Cebu can be heaven to history lovers since it has its own share of museums, like the Jose Rizal Memorial Museum, the Casa Gorordo Museum, the Cathedral Museum, the South Western University, and the Museo Sugbo, among others. Out of all of these repositories of the past, the Museo Sugbo has a rather interesting history.
Museo Sugbo was designed as a prison by Domingo de Escondrillas in 1869. It was originally known as the Cárcel del Distrito and was meant to serve as the main prison for the entire Visayas District. Construction of the prison started at around 1871 and parts of its structure were made mainly out of coral stone blocks sourced from the Parian Church. It was renovated in 1892, which saw the addition of more buildings right behind the main structure. These buildings are now used as the galleries of the museum.
Throughout its over-a-century history as a prison, it housed criminals as well as Katipuneros. The Katipuneros were typically imprisoned without a trial and later executed at the Carreta cemetery. When the Americans came, the prison was used as a stable for horses that competed at the nearby hipodromo or racetrack. It was later used as a prison for the city and province by the Americans, who called it the Cebu Provincial Jail. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the prison was used by the Japanese as a prison for captured guerillas. The incarcerated guerrillas were tortured in the prison by the Japanese secret police, the Kempeitai.
After the Japanese surrendered to the Allied forces, Japanese collaborators were incarcerated in the prison. Between the 1950s and 1976, the city jail was located along the front section of the prison while three structures at the back housed the provincial jail. The name of the prison was changed into the Cebu provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center or the CPDRC in the 1980s.
The prison was eventually converted into the Museo Sugbo in 2004 after the CPDRC was transferred into a more modern prison complex. August 5, 2008 saw the inauguration of the first four galleries of Museo Sugbo. A National Historical Marker was later unveiled on August 13, 2009 by Governor Gwen Garcia together with the National Historical Institute head Ambeth Ocampo. In addition to the marker, the Visayas Branch of the Museum of Philippine Political History was also unveiled by the two officials along with some dignitaries.
In 2010, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake jolted both Cebu and Bohol damaging some parts of the Museo Sugbo. The national government set aside around P20 million to restore the 150-year-old building housing the Museo Sugo. The restoration project started recently under the supervision of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines or the NHCP. The project is expected to be completed within six months.
Museo Sugbo has four permanent galleries, one changing exhibition and three special exhibition galleries. Among the more interesting galleries show an exhibit of artifacts from the Spanish and American eras. One of the exhibits in the American era gallery is a collection of memorabilia of Thomas Sharpe. Sharpe was among the teachers sent to the Philippines at the start of American period. The World War Two gallery houses Japanese propaganda newspaper, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart earned by Uldrico Cabahug, and a bomb dropped by the Americans during the war.
Similar to all old structures around the archipelago, the Museo Sugbo also has its own stories of unearthly events. Some of these stories include bottles being knocked down in the mass media gallery and strange people walking with the guards before disappearing without a trace.
A man clad in khaki and white also seen by a guard doing his regular rounds. The guard said the man walked into the restricted area close to the guards’ lockers. The guard followed the man into the locker room, but found the room empty. The room only had one entry and exit point. Another event supposedly happened when a photo was taken of a display during the opening of an exhibit. The photo showed a shadow of a person who, apparently, did not exist.
These stories only add to the mystique of the Museo Sugbo whose walls hold a treasure trove for history lovers. It is definitely one place visitors would not want to miss if they want to learn more about the history of the Queen City of the South.
Lola Pureza's Peanut Browas, a taste of old Cebu.
Available in leading supermarkets and pasalubong shops.