One of the most popular tourist attractions in Cebu City is undoubtedly Magellan’s Cross. This is partly because MOST attractions that visitors to Cebu come to see are actually outside the city. But perhaps the biggest reason that this location is so popular is because of what it symbolizes.
A Little Bit of History
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer sailing under the Spanish flag. He left Europe in August of 1519, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and hugging the coast of Brazil, while heading south. The goal of this journey was to circumnavigate the globe, something that had never been done before.
His convoy of ships reached the dangerous shores of southern Chile in late 1520, approaching Tierra Del Fuego. The passage at the southern tip of South America is now known as the Straight of Magellan because of this successful navigation, another first for European explorers.
Once safely across the passage, Magellan named the large body of water the Mar Pacifico (Pacific Ocean) because of its apparent calmness. Nearly 4 months later, in March of 1521, the remaining crew of 150 landed in The Marinara Islands and Guam, then continued on to Cebu in April of that same year. His landing in the Philippines marks the first European contact on the archipelago.
Through a Malay interpreter, Magellan befriended Rajah Humbabon, the King of Cebu. The explorer and the king formed a blood pact, symbolizing a strong friendship. The expedition’s priest baptized the king and his queen, introducing Catholicism, and gifting Humbabon with both an image of the Holy Child, or Santo Nino, and his own wooden cross.
To show dedication to his new alliance and help further spread Catholicism, Magellan agreed to travel to Mactan Island to force the conversion the hold out Chieftan Lapu-Lapu and his people, an unfriendly group to Rajah Humbabon.
The Battle of Mactan only lasted a few hours, and Magellan was mortally wounded in the unsuccessful invasion. As a result, the Cheiftan Lapu-Lapu is recognized as a Filipino Hero because he was the first documented native to resist, and successfully defend his homeland against Spanish Colonization.
In Modern Times
At one point in time, the original cross was on display, but it was taken away briefly because tourists were nicking off pieces of wood from it, as a souvenir.
In response, the caretakers of the cross were said to have encased the original inside the shell made of native Filipino Tindalo wood. This hardwood is much more difficult to carve away at, so it offers adequate protection to the original cross that it allegedly contains inside.
The tall dark wooden cross sits on an ornate pedestal inside of a beautiful marble building dedicated to the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. Its Spanish tiled dome’s ceiling is painted with important scenes from the early history of Filipino Catholicism. Candles drape the base of the pedestal, and large barred windows allow the sun to reach its interior.
The placement of this small building housing Magellan’s cross again echoes its importance; while it is placed in a public square, the memorial sits directly across from the Basilica Santo Nino (its caretakers) and Cebu’s City Hall. Solidifying the bond between Christianity and its history in the Philippines.
It is important to remember that this particular memorial is very popular and can become very crowded at times, so be sure to choose the day/ times of your visit appropriately if you can. The photos that accompany this article were taken on a Saturday, so it was naturally very busy, and it took quite some time to get photos of the memorial without multiple people in the way. Regardless of the crowds, Magellan’s Cross is a fun little cultural stop to see when visiting Cebu. Don’t miss it!
This monument is in the south of the city and is close to many places to eat, shop and visit.
Travel safe and enjoy the many wonderful things that the Cebu region has to offer travelers.