Known as the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu’s rich history is one that spans centuries, having been influenced by multiple cultures brought on by trade, colonization, and globalization. With much of the island’s heritage preserved and open to the public, there is definitely no shortage of historical sites that both locals and tourists can explore.
Here are five interesting landmarks to add to your next Cebu itinerary:
1. Magellan’s Cross
Those paying attention to their history classes would know that Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines on March 16, 1521. Shortly after, he landed in Cebu and erected a cross in the name of Spain. It was this site that witnessed the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his wife, marking the introduction of Christianity to what would later become the Philippine islands.
Now, Magellan’s Cross can be found in a small chapel where it is encased in tindalo wood. Serving also as a religious site, the cross is a common place for tourists and locals to offer candles for prayer.
2. Mactan Shrine
Commemorating the first hero of the Philippines, this historical site is a tribute to Lapu-Lapu, who defeated Magellan and his forces in what is now known as the Battle of Mactan. On the site, visitors may see a 20-foot bronze statue of the chieftain, which was erected in recognition of his efforts in defending his island from Spanish invaders.
3. Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño
The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the Philippines. Established by the Augustinian friars in 1565, the basilica houses the image of Señor Santo Niño (the Child Jesus), a relic gifted to Rajah Humabon and his wife by Magellan during their christening.
Aside from its regular religious services, celebrations and masses for the Sinulog festival are also held in the church every January, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
4. Cebu Heritage Monument
Located in the Pari-an district is the Cebu Heritage Monument, a sculpted expression of history rendered in bronze, brass, and steel. It was constructed by local artist Eduardo Castrillo from July 1997 to December 2000 to commemorate some of the most significant events, figures, and structures of Cebu, which include the baptism of Rajah Humabon, the Battle of Mactan, the beatification of Pedro Calungsod, and the presidency of Sergio Osmeña Sr, among many others.
(Note: Those in the area may also check interesting Filipino-Chinese heritage sites, such as the 1730 Jesuit House and the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House.)
5. Museo Sugbo
Museo Sugbo is an old coral-stone building that once served as Cebu’s provincial jail from 1870 to 2004. Previously known as Carcel de Cebu, the gaol not only held criminals but also imprisoned several Katipuneros without trial during the Spanish-era revolutions, as well as offenders and guerilla members during the American and Japanese occupation periods.
Today, the museum’s several galleries feature a vast collection of artifacts, letters, and memorabilia that illustrate the passage of Cebuano history throughout the centuries.