Cebu & Mactan Island History

Cebu Languages ESL School is an English Center located on Mactan Island. Cebu and Lapu Lapu City are filled with interesting historical tour attractions. We encourage who study English in Cebu Philippines to travel and explore the local culture history and cuisine. Let our staff plan your tours while you improve your English and exceed your ESL goals. You newly acquired English skills can be practiced as you sightsee this interesting and beautiful county. The location of our center is actually over the sea and on the beach. Every class day offers a seaside seat with sea views, as you enjoy our interactive style of English study programs.

A Glimpse of Cebu’s Past

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The name Cebu came from the word “SEBU” meaning animal fat. Long before the coming of the Spaniards, it was a fishing village ruled by Rajah Humabon. 

Cebu metamorphosed in more ways than one, but always for the better. From a sleepy fishing village to a fledgling trading port in 1521, from the first Spanish settlement named Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus in 1575 to a municipality in 1901, Cebu finally became a chartered city on February 24, 1937. Being the first and oldest city in the country antedating Manila by 7 years, having the oldest school and oldest street and being the cradle of Christianity in the Far East (i.e. Magellan’s cross planted in Cebu as a symbol of natives embracing the Christian faith), Cebu is replete with historical firsts. 

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi then urged men to construct the oldest and smallest fort in the country: Fort San Pedro. As Spain intensified its colonization efforts, indignant islanders showed opposition by way of intermittent attacks against the colonizers. The rebellion paved the way to the construction of Fort San Pedro, a Spanish military stronghold. 

However, the fort fell to the hands of the native Cebuanos when Americans commanded by Commodore George Dewey vanguished the Spanish fleet in December 1898 in the Battle of Manila Bay. With the American reign in full force in 1901, then Senate Pro Tempore and late President Sergio Osmeña, Sr., and then Congressman and Majority Floor Leader in the House of Representatives, the late Senator Manuel Briones vigorously lobbied for Philippine Independence.

The streets of Tres de Abril and V. Rama were the sites of a fierce battle on April 3, 1898 when General Leon Kilat of Bacong, Negros Oriental spearheaded the revolution against Spanish colonialism. The Spaniards sought refuge at the Fort San Pedro and three days of relentless attacks would have spelled victory for the rebels were it not for the propitious arrival of the Spanish armada. 

February 24, 1937 was a milestone in Cebuano history as Cebu City was granted the charter by virtue of Commonwealth Act No. 58 enacted by Congress on October 20, 1936. The late Senator Vicente Rama, formerly representative of Cebu’s 3rd district was instrumental as author and sponsor of the bill. It was at that time that Secretary of Interior and Local Government Elpidio Quirino appointed the mayor and board members of Cebu City in his capacity as representative of Manuel Quezon. 

Shortly after the landing of the Japanese army in Cebu City on April 10, 1942, the entire province became the principal Japanese base due to its strategic location and substantial population. Cebu finally saw the light of freedom in March 1945 when American liberation forces landed in Talisay town. Liberation came in full circle in March 1946 and to restore law and order, a civil government dubbed as Philippine Civil Affairs Unit (PCAU) was established in the city. 

In April 1965, the entire Christian world focused its attention on Cebu City, considered as the cradle of Christianity in the Far East as it played host to the 400th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. The celebration highlighted the contributions of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Fray Andres de Urdaneta in proselytizing Christianity by way of establishing a Spanish settlement in the province. In a country where Catholics predominate, the conferment of the San Agustin Church to the title Basilica Minore del Santo Niño proved to be a momentous occasion as Rome sent its representative Papal Legate, His Eminence Ildefonso Cardinal Antonuitte. 

(Text from the Cebu City, Philippines Profile published by the City Planning and Development Office, 2007. Photo credits: Public Information Office, 2010.) 

Brief History of Mactan Island and Lapu-Lapu City

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In the 16th century Mactan Island was colonized by Spain. An Augustinians friar founded the town of Opon in 1730 and became a city in 1961 and was renamed after Datu Lapu-Lapu, a Muslim king who defeated Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. This battle is commemorated at the Lapu-Lapu shrine in Punta Engaño.  Politician Manuel A. Zosa, the representative of the Sixth District of Cebu, sponsored the Bill converting the former municipality of Opon into the present day City of Lapu-Lapu. This was the Republic Act 3134, known as the City Charter of Lapu-Lapu which was signed on June 17, 1961 by former Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia.

History

Lapu-Lapu is considered one of the greatest figures of ancient Philippine history. Although the first thing that usually comes to mind when the name of Lapu-Lapu is mentioned is the fact that his battle with Magellan led to Magellan’s death, Lapu-Lapu was not honoured because of that. Rather, he is honoured because he was among the first to reject submission to a foreign power even though Raja Humabon, ruler of the neighbouring island of Cebu, and other chiefs recognized the king of Spain as their ruler and agreed to pay tribute. 

Chief Lapu-Lapu’s (1491-1542) other name is Kolipulako. The hero of Mactan and conqueror of Magellan is described as stern, proud, intelligent, and unyielding. He waged continuous war against the powerful ruler of Cebu, then a very much greater kingdom than his little island of Mactan.

History has it that Mactan Island although small was a thriving community when the great Magellan was in Cebu. The brave Spanish navigator and soldier, upon learning that some inhabitants on this tiny island across Cebu refused to recognize the King of Spain, burned one of the villages. Lapu-Lapu was one of the native leaders who refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Spain over the Islands.

When Magellan, with three boatloads of Spaniards and twenty boatloads of Cebuanos, went to Mactan to help a friendly chief, Lapu-Lapu and his men armed with native fighting elements, wooden shields, bows and arrows, lances, met them. The invading Spaniards and Cebuanos were driven back to their boats, but their brace leader, Magellan, met death in the hands of Lapu-Lapu. On what is believed to be the exact spot where Magellan fell and died now stands an imposing monument in honour of the gallant explorer.

The battle between Mactan Island Chieftain Lapu-Lapu and the foreign aggressor Ferdinand Magellan occurred in April 27, 1521. It depicts the hero holding a bolo in one hand and a shield on the other. Said weapons were believed to have been used during his combat with Magellan. This monument stands as a reminder of Filipino bravery.

The Lapu-Lapu shrine is a 20-meter bronze statue in Punta Engaño, Mactan Island, Philippines, erected in honour of Datu Lapu-Lapu, a Muslim king who defeated Spanish soldiers and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the Battle of Mactan on 1521.

Legend

Some natives believe that in his final years, Lapu-Lapu did not die, and has been turned into a stone, and is forever guarding the seas of Mactan. Fishermen in the island city throw coins at a stone shaped like a man as a way of asking for permission to fish in the chieftain’s territory.  

Another story passed on by the natives of the land says Lapu-Lapu became the statue placed on a pedestal at the center of the plaza. The statue faces the old city hall building where the mayors used to hold office and once held a crossbow in the immortal stance of someone about to shoot an arrow at an enemy. The people of the city decided to change this crossbow with a bolo after a succession of three mayors died due to a heart attack.