Going Around Cebu's Spanish Era Streets

Cebu City is perhaps the country's oldest settlement and it has evolved from a small, sleepy trading center to a densely populated metropolis.


Cebu City is perhaps the country's oldest settlement and it has evolved from a small, sleepy trading center to a densely populated metropolis. With all those developments throughout time, street names have changed as well. As these street names changed generations after generations, some old names still persist and not easy to forget even though the local government has already changed them. As a result, some streets have old names being used instead of the new ones. If you haven't been to Cebu City or not familiar with some places, you might get lost as some people prefer the old, familiar names.

Some people prefer Jones Avenue or Juan Luna Street instead of Osmeña Boulevard. A portion of General Maxilom Avenue is still known as Martires. Where Chinese goods abound, people prefer Manalili Street instead of V. Gullas Street. Even the provincial highway refers to Natalio Bacalso Avenue. Some people may look for Zulueta Street but would be surprised that it is called Vicente Sotto Street. Get confused with Serging Osmeña Boulevard and Don Eduardo Aboitiz Street? Interestingly, Cebu City is the only major city in the Philippines not to have a Rizal-named street, avenue, or boulevard. Well, the corner of Leon Kilat and SRP access road used to be called Rizal Avenue from 1973 to 1984.


If you can travel back in time, the streets of Cebu all had Spanish names and are quite unfamiliar to people living today. The old maps of Cebu including the famous 1873 plan by Domingo de Escondrillas showed the streets of those times.

Calle de Colon

The oldest street of Cebu is named after Christopher Columbus and not the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan although the latter would have it on the other streets. Way back when, wooden row houses have lined up the street as it served as the city's high street at that time.


You will see that the street is lined up with an extended tiled roof to protect pedestrians from the tropical heat and monsoon rains.

It was also a publishing center where the city's famous journalists and writers work. It also housed theaters and entertainment houses that's why it was also called Calle Teatro.

Calle de Alfonso XIII

Interestingly, one of Madrid's main thoroughfare is Calle de Alfonso XIII. Named after King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941), Cebu used to have the same street that is now called Magallanes Street. It was lined up by commercial buildings and row houses including Chinese stores and Japanese bazaars.


And one of these bazaars, is the Nippon Bazar and the Taisho Bazar that were established by Japanese immigrants before World War II. It was perhaps, one of the first places that got electricity and street lights.


If you take a look at this street, it looks like it is taken in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Without the traffic and urban decay or grime, it was truly one of the most popular streets of its day. Interestingly, the Japanese-owned shops have competitors across the street owned by the Chinese.

Calle de los Mártires

It was named after the Cebuano Katipuneros that were executed by the Spanish during the revolution. It was said that the condemned were marched along the street towards Plaza Independencia before they are executed. This street included the stretch that begins at the plaza, passing the old provincial jail, goes along Hipodromo and Mabolo, and then ends at the Cebu City-Mandaue City border.


Way back when it had old Spanish-style "bahay na bato" where calesas pass by effortlessly without the street traffic we dread today. Imagine yourself walking around these streets and see those magnificent heritage buildings around you.


Calle de Serrano / Calle de Enrile

Based on the Escondrillas map, the street that connects Fort San Pedro to one of Cebu's lost lake near the Parian district is Calle de Serrano in the south and the Calle de Enrile in the north. It is further connected by an undefined Camino de Talamban.


The Spanish have killed 25 revolutionaries, including Don Florentino Gonzales and Don Teopisto Cavan during the height of the revolution at an area called Bique. It's currently occupied by the Cebu Technological University.

Calle de la Ynfanta

This street is named after Maria Teresa, the second eldest child of King Alfonso XII and Queen Maria Cristina of Austria. It connects the so-called Calle de Cebuano in the Ermita District and Plaza de Recoletos and ends up at the Plaza de Amadeo I. This street played a crucial part during the Tres de Abril battle against the Spanish.


Calle Nao Victoria

Now known as F. Gonzalez Street, the street was named after one of Ferdinand Magellan's ship. It has many old homes of the emerging middle class, many were Chinese and mestizos. Many businesses were soon established as it serves the established commercial buildings along with Calle de Alfonso XIII.

Calle Blasco de Garay

One of the smaller streets in the old city is named after the Spanish explorer Blasco de Garay (1500-1552). Surely, many Cebuanos don't know who this personality is. A navy captain who served under Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, de Garay was also an inventor credited for the development of a diving apparatus and the introduction of the paddlewheel as a substitute for oar.

Calle de Alcarazo

This street was established in honor of Alcalde Mayor Juan de Alcarazo, the man responsible for ruthlessly suppressing the Bankaw Revolt (1621-1622) in southern Leyte. Bankaw's head was pierced in a bamboo stake and was displayed for the public to serve as a warning. His son was beheaded, and one babaylan was burned at the stake. Three other followers were executed by a firing squad. In order to dispel the blindness caused by the influence of diwata, eighty-one rebel priests were burned. Some rebels were captured, including the daughter and son of Bankaw.

Calle de Prim

Stately houses of the nouveau rich of Cebu are established in Calle de Prim including that of Domingo Veloso houses facing the Plaza de General Loño. It connects both the Plaza de Amadeo I and Plaza de Palacio. It was the time when the city has a lot of open spaces for people to hang out with family and enjoy the fresh air. Obviously, there are no automobiles then so it seems everything was spacious and properly maintained. The elegant caruajes would bring these rich people along these roads while ordinary people just walk or take the less impressive tartanillas.

Calle del Norte America / Calle Maria Cristina

The street that stretched from Mabini to D. Jakosalem Street would have tartanillas plying the road servicing customers in the many merchant houses while also passing by houses of the city's prominent residents like the Chiong Velosos, the Osmeñas, the Vaños, and the Singsons. 


References:

Old Cebu Facebook page. Note all these black-and-white are colorized.
Kagubot sa Sugbo.
Plano de la Ciudad de Cebu - 1873, by Domingo de Escondrillas.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Going Around Cebu's Spanish Era Streets
Going Around Cebu's Spanish Era Streets
Cebu City is perhaps the country's oldest settlement and it has evolved from a small, sleepy trading center to a densely populated metropolis.
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