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EVEN before Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Mactan soil, Cebu

was already a bustling economic area. This is evidenced by the pre-Hispanic artifacts
unearthed in Cebu. Southeast Asian merchants and those from as far as Arabia were
seduced by Cebus rich spices. This is proof that Cebus port was already active way
before Spanish colonization in 1521. By 1565, port activities in Cebu became more
significant when it participated in the galleon trade until 1604, when Manila became
the trading hub of the country. But in July 1886, the Cebu port was again opened for
international trading through a Spanish Royal Decree. This was the time of Europes
Industrial Revolution and the demand for raw materials was high. Cebu became the
center of trade for copra, corn, pearls, spices, sugar, silk, and cotton textiles and
tobacco. It became the center of trade in the country. The Port of Cebu is rich in
history, dating before the Spanish era. This is why it is among the 37 featured sites in
the ninth Gabii sa Kabilin spearheaded by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. It is
important to know the history of Cebus heritage sites because history brings a sense
of identity. This is why the theme of this years Gabii sa Kabilin is Founding.

Gabii sa Kabilin is like story-telling, and the participating sites are the characters of
the story. After much brainstorming, we thought of offering information about these
places for people to really understand how they were founded, what was the
germination point on how they came to be, said Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, Rafi Cultural and
Heritage Unit executive director. Another significant and interesting chapter in history
that will be showcased in the annual event is the Cebu railway. As Cebuano leaders
continue to debate whether a light railway transit is practical in the Philippines, it is
important to note that Cebu once had a railway. In the early 1900s, the Philippine
Railway Construction Company built a 57-mile railway that spanned Argao town in
the south and Danao town in the north. The primary purpose then was the transport of
sugar, coal and other products around Cebu.
The railways central depot was located at the corner of Leon Kilat and P. del Rosario
Sts. While the port of Cebu opened international trading doors, the railway system
served as an inter-regional trading transportation. From the central station, one rail
track led to the north, another to the south while another led to the port area.

There were many stations along the way. But among the few remnants of the Sugbo
railway is a restaurant in Barangay Valladolid, Carcar City, which utilized one of the
remaining stations in Cebu. Another former train station located in Barangay Sab-ang,
Sibonga, has been used as the library of the Simala Elementary School. Argaos then
train station is now a fire station.
Going north, the train went straight to Danao from the central depot. While any trace
of a train station in Danao has been lost, one sitio, where the loading and unloading
bay was located, was named after itSitio Estasyon.
The rotunda in Poblacion, Danao is where the old train would turn around to go back
to Cebu City. The demise of Cebus railway came during World War II. The tracks and
the central depot were bombed. The damage was so bad it was not worth
rehabilitating. But while the railway may be gone, its importance had been engraved

in Cebus history, particularly because of its crucial role, along with that of its port, in
its development and modernization.

The callenge is educating the public on how to make history relevant to the people.
Its like building a friendship. We develop friendship between and among the people
and the heritage sites by sharing how these places came to be, Gerra said. Because
if you dont know the place, you dont become connected. If you are connected, on
the other hand, you will try to build that relationship, that friendship, further as you
interact through time. That is what Gabii sa Kabilin wants, she added. To join the
Gabii sa Kabilin, guests must purchase a P150-ticket, which serves as an admission
ticket for all destinations, one tartanilla (horse-drawn carriage) trip within the citys
old district, and unlimited rides on the Gabii sa Kabilin-designated buses. (PR)