Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 8): Calle Colon, the Oldest Street in the Philippines

Calle Colon Sign in Cebu City

Do you know that the oldest street in the Philippines is located in Cebu? 

I discovered this trivia during one of my walks around Cebu City. The key to my discovery is this obelisk in the middle of the road:

The Obelisk Marker of Calle Colon in Cebu City

This obelisk marks the north end of Calle Colon or Colon Street.

A marker, placed by the National Historical Institute, informed me of the historical significance of this street that I always passed along during my every visit to Cebu City.

NHI marker of Calle Colon in Cebu City

Cebu City was the first capital of the Philippines and thus it was not surprising that the oldest street can be found here.

Calle Colon was named after the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus (or Cristobal Colon in Spanish). I don't know why the street was named after that guy since he didn't visit the Philippines. Maybe the Spaniards are just proud of this world-famous Italian navigator who sailed under the Spanish flag.

A short distance from the obelisk is the Pari-an Fire Station

Pari-an Fire Station in Cebu City in 1954

I thought that Pari-an means “a place inhabited by priests” since the word pari is priest in both the Tagalog and Cebuano languages. I was wrong.

Pari-an is the Mexican (or Spanish) word for marketplace and its presence in Cebu is points to racial segregation policy initiated during Spanish Colonial Era.

The Spaniards divided Cebu City into three sections. The first section; which is the area around Fort San Pedro and Cebu Cathedral;  is the ciudad and is occupied by the Spaniards. The area west of the ciudad was named as Poblacion de Naturales and was occupied by the Cebuano natives. This poblacion is now the barrio of San Nicolas. The area north of the ciudad, on the other bank of the Estero de Parian was reserved for the Chinese immigrants.

1873 Escondrillas Plan of Cebu City by
Old plan of Cebu City dated 1873 (Source: Wikipedia)

The racial segregation policy is not unique in Cebu because it was applied by the Spaniards in other parts of country. Manila, for instance, is also divided into three sections. The Spaniards occupied the walled city of Intramuros, while the natives were given Tondo, and the Chinese were placed in Binondo.

Pari-an was so called because most of the Chinese immigrants in Cebu during the Spanish Era were merchants. Calle Colon was the first commercial district of Cebu City because the shops set up by the Chinese.

Undated photo of the old Calle Colon in Cebu City
Undated photo of Calle Colon (source: MyCebu)

The old Calle Colon is long gone. The old houses were now replaced by malls, shops, and other big buildings.

Novo Mall along Calle Colon in Cebu City

The street for kalesas and caritelas of the past is now smoky due to the great volume of multicab and cars passing through.

Polluted Calle Colon in Cebu City

The once proud commercial district of Cebu is now considered the den of thieves and snatchers.

Gaisano Capital South Mall in Calle Colon in Cebu City

It seems like the fate of Calle Colon is very similar to that of Calle Escolta. Both streets were the first commercial districts of Cebu and Manila. Both street were abandoned as big businesses moved to other areas. Now, both streets became infamous and largely forgotten by the public.

Multicab (a.k.a. Dyip to the Tagalogs) is the king of the road in Calle Colon, Cebu City

My discovery of Calle Colon brought both delight and sadness. I was delighted because I learned new things about the Queen City of the South. I was sad because I also learned of the loss heritage of that all Filipinos could have been proud of.


Read more about my latest adventure in Cebu:

Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 17): A Great View of Cebu City from Tops Busay
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 16): A Taste of Mandarin in Cebu City
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 15): Taboan the Pasalubong Center of Cebu City
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 14) – My Accidental Visit to Mt. Carmel Church
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 13): Another Visit to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 12): Why Cebuanos Call Mama Mary as Birhen sa Regla?
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 11): Sto. NiƱo Basilica - Mother and Head of All Churches of the Philippine Islands
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 10): A Visit to the Fake(?) Magellan’s Cross
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 9): The Story of Rajah Humabon - King of Cebu
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 7): The Worst Cebu Hotel
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 6): The Colorful Lighthouse of Lilo-an
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 5): The Mysterious Church of Lilo-an
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 4): Bagacay Point Lighthouse
A Foretaste of Cebu in Mactan Cebu International Airport


Some information in this blog were referred from the following sources:

Colon Street, Cebu City Flooding by Atty. Abella
Source of the Word Pari-an from Google Books
Colon, oldest street in the country in MyCebu.PH
Online article from the National Library of the Philippines
Estero de Parian by Louella Eslao-Alix in Cebu Daily News

More interesting reads about Calle Colon:

CEBU, PHILIPPINES: The Old Families of Colon Street by Cecilia Brainard