Cebu’s History

In the early 16th century, the natives of Cebu under Rajah Humabon, engaged in an active trade where bartered woven-cloth, embroidery, cast-bronze utensils, and ornaments were traded. The settlement also had small foundries producing mortars, pestles, wine-bowls, gongs, inlaid boxes of betel, and rice measures. Humabon himself was finely clad in a loincloth, silk turban, and pearl, and gold jewelry, and was supposed to have demanded tribute from East-Indian, Siamese, and Chinese traders.

At the time, densely-populated villages lined the eastern-coast of the island, while the highland villages hugged the streams and lakes. The coasts were linked to the hinterlands, either by rivers or trading trails. Communities were composed of bamboo and palm leaf-thatched houses raised from the ground by four-posts and made accessible by a simple ladder. The area underneath was reserved for domestic animals. Humabon’s large house resembled that of common dwellings, except that it towered like a big haystack over smaller ones.

On his way to the Moluccas, Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu on 7 April 1521 and planted the seeds of Spanish colonization. Rajah Humabon and his wife, baptized Juana, and were Christianized following a blood-compact between conquistador and native king. However, Lapu-lapu, chieftain of Mactan, refused to accept Spanish sovereignty. Outnumbering the foreigners by 1,000, his men killed Magellan, 8 Spanish soldiers, and 4 of Humabon’s warriors.

Duarte Barbosa and Juan Serrano who took command after Magellan’s death, were also massacred along with their soldiers during a goodwill banquet hosted by Humabon. The remnants of Magellan’s expedition under Sebastian del Cano sailed homeward defeated but proving, for the first time, that the earth is round.

The second Spanish expedition to the Philippines headed by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Andres de Urdaneta reached Cebu on 27 April 1565. As in the earlier experience, the native reception of Legaspi was initially amiable with a blood compact with Sikatuna, chieftain of Bohol. Later, Tupas, son and successor of Humabon, battled with the Spaniards who easily killed some 2,000 warriors, who were equipped merely with wood corselets and rope armor, lances, shields, small cutlasses, arrows, and decorative headgear. Their native boats “built for speed and maneuverability, not for artillery duels” (Scott 1982:26) were no match to Spain’s three powerful warships.

Legaspi, accompanied by four Agustinians, built the fort of San Miguel on 8 May 1565. This was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the archipelago. Tupas signed a treaty tantamount to submission on 3 July 1565 for which he was given 13 m of brown damask. On 21 May 1568, shortly before his death, Tupas was baptized by Fr. Diego de Herrera- an event which propagandized Spanish rule.

On 1 January 1571, the settlement was renamed the Ciudad del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus (City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) in honor of the image of the Child Jesus found in an unburned house in the wake of the Spanish invasion of 1565 (the site of the present Augustinian Church). It was believed to be a relic of Magellan’s expedition, the same one given to “Queen Juana” upon her baptism. Cebu was the capital of the Spanish colony for six years before its transfer to Panay and then to Manila. Many Cebu warriors were recruited by Legaspi, Goiti, and Salcedo to conquer the rest of the country.

In the 1600s, Cebu had been one of the more populous Spanish settlements in the country, usually with about 50 to 100 Spanish settlers residing there (not including the religious). However, this dwindled sharply after 1604, when Cebu’s participation in the galleon trade was suspended. Cebu had annually outfitted and dispatched a galleon to New Spain. Profits were minimal because of restrictions imposed on the items that could be loaded, at the instigation of Spanish officials who wished to maintain the Manila-Acapulco trade, which was the more profitable venture. Moreover, one galleon from Cebu sank in 1597. The nonparticipation of Cebu in the galleon trade greatly diminished its importance, and by the late 1730s, there was only one or two Spaniards who lived in Cebu City who was not a government official, soldier or priest. Few Spaniards owned land in the countryside, a situation further buttressed by a decree that forbade the Spaniards from living among the Filipinos until 1768. The works of Italian traveler Gemelli Careri in the late 17th century and of French scientist Le Gentil both noted Cebu’s commercial poverty. The island had become a mere outpost.

Inter island trade was further restricted by two factors: the threat of so-called Moro raids from Mindanao and Moro pirates on the seas, which continued way into the late 1790s; and the attempts of the alcaldes-mayores or provincial governors to monopolize domestic trade for their own personal economic advantage. These alcalde-mayores were allowed to purchase the special license to trade to make up for the fact that the Spanish central administration perennially lacked funds to give as salaries to its local officials and bureaucrats.

As Spanish officials recovered from the short-lived British occupation of Manila from 1760 to 1762, they began to institute reforms which eventually made the atmosphere more conducive to trade. Cebu’s trade slowly rejuvenated. The opening of the Philippines to world trade in 1834- and of Cebu in 1860- stimulated economic activity in Cebu.

Sugar and hemp became important cash crops for Cebu’s economy. Sugar had already been previously grown in Cebu even before Magellan arrived. Identified as one of the four varieties of sugar to be found in the Philippines during the Spanish period was a strain called “Cebu Purple.” The vastly increasing demand for cash crops meant, as in most other areas in the Philippines, a big change in land ownership patterns. Land was increasingly concentrated in the ownership of a few hands, usually through the method of pacto de retroventa, where land was mortgaged by its original owners to new cash-rich landowners on the condition that it could be bought back at the same price on a certain date. This system, which favored the creditors, created a new class of wealthy landlords and a mass of landless agricultural wage laborers, both groups of which began to agitate against the Spanish administration and the power of the religious. This pattern was familiar to the rest of the country.
The Cebu revolutionary uprising was led by Leon Kilat, Florencio Gonzales, Luis Flores, Candido Padilla, Andres Abellana, and others. On 3 April 1898, they rose against the Spanish authorities in Cebu. Furious fighting took place on Valeriano Weyler (now Tres de Abril) St. and other parts of the city. The revolutionaries drove the Spaniards across the Pahina River and finally to Fort San Pedro. They besieged the fort for three days but withdrew when the Spaniards sent reinforcements from Iloilo and bombarded the city.

Spanish rule in Cebu ended on 24 December. 1898, in the wake of the Treaty of Paris signed on 10 December. The Spaniards, under Cebu politico-military governor Adolfo Montero, withdrew to a caretaker committee of Cebuano citizens. The Philippine Government was formally established in Cebu City on 29 December. 1898, and revolutionary head Luis Flores became the first Filipino provincial governor of Cebu.

The American occupation ended the republican interregnum. Under threat of US naval bombardment, Cebu City was surrendered to the Americans on 22 February 1899. However, a province-wide war ensued under the leadership of Juan Climaco and Arcadio Maxilom. Cebuano resistance to US rule was strong but had to submit to superior American arms with the surrender of the Cebuano generals in Oct. 1901.

In 1901, a civil governor, in the person of Julio Llorente, was appointed in Cebu. The Americans, introduced public education, promoted industry, and reorganized local government. All previous laws and ordinances observed were permitted to continue, although the municipal board positions were no longer filled by the appointment but through popular elections. Cebu became a chartered city on 24 February 1937. Vicente Rama authored and secured the approval by Congess of the Cebu City Charter. The Charter changed the title of presidente to mayor. Alfredo V. Jacinto served as mayor by presidential appointment.

On 10 April 1942, the Japanese landed and seized Cebu. Over half the city was bombed Cebu’s USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) and Constabulary forces and some ROTC units and trainees surrendered to the Japanese on orders of Gen. Wainwright, supreme commander of the United States Forces in the Philippines. Many fled to the mountains and later reorganized into guerilla bands which harassed the Japanese throughout their occupation and facilitated the American “liberation” of the province. As elsewhere in the country during wartime, suspected collaborators were tortured and killed. Notorious for such summary executions of suspected collaborators in Cebu was the group led by Harry Fenton, who held sway in northern Cebu while James Cushing controlled those operating in central and southern Cebu. For his many abuses against comrades and civilians, Fenton was executed by the guerillas on 1 September 1943. James Cushing assumed command of the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Cebu, which was one of the most effective in the country. By the time MacArthur returned to the Philippines in Oct 1944, Cushing had about 25,000 men, half of whom were armed and trained.

Juan Zamora administered the city of Cebu during the war. Upon the return of the Americans in March 1945, Leandro A. Tojong was appointed military mayor of Cebu. Following the post-“liberation” general elections on 23 April 1946, Manuel Roxas was elected Philippine president. In 1946 he appointed Vicente S. del Rosario as mayor of Cebu, the first to serve the city at the dawn of the Third Republic. The Charter of the City of Cebu was amended in 1955 to make the post of mayor elective. Sergio Osmena Jr. was overwhelmingly elected mayor.

The present city of Cebu recovered impressively from the wreckage of the last World War, and has grown to be the second largest metropolis in the nation.

Reproduced from Wikipedia

Leave A Comment