Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A Look Back to the Sugbo Chinese Roots

Dezsa C. Rubio - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Filipino community consists of a diverse group of families from multi-cultural backgrounds. Foreign settlers who came to Philippine shores then intermarried with locals, and have since been participants in the shaping of the Filipino culture. And perhaps the most influential of these foreign peoples are the Chinese, who are credited for the growth of trade and commerce in the islands.

Cebu must have looked very fertile for business in the 15th century. A small ghetto was established in the settlement’s downtown area, now known as Parian, where Chinese middlemen traded goods. Through hard work and perseverance, their businesses flourished, and as the years went by Chinese shops spread all over the place, making Cebu a one big Chinatown.

One Chinese businesses that prospered is immortalized by an extant structure – the century-old Gotiaoco Building at the city’s port area, near the City Hall. Built in 1914, the Gotiaoco Building is a labor of love of Manuel Gotianuy which he dedicated to his father Pedro Gotiaoco. And as strong as Gotianuy’s dedication for his family, the building stood the test of time and calamities.

Aside from being a commercial building in the past, the Gotiaoco Building has also been part of history. It’s the first building in the city to have an elevator and air-conditioning system.  Today, the Gotiaoco Building will once again be part of the city’s history as treasure chest of memories.

Back in 2012, the building was recommended to be demolished, but the National Museum felt the urgency to preserve and repurpose the structure. In recognition of the contribution of the Cebuano-Chinese to the growth of the city, the Gotiaoco Building is turned into the Sugbo Chinese Heritage Museum.

In a preview during the Gabii sa Kabilin on Friday night, May 26, the Sugbo Chinese Heritage Museum presented several artifacts like antique items, chinaware, religious icons and traditional Chinese medicine.

The Museum aims to highlight the arrival of the Chinese in the Philippines way before the Spaniards. The façade of the Gotiaoco Building be preserved, while its interior is renovated to allow for the Museum’s planned use of space. The Museum also hopes to qualify for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of world heritage sites.

The Museum is not fully operational as of yet, since renovation of the building is still ongoing. Its opening for the public is set next year. (FREEMAN)

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with