Cebu’s Old District of Pari-an

One of the many things that you could do on your own in the Queen City of the South is to visit museums. The city has several museums found within the old district, many of which were old heritage houses converted into museums and are relatively near to each other. The city’s old district is located near Fort San Pedro, the city hall, the oldest street (Colon) as well as the cathedral and the minor basilica. Museum hopping can be done for a few hours.

Every last Friday of May, Cebu City organizes Gabii sa Kabilin or Night of Heritage. This coincides with the celebration of the Philippine Heritage Month and the International Museum Day. Tourists and the public as a whole, get to visit museums and heritage sites and appreciate the cultural and historical pieces and exhibits that describe Cebu.

Visitors can get to visit the museum whole-year round. You can do your own version of the Gabii sa Kabilin. We call it the Heritage Walk. Here is my recommendation.

Start with the Obelisk at Colon Street
The obelisk is often referred to as the Colon Marker. This can be found at the east end of the street at the point connecting Mabini and P. Burgos Streets.

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This pillar made of granite serves as a reminder of Cebu’s oldest street in honor of Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon). The street was established in 1565 to become the city’s busiest strip. The street does not look dated anymore. Gone were the old American and post-war structures. But there are art-deco buildings that you might be interested with.

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Heritage of Cebu monument
Just a few steps from the Colon Obelisk is another marker known as the Heritage of Cebu monument. A masterpiece of a local Cebuano artist, Eduardo Castillo, this monument showcases all the significant historical events and cultural treasures of Cebu.

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Some of the historical events depicted in the marker are Battle of Mactan, The Baptism and Conversion to Christianity of Rajah Humabon and his followers, and the revolt against the Spanish Government. Also included in the monument are heritage structures such as the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Spanish Galleon and the demolished St. John the Baptist church.

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The monument was erected on the site of the original plaza of Parian – an old district of Cebu which used to be the prominent residential area during the Spanish times. Parian was at that time, the center of barter and trade between the Chinese and the Spanish mestizos.

Jesuit House of 1730
Also known as the Museo de Parian, the Jesuit House of 1730 is one of the oldest houses in the country. This museum is just across the Heritage of Cebu monument at Mabini cor Zulueta St.

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A casa of Chinese influence as seen from its carvings and the structure of the roof (tisa or red clay tiles). Why is it called a Jesuit House? Stories say that the house was owned by the Villa Family and was donated to the Jesuits on the agreement that the latter would pray for every member of the Villa Family all throughout the time of their occupation of the house.

There are several stories that surround the Jesuit House. Some are sad, some are quite shocking. You would hear the stories from the museum guides.

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
At the next corner from the Museo de Parian (Jesuit House) is the ancestral house of Yap-Sandiego. Now a museum that is open from 9am to 12mn, a visit to this bahay-na-bato is a must. What sets it apart from the other casa espanol cum museo is that visitors can get to touch and feel the articles on-display.

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I’ve written a blog, several years before, about the Yap-Sandiego House. You can read about it here.

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Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente
Further along Mabini Street is the century old Aglipayan Church or the Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente. This church is also included in the Gabii sa Kabilin Heritage Walk.

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Casa Gorordo Museum
Along Lopez Jaena Street, across the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) building is the Casa Gorordo Museum. This is said to be the centerpiece of RAFI, a restored bahay-na-bato. The casa displays old articles and furnitures that describe how life was during the Spanish colonial times. The house was built during the 1850s. RAFI made the restoration efforts to this stone house in 1980 and was opened to the public as a museum.

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In 1991, it is declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute. The Gorordos acquired the house in mid 1800s and for four generations, the Gorordos had lived in the house. The first bishop of Cebu, Juan Gorordo, has also lived in this casa.

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Museo Sugbo
If you still have time to spare and if you still get the hang of visiting museums, you can head to MJ Cuenco Avenue and visit the Museo Sugbo.

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It was once called as the Carcel de Cebu or the old provincial jail. For several centuries, this structure was designed by Domingo de Escondrillas in 1869. The carcel was made of coral stone blocks. There are stories abound that the materials used to build the jail came from the stone blocks from the demolished St. John the Baptist Church of Pari-an. At some point during the American era, the carcel was turned as a stable for horses competing at the racetrack (now Brgy Hipodromo).

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During WWII, querillas were imprisoned and tortured inside the carcel. After the war, it served again as a jail up until 2004 when the jail to a bigger complex away from the downtown area. Four years after, the carcel was totally converted into a museum. It currently has 7 permanent galleries.

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It was just my luck that the museum was closed when I visited it on a Sunday. Museums are usually open on weekends. I have visited the museum several times before and I guess the galleries are still the same. I just had to be contented in taking pictures from the outside.

So in one fine afternoon, you can do a heritage walk of old Cebu at the Pari-an District. 2 markers, 3 houses, a church and a jailhouse converted to a museum is quite a handful already but nevertheless very enriching. This heritage walk is definitely worth your time.

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