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Cebu City's downtown area is a heritage belt of old churches, houses, and other structures that date back to its colonial Spanish past spanning no less than 300 years. These places are of walking distance from each other and have given rise to guided visits that include stopovers in some or all of these sites.
Whether you hire a licensed guide or do the tour on your own, this is one walk you can’t afford to miss.
1. Start at Fort San Pedro (tap to check location), oldest in the country. It was constructed on May 8, 1565 or 11 days after Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu. Its restoration in 1972 called for the replacement of 20,000 pieces of coral stones in the main building.
A. Pigafetta St.
Call: 256-2284 (tap on phone number to call) or 416-7080
Open Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Entry fees: regular, P30; senior citizens, P24; students/children, P20
Parking fees: car, P15; coaster/bus, P30
2. Cross over to adjacent Plaza Independencia (check location), an important landmark of Hispanic Cebu. It underwent a renovation in 2011 to make it cleaner and safer for visitors. Don’t miss the obelisk built in the middle of the park as a tribute to first Philippine governor general Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
3. Walk towards Plaza Sugbo fronting City Hall (check location) by exiting the park from the M.J. Cuenco Avenue gate. Cross the road and take the street directly across the park, Osmeña Boulevard, and walk until you get to the second intersection, where you need to turn left on P. Burgos St. Continue walking until you come upon Plaza Sugbo, which should be on your right. The park is an open space between City Hall and the Magellan’s Cross kiosk.
4. Magellan’s Cross (check location), housed in an octagonal kiosk, is located across City Hall inside Plaza Sugbo. It is a crowd-drawer and tourists, both local and foreign, gravitate towards this structure. The kiosk’s ceiling is decorated with murals that depict Cebu’s conversion to Christianity.
5. A few steps away is the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino (check location), which is accessible from Magellan’s Cross through the Colegio del Santo Nino entrance. The basilica is Cebu’s oldest church, dating back to the time of Spanish conqueror Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Like most churches, the basilica opens early and closes late for mass. Inside the church is the Sto. Nino image that pre-dates it by 44 years. Hardly one foot high, this image is believed to be the baptismal gift of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon’s wife, Hara Amihan. The Sto. Niño de Cebu is enshrined in glass and adorned with gold. It reportedly owns a wardrobe of princely robes as well as a treasure trove of jewels.
6. A block away from the basilica is the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral (check location), ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu. Leave the basilica from its main gates along Osmeña Boulevard, which is to your right if you are facing the church’s facade. Across the basilica is a street with a Jollibee fastfood chain on one side. This leads directly to a side entrance of the cathedral.
Legazpi St. corner P. Burgos St.
7. The Cathedral Museum of Cebu (check location) is on an outside building but still near the church. If you’re facing the church, the museum is across a side street, F. Urdaneta, to your right. Church artifacts that include vestments and images of saints may be found inside. The museum building dates back to the 19th century and is also of historical importance. It was among a few structures in downtown Cebu City that was spared the ravages of war.
F. Urdaneta St. corner P. Burgos St.
Open Tuesdays to Sundays; 9 am-12 pm, 2 pm to 5 pm
Entry fees: P55-adult, P25-children, P100-foreigner
8. Plaza Hamabar (check location) is separated by the narrow P. Burgos St. from the museum entrance. A tattooed image of Hamabar, also known as Cebu’s Rajah Humabon, sits on a pedestal in the plaza.
P. Burgos St.
9. Colon, the oldest street in the country, is a few minutes walk from the plaza. Follow P. Burgos, the street between the museum and Hamabar. If you are facing the museum, you should walk to your right, straight past the V. Gullas intersection to Colon. You will find yourself at the beginning of the street on its north end where an obelisk detailing its significance can be found (check location). The Colon stretch is full of heritage markers that give importance to Cebu’s unique culture and unsung heroes.
10. Proceed to Parian, still by following P. Burgos onwards until it branches into two streets. On the space between the streets is built the towering Heritage of Cebu Monument (check location). Before you check out this structure, take note of the street branch to your right, Mabini, since it is from here that you’ll have access to Cebu’s Spanish-style houses.
11. Across Cebu’s heritage monument from the Mabini side is the entrance to Zulueta Street where the 18th century Jesuit House of 1730 (check location) is located. The house is only a short distance from Zulueta’s entry point in Mabini Street and should be on your right if you’re facing inward. Watch out for the streamer identifying the house posted on the stone fence. It’s easy to miss the structure because it is inside a high stone enclosure.
Closes at 4 p.m.
12. Walk back from Zulueta and turn right to Mabini and you’ll come shortly upon the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home. It is located on the corner of Mabini and Lopez Jaena. Its current owner, a descendant of the family that first owned the house, believes it was built between 1675 and 1700.
Mabini St. corner Lopez Jaena
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
13. Follow Lopez Jaena to Casa Gorordo, a Spanish mansion complete with period furniture. It was built in the mid-19th century and owned by the Gorordos starting 1863.
Lopez Jaena St.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Entry fees: local, P40; foreign, P70; students, P15 (high school), P10 (elementary)
14. Farther away, if you’re still up to it, is the Spanish jailhouse that has been converted into a museum. Originally called Carcel de Cebu, it is now Museo Sugbo. To get there, simply walk up to the end of Lopez Jaena where it merges with M.J. Cuenco Avenue. Turn left and follow the avenue up to R. Mercado St. on your right.
M.J. Cuenco Avenue
Open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Entry fees: Philippine residents, P30 for adults, P10 for students and senior citizens; non-residents, P75 for adults and senior citizens, P50 for students
1. Spanish quarters
The Spanish settlement during Legazpi’s time was built near a bustling port that is now Pier 1. It grew into a thriving “pueblo” with all the requisite structures of a classic Spanish town: municipio, plaza, church, and market.
A tour of the Spanish quarters of old will include: Fort San Pedro, Plaza Sugbo, Magellan’s Cross, Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and its museum, as well as Plaza Hamabar.
North of the Spanish quarters is Parian, from the word “pari-pari” which means to barter or trade. 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.
The Parian tour should start at Colon Street, at its northern end, and proceed to the Heritage of Cebu monument. Beside this monument is the old Parian fire station and what remains of the wealthy Parian church that was demolished after a conflict with the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. It should include as well the Jesuit House of 1730, Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home, and Casa Gorordo.
A third option is to plot out a tour of a few places you want to check out. Pick out as few or as many structures that fit your time and energy.