The island of Cebu already had a thriving community long before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines. The locals were already trading with people coming from places as far as China. Chinese merchants would arrive at the port bringing silk, porcelain, cotton, iron, copper, and glass products, among others. They would trade these items for products, like gold, pearls, cotton, and abaca, which the natives brought. Chinese merchants would dock their boats at the Parian area and go further inland through rivers and creeks using small boats to trade with the natives.
When the Spaniards arrived, the port area was divided into two sections by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. One section became the Poblacion de Europeos, which was also called Ciudad de Cebu, while the second section of the port was Poblacion de Naturales, which later became San Nicolas.
When Cebu participated in the galleon trade, the Chinese established a settlement in the Parian area, which was already a major commercial district in Cebu. Stores were set up by Chinese traders, who lived in the second floor of these establishments. The area became the home of rich Chinese merchants and Spanish mestizos.
Trade and commerce started to decline in the 17th and 18th century, which led to a decline in the Chinese population in the Cebu. Since there was a shift from commerce to agriculture, the Chinese started to migrate to other places in the archipelago. The decline was further heightened by the expulsions in 1780 by Governor-General Simon de Anda. The Parian area started to become a suburban residential area where Chinese mestizos lived.
The presence of numerous Chinese restaurants in and around the Queen City of the South reflects the depth of the roots of Chinese influence is among Cebuanos. You can see a number of these Chinese restaurants in the downtown and uptown area, including Mingnan Chinese Cuisine, Ding Qua Qua Dimsum House, and the White Gold House, among others.
Chinese merchants normally buy or trade items from one place and bring them to another place to sell or trade. This practice of buying or trading and selling was also adopted by Cebuanos. There are a number of small businesses in Cebu that source their products from the Carbon Market or the commercial district along Colon Street and sell them in other areas around the province. They may even go to other parts of the Visayas to sell these products. The thriftiness of Cebuanos may also be attributed to the way the Chinese would save first before they think of spending.
Since they were rich, the Chinese settlers sponsored projects that built churches in the city. One of the most notable church-building projects is the Sacred Heart Parish. The church is dedicated to "Our Lady Queen of China." The church started out as a small chapel in the Parian area in 1952. The permanent home for the church along D. Jakosalem Street was established in 1960 by the Chinese Catholic Association.