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Cebu

Plaza Hamabar

Hamabar was one of the names of Rajah Humabon, the leader of Cebu, a flourishing trading post and settlement since the 10th century. He was also known as Humabad.

Humabon was regarded as the “wisest and bravest man on the island” of Sugbu (Cebu), the “king and lord over eight chieftains and over 2,000 lancers,” according to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

“He was chieftain of the confederation of barangays and known as their supreme ruler. Cebu was then an entrepot, with a flourishing trade with Siam (Thailand), China, Borneo, etc. This was evident in the ornaments that adorned the bodies and clothes of its people, as well as in the fine china used in its royal houses and court.” the NHCP said.

Humabon was the chieftain of Cebu when the Armada de Molucca headed by explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu in 1521.

The chronicler of that expedition, Antonio Pigafetta, described him as a short and fat man who had his face painted with fire in diverse patterns.

PINTADOS. This image shows Visayan Pintados – so called because of the tattoos that cover their bodies. The image is part of the Boxer Codex a manuscript written in the late 1500s that contained illustrations of ethnic groups in the country. Humabon, like many Visayans, was also covered in tattoos.
PINTADOS. This image shows Visayan Pintados – so called because of the tattoos that cover their bodies. The image is part of the Boxer Codex a manuscript written in the late 1500s that contained illustrations of ethnic groups in the country. Humabon, like many Visayans, was also covered in tattoos.

“We found the king of Zzubu at his palace, seated on the ground on a mat of palms, with many people. He was naked except for a linen cloth covering his private parts, and round his head a very loose cloth, embroidered with silk. Round his neck he had a very heavy and rich chain, and in his ears two gold rings hung with precious stones,” read a translation of Pigafetta’s writings.

Humabon was named Carlos after the Spanish king when he was baptized together with his subjects into the Catholic faith by Magellan. His young and beautiful wife, given the name Juana like the king’s mother, was gifted with the image of the Sto. Niño in gratitude for their hospitality.

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

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Cebu

1730 Jesuit House Museum

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.

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Cebu

San Juan Bautista Parish Church

Dionisio Alo 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: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go.

Alo, who was capitan of the Parian gremio, was so angry at the destruction that he unknowingly crushed the golden handle of his baston.

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 submitted to the University of San Carlos as her masteral thesis in history, “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 San Juan Bautista Parish Church in the Parian district is described as having been the most magnificent church in Cebu. (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER OF USC)
The San Juan Bautista Parish Church in the Parian district is described as having been the most magnificent church in Cebu. (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER OF USC)

What remains on the site today, the San Juan Bautista chapel, is but a faint reminder of an opulent past.

“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 thesis.

“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,” the thesis 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.”

The San Juan Bautista Parish Church in a diorama of the old Pari-an district located inside one of the galleries of the Museo Pari-an sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House, which is located just a few meters away from here.
The San Juan Bautista Parish Church in a diorama of the old Pari-an district located inside one of the galleries of the Museo Pari-an sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House, which is located just a few meters away from here.

“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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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Cebu

Heritage of Cebu Monument

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

Conceptualized by the late National Artist 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.

PLAZA PARIAN. This photo taken at about 1910 shows the old Plaza Parian, looking down to corner Colon Street. There were only a few automobiles in Cebu at this time and most went around in tartanillas or horse-drawn carriages. (This photo is part of the Galileo Medalle collection of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of the San Carlos and is used in this project with the center’s permission.)

Construction of the structure began in July 1997; its inauguration was on December 8, 2000.

Funding for the monument’s construction came from the late Cebuano senator Marcelo Fernan as well as private individuals and groups.

Historical structures carved into the huge monolith are the 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 the late president Sergio Osmena Sr. and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

The structure is in Parian, which got its name from the word “pari-pari” meaning to barter or trade, according to scholar and historian Resil Mojares. It was where the wealthy Chinese merchants of old lived and held lavish events. A few homes constructed during the 17th to 19th century remain standing today.

Cebu’s history as told by the monument

Sergio Osmeña Sr.

Former Philippine president Sergio Osmeña Sr. is shown seated. Osmeña is also a former governor of Cebu, speaker of the House, and senator. He is the patriarch of the prominent Osmeña political clan that includes his son, former senator Sergio Osmeña Jr., and grandsons former senators Sergio Osmeña III and John Henry Osmeña, former governor Lito Osmeña, and former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña.

San Pedro Calungsod and Sinulog dancers

To the left is an image of San Pedro Calungsod, who was martyred in Guam in 1672 while doing missionary work. Calungsod was identified as from the Visayas. He is said to be from Ginatilan, Cebu. At right are Sinulog dancers on top of Fort San Pedro. Sinulog is both a dance that venerates the Sto. Niño and a festival held in his honor every 3rd Sunday of January.

Cebu churches

From left, if you’re facing the monument, are the replicas of the 3 significant churches in Cebu: San Juan Bautista Parish Church, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño. The San Juan Bautista church used to stand near this monument but it was destroyed in the 19th century. The story of its destruction can be read in the marker that is found near the chapel across the monument. Below the churches are dancers performing the Sinulog atop a replica of Fort San Pedro.

First mass

This scene commemorates the holding of the first mass in the Philippines. From the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, it was generally accepted that the first mass happened in Butuan. Scholars and historians, after studying Pigafetta’s accounts and other pieces of historical evidence, said that the mass recorded by the Italian chronicler happened in the island of Limasawa in Southern Leyte. Two panels organized by the National Historical Institute said that the mass on Easter Sunday on March 31, 1521 happened in Limasawa. Butuan, however, recently pushed forward another claim and the National Quincentennial Commission convened a panel led by National Artist and historian Resil Mojares to restudy the issue.

Battle of Mactan

Ferdinand Magellan died on the shores of nearby Mactan Island in the hands of native warriors led by chieftain Lapulapu. Magellan attacked the Mactan settlement after Lapulapu refused the order to provide food and other supplies and convert to Christianity.

That battle on April 27, 1521, is celebrated yearly as the Kadaugan sa Mactan or Victory in Mactan. In 2021, the country will commemorate its 500th year with a nationwide celebration.

Ferdinand Magellan

The Portuguese explorer led the Armada de Molucca for Spain, meant to find a western route to the Moluccas or the spice islands. The existing eastern route was already controlled by Portugal.

Magellan led a fleet of five vessels. Of the five, only one eventually made it back to Spain. Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi

The Spanish navigator was known as El Adelantado. He was the first Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies that included the Philippines, Guam, and the Marianas Islands.

Legazpi arrived in Cebu on April 27, 1565. Locals led by Rajah Tupas fought the Spaniards but were subdued. A Spanish soldier later found inside one of the houses the image of the Sto. Niño given as a gift to Queen Juana when Magellan was in Cebu. The discovery led the Spaniards to name the settlement “Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus.”

Leon Kilat and Cebuano revolutionaries

This scene shows Katipuneros in Cebu with their leader, Pantaleon Villegas, more popularly known as Leon Kilat. He led the rebellion against Spaniards that broke out on April 3, 1898, a Palm Sunday. He was, however, betrayed and killed in Carcar on April 8, a Good Friday.

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Cebu

Campanario de Antigua

A painstaking restoration of the original watchtower, the Campanario de Antigua in Samboan formed part of a series of fortifications in southern Cebu aimed at providing coastal settlements early warning of pirate raids during the Spanish colonial era.

The watchtower in Samboan is located over 200 feet above sea level.

When it was constructed in 1878 under the supervision of then parish priest Toribio Gerzon, coral stone slabs were used for its foundation and walls and terracotta tiles for the roof.

It was built on a plateau that was the nucleus of the Spanish settlement in Samboan beginning in the 17th century.

Now the location of the town center, the flat hilltop also hosts the Municipal Hall and other local government buildings, St. Michael Archangel Church and belltower, Samboan Museum, and a small picturesque plaza.

A series of stone steps hand-carved on the side of the hill connects the coastal area with the plateau.

Called the Escala de Jacob or Jacob’s Ladder, the staircase ends at the foot of the watchtower. Before the coastal road that snakes around the island of Cebu was built, the steps reached as far down as the shore.

Samboan’s Campanario de Antigua faces the Tañon Strait. A 1970 photo of the watchtower owned by the Filipinas Heritage Library showed the structure to be in ruins, without a roof and with only one side of the square base and the two pillars remaining.

The three-storey Samboan watchtower has been restored to its former glory, with stone walls, sturdier flooring and steps leading to the two higher levels, and wooden railings.

Visitors may go up to the watchtower’s third level for a breathtaking vista of the town center, sea, and neighboring islands.

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Cebu

Escala de Jacob

This flight of steps in Samboan that goes all the way down to the coastal highway is called Jacob’s Ladder or Escala de Jacob.

It was named after Jacob, the biblical ancestor of the 12 tribes of Israel who in his dream saw a ladder extending all the way from earth to heaven, explained the Filipinas Heritage Library.

Before the coastal highway that snakes around the island of Cebu was constructed, the steps that ascend up to the town center, which is located on a plateau over 200 feet high, began on the seashore. A portion of the stairway was demolished to make way for the coastal road.

Built in 1878 upon the instruction of then parish priest Fr. Toribio Gerzon, the hand-carved staircase of flat stones and lime was intended to make it easier for parishioners in the low-lying areas to attend mass.

Like any Spanish settlement in the Philippines, the central complex was where all the important buildings were located. In the case of the Philippine pueblos, the blueprint was for the settlement center to host the church, rectory, municipal hall, and plaza.

In the case of Samboan, the St. Michael Archangel Parish Church was built atop the plateau and best accessed from the lowlands through the Escala de Jacob.

The staircase, now made up of 147 steps, immediately ends at the town’s three-storey Campanario de Antigua (Ancient Watchtower).

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Cebu

Museo de Samboan

For its cultural treasures and heritage memorabilia, Samboan finds a fitting repository in what used to be the town’s old municipal hall.

The Museo de Samboan was inaugurated during the town’s fiesta celebration in 2010. It displays stoneware and pottery, wooden implements and tools, celadons, and religious artifacts.

Some of the relics exhibited – such as Chinese pottery – date back to even before the Spanish colonial period.

Paintings of local artists like Benji Goyha, John Dinglasa, Mimitz Carredo, Lito Nellas, and Roel Fisalbon are also displayed in several galleries.

Another feature of the museum are wooden handicrafts fashioned in the workshop of French exporter Fabrice Desvaux. These were created by native craftsmen.

Prior to its conversion as the town’s two-storey museum, the building was used for a time as the municipal jail and a storage facility by an electric cooperative.

The town ceased using it as a Municipal Hall when the new one beside it was completed.

Prior to its conversion as a two-storey museum, the building had to be stripped of its cement finishing to reveal the original coral stone block walls underneath.

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Cebu

San Guillermo Parish Museum

Throughout the centuries, the San Guillermo Parish Church has accumulated treasures that serve as proof and reminder of the devout faith of Dalaguetnons and their high reverence for religious symbols and images.

These are now housed at a space in the old rectory that has been converted into the San Guillermo Parish museum.

Many of the religious artifacts and relics date back to the 1800s and include a chandelier, carousel, and ciborium in silver; long carved benches made from the hardwood of the Magkono tree and vestment cabinets that are over three centuries old; confession box from the same period; and wooden ceremonial chairs.

The museum was put up during the stint of Msgr. Phil James Tumulak, just a year before Dalaguete celebrated in 2011 the 300th anniversary of the founding of the parish.

An old canvas painting of the Last Supper, Ecce Homo image, a missal with lock from the early 1900s, musical instruments, and earthenware jars are other museum treasures.

A cabinet keeps the old records of the parish containing details of baptism, confirmation, marriages, and deaths from as far back as the early 1800s.

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Cebu

San Guillermo Parish Museum

Throughout the centuries, the San Guillermo Parish Church has accumulated treasures that serve as proof and reminder of the devout faith of Dalaguetnons and their high reverence for religious symbols and images.

These are now housed at a space in the old rectory that has been converted into the San Guillermo Parish museum.

Many of the religious artifacts and relics date back to the 1800s and include a chandelier, carousel, and ciborium in silver; long carved benches made from the hardwood of the Magkono tree and vestment cabinets that are over three centuries old; confession box from the same period; and wooden ceremonial chairs.

The museum was put up during the stint of Msgr. Phil James Tumulak, just a year before Dalaguete celebrated in 2011 the 300th anniversary of the founding of the parish.

An old canvas painting of the Last Supper, Ecce Homo image, a missal with lock from the early 1900s, musical instruments, and earthenware jars are other museum treasures.

A cabinet keeps the old records of the parish containing details of baptism, confirmation, marriages, and deaths from as far back as the early 1800s.

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Cebu

Museo dela Parroquia de San Miguel

Established upon the behest of the late Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal in 1999, the Argao Parish Museum houses the town’s religious treasures.

Msgr. Jose S. Montecillo, the parish priest at the time, had just transferred to Argao so he tasked his classmate Msgr. Elias Matarlo with the job. Matarlo is a native of Argao and the 44th priest produced by the town.

Matarlo then went about setting up the Museo dela Parroquia de San Miguel, which is a member of the Visayan Association of Museums and Galleries, Inc. (VAMGI).

An undated archival photo of the Argao convent, which houses the museum. (Photo from the University of San Carlos Cebuano Studies Center.)
An undated archival photo of the Argao convent, which houses the museum. (Photo from the University of San Carlos Cebuano Studies Center.)

Museum treasures

A centerpiece display in the museum is the larger than life sculpture of the archangel Michael, wings spread and sword raised, standing over the fallen Lucifer. The image used to adorn Argao’s San Miguel de Arcangel Parish Church and was paraded around in a carroza during religious activities but had to be kept in a safe place when it sustained damages, according to museum staff Myrgrid Mamites.

Other relics and artifacts include: ecclesiastical vestments of long ago

The museum is open from:
Friday to Sunday or Thursday to Saturday (in case of Sunday parish meetings)
9:00 am-12:00 pm
1:00 pm-4:00 pm

It may be opened any other day by prior arrangement.