On my first adult visit to Cebu, where my parents and family originated from, I made it a point to visit many of the Spanish heritage sites. I think that I was trying to understand my Spanish DNA (as per Ancestry .com) as much as possible, even if it were only through buildings and monuments. It may seem naive to seek such family wisdom through a few Spanish buildings, but I had to keep in mind that all of our family records were destroyed by the Japanese during WWII. I was pretty much starting with an empty slate.
It may have been naive on my part to understand my Spanish family history through a few buildings in Cebu City. I am still in the same place where I started, but I am armed with an Ancestry DNA map with marked areas of Basque country (Spain- France), Southern China and Ireland (that was a surprise). As of now, I decided to layoff of all my ancestry searching only because I do not see myself as any ethnicity or nationality, due to my extensive travels. I had to come to Cebu, look at a few buildings and feel nothing in order for me to realize that I am more than being told I am a Fil-Am. I could keep going with that, but that is for another blog!
All was not a loss because knowing the Spaniards had come into the Philippines peaked my interest on the history of the region. Those interests included the expedition of Magellan as well as the point in shift of religious and cultural change in the area. The first time I heard of Magellan was back in school and I was fascinated. I was intrigued not because he brought the Spanish culture into the Philippines, but he was credited as the first person to circumnavigate the world. As a young person who was interested in traveling, this sparked my imagination as well as a flame of exploration.
If you plan on visiting Cebu, even if you are not looking for your family history, you will find this province quite fascinating and colorful. Over the past five centuries the make up of Cebuano’s culture has changed. Today it is known as a mixed bag of cultures- indigenous Filipino traditions, modernity, American influences and the old Spanish culture.
The most visited Spanish Heritage sites, which I have personally visited, are listed along with a brief review- Magellan’s Cross Pavilion, Fort San Pedro, The Cebu Heritage Monument and Basilica del Santa Nino.
Magellan’s Cross Pavilion
On Ferdinand Magellan’s Spanish expedition of circumnavigating the world, he arrived in Cebu on April 21, 1521. It is believed that these early Spanish explorers planted a Christian cross upon arrival and that cross is housed inside this Pavilion.
The original Magellan’s cross had been protected inside another wooden cross in 1835. It was encased due to people chipping away pieces of the original cross, since it was believed to have miraculous powers. Growing up Catholic, I could definitely see that happening. It would be the same idea of statues having their feet worn down from years of people rubbing them for a blessing.
The Magellan’s Cross Pavilion was built during the 1800s, is octagonal in shape and made of coral stone. On the ceiling of the pavilion is a magnificent mural depecting the baptism of Rajah Humabon and the planting of the wooden cross by Ferdinand Magellan- Artists: Jess Roa and Sherry M. Josol.
The Magellan’s Cross Pavilion along with the Basilica del Santa Nino are both declared ‘National Cultural Treasures‘ of the Philippines.
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro in Cebu was built as a military defense by the Spaniards while under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who was the first governor of Captaincy General of the Philippines. The stone fort that we visited was not the original wood fort that was constructed after Legaspi arrived. The stone fort that now stands was built during the 1700s to protect against the Muslim raiders.
The stone fort that stands today was constructed in 1738 and is the oldest triangular bastion fort in the Philippines. This fort served as the seed of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. By the end of the 19th century, Fort San Pedro was taken by the Filipino Revolutionaries during the Philippine Revolution, who used it as a stronghold.
Since there was a strong Spanish Catholic religion influence in Cebu, religious statues and paintings were prominent. When the fort was being used as a military defense, many icons and paintings were placed though out for protection. Images of the Virgin Mary and saints were placed in the corners of the fort as well. I am not a religious person, but I cannot help but believe that these deities did protect- Fort San Pedro still stands today.
We had visited the fort while on a private tour with a personal driver. It was very convenient for us but if you want to do it on your own, there are public transportation options- jeepneys, taxis or busses.
Entrance Fee: 30Php
Operating Hours: 8AM to 7PM
Heritage of Cebu Monument
The Heritage of Cebu Monument, also known as the Parian Monument, is a tableau of sculptures portraying scenes of Cebu’s involvement in Filipino history. Historic scenes that include the Battle of Mactan with Lapu-Lapu and Magellan, the inauguration of Sergio Osmena as the President of the Philippines, a procession of Santa Nino and several other significant scenarios.
This distinctive monument was created by Eduardo Castrillo, a Filipino sculptor, as well as architects Heradio Espanol and Ildefonso Santos. It is located within the historic Parian District, which was home to the residences of the most prominent families of Cebu during the Spanish Period. The monument is a magnificent artwork which consists of a mixture of bronze, brass, concrete and steel sculptures.
Basilica del Santa Nino
The Santa Nino Basilica in Cebu dates back to 1565 and was founded by Fr. Andres de Urdaneta and Fr. Diego de Herrera. This is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the Philippines. It was believed to be constructed on the location where an image of the Santo Nino de Cebu was found during an expedition lead by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
The current basilica was completed in 1739, after the friars decided to rebuild it using stone. The construction had its challenges such as Fr. Albarran needing to acquire knowledge of architecture due to the lack of craftsmen. Also, the friars needed to enlist help of parishioners to help with money contributions towards building costs, as well as bringing in the people of Talisay to contribute labor.
Since Roman Catholicism is the primary religion of the Philippines, the cathedral and its grounds are filled with devotees. When I had visited on a regular weekday, I was intrigued by the amount of people who filed in line for a small prayer with Santa Nino or to light a prayer candle with their children. I have been to many cathedrals and basilicas through out the world, but they were mostly filled with tourists. This was a nice experience to see locals who actively worshiped within the basilica.
For visiting and mass information, please visit their official site – Basilica del Santo Nino
The world is a book and those who do not travel, only read one page…– Agustine of Hippo
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