Fast Facts: What you should know about Cebu

MANILA, Philippines – The province of Cebu celebrates its 445th founding anniversary on Wednesday, August 6.

Cebu plays a major role in Philippine history. The first known skirmish against foreign invaders took place on the shores of Mactan Island in April 1521. Lapu-Lapu and his men fought the Spaniards and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the process.

On August 6, 1569 – a few years after the establishment of the first Spanish settlement in Cebu City – Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was appointed by King Philip II as governor of Cebu province. This event served as the basis for the celebration of Cebu's foundation day.

In 1994, Republic Act 7698 declared August 6 of every year as a special non-working holiday in Cebu. Republic Act 8952, enacted in 2000, expanded the holiday's coverage to Cebu's highly-urbanized and component cities.

Located in the Central Visayas region, Cebu had a population of 2,619,362 in 2010, making it the most populous province in the Visayas. The count excludes the population of its 3 highly-urbanized cities: the capital Cebu City (with a population of 866,171); Lapu-Lapu City (350,467); and Mandaue City (331,320).

The province also has 6 component cities and 44 municipalities divided into 6 legislative districts. Separately, Cebu City has two legislative districts, while Lapu-Lapu has one.

The province's current governor is Hilario Davide III, son of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

Here are more interesting facts on Cebu:

1. One Philippine president hailed from Cebu.

Born in Cebu City, Vice President Sergio Osmeña became president on August 1, 1944, following the death of President Manuel L. Quezon. He served until May 28, 1946.

2. One Philippine president died in Cebu.

On March 17, 1957, President Ramon Magsayay was on his way back to Manila after visiting Cebu City. Unfortunately, the "Mt Pinatubo," a Douglas C-47 plane, carrying Magsaysay and 25 other people crashed on Mount Manunggal in the town of Balamban. Only journalist Nestor Mata survived the crash.

3. Cebu has the country's smallest and oldest fort.

Fort San Pedro in Cebu City was built during the Spanish occupation to fend off local attackers. It later served as a bastion of resistance of Filipino revolutionaries in Cebu, barracks for American forces, a school, a refugee camp during World War II, and an army camp after the war.

The fort was restored in the years that followed. It is located beside the Plaza Independencia park.


4. Cebu once had a railway system.

The main track, stretching over 90 kilometers, linked the towns of Argao and Danao (which became a component city in 1961). Unfortunately, the railway system was heavily damaged during World War II.

5. One of the oldest schools in the Philippines and in Asia can be found in Cebu.

The history of the University of San Carlos (USC) can be traced back to the Jesuits-founded Colegio de San Ildefonso in 1595. It was closed in 1769 and re-opened in 1783 under the name Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos. The college attained university status in 1948.

However, USC's claim as the oldest existing school in the country and in Asia is disputed by the University of Santo Tomas (UST), established in Manila in 1611. UST argues that there is "no visble or clear link" between the Colegio de San Ildefonso and the USC.

6. Cebu has the oldest Christian relic in the Philippines.

Made by Flemish artisans in Europe, the Santo Niño de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu) was a gift of Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah (King) Humabon and Queen Juana for their baptism into the Roman Catholic Church in April 1521.

The province holds the Sinulog festival every January in honor of Santo Niño de Cebu. In addition, the Santo Niño's image can be seen at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City.

7. The Malacañang of the South (Malacañan sa Sugbo) is located in Cebu.

Built in 1910, the "Malacañang of the South" in Cebu City was formerly known as the Aduana, the Spanish word for customs. It originally served as the headquarters of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the province.

The BOC left the building in 2004, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo restored it and made it her official residence in Cebu. She named it after the Malacañang Palace in Manila.

The building has remained unused for official government functions since the end of Arroyo's term in 2010. –

Editor's Note: We earlier mentioned that only a replica of the Santo Niño's image can be seen at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City. The church's official website, however, clarified that the original image is actually enshrined there. We've corrected the error.

Aljohn de Leon is a Rappler intern.

Sources: National Statistics Office,, Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino de Cebu website,,, Wikipedia, various news articles

Image of Metro Cebu at night from Shutterstock.