.

The Cathedral underwent a major renovation in 2009 in preparation for the opening salvo marking the Diamond Jubilee of Cebu as an Archdiocese.

San Juan Bautista Parish Church

Dionisio Alo, the town leader, stood seething with anger as authorities tore down the magnificent San Juan Bautista Parish Church in Parian in the late 1870s.

“His heart bled with every stone that was removed and all he could do was bite his lips causing them to also bleed,” said Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon/ Cebu of the Past: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go.

The destruction of what had been described in various historical sources as the most magnificent church in Cebu was the end of centuries of struggle between the local mestizo community and the Spanish friars who wanted control over the structure.

The Parian church, according to Go’s translation, “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” It was built in 1602.

“The Augustinian friars (who were based in their nearby parish that is now known as the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral) upon seeing the magnificence of the church of the Parian, got envious, and employed every shrewd means they could think of to take over the Parian church,” the thesis said.

It is a fantastic story worthy of cinema, and until lately, suppressed from memory because it centers on church jealousy and rivalry within its ranks.

According to information printed on a photograph found at the Cebuano Studies Center in the University of San Carlos, “the convent of the church was spared and was used later during the American regime as a public library and a fire station.” The fire station remains to this day, a paltry ghost of an opulent past.

Museo Parian sa Sugbo

The oldest dated house in the Philippines was hidden in plain sight inside a warehouse in Cebu’s Parian district for many years.

Jaime Sy, who owns the house and Ho Tong Hardware within the compound, stumbled upon its significance quite by accident. At the Ateneo, when he was in college, Sy was flipping through a book of old Jesuit houses in the Philippines by Fr. Repetti when he made out a structure that looked familiar. It turned out to be the family bodega in Cebu.

Sy’s father bought it from the Alvarez family who had it since the late 19th century. Don Jose Alvarez, the family patriarch, at one time leased the house to Cebu Governor Sergio Osmeña who used it as a meeting place for Cebu’s elite. Sy’s father used it as a warehouse, because it already came with a roof and a stone wall.

This two-storey house of cut coral stone walls, tugas hardwoood floors and posts and terracotta roof was once called the “Jesuit House” as it was where the former Jesuit superior of Cebu lived. Historians say the Jesuits were indeed in possession of the house until 1768 when they were expelled from the Philippines following their suppression in Europe.

A relief plaque bearing the date “Año 1730” can be found on the inside wall above the main house’s entrance door.

The original entrance to the property is through a narrow road called Binakayan near Colon but it has been closed off to protect the monograms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the gate’s lintel, which is now appropriated as the symbol of the house. Ask an insider about the macabre story of a cross that is carved directly into the coral stone wall, it is quite a tale.

Architect Anthony Abelgas, who oversaw the restoration of the house points out why the story of this house is different: “This is a family-operated museum. It is different from others because we don’t have strict rules. Anyone can see what’s inside this house.”

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

This house exudes the essence of a bygone era, a time already lived and long forgotten. Which is even more remarkable when you realize a family called this home until 2009.

The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home holds the distinction of being one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and possibly the oldest Chinese home outside of China.

Current owner Val Sandiego, choreographer and antiques collector, estimates its construction to be between 1675 to 1700.

“In 1614, the church of Parian was built. Then after around 60 years later, the house was put up,” said Sandiego, who is a descendant of original owners Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florido. The couple’s eldest daughter married Don Mariano Sandiego of Obando, Bulacan–who was then the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief during the Spanish colonial period) of Parian where the structure is located.

The house’s roof and walls are 95 percent original, according to Sandiego, making this edifice that he and his family continue to live in during weekends a little over 300 years old.

The mirror that now adorns the second floor wall of the Sandiego ancestral home was used on several occasions by Negros native Pantaleon Villegas, better known as Leon Kilat (Lion Lightning), who led the revolution against the Spaniards in Cebu in 1898.

Sandiego, who acquired ownership of the house in early 2000, did an expensive restoration work on the structure in 2003 and has since opened it and his antique collection to the public.

Heritage of Cebu Monument

Cement, iron, and steel come together to form the towering Heritage of Cebu Monument, built right on the original site of Plaza Parian, the heart of the old town, in Cebu City.

Parian, which got its name from the word “pari-pari” (to barter or trade), according to scholar and historian Resil Mojares, was where the wealthy Chinese merchants of old (sangleys) lived and held lavish events. A few homes constructed during the 16th to 19th century remain standing today, notably the Jesuit House of 1730, Casa Gorordo, and the Yap-Sandiego house, all within a stone’s throw of each other.

Conceptualized by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo, the mammoth structure depicts significant moments in Cebu’s history beginning with that fateful fight of April 21, 1521 in the island of Mactan where native chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

The monument also portrays as well the conversion of Rajah Humabon and his followers to Christianity, local revolution against Spanish rule, Cebuano veneration of Sto. Nino, and beatification of first Cebuano saint Pedro Calungsod.

A keen eye can also make out the historical structures carved into the huge monolith, most of which are effigies to a colonial past: Basilica del Santo Nino, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, San Juan Bautista Parish Church, Magellan’s Cross, and a Spanish Galleon.

Also to be found in the monument are statues of Cebuanos that have risen to nationwide stature: the first Cebuano Philippine President Sergio Osmena Sr. and the first Cebuano saint, San Pedro Calungsod. The funding for the monument came primarily came from the efforts of Cebu-born Chief Justice of the Philippines Marcelo Fernan.

Plaza Hamabar

Sri Hamabar was one of the names of Raja Humabon, the King of Cebu, a flourishing trading post and settlement since the 10th century.

He was regarded as the “wisest and bravest man on the island” of Sugbo (Cebu), the “king and lord over eight chieftains and over 2,000 lancers.” He rose to power as regent, when his uncle Sri Parang was deemed unfit to rule because of an infirmity after Sri Bantug’s (Humabon’s father) death. His grandfather, Sri Lumay, was one of the original kings of the area, settling in the Visayas islands from Sumatra.

Sugbo’s Rajah Humabon was also known as Humabad, and later on christened Carlos when he was baptized into the Catholic faith. His wife Juana (Hara Humamay), was given the image of the Sto. Niño in gratitude for their hospitality to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan when he and his Spanish expedition arrived in Cebu in 1521.

In memory of this man stands Plaza Hamabar, located across the Archdiocesan Museum of Cebu in Mabini St.

Magellan’s Cross

In a now infamous navigational error, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish fleet came upon Cebu while searching for spices and the Moluccas.

He planted a huge wooden cross on local soil on April 14, 1521 to mark his landing and the baptism of Cebu’s King and Queen, Raja Humabon and Raya Humamay, and 400 of their followers into the Catholic faith.

Now called Magellan’s Cross, it stands at a small chapel located between Cebu City Hall and the Basilica del Sto. Niño along Magallanes Street, named also after the explorer.

A sign at the bottom of its pedestal says the original Magellan’s Cross is encased in the tindalo wood displayed at the center of the chapel. This, it claims, is to protect it from people who chipped away parts of the cross believing it has miraculous powers. Some, however, say that the original cross planted by Magellan was long destroyed or lost under the sand, and what stands there now is a replacement planted by Spaniards who came after the Portuguese explorer.

Through the years, it has become so synonymous with Cebu that the image is found in the official Cebu City seal and figures prominently in graphic representations of the city.

Basilica del Sto. Niño

Cebu’s oldest Catholic church stands in the same spot the island’s first Christian relic—the image of the child Jesus known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu—was found by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565 inside the charred remains of a house completely gutted by fire.

It is widely believed that the image is the same one given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Hara Humamay of Cebu in 1521 when she, her husband Raja Humabon, and several of their followers were baptized into the Roman Catholic faith.

Given the honorific title Basilica del Santo Niño, it blends Baroque, Muslim, and Romanesque architectural influences.

Candle vendors here are different in any other churches; in the basilica, they dance their prayers in that two-step-forward, one-step-backward rhythm called the sinug, mimicking the movement of the tide, shouting Pit Senyor! (We call upon the King!) before an intent is spoken.

This same rhythm is believed to have inspired the Sinulog dance, performed on Cebu City’s streets by millions of devotees in the Sinulog Grand Parade, arguably the Philippines’ biggest festival held every third Sunday of January. A day before the fiesta, the original centuries-old image is paraded on the streets with Cebu’s patron saint Our Lady of Guadalupe in a religious procession, the only time it leaves its heavily-guarded sanctuary once a year.

The Santo Niño image’s reputation as miraculous is buoyed by reports of basilica keepers that it sometimes goes out of its glass case to take long walks at night, slipping past his guardians. They point to grass stains on the hem of its dress as evidence.

The stories are dismissed as superstition but they strengthen beliefs of devotees that the Santo Niño de Cebu, “Cebu’s holy child,” watches over Cebu.