Along the modern urbanscape of Osmena Blvd. stands the pre-World War II neo-classical building the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum or commonly known to Cebuanos as the Cebu City Public Library.
The structure grew out of contributions from civic-minded residents way back in 1939 and is named after the country’s national hero and multi-talented scholar, Dr. Jose Rizal, who immortalized the phrase “the youth is the hope of our fatherland.”
Fronting the building is the statue of Jose Rizal with a book spread on his lap as he reads with two little children.
Contributions by Cebuanos
The monument’s plaque reads. “To the memory of the most outstanding Filipino educator, patriot, and martyr who is conscious of the importance of education, the people of Cebu voluntarily contributed to the construction of this memorial.”
The contribution came from the net proceeds of the literary-musical programs and carnival-expositions periodically held since 1919 in celebration of Rizal Days.
A committee composed of Cebu’s prime movers invested the money from the activities in the Cebu Mutual Loan Association, where, forgotten in later years, it was earning dividends.
In 1935, Governor Sotero Cabahug led the construction of the building, which on Dec 30, 1939 was inaugurated and christened as the Rizal Memorial Library.
During the war in the 1940s, the library building was used as Japanese headquarters while the books and all were dumped in a nook at the Capitol building. In 1953, the institution was reopened due to public clamor. The Cebu City Government appropriated a budget for the library collection and other operating expenses.
In 2009, the library was closed for the renovation of a cultural museum which is now located in the second level of the building. It resumed its operation in 2009.
The library is open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. In March 2018, however, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña ordered the library to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week upon the request of a student.
We know this building today to be Compañia Maritima, but in the 1930s it operated as the Shamrock Hotel.
Built in 1910, this structure named the Fernandez Building had Shamrock at its sole occupant during the 1930s, said Lucy Urgello Miller in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era.”
Compañia Maritima got to occupy the building built on reclaimed land after Shamrock, which at one time printed postcards of the structure as a means of advertising, added Miller.
Miller said it was not clear who the occupants of the building, located right here on Quezon Boulevard – between P. Burgos and Lapu-Lapu Streets, were before Shamrock.
The Cebu Waterfront Heritage and Urban Conservation Study done in 2000, however, said Shamrock shared it with the Manila Steamship Company, which had offices in the building’s ground floor while the hotel utilized the upper floors. This could have happened before the 1930s, though, since Miller pointed out in her book that Shamrock was its only occupant during this period.
According to the study, the building was owned by Fernandez Hermanos Inc. and was abandoned after it was bombed down during World War II.
It described the building as “3 storeys tall with arched windows…ornamental beams…sculptured railings on its roof decks.”
“The prominent location of the building at the water’s edge ensures that the building is a prominent landmark and distinctive townscape feature.
The building contributes significantly to the understanding the development of maritime, trade and shipping activities at the turn of the 20th century,” the study cited, adding it was among the first structures built on the reclaimed port area.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, in an interview in November 2012, said he plans to restore this building and put up mosaic of historical areas in Cebu on its windows.
Before the Cebu Provincial Government transferred to the current location of the Capitol, the provincial governor held office at the Casa de Gobierno or the Casa Provincial across the Plaza Independencia.
Lucy Urgello Miller said in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era” that the location of the Casa de Gobierno is, at the time of the publication of her book in 2010, now an empty space near the Trans Asia building.
OLD CAPITOL. This photo shows the Casa Provincial where Cebu’s governors and other provincial officers held office. It was located on what was then known as Calle de los Trece Martires, now M. J. Cuenco Avenue. According to the photo file, you can see at the far end the Colegio Parvulos del Santo Niño Jesus. (Photo from the Medalle Collection and used with permission of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos.)
Another view of the Casa Provincial. (Photo from the Medalle Collection and used with permission of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos.)
The current Cebu Capitol was completed in 1938. According to Miller, her aunt told her about the strong opposition to its location, which was considered remote then. Her aunt told her radio commentators made fun of the location, saying that only monkeys from the hills near the building would attend the sessions held at the new capitol.
“REMOTE LOCATION.” A photo of the Capitol taken in 1940. When it was being built, people criticized the location of the new Capitol building. Radio commentators made fun of it saying that it was so remote only monkeys from the hills behind it would attend the sessions in the building. (Photo from the Medalle Collection and used with permission of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos.)
When in Cebu, the full page advertisement in the Cebu Trade Directory of 1962 said, always take the “Autobus” for safe and comfortable travel. The company, the ad said, was operating buses throughout mainland Cebu.
The Cebu Autobus Company was started on April 22, 1926 by W.C. Ogan along with Abdon Capobres, who already had his own transportation fleet, C. K. Bradbury, Ralph S. Frush, and W. R. Giberson on a paid up capital of P50,400, a huge sum at that time.
The company started with 8 buses. Frank Howard served as its general manager. A year later, I V. Binamira came on as general manager. By 1930, the company had a total of 100 buses, according to the Cebu Trade Directory.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Cebu Autobus Company offices, shops and most of its 142 buses were commandeered by the United States Armed Forces in the Far East or USAFFE. When Japanese forces landed in Cebu, however, the buses “were ‘scuttled’ in pursuance with the ‘scorched earth’ tactics of the USAFFE.
The company was devastated, left with nothing to resume its business. They managed to buy 5 US Army trucks which they used to ply bus routes. By the end of 1946, it already had 51 vehicles for cargo and passengers.
On October 19, 1957, the controlling stock of the company was bought by the De La Rama Steamship Co. Inc. The new management was headed by Sergio Osmeña, Jr. as president and Mariano S. Ilano Jr. as general manager.
Since the devotion to her started in Africa, this church’s patron – the Patroness of the Rule of St. Augustine – has been depicted as dark-skinned.
Lucy Urgello Miller, in “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era,” wrote that this church’s first parish priest way back in 1735 brought with him an original painting of the Nuestra Señora Virgen de Regla from Africa.
The priest – Augustinian friar Francis Avalle – used this painting to teach people about her and as basis for the religious icon of the Patroness of the Rule that he commissioned also in 1735.
Both objects are housed at a special room at the back of the church where devotees line up to kiss or touch the Virgen as part of a “panaad” or devotion. Devotees usually come in throngs during the Lapu-Lapu City fiesta on November 21 or days leading up to or after this date.
Fr. Stephen Cuyos, who once served as assistant priest at the parish, wrote in his blog that the devotion to the Patroness of the Rule originated with St. Augustine who hand-carved the first image of the Virgen de Regla.
He said he learned during his research into the parish’s patron that she got the name Virgen de Regla, which means Lady of the Rule, because St. Augustine dedicated to her the reglas or rules he created for members of his order to follow.
Miller described this church, built between 1735 and 1744, as having a pathway of coral blocks that led to the sea during the early days. The structure is near Muelle Osmeña, a Spanish structure that now serves as docking area for passenger ferries plying the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Cebu.
Originally built from coral blocks, Miller added, this church was damaged but not badly during World War II and repairs brought it back to its original condition. It would have been among the oldest churches in the country if Dutch priests assigned there in 1960 had not decided to tear it down and build a new one in its place. They spared the nearby convent built in 1885 that is connected to the church to an arched gateway.
She also said that the Dutch priests sold off the church’s coral blocks and later its altar to the University of San Carlos museum.
Fr. Cuyos said Opon started out as a visita of San Nicolas and was elevated to parish status in the 1730s.
It’s hard to imagine today but the Fuente Osmeña circle was considered dangerous in the 1900s because it was far from the city center. Fuelling the fear in that period was what author Lucy Urgello-Miller described in her book “Glimpses of Old Cebu” as a “scandalous, melodramatic case” that happened in the area.
On the morning of March 22, 1915, two bodies bearing multiple stab wounds were found near Fuente Osmeña, Miller recounted in her book. The two were identified as Ramon Santiago and Natividad Garcia Reyes.
Santiago was single. Natividad, on the other hand, was married to Carlos Reyes, whose family owned Bazaar Rizal, which Miller described as one of the biggest stores in Cebu at that time. The two were rumored to be having an affair.
Carlos was in Manila during the killings. His brother Elias, friend Isidro Jureidini and three of Elias’s servants were accused of the murder.
“It was a sensational case where the people of Cebu attended the packed trial faithfully for two years,” Miller wrote in her book.
A tartanilla driver later testified that he brought Natividad to Fuente, where Santiago was already waiting to bring her to the thickets. Another tartanilla driver testified that he brought Elias, Isidro and 2 other men to Fuente. Miller, however, wrote that the latter kept on switching his story.
The judge later convicted all the suspects and sentenced them to 17 years in jail, save for Sergio Orias, one of Elias’s servants. They appealed their case to the Supreme Court and were exonerated on January 22, 1917 because the magistrates found that the testimonies of witnesses were tampered with. They were subsequently released.
This photo taken in about 1930 shows trafficman Pio Alo manning traffic on Colon Street. According to the information that accompanied this photograph at the Cebuano Studies Center archives, Alo was named “Best Trafficman of the Year” in the year this photo was taken.
Alo is shown inside a traffic box that was in use at that time. The box had an umbrella to shield trafficmen from rain or the heat of the sun.
At left is Vision Theater, where you can see a line of taxis from the Checkered Cab. Next to the theater, according to the photo info card, was the residence of the late Don Sergio Osmeña. It is now occupied by Eden Theater.
Across Vision theater was Cebu Lunch, a popular eatery at that time.
Here’s Colon Street today, in a photo taken by by USJ-R intern Nel Mozol just yesterday, January 15, 2015, at the general area of the photo above.
DIONISIO Alo stood seething with anger as authorities tore down the magnificent San Juan Bautista Parish Church in Parian in the late 1870s.
“His heart bled with every stone that was removed and all he could do was bite his lips causing them to also bleed,” said Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go.
Alo, who was capitan of the Parian gremio, was so angry at the destruction that he unknowingly crushed the golden handle of his baston.
The destruction of what had been described in various historical sources as the most magnificent church in Cebu was the end of centuries of struggle between the local mestizo community and the Spanish friars who wanted control over the structure.
The Parian church, according to Go’s translation submitted to the University of San Carlos as her masteral thesis in history, “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” It was built in 1602.
What remains on the site today, the San Juan Bautista chapel, is but a faint reminder of an opulent past.
“The church was made of stone blocks, plastered together in a mixture of lime and the sap of the lawat tree. The roofs were made of tiles, and the lumber used was molave, balayong and naga. The paraphernalia used in the mass was made purely of gold, the pews were carved by a sculptor of the Parian, the altars were covered with stone slabs with money and gold inlaid, and the church bells were big and loud. The tolling of these bells was so loud that it could be heard as far as Hilotungan ang the town of Talisay,” Go said in her thesis.
“The Augustinian friars upon seeing the magnificence of the church of the Parian, got envious, and employed every shrewd means they could think of to take over the Parian church,” the thesis said.
Fr. Rafael Vasquez, a Parianon, however, fought back and kept the friars at bay.
Go said in one of her footnotes that Augustinian Fr. Santos Gomez Marañon filed a petition “to have the Parian parish supressed and incorporated into the Cathedral.”
Go said, “Many reasons for this request were given, but it definitely had the earmarks of a direct challenge against the dominance of the Chinese mestizo community of Parian and their elaborate church, which far outshone the cathedral.”
Through the years, however, the rivalry with Spanish friars continued with succeeding priests and capitans of the Parian gremio.
During the time of Don Pedro Rubi as Parian captain, the bishop ordered that masses be held at the church only on Sundays.
During the time of Don Maximo Borromeo as captain, the bishop “removed the right of the Visayas priests to officiate mass in the Parian Church.”
“In retaliation the residents of the Parian decided to make use of the school across from the church and converted it into a chapel where the parish priest of Parian could officiate the mass.”
In 1875, Dionisio Alo, known as Capitan Isyo, became capitan of the Parian gremio. With the San Juan Bautista fiesta in June approaching, Capitan Isyo called for a meeting to discuss preparations. The fiesta was a big affair in the area with most Parian residents spending “as much as three thousand pesos” for the celebration.
Capitan Isyo also wanted to discuss who would replace their parish priest, the Ilonggo Fr. Anselmo “Pari Imoy” Albanceña, who died in December 1874. The replacement would be celebrating the fiesta mass.
Fr. Tomas de la Concepcion, the parish priest of the cathedral, told the group “to request the bishop to appoint a white priest.” De la Concepcion said there was no Filipino priest capable of being named to the post.
Capitan Isyo, however, strongly disagreed and shouted at a cabeza de barangay who agreed with the suggestion.
“At that instance, a quarrel broke out between the two. While Capitan Isyo used his prerogatives as head of the mestizo gremio, Padre Tomas also made use of his power as representative of the Bishop in order to force Capitan Isyo to yield and accept (a) white priest as their parish and spiritual guide.”
The heated and bitter exchange ended with the two deciding not to hold a mass for the fiesta or even holding any celebrations.
Followers of Capitan Isyo feared he would be excommunicated and tried to change his mind but the nationalist community leader just told them, “I would prefer that the church be destroyed rather than have a friar in it.”
Fr. Tomas kept a grudge against Parian and “boasted to his priestly friends, especially the friars, that he was obsessed with the complete destruction of the Parian church.”
When Fr. Tomas reported the incident to the bishop, including Capitan Isyo’s declaration that he would rather have the church destroyed than have a white priest in it, the bishop felt insulted.
On June 24, 1875, the bishop forbade the parish priest from saying mass in the Parian church. The community’s fiesta celebration was also overseen by the Cathedral parish priest. Capitan Isyo could not do anything and his enemies made sure he would keep his post so that they could exact their revenge. They told residents that the capitan was to blame for what happened in Parian.
The bishop then ordered a Spanish engineer to check the durability of the Parian church. The engineer later informed the governor that the materials used to build the church were weak and the structure, including the stone wall that surrounded it, should be torn down.
Date of destruction
The governor of Cebu then ordered the destruction of the church. He also ordered the bishop to take possession of everything inside the church, including its statues and bells.
While Ang Sugbo Sa Karaang Panahon listed the destruction of the church as having occurred in 1875-1876, Go said “the actual destruction of the church seems to have taken place in late 1878 or 1879.
According to information printed on a photograph found at the Cebuano Studies Center in the University of San Carlos, “the convent of the church was spared and was used later during the American regime as a public library and a fire station.”