Fort San Pedro (Cebu City, Cebu)

After our visit to Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino and Magellan’s Cross, Grace and I returned to our van.  We were next transported to Fort San Pedro, the oldest fort in the country.  Started on May 8, 1565, this 2,025-sq. m. triangular Spanish fort, situated between the port and Plaza Independencia, was named after Legaspi’s flagship.  The current structure, completed in 1738, has 3 bastions: San Miguel, San Ignacio de Loyola and La Concepcion with stone walls 2.5 m. thick and 6 m. high and towers 10 m. high.  The fort’s original buildings include the Cuerpo de Guardia (troop’s quarters), the largest building and the Viviendo del Teniente (living quarters of the fort’s lieutenant).

Fort San Pedro     
The fort, under the care and administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority, was also an American military barrack, (Warwick Barracks), a schoolhouse during the Commonwealth period, a Japanese POW camp during World War II, a hospital during the liberation, a Philippine Army camp in 1946 and a Lamplighter (a religious sect) mini-zoo in 1957. The fort, including its towers and roof observatory, was restored in 1968 and its inner court (turned into a miniature garden by the Cebu Garden Club after 1950) now has an open-air theater, a cafe in a walled garden and a museum.
Fort San Pedro: Plaza Independencia, Gen. D. MacArthur Blvd., Cebu City 6000, Cebu.

Magellan’s Cross (Cebu City, Cebu)

From the Basilica del Sto. Nino, Grace and I walked over to the nearby octagonal kiosk of wood, adobe and red brick tiles, built in 1845, that houses Magellan’s Cross in the center.  Inside this kiosk are the remains of the original cross which was encased in hollow, black tindalo wood to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross, believing that it possesses miraculous powers.  
Grace besides Magellan’s Cross

However, some people believe that the original cross had been destroyed or disappeared after Ferdinand Magellan’s death in Mactan and that the cross we saw there was a replica planted there by  the Spaniards after the successful colonization of the country.

Ceiling paintings at the kiosk

At the kiosk’s ceiling are paintings depicting the events of Magellan’s visit – the baptism of Rajah Humabon and 800 of his followers by Fr. Pedro Valderrama and the first Catholic mass in Cebu.

Magellan’s Cross: Plaza Sta. Cruz,  Magallanes St., Cebu City 6000, Cebu

Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino (Cebu City, Cebu)

From the Great Taoist Temple, Grace and I returned to our van which then proceeded, down the hill, to the city proper where we made a stopover at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino.  Formerly the San Agustin Church, this church was built by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Fr. Andres de Urdaneta to house the 30-cm. high image of the Sto. Niño, the statue given by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon’s wife and recovered unscathed in a pinewood box by Juan Camus on April 27, 1565.  The image is enshrined in a small chapel to the left of the altar.  

The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino

The first church, built with wood and nipa by Fr. Diego de Herrera, was destroyed by fire on November 1, 1566.  The second, a stone replacement built by Fr. Pedro Torres from 1605 to 1606, was also burned on March 1628.  It was rebuilt soon after, with stone and bricks, by Fr. Juan de Medina but was demolished in 1731 by Fr.  Jose Bosqued.  

The present stone structure was foundation was started on February 29, 1735 by Fr. Diego Bergano, Gov.-Gen. Fernando Valdez, Bishop Manuel Antonio Decio y Ocampo, continued  by Fr. Antonio Lopez and Fr. Francisco Aballe and was completed in 1740 by Fr. Juan de Albarran.   It was restored and reinforced in 1782 and slightly restored in 1889 by Fr. Mateo Diez who added the windows.  Both church and convent were restored in 1965 on occasion of the fourth centennial of the Christianization of the country.  The side retablos, the old organ and some portions of the monastery were removed.   On April 28, 1965, the 400th year of Cebu’s Christianization, it was conferred the title of Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño by Hildebrando Cardinal Antoniutti, papal legate of Pope Paul VI.  It is now a National Landmark.

The church has an imposing, solid facade blending Muslim, Romanesque and Neo-Classical features.  It is divided into 2 levels with shallow pilasters dividing each storey into 3 segments.  The graceful Muslim-inspired trefoil arched main entrance is flanked by shallow, rectangular, statued niches, above which are the semicircular arched windows of the second level.  It is crowned by a double-edged triangular pediment.  The Baroque-style bell tower has 2 alternatingly shaped blind and open windows ending up in triangular pinnacles with a circular disc.  It is crowned by balusters and a Muslim-influenced dome.  The convent, finished in 1769, is located on the opposite far end.

Inside the basilica is a painted ceiling, finely carved retablo and choir screen.  In the baptistery is the image of Our Lady of the Fort (Nuestra Señora de la Cotta) which was recovered in the vicinity of the church while Fort San Pedro was being built in 1565.  It is believed to be the one given by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler, to Queen Juana on the day of her baptism.  Among the treasures of the basilica is a wooden bust of Christ known as Ecce Homo, believed exhumed from a spot near the church on August 20, 1572 by a Spanish soldier digging the foundations of his house.  The image was in a coffin containing the remains of an imminent person identified as Raxa Carli which may have been a latinization of Rajah Carlos as Rajah Humabon had been christened.  It is conjectured that the bust was presented by Magellan to Humabon on his baptism and was buried with him when the rajah died.   
Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino: Osmena Blvd., Cebu City 6000, Cebu.  Tel: (032) 255-6699.

Great Taoist Temple (Cebu City, Cebu)

After breakfast at the hotel, Grace and I were picked up at the hotel lobby for the start of our city tour.  We proceeded, via van, to Beverly Hills, a wealthy residential subdivision located 6 kms. from downtown.  Situated 300 m. above sea level, it has a panoramic view of the city, the harbor and Mactan Island.  Above it is Victoria Peak, named after the hill in Hongkong.  Beverly Hills has a number of Chinese temples.

The Great Taoist Temple

We made a stopover at the Great Taoist Temple which is open to worshippers and non-worshippers alike.  Accessible by 3 separate winding routes, the entrance of the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China.  The smell of incense was everywhere but the temple was really quiet and peaceful.  From its spacious balconies, we had a panoramic view of Cebu City, Mactan Island and Bohol.  Taking pictures of the gods inside the temple was strictly prohibited.

The temple’s spacious balcony

Built in 1972 by Cebu’s substantial Chinese community (about 15% of the population), this huge multi-level complex of bright red and green pagodas, guardian lions and dragons, follows the slope of the terrain.  It was built in a highly ornate style of Chinese architecture and is topped with a pagoda-style roof.

This well-maintained temple preserves the teachings of the 600 B.C. philosopher, Lao-tze.  Taoists climb the 81 steps (representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures) to the temple for the beautiful ceremonies, light joss sticks and have their fortunes read by the monks.  The temple also has a big dragon statue, a fish pond, an old bell, a chapel, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well.

Great Taoist Temple: Beverly Hills Subd., Lahug District, Cebu City, Cebu.  Open daily, 8 AM-5 PM. Admission is free.

Cebu Plaza Hotel (Cebu City, Cebu)

Grace and I departed Manila for Cebu City on an early morning Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight.  This would be my first return visit to Cebu City, the place where I was born.  At Mactan International Airport, we were shuttled to Cebu Plaza Hotel where we were to stay 3 days and 2 nights.  This 22-storey hotel, situated atop a hill 600 ft. above sea level, within a 6-hectare hotel complex, has a panoramic view of Cebu City, the mountains and the island of Mactan.  

Cebu Plaza Hotel

Upon arrival at the hotel’s spacious and grand lobby, we checked in at Room 1200, one of the hotel’s 420 luxuriously-appointed airconditioned guest rooms that includes 22 de luxe suites, 3 royal suites and 1 presidential suite.  Our suite had a view of the mountains and the pyramid-shaped Cebu Casino across the street from the hotel.

Cafe Tartanilla

This hotel, Cebu City’s landmark business resort hotel, also has a restaurant (Lantaw Restaurant), a coffee shop (Cafe Tartanilla), a bar (Alindahaw Bar), disco (Boom), 11 function rooms, business center, 2 swimming pools and a shell tennis court.  Within the complex is a picnic area and the Sugbo Village and Museum.  

Cebu Casino Filipino


Today, the hotel’s management has changed hands and the hotel has been renamed the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel.  Still the top 5-star hotel in the city, it now has 329 rooms, 4 restaurants, a grand ballroom and 12 function rooms.

Marco Polo Plaza Hotel: Cebu Veterans Drive, Nivel Hills, Lahug District, Cebu City, Cebu. Tel: (032) 253-1111.  Fax: (032) 234-8170.