Cebu City also known as ‘Dakbayan sa Sugbo’ in Cebuano, is located in the central part of the Philippines. Being the capital of Cebu province, and of Region 7, i.e., the Central Visayas Region, it is considered to be one of the giant economic powerhouses of the Philippines, next to the Imperial Manila, with industries sprawling from BPOs, tourism, banking and finance, service, hospitality, shipping, and manufacturing enterprises. Thus, it is not a surprise when it is referred to as the ‘Queen City of the South’.
It is said that Cebu got its name from the Cebuano phrase ‘Sinibuayng hingpit’ which literally means ‘place for trade’, which was later on abridged to ‘Sibu’ or ‘Sibo’ meaning ‘trade’. Other variation of its etymology is ‘Sebu’ which suggests ‘animal fat’. Still others, as history would point out, ‘Sugbo’ the local name of Cebu was coined after its founder Sri Lumay’s (a prince of the Hindu Chola dynasty of Sumatran origin) winning stratagems in the extermination of the Moro pirates, as immortalized in his gallant ‘scorched earth’ war tactics called ‘Kang Sri Lumaying Sugbo’, which means, ‘that of Sri Lumay’s great fire’, hence, ‘Sugbo’ means ‘great fire’.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Cebu was known to be a fishing village which gradually transformed in to a trading community. It has an organized social structure, headed by a rajah. A long time ago, Cebu City was a component of the island ‘Pulua Kang Dayang’ or ‘Kangdaya’ which formed part the Rajahnate of Cebu, an ancient Philippine state and was ruled by Sri Lumay (or alternatively called ‘Rajamuda Lumaya’), a half-Tamil, half-Malay native ruler.
Cebu’s modern history can be traced back to Spain’s first attempt to conquer lands in the Far East by virtue of its territorial expansion under the guise of finding spices at Moluccas Island, and that expedition was spearheaded by Ferdinand Magellan.
The Spaniards’ presence was first felt on April 7, 1521 upon the arrival of Magellan in Cebu. He befriended the incumbent ruler at that time, Rajah Humabon, the grandson of Sri Lumay, and converted him and his wife, Hara Amihan to Christianity including some less than 1000 natives. As a gift, he bestowed to the king and the queen the image of Sto. Nino, which is at present housed at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. To further mark the Christianization of the island, Magellan then planted (or as some source claimed, ordered his men to plant) the so-called Magellan’s cross, and that consequently transpired to mark Spain’s first colonization attempt of the Philippines. Shortly after though, on April 27, 1521, Magellan was killed in the famous Battle of Mactan, in the hands of Lapu-Lapu, a native ruler of the adjacent island, Mactan. It was said that after Magellan’s death, Rajah Humabon poisoned Magellan’s remaining men on account of threat of foreign occupation. Rajah Tupas, Sri Humabon’s nephew was the last ruler of Sugbo.
A few years after Spain’s first futile attempt to colonize Cebu came Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. De Legazpi brought with him the Augustinian friars that marked the first diaconate presence not only in Cebu, but all over the Philippines. By virtue of the Treaty of Cebu concluded between Rajah Tupas and de Legazpi, the formal mandate of the possession of Cebu City on behalf of the King of Spain took place. As a result, Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in 1565 and called the city ‘Villa de San Miguel de Cebu’, and later called Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus, thus making Cebu the oldest city, anteceding Manila for 7 years.
The growing territory was then fortified by building the military fortress ‘Fuerte de San Pedro’ (Fort San Pedro) located in the area currently called Plaza de Independencia. The fortification, despite being the smallest in size in structure, is said to be the nucleus of the Spanish settlement.
With the advent of trade exchange, the Spanish colonization became extensive. Seven years after it conquered Cebu, de Legazpi’s troops moved toward Manila.
Spain’s appetite for power was insatiable. Its further usurpation of the Philippine islands resulted to their treacherous and malicious machination of countering Filipinos against each other. Because of their greed for power, corruption was rampant, hence, coercing the Filipinos to widespread nationwide uprisings. In Cebu, General Leon Kilat led the insurrection against the Spanish conquistadors on April 3, 1898 where he staged his revolutionary war on the present-day streets of V. Rama and Leon Kilat. The three-day revolt ended, unfortunately, with the treacherous murder of Gen. Leon Kilat and the arrival of the back-up native fighters from Iloilo. Some memorabilia of the aforementioned uprising are exhibited at the Fort San Pedro Museum as well as at Museo Sugbo.
By virtue of the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded the entire Philippine archipelago to the United States until the establishment of the Commonwealth government, which would prepare the Philippines to its full independent status. One of the highlights of this era was the ratification of the bill Commonwealth Act 58, granting Cebu City its ‘independent Chartered City’ status. The bill was authored by Sen. Vicente Rama, who then later on was considered as the ‘Father of Cebu City’. On February 24, 1937, the City was inaugurated. Sworn as the first mayor was Hon. Alfredo V. Jacinto who was appointed by Pres. Manuel Quezon. By virtue of Republic Act No. 244, the first appointed Vice Mayor was Hon. Arsenio Villanueva who took his office on July 16, 1948. The first elected Mayor though was Hon. Sergio Osmeña Jr., and Hon. Ramon Duterte as the Vice-Mayor.
Being the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu boasts of the many historical firsts and in the country which include Colon Street as the oldest street, University of San Carlos (formerly known as ‘Colegio de San Ildefonso’) as the oldest school not only in the country, but also in Asia, Fort San Pedro as the oldest fort / fortification, and The Jesuit House Museum as the oldest documented house built in 1730, are some of the source of pride of Cebu City.