Fuente Osmeña Circle

It’s difficult to imagine this today but the area where you are standing now, the Fuente Osmeña Circle, was considered dangerous in the 1900’s because it was far from the Cebu City center and bandits were said to be present here.

Built first in 1912 on what used to be a stretch of cogon grass and mango trees is that fountain in the middle of the park.

Lucy Urgello Miller, in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era,” wrote that the fountain was constructed to mark the opening of the Osmeña Waterworks in Tisa, Labangon where pipes were laid leading from the dam to the northern part of the City of Cebu.

This photo, which is part of the Enrique Rubio photo collection, shows Fuente Osmeña in about 1912-1915. Historian Jobers Bersales says the photographer "would likely be standing at the present Nurses Home, judging from the angle of sight on the small hill which would be Nivel Hills."
This photo, which is part of the Enrique Rubio photo collection, shows Fuente Osmeña in about 1912-1915. Historian Jobers Bersales says the photographer “would likely be standing at the present Nurses Home, judging from the angle of sight on the small hill which would be Nivel Hills.” CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

She added that Gov. Gen. William Cameron Forbes, Speaker Sergio Osmeña, and officials of the city and province of Cebu were present during the inauguration of the water system. They delivered speeches before a crowd who gathered for the turning on of the fountain.

In her book, Miller tells of how the wives of officials present were soaked when a strong wind blew water in their direction and were prevented from moving away by the mass of people who gathered in the area.

According to her, the murder of a couple near Fuente in 1925 fueled fears that it was unsafe and it was only in the late 1930s to 1940s, when people began to occupy Jones Avenue, now Osmeña Boulevard, and Lahug, that the park became a place frequented by Cebuanos.

She recalled that the Philippine Army band would play music in Fuente during Sunday afternoons.

In the more recent past, it was here at Fuente Osmeña that the late President Corazon Aquino called on Cebuanos in 1986 to support a civil disobedience campaign against the strongman Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the Philippines for some 20 years.

This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.

Gotiaoco Building

This building is named after Pedro Gotiaoco, one of Cebu’s wealthiest taipans in the 19th century. It was the very first commercial building in Cebu to have an elevator and airconditioning.

Known as the Gotiaoco Building, this structure across the MC Briones St. side of City Hall was bombed during World War II but was rebuilt to look like the original except for the copula with clock and an additional floor, says Lucy Urgello Miller in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era.”

Historian Jobers Bersales said this building was built in 1914. He said that in the 1930s, the building was home to the Cebu branch of Heacock’s Department Store. It’s top floor was home to Cebu’s first AM radio, KzRC which was renamed after the war as dyRC.

GOTIAOCO BUILDING. This was the very first commercial building in Cebu to have an elevator and airconditioning. This photo, provided by historian Jobers Bersales, was taken in 1940.
GOTIAOCO BUILDING. This was the very first commercial building in Cebu to have an elevator and airconditioning. This photo, provided by historian Jobers Bersales, was taken in 1940.

“This building once lorded it over all the rest, with its four stories dwarfing every building in Cebu. It is very much an essential witness, nay, a participant in the leaps and bounds that the city underwent. Its location, right at the reclaimed portion of the pre-Spanish beach of the Sugbo that Magellan and Legazpi set foot on, is testament to its primal character in the island’s commerce and trade,” Bersales said in his column in Cebu Daily News.

This building, Bersales added, “was the Ayala Center or the SM Northwing of its time.”

University of San Carlos Architecture students Adrian C. Gam and Christina Ma. H. Borromeo in their thesis Cebu City Historic Sites survey described the original construction as a “three-level arcaded structure of irregular configuration with mezzanine on the first level.”

They said an arcade traversed the building’s ground level to its second floor and it is topped with a parapet around the whole roof area, a style reminiscent of the Renaissance in Europe.

This building is set to be turned into the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum.

This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.

Compañia Maritima

We know this building today to be Compañia Maritima, but in the 1930s it operated as the Shamrock Hotel.

Built in 1910, this structure named the Fernandez Building had Shamrock at its sole occupant during the 1930s, said Lucy Urgello Miller in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era.”

AT WATER'S EDGE. This building was known as the Shamrock Hotel in the 1930s and was built on reclaimed land at water's edge. (Photo provided by Joebers Bersales from the Lucy Urgello Miller collection)
AT WATER’S EDGE. This building was known as the Shamrock Hotel in the 1930s and was built on reclaimed land at water’s edge. (Lucy Urgello Miller collection)

Compañia Maritima got to occupy the building built on reclaimed land after Shamrock, which at one time printed postcards of the structure as a means of advertising, added Miller.

Miller said it was not clear who the occupants of the building, located right here on Quezon Boulevard – between P. Burgos and Lapu-Lapu Streets, were before Shamrock.

The Cebu Waterfront Heritage and Urban Conservation Study done in 2000, however, said Shamrock shared it with the Manila Steamship Company, which had offices in the building’s ground floor while the hotel utilized the upper floors. This could have happened before the 1930s, though, since Miller pointed out in her book that Shamrock was its only occupant during this period.

POSTCARD. Shamrock Hotel printed postcards like this as a means of advertising. (Photo provided by Joebers Bersales from the Lucy Urgello Miller collection)
POSTCARD. Shamrock Hotel printed postcards like this as a means of advertising. (Lucy Urgello Miller collection)

According to the study, the building was owned by Fernandez Hermanos Inc. and was abandoned after it was bombed down during World War II.

It described the building as “3 storeys tall with arched windows…ornamental beams…sculptured railings on its roof decks.”

“The prominent location of the building at the water’s edge ensures that the building is a prominent landmark and distinctive townscape feature.

The building contributes significantly to the understanding the development of maritime, trade and shipping activities at the turn of the 20th century,” the study cited, adding it was among the first structures built on the reclaimed port area.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, in an interview in November 2012, said he plans to restore this building and put up mosaic of historical areas in Cebu on its windows.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION. This photo from the Enrico Rubio/Pedro River-Mir Collection shows the Fernandez Building being constructed in 1910. The building would later be more known for its locators: Shamrock Hotel and, later, Compania Maritima.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION. This photo from the Enrico Rubio/Pedro River-Mir Collection shows the Fernandez Building being constructed in 1910. The building would later be more known for its locators: Shamrock Hotel and, later, Compañia Maritima.

This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.

Museo Sugbo

(This article was provided by Museo Sugbo)

Museo Sugbo is housed at what was once called Cárcel de Cebú, the provincial jail of Cebu.

Designed in 1869 by Domingo de Escondrillas, the lone architect in Cebu at the time, the Cárcel de Cebú was originally proposed as the Carcel del Distrito, the main prison for the Visayas District. This accounts for its relatively large size at the time it was built.

Carcel de Cebu circa 1901. During the early years of the American period, the Carcel served as a stable for horses competing in the Hipódromo nearby. But it was eventually used once again as a prison, both for the city and the province. (Photo provided by Museo Sugbo)
Carcel de Cebu circa 1901. During the early years of the American period, the Carcel served as a stable for horses competing in the Hipódromo nearby. But it was eventually used once again as a prison, both for the city and the province. (Photo provided by Museo Sugbo)

 

After a flurry of endorsements and independent review in Manila, the project was approved and construction probably commenced around 1871. It is believed that most of the coral stone blocks from the Parian Church–which was demolished in 1878 after the Bishop of Cebu won a long-drawn court case against its parishioners in the 1850s–were used to build parts of the Cárcel. After twenty years of use, a renovation was ordered in 1892, which added more buildings behind the main structure that now serves as the first six galleries of the museum.

Records are not clear as to when the second story of the main building was added. But the architectural design suggests this to be during the American colonial period.

The Cárcel de Cebú housed not only criminals in its 135-year history. During the Revolution, many of the Katipuneros were incarcerated here without trial and many of them were eventually executed in nearby Carreta Cemetery. During the early years of the American period, the Carcel served as a stable for horses competing in the Hipódromo nearby. But it was eventually used once again as a prison, both for the city and the province. During the Japanese Occupation, guerrillas were imprisoned here after enduring torture under the hands of the Kempei-Tei, the Japanese secret police. After the war, many of the collaborators in Cebu were also imprisoned here. From the 1950s to 1976, the front section of the Cárcel served as the city jail, while the three structures behind were used as the provincial jail.

DON'T STEP ON THE GRASS. This photo from the Lucy Urgello-Miller Collection and provided by Museo Sugbo shows the then Cebu Provincial Jail between 1918 to 1930. The sign on the grass says "Pahibalo. Ayao pagtunub sa balili" or don't step on the grass.
DON’T STEP ON THE GRASS. This photo from the Lucy Urgello-Miller Collection and provided by Museo Sugbo shows the then Cebu Provincial Jail between 1918 to 1930. The sign on the grass says “Pahibalo. Ayao pagtunub sa balili” or don’t step on the grass.

 

The Cárcel changed names twice, first during the American to the post-War periods when it was called the Cebu Provincial Jail. In the 1980s, the name was changed to Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

Museo Sugbo has several galleries including:

The Pre-Colonial Gallery

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), decorated earthenware dating to the Philippine Metal Age (500 BCE-900 CE) and Chinese, Vietnamese as well as Thai ceramics dating to the Age of Foreign Trading (900 CE-1500 CE).

The Spanish Colonial Gallery

The gallery traces the roots of Spanish colonization, beginning 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 letters of Legazpi to King Philip II (the first letter ever sent out of the Philippines) dated 27 May 1565 and other documents of the Spanish period like Encomienda papers of various pioneer towns in Cebu dating to the early 1600s.

The Katipunan Revolution and the American Colonial Gallery

Located at the second floor of the main museum building, this gallery houses a collection of the memorabilia of the Katipunan in Cebu; a fine collection of a Thomasite teacher’s mementos; newspapers in Cebuano and Spanish languages; and the memorabilia of Gov. Sotero Cabahug, builder of the Cebu Capitol.

The War Memorial Gallery

This 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.

Gregorio & Jovito Abellana Special Exhibition

Gregorio Abellana served as a lieutenant in the Revolution against Spain (1898) as well as the subsequent war against the Americans in Cebu (1899-1901). His son, Jovito, followed his footsteps and served the guerrilla resistance to the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945), playing the price with his eventual incarceration and torture under the dreaded Kempei-tai. The gallery showcases both their lives as patriots in between two wars.

Sen. Vicente Rama Special Exhibition

Housed in what was once the old prison infirmary are the memorabilia of Sen. Vicente Rama, father of the Cebu City Charter, publisher of three newspapers and the undefeated opposition Democrata Party legislator. The gallery traces the senator’s long and illustrious career both as a pre-war lawmaker and journalist, showcasing a long life devoted to public service.

The National Museum – Cebu Regional Branch

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

This 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.

IN THE 1950s. This photo from the Enrico Rubio Collection shows Carcel de Cebu in the 1950s. (Photo provided by Museo Sugbo)
IN THE 1950s. This photo from the Enrico Rubio Collection shows Carcel de Cebu in the 1950s. (Photo provided by Museo Sugbo)

This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.

San Juan Bautista Church: Once Cebu’s most opulent church

The chapel you are standing in front of is but a faint reminder of an opulent past.

The San Juan Bautista chapel stands on the ruins of the San Juan Bautista Parish Church, which historians described as the most opulent in Cebu in its time.

The church “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas,” according to Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go. It was built in 1602.

The San Juan Bautista Parish Church used to stand on this spot. According to a historian, the church “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu.” It was torn down in the late 1870s. According to information 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 San Juan Bautista Parish Church used to stand on this spot. According to a historian, the church “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu.” It was torn down in the late 1870s. According to information 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 church was made of stone blocks, plastered together in a mixture of lime and the sap of the lawat tree. The roofs were made of tiles, and the lumber used was molave, balayong and naga. The paraphernalia used in the mass was made purely of gold, the pews were carved by a sculptor of the Parian, the altars were covered with stone slabs with money and gold inlaid, and the church bells were big and loud. The tolling of these bells was so loud that it could be heard as far as Hilotungan ang the town of Talisay,” Go said in her translation, which was submitted as thesis to the University of San Carlos.

“The Augustinian friars 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,” Go said.

Fr. Rafael Vasquez, a Parianon, however, fought back and kept the friars at bay.

Go said in one of her footnotes that Augustinian Fr. Santos Gomez Marañon filed a petition “to have the Parian parish supressed and incorporated into the Cathedral.”

Rivalry

Go said, “Many reasons for this request were given, but it definitely had the earmarks of a direct challenge against the dominance of the Chinese mestizo community of Parian and their elaborate church, which far outshone the cathedral.”

Through the years, however, the rivalry with Spanish friars continued with succeeding priests and capitans of the Parian gremio.

During the time of Don Pedro Rubi as Parian captain, the bishop ordered that masses be held at the church only on Sundays.

During the time of Don Maximo Borromeo as captain, the bishop “removed the right of the Visayas priests to officiate mass in the Parian Church.”

“In retaliation the residents of the Parian decided to make use of the school across from the church and converted it into a chapel where the parish priest of Parian could officiate the mass.”

In 1875, Dionisio Alo, known as Capitan Isyo, became capitan of the Parian gremio. With the San Juan Bautista fiesta in June approaching, Capitan Isyo called for a meeting to discuss preparations. The fiesta was a big affair in the area with most Parian residents spending “as much as three thousand pesos” for the celebration.

Capitan Isyo also wanted to discuss who would replace their parish priest, the Ilonggo Fr. Anselmo “Pari Imoy” Albanceña, who died in December 1874. The replacement would be celebrating the fiesta mass.

Fr. Tomas de la Concepcion, the parish priest of the cathedral, told the group “to request the bishop to appoint a white priest.” De la Concepcion said there was no Filipino priest capable of being named to the post.

Capitan Isyo, however, strongly disagreed and shouted at a cabeza de barangay who agreed with the suggestion.

“At that instance, a quarrel broke out between the two. While Capitan Isyo used his prerogatives as head of the mestizo gremio, Padre Tomas also made use of his power as representative of the Bishop in order to force Capitan Isyo to yield and accept (a) white priest as their parish and spiritual guide.”

The heated and bitter exchange ended with the two deciding not to hold a mass for the fiesta or even holding any celebrations.

Grudge

Followers of Capitan Isyo feared he would be excommunicated and tried to change his mind but the nationalist community leader just told them, “I would prefer that the church be destroyed rather than have a friar in it.”

Fr. Tomas kept a grudge against Parian and “boasted to his priestly friends, especially the friars, that he was obsessed with the complete destruction of the Parian church.”

Parian Church, according to "Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon", “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER) When Fr. Tomas reported the incident to the bishop, including Capitan Isyo’s declaration that he would rather have the church destroyed than have a white priest in it, the bishop felt insulted.

On June 24, 1875, the bishop forbade the parish priest from saying mass in the Parian church. The community’s fiesta celebration was also overseen by the Cathedral parish priest. Capitan Isyo could not do anything and his enemies made sure he would keep his post so that they could exact their revenge. They told residents that the capitan was to blame for what happened in Parian.

The bishop then ordered a Spanish engineer to check the durability of the Parian church. The engineer later informed the governor that the materials used to build the church were weak and the structure, including the stone wall that surrounded it, should be torn down.

Date of destruction

The governor of Cebu then ordered the destruction of the church. He also ordered the bishop to take possession of everything inside the church, including its statues and bells.

While Ang Sugbo Sa Karaang Panahon listed the destruction of the church as having occurred in 1875-1876, Go said “the actual destruction of the church seems to have taken place in late 1878 or 1879.

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.”

This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.