The Philippines is an interesting Asian nation because there are so many remnants of European colonialism there. From the lingering Spanish influences, to the numerous ethnic groups and languages (including English!), and the diverse atmospheres on each of the islands, there is so much more to the Philippines than beaches (though, their beaches ARE EVERYTHING)
Cebu is an island known for its outdoor activities, but the capital city, Cebu City, is the historical hub of not just the island, but the entire nation. To learn more about the Spanish/Portuguese influence, as well as how the native Cebuanos fought for their (and the country’s) freedom against them, check out these famous sites in Cebu City!
Fort San Pedro: The oldest military fort in the Philippines, built by the Spanish beginning in 1565. It was originally built to protect the Spanish from Muslim pirates and native Filipinos. Over time it has been used as a prison for local rebels during the Philippine Revolution; used as barracks by Americans during the USA’s occupation; as classrooms for Cebuanos; as a prison camp for Japanese WWII soldiers, and even a hospital.
These days, the fort is a scenic reminder of the history of the nation. There is a photo museum inside, as well as a place for plant conservation. More info about the fort can be found on PH Tour Guide.
Magellan’s Cross: Across the street from the fort is Magellan’s Cross, where the explorer ordered the Spanish and Portuguese with him to plant the cross and begin the spread of Christianity in the Philippines. The original cross was erected in 1521 when the first Filipinos (the king and queen and ~400 of their followers) were baptized. then encased in protective wood in 1835 to protect it from people who believed it held miraculous healing power and wanted to steal chips of it for themselves.
The ceiling depicts scenes from Magellan’s first landing, the baptisms, and when the cross first went up.
An urban legend surrounds the cross—some people believe the original isn’t even in the casing, but disappeared or was stolen after Magellan died.
Heritage of Cebu Monument: The monument portrays important evens in Cebu’s history. This is a newer monument, built in 1997 and completed three years later. Some important images in the monument:
- Important churches and landmarks, such as Magellan’s Cross
- The baptism of Rajah Humabon, the Filipino ruler who was the first to be baptized in the nation.
- The battle of Mactan between Magellan and Filipino chief Lapu Lapu, in which Lapu Lapu defeated and killed Magellan on nearby Mactan Island.
All of these historical sites are located downtown within walking distance to each other. You can learn about more sites to visit in Cebu City (in less than one day) here.
Check out our vlog of our trip to Cebu City here!
Read more about churches in Cebu.
Read more about the leisurely side of Cebu (food, shopping, transportation).