Aerials of Cebu

The two articles showing aerials from metropolitan Manila’s past have been quite a hit with readers. Many e-mailed to tell me how much they enjoyed the pieces and the look back in time.
Typical of these e-mails is one from Pido A., who wrote that he “…enjoyed the article today. It brought me back several years…” Pido then filled his e-mail with the correct identification of most of the buildings in the pictures. Many other readers did the same and some, in fact, corrected the mis-captioning of a number of the aerials.
Nilo G wrote: “I’m a regular reader of your column and always enjoy reading them. In today’s (March 28) issue, I think there is some mislabelling of the pictures. The image of ‘The Benpres building on Tektite St. in the ’60s’ is actually a picture of the Strata 100 Bldg (center) and the Padilla Building (right-hand side).”
He pointed out that “The picture of the CCP was captioned as being taken ‘in the late ’60s’ but the Legazpi Towers 300 was already there. When I was passing the area every weekday in 1976 (my first year in college) on my bus rides from Cavite to Plaza Lawton, I recall that the Legazpi Towers were still being constructed, so I think the caption should be ‘in the late ’70s.’” Nilo ended with, “Many thanks to you for the kind of unique, interesting, and nostalgic features that only you write in my favourite paper.”
Yes, Nilo, you are right about the Legazpi Towers 300 building because the Legazpi Towers 100 and Legazpi Towers 200 buildings in Legazpi Village in Makati were built in the early to mid-‘70s and the 300 came after the two.
I received many e-mails from balikbayans, like this from L. Francisco. “First, thank you for the very interesting articles about the good old days coupled with stunning aerials. I left for the US almost 40 years ago and visit at least twice a year. I am here for a few days and saw the article this morning! Excellent handling! Have you ever thought about doing a then-and-now aerial (now you’ll really need a helicopter!). Here’s to continued success and enthusiasm!”
Thank you Ms. Francisco. I hope to do a book someday with a then-and-now theme (though I cannot use that title as it was my friend Manolo Quezon’s book consolidating his series of historical anecdotes.). I’m saving up for a helicopter.
This week, so as to cover more of the Philippines, we feature aerials of Cebu. The first three are hand-coloured pictures of Cebu in 1910. The Americans preserved the old Fort San Pedro and the commercial district of Colon. A new city was planned in the manner of Burnham’s Manila by William E. Parsons. It was laid out right before the war but never got fleshed out as intended.
The black-and-white pictures form the second, more contemporary images. They are from the Third National Eucharistic Congress of the Philippines celebrated in April and May of 1965. The year also marked the fourth centennial of the Christianization of the country.
The pictures were taken by photographer Pedro Roble, who exhibited his fascinating aerials of the city during the celebration. The pictures were included in the event’s commemorative book, of which I have a well-preserved copy.
Looking down Osmeña Avenue towards the Cebu provincial capitol. The Villalon ancestral house is to the right beyond.
The book is the usual compilation of messages and stories related to the event but aside from the historical significance of the celebration, it is the pictures and an essay by Nick Joaquin that drew me to the book.
The opening spread is a panorama of Cebu City looking west. In the foreground is the port area and “downtown.” The Carbon market is also visible nearby. Cutting a formal axis eastward from the city to what Cebuanos call “uptown” is Osmeña Avenue. The grand boulevard ends with the stately Cebu provincial capitol. The capitol was designed by architect Antonio Toledo in a hybrid Art Deco style and was completed just before the war.
To the left of Osmeña in the picture is Aznar Coliseum, Cebu’s answer to the Araneta Coliseum, albeit not quite as big. On the upper right of the picture is Lahug Airport, which is now an Ayala development (actually its subsidiary’s — Cebu Holdings). Planes used to land right in the city until the transfer to Mactan in the ‘70s.
The next picture is of the Cebu harbour and the city’s new reclamation area where the centennial “Templete” (small temple) was built. (Manila, which hosted the initial Eucharistic Congresses, held it at the Luneta). The Cebu reclamation, shown in the image, is now the site of an SM mall.
Aerials were taken of the event’s main procession as it wound through the city streets from downtown to the provincial capitol. Many of the city’s postwar buildings from the ‘50s and ‘60s are still there because most of Cebu’s development has concentrated on the suburban areas northwest towards the Lahug area.
The quadri-centennial (400 years) was attended by the Papal Legate Ildebrando Cardinal Antoniutti, the representative of Pope Paul the Sixth. Host in Cebu was Archbishop Julio R. Rosales, who was to become a cardinal later. The revered Fr. Patrick Peyton, founder of the Family Rosary Movement, gave an address. President Diosdado Macapagal and his family were in attendance as were guests of Mayor Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Thousands came from Manila and hundreds from overseas to participate in the celebrations.
The event was the largest celebration in Cebu’s history. Funds were raised by a national committee led by Cornelio Balmaceda and Gregorio Santayana. Members were Carlos Palanca Jr., Manuel Elizalde Jr., Andres Soriano Fr., Esto Rufino, Jesus Cabarrus, Demeterio Muñoz, Francisco Ortigas Jr., Ramon Aboitiz and Carlos Fernandez. The honorary chairperson was First Lady Evangelina M. Macapagal.
I end this piece with excerpts from Nick Joaquin’s essay on Cebu, where he describes the city’s march to progress then (which has been swallowed up in today’s hectic real estate development) and its unique culinary delights (which persist to this day.)
Quijano de Manila wrote: “…the (city) is expanding. Not only out to sea (where the reclamation projects have been more successful than in Manila) but also up to the surrounding mountains, where modern suburbs are following newly opened roads. From one such elevated suburb, Beverly Hills, one sees the whole spread of the city; and joyriding up to Beverly Hills has replaced, for teenagers, the joyrides along Jones Avenue or Capitol Drive. The city, curiously enough, has no seaside boulevard, but may develop one along the reclaimed areas.
“Lovers of local color still have San Nicolas and adjoining barrios wherein to savour el Cebu viejo. There they can try carabao meat boiled in lard and spices, dugo-dugo with corn grits, and small pickled oysters called sise. The truly adventurous might even attempt raw f
ish in kinilaw or the dried fish Cebuanos love — ginamos or tinabal or maos-maos — which they say is most delicious when wormy. You wash it down with strong gin, and you have to.”
Cebu faltered a bit after the Eucharistic Congress but picked up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Today, it is a booming metropolis that is bursting at the seams. It sorely lacks a comprehensive metropolitan plan and a larger regional plan that includes Mactan and the sprawl north and south of the city.
Just like Manila, it is a lovable mess that is magnificent in spots but the victim of ill-advised, over-priced, un-sustainable development elsewhere. It still has no seaside boulevard, no central park, or network of open spaces, no rapid transit system but it has Sinulog, great resorts nearby and wonderful food and furniture.
Hopefully, this current economic slowdown will allow Cebuanos to rethink their premier city and plan it to surpass Manila and even Singapore, which it envies and aspires to be. I hope they can survey this expanding metropolis from the air and discover the opportunities of its waterfront, its proximity to Mactan (and Bohol) and its built heritage of fine architecture, cathedrals, civic buildings and ancestral homes.