Posted by: annpeace | March 14, 2009

Colon Street Heritage Markers

The Colon Obelisk: worm's eye view. Photo contributed by Jose Lewis Gachalian

The Colon Obelisk: worm's eye view. I coin this the Mother of all Markers in Colon Street. A brief history of the oldest street in the Philippines is written on this landmark. Photo contributed by Jose Lewis Gachalian

I shared in an old post Of Colon Street, Cebu and Time Machines an experience of walking down the Philippine’s oldest street Colon ( named after Cristobal Colon or Christopher Columbus; it was formerly or also called Parian District) which is located in Cebu City.

In an article in SunStar Cebu dated November 27, 2007, it was reported that the Women’s International League had spent for 25 Heritage Markers on Colon Street to raise people’s awareness of its historical significance.   Sadly, some of the markers were already destroyed.  In my “journey” there, I only found 22 markers. Though I had taken some notes down (I am now presenting to you the summary of what were written on some of those heritage markers), it is a different experience such “heritage walk” on the street yourself.

  • Imprenta Avila

To print his two-publications, “THE ADVERTISER” and “ANG TIGMINTALA”, Don Jose Avila purchased the Imprenta Avila in 1922; 1920s to 1990s is considered as the Golden Age of the Philippine Journailsm.

  • Teatro Empira

This turn-of-the-century movie house was first owned by FC Arey and eventually bought by Don Jose Avila who renamed it CINE IDEAL.

For this and other reasons, DON JOSE AVILA was known at the Theater King of Cebu and Cebu’s Father of Show Business as it was through his initiative and vision that cinema entertainment grew in Cebu.

  • Teatro Junquera

This was the oldest playhouse in Cebu established in 1895 by Gen. Inocencio Junquera. This was where various dramas, operas, literary-musical programs and cinemas were held.

IT was also the preferred venue for civic affairs. In 1901, Gov. General William Howard Taft and the members of the Phil. Commission spoke before Cebuanos gathered at Teatro Junquera.

IN 1902, Vicente Sotto staged his play “Ang Gugma sa Yutang Natawhan”. It was the playhouse for the coming of the silent films.

The then location of Teatro Junquera in Colon. photo taken by Phillip C. Dacera

The then location of Teatro Junquera in Colon. photo taken by Phillip C. Dacera

  • Originally home of Gavino Sepulveda, a Cebuano who fought in the Filipino-American War.

In 1926 one part became Casino Español de Cebu, an exclusive clubhouse for the affluent Spanish residents while its other part became Menzla Paper Company.

In 1981, Henry Uytengsu transferred his Ding How Dimsum House, Cebu’s original Dimsum restaurant to this location.

  • Southern Institute

Southern Institute started as a high school. Its founder President was Don Agustin Jereza and Doña Soledad Duterte Sanson. The high school grew later into a university, the University of Southern Philippines which was transferred to Mabini Street. The present university now occupies a much bigger area in Lahug under the helm of its president, former Cebu City mayor Ronald Duterte.

  • Doña Modesta Singson-Gaisano Residence

A modest house on this site was the residence of one of the greatest philanthropists of Cebu, Doña Modesta Singson-Gaisano, matriarch of the Singson-Gaisano Clan which owns and operates the biggest chain of department stores in Cebu.

Doña Modesta’s Memory is perpetuated through the scholarships which her descendants continue to provide to poor but intelligent students.

  • Studying in Colon (Block 12)

Many of the prominent schools and universities in Cebu Today have at one time or another set up shop along one section in Colon where it intersects Jakosalem Street.

There was the Southern Institure, forerunner of the University of the Southern Philippines along one corner. Across it was built the Visayan Institute which later became the University of Visayas. Opposite this was the Spanish-era Colegio Logarta which later gave way to Cebu Normal School and still later, UP Junior College.

  • Lu Do Copra Plant

It was once the original site of the Lu Do Copra Plant which was established in 1896. It is the biggest single unit copra crushing plant in the Far East.

Lu Do, an immigrant from Amoy, China, established a copra crushing plant on a lot on Colon Street which he had leased from Fr. Venerando Reynes in 1896. Lu Do known to the natives as Iyo Owa, started a soap and candle business which survived the revolution. He took his only son Lu Ym as his partner in 1907 and the two went into mechanized production, thus, expanding the plant, which they transferred to Plaridel St. on the site of the present Lu YM building, and later to San Nicolas, the present site. The San Nicolas Plant is now the Lu Do and Lu Ym Corporation which is considered the biggest single unit copra crushing plant in the far east.

  • Rallos Residence

One of the biggest landowners in Cebu was Don Florentino Rallos who was the president (or mayor) of Cebu City during the early American Era. He owned almost the entire block.

One of the descendants, Florentino Rallos III, is a very successful businessman, importer and exporter.

  • Guidetti’s Studio

Dante Guidetti was an expatriate Italian artist who, upon his discharge from the Italian Army in the early years of the 20th century, found himself in Cebu. He established his studio on Colon St., where he made a name for himself as practitioner of classical sculptor and a mentor of the young artist of Cebu. He carved the figures from Greek mythology which adorned the façade of Vision Theater and which created quite a furor among the pious sectors of the populace in the 1930s.

Other works of Guidetti, some of which he executed with the assistance of his gifted pupils, were the statue of boy scout in front of the Headquarters of the BSP Lapu-lapu Council at the Corner of Osmeña Boulevard and P. del Rosario St., the Osmeña Mausoleum in San Miguel, and the statues in the Talisay Town Plaza.

Key informants: Mr. Jovito Abellana, a former pupil of Guidetti; Prof. Julian Jumalon, artist; Prof. Carmelo Tamayo, artist.

Guidetti Studio

It's a good thing, the photographer was tall. It is kind of hard taking this photo.

  • Vaño Residence

The Vaño’s were descended from Portuguese gentleman, Don Juan Reyes, whose daughter Mariquita married Don Jaime Vaño, a Spanish mestizo from the Ilocos. The Vaño descendants married into such affluent mestizo families as Corominas, Garces, Vaño, Escaño, and Sanson.

  • Tamayo Residence

The niece of Don Victoriano Osmeña, Doña Januaria Osmeña Sison lived here with her husband Don Guillermo Tamayo. One of their sons grew up to be the well-known artist Camelo Tamayo, former head of the Department of Fine Arts of UP College Cebu. Professor Tamayo is noted for his rendering of the elegant Spanish churches in Cebu as well as his whimsical tartanilla paintings.

  • Residence of Don Victoriano Osmeña

Don Victoriano Osmeña was an elder half-brother of Doña Juana Osmeña, mother of Don Sergio Osmeña, Sr. While his siblings opted to live in Carcar, Don Victoriano preferred to reside in Parian, having married a long-time resident of the district, Doña Januaria Cabrera. Don Victoriano ran a shipping office in Colon Street. A daughter of Don Victoriano, Juanita, married Gov. Arsenio Climaco.

  • Residence of Don Tomas Osmeña

Don Tomas Osmeña was wealthy uncle of the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr. It was he who carefully nurtured the career of the brilliant student and promising leader in Cebu and the country as well. Tomas R. Osmeña, current Mayor of Cebu City was named after him.

  • University of the Visayas

The present Colon Campus of the University of the Visayas constitutes properties bought in 1935 by Don Vicente Gullas and an adjacent one he purchased a little later together with this brother that used to be occupied by the club Ingles, Home of British and American Expatriates. The Club Ingles as a structure made of Nipa there. On this same spot, Don Vicente built a structure of light materials for the Visayan Institute, which he found in 1919 as a night school. Before moving to Colon, the institute had been holding classes inside a rented tow-room building along Jones Avenue, near the old train station and the Cebu Intermediate School (forerunner of the Abellana National School). Together with his brother Don Paulino, Don Vicente acquired the adjacent Tabacalera warehouse and constructed a 20-room building, which was unfortunately razed during the war.

  • University of the Visayas

One of the pioneer private educational institutions in Cebu is the University of the Visayas, which was established in 1919 as the Visayan Institute. It was originally housed in a building by the far side of the creek traversing D. Jakosalem Street.

  • Escaño Residence

On this site stood the imposing mansion of Dr. Mamerto Escaño and his wife, Doña Filomena Fortich de Escaño. The Escaño’s hailed from Leyte but operated several big business enterprises in Cebu, the most important of which was a shipping company.

  • Teatro Junquera

The oldest Cebu playhouse, which was founded in 1895 by Gen. Inocencio Junquera the Politico-Military Governor of Cebu, was Teatro Junquera.

It was also a preferred venue of cultural and civic affairs. IN April 1901 Governor General William Howard Taft and the members of the Philippine Commission came to Cebu. Thy spoke before the Cebuano’s gathered at Teatro Junquera as part of the itinerary.

  • Aboitiz Ice Plant

The ice plant was originally named Cebu Ice and Cold Storage Plant by the owner, Don Mariano Veloso, one of the wealthiest men in Cebu. Don Ramon Aboitiz, son of a basque immigrant who had settled in Leyte, bought it from Don Mariano in 1917 and later renamed it Cebu Ice and Cold Storage Corporation. It was first located at Plaza Washington and Calle Comercio, and later transferred to this site, on land which the Aboitiz Family bought from Don Pedro Royo.

  • Residence of Don Victorino Reynes

Don Victorino Reynes, a member of the distinguished Reynes clan of Parian, was an art collector and philatelist. His wife was Paulina Cui of the illustrious Cui family who put up the Hospicio de San Jose in Barili. When Don Bitong was widowed, he married Doña Vicenta of the Jabonero family. The Reyneses were known for being deeply religious and cultured.

  • Residence of Doña Juana Osmeña

Doña Juana Suico de Osmeña was the mother of late President Sergio Osmeña, Sr. Doña Juana ran a bakery on this site. This was also the residence of Don Sergio prior to the Second World War.

It was likewise in this site that the office of El Nuevo Dia was located. This was the newspaper founded by the young lawyer Sergio in 1901, together with his friends, Don Rafael Palma of Manila and Do Jaime de Veyra of Leyte. It folded up in 1903. The old USIS was also housed here.

  • Built in 1920, this building owned by Quirino Rodriguez was the site of the famed Elite Bakery. Owned and operated by Emilio Osmeña and his wife Mary Renner, Elite Bakery became one of the most patronized refreshment parlor by the elite few of Cebu. The original building though was destroyed during World War II and the present building was rebuilt by Jose, Humiliano, Timoteo, and Inez Rodriguez de Pages, children of Quirino Rodriguez.


  1. “In an article in SunStar Cebu dated November 27, 2007, it was reported that the Women’s International League had spent for 25 Heritage Markers on Colon Street to raise people’s awareness of its historical significance. Sadly, some of the markers were already destroyed. In my “journey” there, I only found 22 markers.”

    Tsk. What are they going to do with a slab of marble?

  2. A lot of historical information in one post…nice…^_^

  3. The entry on Agustin Jereza touched a chord in my journey back in time. Glad to have seen this article. Thanks!

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