*Note: In order to preserve the excitement of discovery, the photographs in this article only feature the museum itself. Photographs of the gallery interiors and their contents have been intentionally omitted.
A gem of a historic building and an important connection to the human history of the Philippines, the Cebu Museum is one of the few destinations in Cebu City proper that visitors, and specially those that are history buffs, should not miss.
‘Sugbo’ is the native name for the city that was later adapted to ‘Cebu’. You will find that the names ‘Museo Sugbo’ and ‘Cebu Museum’ can be used interchangeably, and they ARE quite regularly in the building itself, and throughout this article.
Visitors will find getting to the museum quite easy, as it is located along a major road and it is a destination that most taxi drivers are familiar with.
For the more adventurous folks, Museo Sugbo can easily be reached on foot, by jeepney, or by car, although there is no nearby parking lot, so the former are the preferred methods of transit. The street address and contact info are posted at the end of this article.
The Cebu Museum’s entrance fee for foreign nationals is 75 pesos (1.50 USD) or 30 pesos for Filipino residents. Visitors will find the ticketing window is immediately to the right side of the courtyard in the front of the building. There, a staff member will have you sign the guest log and collect your entrance fee.
The Cebu Museum is open every day except Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm.
Now that all the important details are out of the way, lets talk more about the building itself.
A brief history
Originally opened in 1871 as the Cárcel de Cebu, then eventually the “Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center”, the complex housed prisoners for 133 years before a larger, more modern replacement was built.
After sitting mostly vacant for 4 years, the Museo Sugbo officially opened its first four galleries in 2008, with its focus being on Cebuano heritage.
What you can expect to see
The first thing you will notice upon arrival is the beautiful Colonial Spanish style architecture of the building itself, which sits on well maintained grounds. The plants are healthy and vibrant, and really add to the beauty of this location, despite its rough history.
The veranda is flanked by two canons and placards. A short walk through this narrow archway leads to the first galleries.
In these front galleries, visitors will find a collection of ancient artifacts on loan from a local university; all of which have been excavated on Cebu or Mactan Island. The pottery and jewelry which originated elsewhere, proves the importance of inter-waterway trade routes between the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mainland China even during the early human history of Cebu.
In subsequent galleries, visitors will be able to discover historic relics and personal effects from the Spanish Colonial Era, The American Colonial Era, and modern Philippine history, from Governor Legazpi’s handwritten correspondence, to Architectural plans for current day government buildings.
Also, the stories of influential figureheads, companies, and events can be found throughout the galleries. The Cebu Museum is an eclectic, but informative historical diary of not only the island, but the Philippines as well.
On a visit to the Museo Sugbo in 2018, a staff member was eager to direct visitors towards the newly opened Rice and God’s gallery. Located along the rear of a narrow passage, this gallery had its own uniformed guard, and featured modern day photography by a prominent Filipino photographer. The subject of this entire gallery was the Filipinos connection with their staple crop and the festivals across the country that celebrate its harvest. The Iffuago people of Northern Luzon are prominently featured in photographs throughout. It was by far the most modern gallery in the entire complex and beautifully put together. Unofficialguide.ph has some articles on nearby Sagada as well.
In the far corner of the rear courtyard, visitors can find a gift shop, and a café, along with a few small tables. This courtyard is home to a number of galleries such as the Philippine Archives, which is primarily focused on Cebu architecture.
There is not a single gallery in the museum worth skipping. It is best to plan for an hour stay or longer, but the time spent will really depend on how closely you examine each of the exhibits.