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A Glimpse of Its Past

The name Cebu came from the word “SEBU” meaning animal fat. Long before the coming of the Spaniards, it was a fishing village ruled by Rajah Humabon.

cebu city magellans cross

Cebu metamorphosed in more ways than one, but always for the better. From a sleepy fishing village to a fledging trading port in 1521, from the first Spanish settlement named Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus in 1575 to a municipality in 1901, Cebu finally became a chartered city on February 24, 1937. Being the first and oldest city in the country antedating Manila by 7 years, having the oldest school and oldest street and being the cradle of Christianity in the Far East (i.e. Magellan’s cross planted in Cebu as a symbol of natives embracing the Christian faith), Cebu is replete with historical firsts.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi then urged men to construct the oldest and smallest fort in the country: Fort San Pedro. As Spain intensified its colonization efforts, indignant islanders showed opposition by way of intermittent attacks against the colonizers. The rebellion paved the way to the construction of Fort San Pedro, a Spanish military stronghold.

However, the fort fell to the hands of the native Cebuanos when Americans commanded by Commodore George Dewey vanguished the Spanish fleet in December 1898 in the Battle of Manila Bay. With the American reign in full force in 1901, then Senate Pro Tempore and late President Sergio Osmeña, Sr., and then Congressman and Majority Floor Leader in the House of Representatives, the late Senator Manuel Briones vigorously lobbied for Philippine Independence.

The streets of Tres de Abril and V. Rama were the sites of a fierce battle on April 3, 1898 when General Leon Kilat of Bacong, Negros Oriental spearheaded the revolution against Spanish colonialism. The Spaniards sought refuge at the Fort San Pedro and three days of relentless attacks would have spelled victory for the rebels were it not for the propitious arrival of the Spanish armada.

February 24, 1937 was a milestone in Cebuano history as Cebu City was granted the charter by virtue of Commonwealth Act No. 58 enacted by Congress on October 20, 1936. The late Senator Vicente Rama, formerly representative of Cebu’s 3rd district was instrumental as author and sponsor of the bill. It was at that time that Secretary of Interior and Local Government Elpidio Quirino appointed the mayor and board members of Cebu City in his capacity as representative of Manuel Quezon.

Shortly after the landing of the Japanese army in Cebu City on April 10, 1942, the entire province became the principal Japanese base due to its strategic location and substantial population. Cebu finally saw the light of freedom in March 1945 when American liberation forces landed in Talisay town. Liberation came in full circle in March 1946 and to restore law and order, a civil government dubbed as Philippine Civil Affairs Unit (PCAU) was established in the city.

In April 1965, the entire Christian world focused its attention on Cebu City, considered as the cradle of Christianity in the Far East as it played host to the 400th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. The celebration highlighted the contributions of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Fray Andres de Urdaneta in proselytizing Christianity by way of establishing a Spanish settlement in the province. In a country where Catholics predominate, the conferment of the San Agustin Church to the title Basilica Minore del Santo Niño proved to be a momentous occasion as Rome sent its representative Papal Legate, His Eminence Ildefonso Cardinal Antonuitte.

(Text from the Cebu City, Philippines Profile published by the City Planning and Development Office © 2007. Photo credits: Public Information Office © 2010.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 January 2011 13:30  

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