Close to 500 years ago, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted a huge Christian cross in Sugbu (now Cebu) to celebrate the baptism into the Roman Catholic religion of island chief Rajah Humabon, his wife, and some 500 of their followers on April 21, 1521.
The 485-year-old cross, called Magellan’s Cross (click on photos to enlarge), now stands at a small chapel located across Cebu City Hall and along Magallanes Street. The street is named after Magellan, Magallanes being the Spanish translation of the Portuguese explorer’s name.
A sign below the cross says the original Magellan’s Cross is encased in the tindalo wood cross displayed in the center of the chapel. This is to protect it from people who chipped away parts of the cross believing it has miraculous powers or as souvenirs. Some, however, say that the original cross planted by Magellan was destroyed or lost and what stands there now is a replacement planted by Spaniards who came after the Portuguese explorer.
Magellan was killed on April 27, 1521 in what is now known as the Battle of Mactan. The Portuguese explorer died when his men fought Mactan natives led by the island’s chieftain, Lapu-Lapu.
Cebu City Hall now uses the cross as a symbol and the chapel’s image can be found in the city seal. Many other Cebu-based government and non-government organizations use Magellan’s Cross in their seals and logos.
The cross is a popular tourist attraction together with other Cebu historical landmarks like the Fort San Pedro, built by the Spanish conquistador who came some 40 years after Magellan, and the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nińo, considered the oldest church in the Philippines.
Within the vicinity of Magellan’s Cross are Cebu guitar vendors and shellcraft and woodcraft displays. The products are popular with the locals and tourists.
Magellan’s Cross, as with many areas and landmarks in Cebu, is currently being renovated and restored in preparation for the province’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit this December.
How to get there
Magellan’s Cross is right in front of the old Cebu City Hall building, which is now being renovated as a legislative building, in downtown Cebu near the port area. The easiest way to go to the area is to take a taxi, all drivers know where it is. If you’re from the uptown area, the taxi ride may cost you around P60. If you’re coming from Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan Island, the taxi fare may be around P200.
If you feel adventurous and you want to tour Cebu City via public transport, you can take one of the many public utility jeepneys with routes passing near the area. Just check the jeepney’s signboard, usually on the windshield, if it says City Hall or Basilica (for the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nińo, which is right next to Magellan’s Cross).