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.