A monument to Cebu’s turbulent past, the Fort San Pedro in Cebu City served different purposes at various times in the island’s history.
The fort began as a single triangular bastion when it was first built with logs and mud in 1565, with Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi breaking ground for the structure. It served as the nucleus of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. (Click on photos to view larger images)
Fort San Pedro is the oldest and smallest fort in the Philippines. Built by the Spaniards to repel sieges by hostile natives and Muslim pirates, the fort was deemed finished in 1738, some 200 years after it started construction.
The fort’s name was taken from Legaspi’s flagship “San Pedro” in which he sailed the Pacific Ocean in 1565. Little was known about the fort from its construction in 1565 until it was mentioned in 1739 in an official report to King Philip II of Spain.
In the report, the fort–Fuerza San Pedro–was described as triangular in shape, made of stone and mortar, and with three bastions named La Concepcion, (southwest side), Ignacio de Loyola (southeast), and San Miguel (northeast).
The report also told of a large building called the “Cuerpor de Guardia”, where personnel that manned the fort lived; a “Vivende del Teniente”, the sleeping quarters of the fort lieutenant; a well; and a powder magazine that served as storage for the fort’s arms and gunpowder supply.
The structure was also described as having a total area of 2,025 square meters, with walls that are 20 feet high and eight feet thick, and towers that rise 30 feet from the ground.
Over the centuries, the fort had many uses.
It became a prison for local rebels during the Philippine revolution from 1896 to 1898.
The fort was turned over to Cebuanos by American Commodore George Dewey after the decisive Battle of Manila Bay, which happened on May 1, 1898 or a few days after war was declared between Spain and the United States.
The fort at one time or another also became the American Warwick Barracks during the American Regime, got turned into classrooms where Cebuanos received formal education from 1937 to 1941, used as prison camp and fortification for Japanese soldiers during World War II or from 1941 to 1945, served as hospital when battle for liberation was fought, and became an army camp from 1946 to 1950.
The Cebu Garden Club took over and turned the inner part of the fort into a miniature garden in 1950 while its upper deck served as offices for government agencies. The fort courtyard was used as a zoo in 1957.
In ruins and with only its two towers recognizable in 1968, the fort underwent restoration. Coral stones from under the seas of Cebu’s coastal towns were used to restore the fort to make it as close to the original as possible.
Fort San Pedro is now a museum-park where Spanish artifacts, documents, paintings, sculptures, sword fragments, cannons, and helmets and Ming porcelain pieces of various sizes are displayed.
Visitors pay a nominal 10-peso fee to enter the tourism landmark. The fort is located in Barangay San Roque in Cebu City. In front of the fort is another city landmark, the Plaza Independencia, and to its side is the Cebu Central Post Office, which is near Pier 1.
How to get there
The easiest way to get there if you’re taking public transport is by riding a taxi. All cab drivers know where it is. From the uptown area, it’s a 70 pesos taxi ride. If youu’re taking the cab from Lapu-Lapu City, the ride may cost you 180 pesos.
If you want to go there Pinoy style, take the Philippine icon of mass transportation, the jeepney. Several jeepneys have routes that pass the place. Look for jeepneys with Pier 2 or Plaza signboards in their windshields.