This year’s theme, “Rise of the Queen” reflects the event’s focus on how Cebu, the “Queen City of the South,” developed and became the most prominent metropolis in southern Philippines. As Cebu positions itself to become a global and more ‘livable’ city, the story of the rise of Cebu would be retold in the Gabii sa Kabilin.
Long before the colonizing powers of the West arrived, Zubu (now Cebu) was already an important trading center. Countries such as Arabia, China, Siam (now Thailand), Borneo, the Moluccas (also known as Spice Islands) and of Southeast Asia came into the Island to trade with the natives’ merchandise and spices. The Chinese were particularly attracted not only to goods, but also to the honesty of the natives of Zubu, and it was the “ideal safe harbor” because of the protection in the east given by the Mactan Island. By the time Ferdinand Magellan and his accompanying conquistadores arrived, they saw an already bustling commercial port, and the natives were eating from porcelain and even the slaves wore plenty of gold and jewelry.
Forty four years after Magellan’s death in the bloody Battle of Mactan against the chieftain Lapulapu, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi set anchor on the shores of Cebu to continue the mission of Magellan. Shortly after landing, he ordered construction of Fort San Pedro to protect him and his men from the resistance of the natives and the sea raids, and of a church to house the image of the Sto. Niño that had been retrieved from fire when his men burned the village. But due to scarcity of food provisions in Cebu, Legazpi and his men moved from island to island until they settled in Manila which became the capital of the Philippines in 1570.
When the galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico was established in 1565, the first galleons departed from the Port of Cebu. But because the trade was centralized in Manila, Cebu sent its last galleon in 1571 and was demoted into a regional trading center, and trade relations between Cebu, China and other Southeast Asian traders declined. A Royal Decree of April 23, 1594 allowed Cebu to participate in the galleon trade, yet the trade was short-lived and ceased entirely upon the outbreak of the Mexican Revolutionary War, which led to Mexico’s independence.
During the 19th century, the influence of the Industrial Revolution in Europe resulted to the great demand of raw materials from the colonies. The country’s economy made a great leap as the local industries developed in order to meet the demands and satisfactions of the industrializing pace Europe was going through. The Port of Cebu was officially opened to world trade by Royal Decree on July 30, 1860; such trade was greatly improved with the opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869, cutting travelling time and distance between Europe and the Philippines by half.
Local goods, most especially materials such as spices, abaca, sugar, corn, copra, tobacco, lumber, pearls, and native textiles from silk, pina and cotton passed through the ports of Europe in big quantities every year. The opening of Cebu’s port thus ushered new economic opportunities for elite Filipinos and Chinese and helped local farmers and producers. At first, the Chinese and Spanish mestizos and descendants were the most dominant in the country’s import-export trade, but with the opening to world trade, Cebu attracted other foreign entrepreneurs. Among them were Smith, Bell & Co. and Loney, Kerr & Co. from Great Britain, and Russell & Sturgis from America. Counselor agents from U.S., U.K., Germany, Denmark and Venezuela came to Cebu in the late 19th century.
With the arrival of more foreign influences, Cebu’s urbanization increased at an incredible rate, especially with the introduction of the railway system. Infrastructure and other facilities like electricity, telephone and waterworks in the early decades of the American period would make the Queen City even more alive. Overtime, its central location in the Philippines has made Cebu a hub of economic, political, socio-cultural, and educational fields, outside of Manila