As the country’s oldest Spanish settlement and first capital, Cebu City has a long history that pre-dates the colonial era.
Before European colonization, the Philippines did not have a national identity. Instead, the archipelago was comprised of many territories occupied by different tribal groups who constantly feuded with each other. However, because of the archipelago’s location, it was already an economic and cultural hub.
The Rahjanate of Cebu is believed to have been established in the 10th century by a prince of the Hindu Chola dynast from Sumatra. The name “Cebu” came from the old Cebuano word sibu or sibo (“trade”), a shortened form of sinibuayng hingpit (“the place for trading”) as the community was already a thriving port. It was originally applied to the harbors of the town of Sugbu, the ancient name for Cebu City.
Due to its location in the middle of the archipelago, Cebu was already a thriving port and the indigenous population – as in the rest of the major surrounding islands – had developed a way of life and a distinct culture that were suitable and satisfactory to them. They had a calendar, weights and measures, a system of writing, some elements of law, some religious ideas showing both Hindu and Mohammedan influences, and had some skill in metalworking, pottery making, and weaving.
Few pre-colonial artifacts have been unearthed that could give us a glimpse of what arts and crafts were in those days. However, nearly a hundred pre-Hispanic pieces were discovered in 2008 in the historical core of city which yielded a gold death mask made with delicately crafted sheets of gold that covered the eyes, nose and mouth.
What is certain is that Visayans had the most prominent tattooing traditions among the Philippine ethnic groups – the original Spanish name for the population being Los Pintados or the native ones. Tattoos were symbols of tribal identity and kinship, as well as bravery, beauty, and social or wealth status. Often, they mimicked forms from the natural world both to show their reverence and desire to manifest certain “supernatural” qualities.
Perhaps the most enduring remnants of pre-colonial life are the woven crafts and native structures that have persisted, largely unchanged, in the modern era. The natives used widely available natural materials such bamboo, cogon grass, anahaw and utilized techniques honed over the millennia. The forms were utilitarian (food service, storage, carriers) while the structures were built to withstand the sometimes-brutal tropical weather patterns. In its most basic form, the bahay kubô (aka kamalig, payag, nipa hut) consisted of one or more rooms that were raised above ground on stilts. Its resemblance to a cube led the Spaniards to call it cubo hence the contemporary moniker.
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The Magellan Expedition
On March 15, 1521, the Portuguese navigator and explorer at the service of the Spanish Crown, Ferdinand Magellan landed here and was welcomed by Cebu’s ruler Rajah Humabon along with his wife and about 700 native islanders.
Magellan, however, was killed in the Battle of Mactan, when he intervened in a local skirmish with Datu Lapu-Lapu – the leader of that neighboring island. The remaining members of that first expedition left on the remaining two ships after several of them were poisoned by Humabon.
Eventually, only one, the Victoria was able to return to Spain and complete the first circumnavigation of the world under the leadership of Juan Sebastián Elcano along with 17 of the original 241 men who first embarked on the journey.
The significance of the Magellan Circumnavigation An almost unimaginably difficult and perilous journey for the crew, Magellan’s voyage was the opening chapter in the rise of global trade and globalization that defines our world today. It also generated important scientific knowledge, including more information about the earth’s circumference and new understandings of global time. Establishing this new western sailing route was vital to Spain’s future as an international power.
The Legazpi Expedition
Sixty-four years later, another group of Spanish conquistadors returned on February 13, 1565 under the leadership of Miguel López de Legazpi. He was able to subjugate the last indigenous ruler, Rajah Tupas, ant formally took possession of the island on July 3, 1565 under the Treaty of Cebu. The name of the settlement changed to Villa de San Miguel then again to Ciudad del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús after an image of the child Jesus from the Magellan expedition was found in one of the houses.
The Decline of Cebu
For a while, Cebu became the base of the Spanish colony-in-the making and a jump off point for further exploration in the archipelago. It was also a safe harbor for the fledgling Acapulco Galleon route. In 1569, realizing that theu could not sustain their colony in Cebu, the Spaniards moved north and began building a fortified city on Manila Bay which has world class harbor and is accessible to the open Pacific Ocean and Asia. However, this move left Cebu with a skeleton of an outpost.
Dr. Resil O. Mojares, a leading historian and a National Artist for Literature asserts that the disruption of Cebu’s old trade links with other Asian ports, restrictions on interisland trade and the eventual shift in focus to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade in the late 1570s relegated Cebu to the backwater for over two hundred and fifty years.i
Despite it being a “province” which encompassed other islands such as Bohol, Leyte and Siquijor which also had military base and the seat of bishopric, there was not much of anything else. In the eighteenth century, the French scientist Guillaume Le Gentil reported that “the city of Cebu – which should not really be called a city – is an assemblage of a few miserable huts.ii
The birth of modern-day Cebu is an nineteenth century phenomenon after the Spaniards were forced to make multiple reforms after the 2 year British occupation of Manila from 1762-1764. It was also a product of wider changes taking place in the colony and the world. The Galleon Trade went into a period of decline, Mexico gained its independence and global trade began to liberalize which became markets for the agricultural products from the Philippines.
Inter-island trade also increased which naturally favored Cebu because of its location in the middle of the archipelago. In the 1840’s, the island became a major participant in the export economy as the third largest producer of sugar in the Philippines after Pampanga and Bulcan . However, more than being a producer, it was Cebu’s role as a distribution center that led to its rapid development in that era. Nineteenth century Cebu was an entrepot for products such as hemp, sugar, tobacco and coffee from its neihgboring islands of Negres, Leyte, Bohol, Samar and Northern Mindano. These products eventually ended up being shipped to Manila, Australia, the US, Great Britain and Spain. On the other hand, Cebu became the distribution center for inbound commodities for the Visayas and northern Mindanao.
In 1860, a Spanish royal decree signed by Queen Isabella II opened Cebu to world trade which more than doubled its total value of exports in a span of just over a deade. Other developments included the closer integration of the city and the countryside with fourty-four new towns created being created between 1825 and 1898 from the initial 13 towns.
The rapid increase in population was most evident in Cebu City. By the end of the Spanish colonial era, it was estimated that the 15,000 individuals called the city – a thousand of whom were foreigners. At that time, the city was composed of 18 districts or barrios, and had around 2,000 buildings and houses.
Cebu suffered a short downturn in the 1880s when the world prices of sugar dropped. At that time, Cebu was amongst the top exporting provinces of the commodity – even ahead of Negros – in the country. By the 1890s when prices of sugar stabilized, Cebu had become prosperous enough to gain the sobriquet “Queen City of the South” that was originally identified with Iloilo.
The Parian District and the “New” Cebu Elites
During Cebu’s two and a half century decline, the number of Chinese residents had dwindled in the city. However, by the mid 1850s, the Chinese mestizos and the newly-immigrated Chinese had become the most powerful commercial group in the city and made the Parian district adjacent to the port their base.
Families like the Cuencos, Gotiacos, Singsons, Sansons and Velosos – who remain prominent to this day – all had roots in the Parian district. The Osmeñas – the city’s most illustrious political clan for much of the 20th century – also had their beginnings in this district and are related to most of the aforementioned families above.
Despite Cebu’s continued prosperity in the latter part of the 19th century, the city and its residents could not resist the spreading wildfire of revolution in the archipelago. A local chapter of the Katipunan – the secret society that was formed in Luzon to put an end to centuries of Spanish abuse and oppression – was also formed in Cebu. On April 3, 1898, a month after the Revolt of Cebu began, the rebels led by Leon Kilat, drove the Governor, General Montero, and his Spanish volunteers into Fort San Pedro and took control of Cebu City. This siege only lasted a few days but it galvanized the local population and further exposed the major cracks on the Spaniard’s collective armors.
Easily the most visible reminder of the Spanish heritage is the Catholic church in the center of most Philippine towns. The great number and variety of this and other religious structures confirm the fact that the Spaniards were here not just for commercial gain but, more importantly, to win souls for God. The earliest religious structures were churches built for the religious orders, who lived in adjoining monasteries. The first monastic churches were built for the Augustinians in Cebu and Manila in the same years these cities were taken over by the Spaniards.
Religious Architecture and Art
It was also during the late 19th century that structures such as Fort San Pedro, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebú underwent major renovations to reflects Cebu City’s increasing prominence and affluence. The churches, which were often designed by the priests themselves with input from the local craftsmen evolved into a unique style often referred to as Tropical Baroque that fused Spanish designs with a uniquely Oriental twist. The churches’ aesthetics were also shaped by the materials that were readily available such as local stone and coral and were built to withstand natural disaster such as earthquakes and storms.
To furnish and decorate the churches, locals would copy European furniture and religious objects that were also brought in by the priests. It has also been reported that many Chinese craftsmen were employed to assist in the carving of these objects.
With the resurging prosperity in the city, the then-newly wealthy made it a point to build large edifices to reflect their new status or renovate existing ones to keep bring them up to date with the latest technology and fashion. These so called balay na bato were an updated version of the traditional bahay kubô and maintained that structure’s ability to weather the tropical climate, stormy seasons, and earthquake-prone environment. They also fused the influence of Spanish colonizers and the prominent Chinese traders. Some examples of these abodes exist to this day and have now been converted to museums. All within proximity to each other, one can easily visit Casa Gorordo Museum, Museo Parian, and the Yap -San Diego Ancestral House.
Materials innovation also took on a similar approach with details such as the now-beloved Capiz shell windows that are considered a staple of Filipino design. Because glass was very expensive and scarce in the Spanish colonial period, the easily available bivalve was utilized to cover windows and doors because of the translucence and relative durability. It’s common name – windowpane oyster – actually attests to this utility.
This fusion of East and West was also evident in the clothing. When the Spaniards arrived, a handloomed piece of rectangular tube-lik cloth called the patadyong was as a wraparound skirt by both men and women in the Visayas and the Sulu archipelago. Similar to the better known sarong of Indonesia, it was usually worn with a simple collar-less shirt or jacket with loose fitting sleeves. This eventually evolved into the kimono or baro’t saya that continues to be worn during traditional-themed events to this day.
Print and Publishing
There are no recorded visual artists towards the end of the Spanish era in Cebu. This is probably due to the fact that the city’s elites were busy building up their landholdings and burgeoning business interests. However, the nascent publishing industry in the Philippines finally made its way down to the island a dozen years before the Spanish Empire collapsed with the release of El Boletin de Cebu in 1886. Published by the Spaniard, Eduardo Frades, this newspaper was used by the authorities to denounce the many pocket uprisings that were already numerous then.
It wasn’t until 1899, after the Spaniards had already ceded the archipelago to the Americans, that Vicente Sotto started publishing La Justicia – being the first Filipino citizen to do so in Cebu.
Regardless of how one may feel about the 300+ years of Spanish rule in the Philippines, that era’s influence cannot be denied and continues to reverberate to this day. First is that those three centuries forged the islands into one nation with a shared sense of national identity. Next and equally important, is that the Spaniards brought the Roman Catholic religion to the archipelago which remains the dominant faith to this day.
Despite the oppression, exploitation and – in the case of Cebu – severe neglect that stunted and set back growth – the Spanish also left the Roman alphabet, private ownership of land, an education system, the Gregorian doctrine, a global consciousness, Spanish/Latin customs, and various New World plants such as cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes.
On the arts and design aspects, that era also brought in centuries of experimentation and fusion of East and West aesthetics, materials, principles and craftsmanship that most likely resulted in the contemporary Filipino designer’s global but local sensibilities and skills.
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Mojares, Resil B. “THE FORMATION OF A CITY: TRADE AND POLITICS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY CEBU.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, vol. 19, no. 4, University of San Carlos Publications, 1991, pp. 288–95, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29792067.
Ango, Junald Dawa. “The Cebu-Acapulco Galleon Trade.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 38, no. 2 (2010): 147–73. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29792703.
Foreman, J., 1906, The Philippine Islands, A Political, Geographical, Ethnographical, Social and Commercial History of the Philippine Archipelago, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Savellon, Romola O. “Sugar Production in Pre-Modern Era Cebu.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 45, no. 3/4 (2017): 152–61. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26801330.
The Legazpi Expedition
Spain officially ceded the Philippines to the United States of America in 1898 under Treaty of Paris (yes, another one). However, the Philippine Revolution, which started in 1896 was still ongoing at the same time. This led to the Philippine-American War which would last until July 1902. However, Cebu was captured in February 1899 and was occupied a few months after that.
After seizing the islands from the Spaniards, President McKinley of the United States issued the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation which declared that America’s duty was to civilize the Filipinos with superior American culture. This meant the adoption of US-style institutions, infrastructure, education, industry and social development. Surveys – both anthropological and geographical – were conducted by the first Philippine commission and plans hastily drawn up.
Daniel Burnham, the eminent American architect and urban planner who designed Manila and Baguio is quote to have said: “ No sooner had the United States come into possession of the Philippines than the War Department set about adapting the city of Manila to the changed conditions brought about by the influx of Americans, who are used to better conditions of living than had prevailed in those islands.”
In 1900, the Second Philippine Commission was appointed by President McKinley and was granted legislative as well as limited executive powers under William Howard Taft. A judicial system and legal code were established to replace the antiquated Spanish ordinance. A civil service was organized and the 1901 Municipal Code provided for popularly elected members that were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining municipal properties and undertaking necessary construction projects. On that same year, Taft, became governor of the Insular Government — which would end up administering the country until 1935.
After the Cooper Act of 1902 was passed, Cebu’s first batch of popularly elected officials took office but the pace of development on the island was nowhere near as fast as it was in the capital. Despite the slower pace, the first years of Cebu under the Americans saw a significant expenditure in infrastructure for schools, roads and bridges. The investment in the latter was meant not just to spur trade but to ease communications and administration of the new colony.
In 1906, plans to build a 57 km railroad that stretched from Danao in the North to Argao in the South were drawn to further improve connectivity on the island. It took four years to complete the planning, lay the tracks and construct all the other stations. Upon its opening in 1910, it quickly bolstered intra-island transportation and help propel Cebu to even further progress.
Equally impactful was the Osmena Waterworks which was built after Cebu suffered a cholera pandemic and a big fire in 1909. When it opened in 1912, it was one of the first large-scale sanitation projects on the island and continues to operate to this day.
The advent of World War I (1914-17), which devastated Europe, did not have much impact on the Philippines due to its distance and American-neutrality at the outset of the global conflict. Economic data even asserts that the Philippine economy boomed throughout the WWI as demand for abaca, tobacco, copra, sugar and coffee boomed. Philippine exports, in fact, almost doubled from 1914 to 1917.
In 1916, the Philippine Autonomy Act, also known as the Jones Act was signed into law. This legislation promised that the United States would recognize Philippine independence once Filipino proved capable of self-government.
On the 15th of November, 1935, the Philippines took its first steps towards independence by inaugurating the Philippine Commonwealth. Hailed as a unique moment in the history of colonialism, the creation of the Commonwealth was one of the first examples of a sovereign power peacefully relinquishing its authority over a dependent people. Under the watchful eye of Frank Murphy (the last American Governor General of the islands), the United States heralded a new form of colonialism; a benevolent, tutelary colonialism that promised to bring dependent peoples into the thrusts of modern civilization and, when deemed ready, allowed to enter the independent theatre of nations.
In 1912, William E. Parsons who helped design the City of Chicago, drew up plans to build the Cebu Provincial Capitol but priorities changed and that structure did not end up being built until 1937 and was ultimately design by Filipino Juan Arellano.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a surprise assault on the Philippines. On that day, a flying boat bombed Cebu but it wasn’t until a few months after that three warships carrying 12,000 Japanese troops landed in Southern Cebu. Active resistance to the Japanese occupation only lasted a month but guerilla forces continued to operate on the island. It wasn’t until April 1945 that the island was liberated in the Battle of Cebu by the Americans. However, the Japanese employed a scorched earth policy that – combined with American bombing – left much of Cebu devastated.
It was right before Cebu was liberated that Cebuano Sergio Osmeña Sr. ascended the presidency of the Philippines – a position he was to retain for two years making him the fourth and last president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines was finally granted independence by the United States.
The American Era in the Philippines ushered in a building boom to house the many institutions that the United States introduced into the country. The architectural styles were varied but were reflective of the prevailing aesthetics and building technologies in the United States.
In Cebu, a little known fact, is that an Italian artist, Dante Guidetti had somehow found his way to the island in the 1920s and set up a sculpture studio. Thus, he and his team of Filipino assistants, were able to produce embellishments for the buildings that were being constructed by the Americans at that time. He also passed on his skills and techniques to his apprentices who kept on utilizing them even after Signore Guidetti left. Remnants of his work are still visible today on the façade of the now-dilapidated Vision Theater, in the Osmeña Mausoleum in Carreta and the Christ the Redeemer status in Carcar.
The Americans also introduced Carnivals in the Philippines to promote US-Philippine relations as well as showcase commercial, industrial and agricultural innovations in the islands. The highlight of these events were the crowning of Carnival Queens – the pre-cursor of the modern day beauty pageants that – to this day – have a huge following in the country. Originally introduced in Luzon, they quickly cascaded around the country. Cebu’s opulent celebrations, which were said to be as grand as Manila’s were held in Fuente Osmeña.
With more and more commercial establishments opening on the island, early graphic design was utilized in advertising, documentation and signage. With increasing globalization, the were also reflective of styles that were popular in the West.
It was also during the American era that Cebu’s first nationally prominent artist, Martino Abellana would embark on his career. While his most prominent work were produced after WW2, it was his studies under the country’s first master, Fernando Amorsolo in the 1930s in the UP School of Fine Arts that would define his style and output.
As can be imagined the Japanese occupation of the Philippines led to more destruction than production of design, arts and crafts. However, what is interesting to note is that all the conflict did result in the dissemination of propaganda posters. They were consistent with Japan’s anti-West, pro-Asian stance and were consistent in their coercive messaging.
The American Era in the Philippines, like with the Spanish, brought a mixed bag to the islands. To be sure, U.S. forces at the outset burned villages, employed torture on suspected guerillas and implemented civilian recon centration policies.
However, they also brought infrastructure, education, institutions and allowed limited self-government that all improved the economy and literacy of the country. The Americans also did not force religion but promoted freedom of religion. While the effects weren’t immediately manifested, the democratic and capitalist ideals that were introduced by the Americans endure to this day.
In the realm of art, crafts and design, the Americans also had a profound impact. They brought in the latest technology and theories and utilized them in the buildings that are still present despite the bombings of WW2. More importantly, they created the institutions that educated Filipino artists and designers – many of whom were also sent to the United States to enhance their learning and experience.
Ango, Junald Dawa. “Anti-American Resistance and the Beginnings of the Public Schools in Cebu, 1899-1906.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 40, no. 1/2 (2012): 34–57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24410332.
Yamaguchi, Kiyoko. “The New ‘American’ Houses in the Colonial Philippines and the Rise of the Urban Filipino Elite.” Philippine Studies 54, no. 3 (2006): 412–51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42633879.
Hines, Thomas S. “The Imperial Façade: Daniel H. Burnham and American Architectural Planning in the Philippines.” Pacific Historical Review 41, no. 1 (1972): 33–53. https://doi.org/10.2307/3638224.
THE YOUNG REPUBLIC
On July, 4, 1946, the U.S. granted the Philippines formal independence making the country the first Southeast Asia country to gain independence after World War 2. Manual Roxas, the country’s first president as a young republic had the immense task of rebuilding a war-torn nation that had many severe problems even before the war began. Manila – once called the Pearl of the Orient – was almost completely annihilated. Philippine society, as with its infrastructure and institutions, lay in tatters as an estimated one million Filipinos (out of a total of eighteen million) were thought to have perished.
To rebuild, the country took on crippling high-interest loans under the guise of US “aid” from its former colonial masters. President Roxas was also willing to accept onerous conditions placed by the US Congress. Free trade was extended for 8 years but it was to be followed by 20 years of gradually increasing tariffs. The United States also demanded and were granted a 99-year lease on twenty-three military and naval bases where they had virtual territorial rights. Finally, as a condition for US war-damage payments, the Philippines had to introduce the Parity Amendment to its constitution to give American citizens equal rights with Filipinos in the exploitation of natural resources.
It was also around that time that war had erupted in the Korean peninsula with the invasion of the South by North Korea that was aided by China. Despite the country’s dire state after WW2, it was still able to send 7,420 Filipino soldiers to help in the effort.
In Cebu, the scorched earth policy that the Japanese occupiers had employed towards the end of WW2 also caused unimaginable damage to property, lives and institutions. The immediate activities post-WW2 were then focused on slowly rebuilding since resources were very scarce. However, it was during this time that modern manufacturing was introduced in this island when Maria Montenegro de Aboitiz founded Mehitabel, the first furniture exporter in the country.
As their main customer was San Francisco based McGuire Furniture, Mehitabel did not have to rely on the local Philippine market. This trailblazing relationship would end up being the pre-cursor for Cebu’s export orientation that is still very evident today and is a reason for the island’s continued success.
VESTIGES OF AMERICAN COLONIALISM
The evolution of Philippine-US relations was a major theme in Philippine history fo the first several decades after World War II. Weakening the link and the Filipinos’ dependence on the Americans was a growing movement. However, the United States continued to be the largest market for Philippine=made goods and American firms the biggest source of foreign investment in the Philippines. US involvement in the Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War (1955-75) also meant that the Americans needed to keep US-Philippine relations strong as the military bases in the country were vital to the war efforts.
Anti-American sentiments that turned into full-blown rebellions by groups like the People’s Liberation Army (Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan) were at first clumsily repressed but were finally quashed with the help of the Americans. This did not last long as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Muslim separatist group, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), both initiated fresh insurgencies in the 1960s.
It was also around this time that promises reflected a change in the self-concept of the country as a reflection of the larger mod, mod world of the world in the 1960s. The idea of the Philippines as an Asian outpost of Catholicism and Americans were increasingly supplanted by a desire to develop an Asian cultural identity. Artists, musicians, and writers began to look to pre-Spanish themes for inspiration. More important was the trend toward seeking cultural identity through the national language, Filipino.
CEBU IN THE JET AGE
The 1960s was an exciting time for Cebu as the island had already begun recovering from WW2. It’s prime location made it the logical base for inter-island shipping and logistics. The furniture industry kept on growing and its first “mega” project – Beverly Hills Subdivision was being developed. At the same time, the airport was moved from Lahug Field to nearby Mactan island so that jets could be finally be accommodated with Philippine Airlines commencing jet services in the late 1960s.
The fact that Manila continued to be the political center of the country allowed Cebu to develop without having to rely too much on scarce dole outs from the capital. This self-sufficiency and fierce tenacity developed into the famous Cebu Can Do attitude that remains relevant to this day.
Ferdinand Marcos, who was first elected as president of the Philippines in 1965 became the first to win reelection in 1969 after he spent $50million worth in debt-funded structure to curry favor with voters and local politicians. This spate of borrowings, along with the country’s already substantial debt from Marcos’ first four years in office, triggered a Balance of Payment crisis. Already underway during his second inauguration, this crisis forced the Marcos administration to seek the aid from the International Monetary Fund to restructure the debt. The peso was allowed to float to a lower market value that resulted in drastic inflation and social unrest. The demonstrators were further emboldened when a bribery scandal implicating the Marcoses was exposed during the Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971.
Beleaguered by burgeoning uprisings, ever-expanding social turmoil and approaching his constitutionally limited term in office, President Marcos declared Martial Law in September 11, 1972. All over the country, around 70,000—student leaders, union organizers, peasants, publishers, journalists, activists and leaders of the political opposition—were arrested and detained upon orders of Enrile, acting on behalf of Marcos.
Initial public reaction to the declaration was mostly favorable as the regime was able to reduce violent urban crime, collect unregistered firearms and suppress the communist insurgency in some areas. In 1973, Marcos proclaimed the ratification of a new parliamentary-type constitution, with himself as both president and prime minister.
General disillusionment with martial law grew as political opponents languished in jail, free press continued to be curtailed, and political and economic control became consolidated with the Marcoses and their close allies. Lavish spending and corruption on vanity projects – both public and personal – started to surface with increasing frequency. Despite growth in the country’s GNP, real income dropped, few benefited from land reform and the traditional exports of sugar and coconut products were on the decline.
CEBU DURING THE LATTER PART OF THE MARCOS YEARS
It was however, during the latter part of the Marcos years, that Cebu started opening up to international tourism. The first Sinulog Festival to celebrate the city’s patron saint, the Sto. Niño de Cebu, was launched in 1980 and would end up becoming one of the world’s largest festivals.
The assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino upon his return from exile in the United States proved to be the catalyst for the end of the Marcos years. Amidst growing clamor, a snap presidential election was conducted in 1986 wherein Aquino’s widow, Corazon, became the standard bearer for the elections. Marcos was declared the winner but the overwhelming public outcry and massive but peaceful demonstrations that followed drove the Marcos and his family out of Malanacañ Palace and swept Corazon Aquino into power.
THE AQUINO YEARS
Euphoria over the ouster of Marcos proved to be short-lived, however. Plagued by enormous external debts, a floundering economy and a growing thread from communist insurgents, the Aquino government also had to deal with internal dissension, repeated coup attempts and considerable natural disasters.
One such natural disaster was Typhoon Ruping that ravaged Cebu in 1990. Known internationally as Super Typhoon Mike, this extreme weather event, knocked out power for months, damaged to bridge connecting Cebu to Mactan and caused billions of damage to property and livelihoods. The incoherent response and aid from Manila forced then-governor Lito Osmeña, to look elsewhere for resources and rallied the Cebuano community to rebuild on their own. This movement, which would eventually lead to the moniker Ceboom was to be the catalyst for the acceleration of growth on the island that persists until now.
It is understandable that Filipino artists and designers continued to be influenced by the West – particularly the United States due to the lingering colonial mentality. So it is no surprise that the communications collaterals of that era borrowed heavily from Western aesthetics.
The 1970s and early 80s saw an evolution in the way people lived by emphasizing the connection between interior and exterior elements while still being influenced by Spanish, American and Chinese themes.
Fashion was also heavily predicated on prevailing worldwide trends as globalization continued to converge tastes, materials and silhouettes.
The early decades of the Philippine Republic were tumultuous years as the country had to recover from the devastations of WW2, evolve its relationship with the Americans and attempt to stand on its own as a fledgling nation. The Philippine experiment continues to this day as the country – and its artists and designers – cope, learn, grow and evolve with the many challenges and opportunities that humanity and society as a whole are forever barraged with.