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(Cebu City Public Information Office)
What was once known as a fishing village way back before the Spanish expedition is now a progressive city of Southern Philippines. Cebu City, dubbed as the “Queen City of the South,” occupies an enviable place in the nation’s history, being itself abundantly rich in historical vestiges.


The signing of the Treaty of Paris in December 10, 1898 between Spain and the United States of America marked the end of the Spanish-American War and the formal acquisition of the Philippines by the United States of America. After the Philippine Commission and the Spooner Amendment was found, the first civil government under the Philippine Bill which was approved on July 1, 1902 by the Congress of the United States of America was established. Approval of this Bill created the first temporary basis in the administration of civil government by the Filipinos.

Upon the creation of the Philippine Assembly which was formally inaugurated on October 16, 1907, different branches of the National, Provincial and Municipal governments were also established. Among the municipal governments established was the Municipality of Cebu. Popular elections, patterned after that of the American system of the government, took the place of appointments in selecting the municipal president and council members.


The idea of empowering leaders thru the local government to efficiently serve the people is not new. This was the driving force that fueled Vicente Rama, who was a member of the National Assembly, to propose legislation. He had a vision to provide the new City of Cebu under the law more powers including independent sourcing of revenues in order not to rely on the internal revenue allotment of the national government.

The law creating the City of Cebu was to provide it an efficient system of government, not just achieving fiscal autonomy and decentralization of power to the local government units.


On October 20, 1934, Commonwealth Act No. 58 creating the City of Cebu was approved.  Authored by the late Senator Vicente Rama (who also served as Cebu’s second City Mayor), Commonwealth Act No. 58 provided for the granting of the Charter of the City of Cebu.

On February 24, 1937, the City of Cebu was inaugurated in front of the pre-war City Hall. The then Secretary of the Interior, Hon. Elpidio Quirino, represented President Manuel L. Quezon in the inaugural ceremonies and administered the oath of office to the newly-appointed City Mayor and the newly-appointed Members of the Municipal Board. A former Provincial Treasurer of Cebu, Hon. Alfredo V. Jacinto was sworn into office as the first City Mayor of Cebu.  Along with him, City Councilors were also sworn into office by Secretary Quirino.

Republic Act No. 244, which was approved on June 12, 1948, provided for the position of Vice Mayor of the City of Cebu, the Vice Mayor to be appointed by the President of the Philippines with the consent of the Commission on Appointments. First to be appointed Vice Mayor by virtue of the provisions of R.A. No. 244 was Hon. Arsenio Villanueva who took his oath of office on July 16, 1948.

One of the most significant amendments to the Charter of the City of Cebu (C.A. No. 58) came with the approval of Republic Act No. 1243 on June 7, 1955. This particular amendment provided for the election at large, by the qualified voters of the City in conformity with the provisions of the Revised Election Code, of the City Mayor and the Vice Mayor. The first election for City Mayor and Vice Mayor was held during the general election for provincial and municipal officials on November 8, 1955. Chosen as Cebu City’s first elected City Mayor was Hon. Sergio Osmeña, Jr. with Hon. Ramon Duterte as the first duly-elected Vice Mayor.

Another very significant amendment to the City Charter is the provided for in Republic Act No. 3857, otherwise known as the “Revised Charter of the City of Cebu.” R.A. No. 3857 was approved on June 10, 1964.


Two years after its conversion into cityhood by Commonwealth Act no. 58, World War II broke out and the City of Cebu was not spared.

When war broke out in 1939, the mayor of the City of Cebu then was no less than the author of the Cebu City Charter, the Father of the City of Cebu, Vicente Rama, who as a lawyer, editor and publisher, envisioned the city as it is today.

After the war, Cebu City continues its ever-changing transformation until the Japanese Imperial Forces occupied the city.

The approval of R.A. 1243 paved the way for one of the significant amendments to the charter of the City of Cebu (C.A. No. 58) which was approved on June 7, 1955.

This particular amendment provided for an election at large by the qualified voters of the city in conformity with the provisions of the Revised Election Code for the City Mayor and the Vice-Mayor.

The first-ever election for the city’s top positions was held together with the general election for provincial and municipal officials on November 8, 1955.

Chosen as the first elected Mayor for the City of Cebu was Hon. Sergio Osmeña, Jr. with Hon. Ramon Duterte as his vice-mayor.

One of the major changes in the city was the transfer of the Lahug Airport to the Mactan Island due to the increasing number of flights which can be attributed to the city’s growing attraction to the local and foreign tourists and investors.

All through these years with the different mayors that have come and gone, Cebu City has continued to rise up from the devastating effects that World War II brought with it.

It was clear after the war that the construction in the major cities in the Philippines was indispensable. In the 1950s, the City Planning and Development Board was created, and the Office of the Zoning Administrator in Cebu City was revived.

There were several milestone projects undertaken during the post-war time. One of these remarkable infrastructure projects was the Port Development and North Reclamation which involved 160 hectares of reclaimed area and an expansion of the port facility. The project was financed by the City and was completed in 1969.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the means of transportation has also improved. Adding to the thriving tartanilla business in the growing busy streets of Cebu was the introduction of jeepneys which started functioning as the major public transportation within the city. The Mactan Cebu International Airport also commenced operations in 1966.

Buses have made an impact as the preferred mode of transportation for provincial travels.  These were monopolized by the Cebu Auto Bus and Visayas Land Transportation sometime in the 50s. The motorized bicycle was also introduced in 1953 but was later replaced by the tricycle introduced by the Japanese before 1960.

Because of the growing economic development, urbanization problems began to increase such as traffic congestion, lack of urban services, and illegal settlers among others.

Slowly, the significance of urban planning for the City of Cebu dawned on the local leaders. And in 1976, a framework for urban planning was prepared by the city government to give the inhabitants of Cebu City a healthier, safer and more orderly environment.

Further, the development of large-scale infrastructure in the 1960s – 1970s established the foundation of Metro Cebu.

It was in the 1980s that the country’s biggest festival was conceptualized and realized – the Sinulog Festival.

Celebrated every 3rd Sunday of January, Sinulog is Cebu’s biggest and most popular festival. The feast is in honor of the Holy Image of Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu. Fiesta Senyor, as it is widely known, is the most celebrated among Cebu’s festivals where people converge along the routes of a grand solemn procession and partake in the gaiety amidst a mardi gras parade immersed in colors and the constant beating of drums.

In the 1990s, Cebu’s economic growth began to catch the attention of not only the other parts of the Philippines but also of the rest of the world. This was the CebuBoom.

An influx of investors suddenly hit the city, with the prices of properties suddenly increasing. Idle lands in the city that were left unused for several years were now prime assets. Infrastructures in Metro Cebu skyrocketed and employment opportunities became abundant.

Over the years, the City of Cebu has been considered one of the prime destinations in the country and as the economy progresses, so has the development of the metropolis.

The call center industry has also flourished in Cebu in the early 2000. Next to Manila, Cebu is considered one of the most important Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) hubs with more of less 50 BPO and Call Center companies operating in Metro Cebu. The ability of most Cebuanos to understand and communicate in fluent English is a critical advantage.

Five minutes away from the city’s business districts is a 300 hectare prime property – the South Road Properties (SRP).

The project which was funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation will be the new home of the multi-million residential and commercial quarter “Citta de Mare”. It will house marinas, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, amphitheaters, and other architectural features.

Other big companies investing in SRP are the BigFoot Properties, a film-making production house, and the SM Prime Holdings which will soon open the SM Seaside City Cebu – touted to be one of the largest shopping malls under SM Prime Holdings’ belt.

Fueled by the unique Cebuano brand of fire, passion and industry, it’s clear that Cebu City will continue making a name in terms of economy, development and culture.

  • Cebu: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Pablo S. Tinga
  • The Golden Book of Cebu
  • Cebu Economic Fact Book 2009 by the Cebu Investment Promotions Center
  • Cebu City Public Library
  • Journal of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol. 5, October 2003