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7 sites for history buffs to visit in uptown Cebu

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Cebu Provincial Capitol (Photos by Line Arias)

CEBU is a city with a lot of history. After all, it is one of the oldest cities in the country -- a fact that many born and bred Cebuanos are certainly quite proud of.

Now, if you're a self-confessed history buff, you'll be glad to know that many relics of Cebu's past still exist today. If you ask locals though, most of them will probably lead you downtown where you can find many of the city's museums and old houses.

But contrary to popular belief, uptown Cebu also has some of the cities most important historical and cultural sites or structures. Which am I referring to exactly? Read on and find out.


1. Cebu Provincial Capitol

Facts: Constructed in 1937 and finished about a year later, this important government building may not be a hundred years old yet but it's certainly one of the most important structures in the city. And if you have seen it, you'd agree that it's also one of the structures in Cebu with the grandest facade. It was designed by Juan M. Arellano, one of the most prolific Filipino architects of the 1900s. Like many of Arellano's designs, the Cebu Provincial Capitol is of neoclassical style but with some visible hints of art deco.

How to get there? From downtown, you can take jeepney routes 06B, 06F, 14D, 15, 17B, 17D or any jeepney with the sign that says "Capitol" on the windshield.

What can you find there? It is where you will find the office of the incumbent Cebu governor and other Provincial Government offices, including the Palace of Justice.

When can you visit? The Capitol is like any other government office, which means it's only open from Mondays to Fridays. But you can certainly take snapshots of its beautiful facade on Saturdays, too. On Sundays, it has a makeshift iron fence in front. But I gather you can easily squeeze through some gap on the side -- granted you'll just be there to take pictures and not actually have a picnic or party at the outdoor foyer.

2. Fuente Osmeña Circle

Fuente Osmeña Circle
The Fuente Osmeña Circle fountain

Facts: One of the most famous landmarks of Cebu City, the Fuente Osmeña Circle is deemed by many as the center of the city. It's one of the many memorials dedicated to the "Grand Old Man of Cebu," President Sergio Osmeña (hence the name). Basically, it's an urban park in the middle of the roundabout that you pass by when going from the downtown area to the Cebu Provincial Capitol. The traffic that flow through it are from Osmeña Blvd., Gen. Maxilom Avenue(a.k.a. Mango Avenue), and B. Rodriguez St. Today, it's one of the most popular venues for all kinds of events in the city. In fact, the park is quite a busy place in the months leading to the Christmas holidays until the Sinulog Festival.

How to get there? Any jeepney route that passes through any of the three streets that flow through it, especially those with signs that have "Jones" and/or "Capitol" on them.

What can you find there? Aside from its greenery, its most recognizable feature is the Osmeña fountain in the park's innermost circle. Actually, the word "fuente" is the Spanish word for "fountain," so you can say the park is definitely aptly named. Sadly, the fountain has been decommissioned for quite some time now. Still, the park's remaining trees do still supply some cool fresh air and the many benches can still be a welcome respite for your weary wanderer's feet.

When can you visit? The park's two gates are pretty much open to the public all the days of the week. Sometimes though, they're closed by midnight. One gate can be found across the old police station at the corner of B. Rodriguez St. while the other one is across the Rajah Park Hotel. Be careful crossing the roundabout though, some motorists pretty much ignore the pedestrian lanes (or perhaps they're just unaware that they're supposed to slow down).

3. Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery

Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery in Cebu City
Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery in Cebu City

Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery in Cebu City
MacArthur room

Facts: This building was once the family home of Cebu's beloved statesman, President Sergio Osmeña, and was constructed in 1947. It was where Pres. Osmeña entertained the famous Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In fact, the room where the American five-star general stayed is called the MacArthur room. Almost 40 years after it was built though, the family sold the property to CAP (College Assurance Plan). Over the years, new wings were added to the original house. Now it has an auditorium, various business offices, and the Fashion Institute of the Philippines.

How to get there? You can get there by riding any jeepney that passes along Osmeña Blvd. (a.k.a. Jones Avenue). If you're coming from Fuente Circle, you can reach it by just walking past Crown Regency Hotel and McDonald's. It will be right across the street from Jollibee. If you're taking a taxi, you can either tell the driver to get you to CAP or you can give its exact address, which is 60 Osmeña Blvd., Cebu City.

Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery in Cebu City
Old furniture

Don Sergio Osmeña Museum and CAP Art Gallery in Cebu City
Old Cadillac

What can you find there? You can certainly find a ton of President Osmeña's old stuff here, including his old Cadillac along with old black and white photos and other memorabilia. The guard who let me in even informed me that many of the furniture in the room are the original ones the Osmeña family once used. I even spied the president's old luggage and the mace he used when he was the Speaker of the National Assembly. Really cool!

When can you visit? Any time during regular business hours from Monday to Saturday. The place is closed on Sundays.

4. Rizal Memorial Library & Museum

Rizal Memorial Library & Museum in Cebu City
The Rizal Memorial Library & Museum in Cebu City

Facts: According to the plaque in front, the library was inaugurated on December 30, 1939. I'm not sure when the museum was added, but I assume it was later. The museum can be found in the second floor while the library is on the ground floor. This place is right across Philippine National Bank.

How to get there? Any jeepney from downtown going to the Provincial Capitol will pass by here.

Rizal Memorial Library & Museum in Cebu City
The museum

Rizal Memorial Library & Museum in Cebu City
The museum

What can you find there? The library, of course, has books that may be available to the public. From what I can remember, general reference books can't be brought outside the library though. As for the museum, it has various paintings, some sculpted busts of Philippine heroes and politicians, and old black and white photos of various places here in Cebu.

When can you visit? The museum is open to the public during regular business hours, except for Sundays. The library is open on the same days and hours, except when it is being used for seminars or exclusive workshops.

5. Casino Español de Cebu

Casino Español de Cebu
The Casino Español de Cebu

Facts: This clubhouse was established in 1920 but the original Casino Español de Cebu was in the corner of Legaspi and Zamora Streets. Today, it can be found at 107-109 V. Ranudo Street. Although the structure today is relatively new, its interior just screams lovely European vintage. Originally a gathering place for the Spanish elite when it opened, the establishment still maintains its exclusivity by only admitting club members in its premises and restaurant. However, their various ballrooms are available for outsiders to rent for all kinds of events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or weddings.

How to get there? To get there, you can ride any jeepney that goes to Ramos-14D jeepneys coming from Ayala Cebu, for instance. Then, you get off right outside Velez College and walk along V. Ranudo St. Once you spy a huge mansion-like structure on the left side of the road -- that is, if you're coming from Velez -- is the Casino Español de Cebu.

Casino Español de Cebu
The entrance

What can you find there? The place definitely has that old Spanish mansion vibe with its architecture and interior décor. I remember when I attended a friend's wedding reception there, the signs on the toilet doors were in Spanish. I think it was mujeres for women and hombres for men. They were adorably quaint.

When can you visit? You can probably be allowed to have a look-see for an ocular inspection, if you're canvassing venues for an event. But outsiders are ordinarily allowed inside only if they're in the company of a club member.

6. The Filigree House

Casino Español de Cebu
The Filigree House

Facts: This pretty house was once used as a temporary Casino Español de Cebu, way back when the current clubhouse was still under renovation. However, it is not a property of the club but of Don Gil Garcia and his wife Teresa. The structure is called Filigree House, probably because of its intricately detailed moldings. It was designed in 1932 and is made of hardwood brought in from Surigao del Norte. It was constructed by local artisans, but the design itself was crafted by Don Gil and his wife.

How to get there? You can find this on your way to Casino Español de Cebu, on the opposite side. So any route that takes you to the exclusive club will also bring you to this lovely white house.

What can you find there? It currently looks like a private residence because I spied a car parked beside the house, inside its gates. It may or may not have antique furniture and décor, but you'll never know unless you get to convince one of the current owners to let you inside.

When can you visit? The property is not open to the public. You can probably ask permission to take photos, but you may only do so from the property gates.

7. University of the Philippines Cebu

University of the Philippines Cebu
University of the Philippines Cebu

Facts: Among the oldest UP campuses in the Visayas and Mindanao, UP Cebu was established in 1918. But did you know that UP Cebu was not originally in Lahug? The college held its first school year near the Carbon Market, in the Ermita District. Then it relocated to the Parian District, and after that to Fort San Pedro. The campus was relocated to its present location in Lahug in 1929.

How to get there? From downtown, you can ride any jeepney routes 04B, 04D, 04I, 04H, 17B, 17C, and 17D. If it's bound for Lahug, then it will bring you to UP Cebu.

University of the Philippines Cebu
The UP Cebu administration building

University of the Philippines Cebu
The UP Cebu Oblation statue in front of the administration building

What can you find there? The most noticeable feature of the campus is "The Oblation" statue right in front of campus' main building, which serves as the administration building. Aside from that, there are also several other structures that serve as offices, classrooms, as well as dormitories. There's also a clinic, a Cebu Cultural Center for Performing Arts, and some study kiosks for students.

When can you visit? Former students tell me that you can pretty much visit the campus whenever it's open. The security guard by the gates will probably ask you what's the purpose of your visit and may or may not ask you to present a valid ID. So far though, I have never been asked to present any identification. But then I've wandered the campus during weekends only, so I'm not so sure about other days.

History was among my favorite subjects back when I was still in school. I love that it gives us clues or glimpses on how people lived during bygone eras -- what were considered proper behavior, what things were considered taboo, what kinds of clothes they wore, and how anyone ever managed to accomplish any work without electricity or computers. Now that I've been done with school for over a decade, historical places still continue to amaze me. And living here in Cebu, I'd probably wouldn't get over my fascination for them for years to come. (

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