Like Rome, Cebu wasn’t built in a day. While it would be established in the span of a year, it would take several centuries to evolve to its present form.
Its name itself would bear witness to its evolution. At a time when its locals wore tattoos extensively, they called the place Zubu. When Miguel López de Legazpi established a Spanish settlement here, it was called “El Ciudad de Santissimo Nombre de Jesús.”
The Spanish, however, were not the first foreigners the natives came in contact with. Prior to the Iberians, Zubu’s locals already engaged in trade with Chinese merchants; for a long time, its port would serve as a venue for commerce with these sailing neighbors.
When Magellan came in 1521 on account of some maritime miscalculation, a thick European layer would be added to native culture. In the short period between his welcome arrival and his untimely death, Magellan would be able to introduce the Catholic faith to the natives, having them baptized by the friars who went with him in his expedition.
The founding of Cebu would continue in earnest during Legazpi’s expedition. Here the first governor-general of the Philippines would establish the first Spanish settlement in the country (1565), build its oldest fortress (Fort San Pedro, 1565-1738), and build its first street (Calle Colon, 1565). Here, too, Legazpi would build the island’s first church (now the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño) in honor of the image of Christ Child given to Queen Juana as a baptismal gift; it would be miraculously found in a hut after a conflagration that would consume 400 houses.
In the field of education, Jesuit Fathers Antonio Sedeno, Pedro Chirino, and Antonio Pereira would blaze trails, founding Colegio de San Ildefonso in 1595, the oldest school in Asia, and now the University of San Carlos.
After three centuries, the Spanish would leave and the Americans would come. Their influences would include architecture, most notably, the Provincial Capitol Building (built in 1937 and patterned after a most elegant American edifice, The White House) and Fuente Osmena (its iconic fountain was built in 1912 by American engineer E.J. Halsema).
The rich cultural heritage and history of Cebu is set in stone at the Heritage of Cebu Monument. A sculpted tableau in large scale, it features the significant and symbolic events in local history, from the time of Rajah Humabon to the fairly recent beatification of Cebuano martyr Pedro Calungsod. Conceptualized in 1996 by then Mayor Alvin Garcia and artist Edgardo Castrillo, the commissioned work started the following year. Castrillo rested the chisel on December 8, 2000 for its inauguration. The millennial monument is located at the original Plaza Parian.
Like the Eternal City, the Queen City of the South is two worlds in one city– the new that meets the eye, and the old that the eye must meet.