Cebu Then and Now: Fascinating Photos Taken at the Same Point of View

cebu then and now emjae fotos

Ever wonder if you could travel back in time? Perhaps the only way is through imagination and a little help from photos snapped in the past. Recently I have seen old Cebu pictures and felt nostalgic and curious how it has looked in the present using the same point of view. I started to walk around the city and find it out myself how is Cebu then and now. I also did a little research to add a quick history.

Disclaimer: The old images of Cebu used in this blog post are found in Karaang Sugbo (Old Cebu) Facebook page. This blog is meant to share Cebu’s Heritage and is not meant to deliberately infringe on the rights of the original image owners.

Vision Theatre

First on our list is this building in the heart of Cebu and along the oldest street in the Philippines. The Vision Theatre in Colon Street, with a facade of naked women and sculptured by an Italian artist Dante Guidetti, was built by Agustin Jereza and opened in the 1930’s. Amazingly it survived the World War which is evident in the photo below.

vision theatre old cebu then and now
vision theatre old cebu now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

Sadly, now it is being occupied by hawkers selling pirated DVDs and other stuff. I agree to those who say it deserves some rehabilitation and maybe even turn it into a museum. I bet most ordinary Cebuano have failed to notice this gem in the midst of this busy traffic. Now you’ll never gonna pass this street the same again.

Magellan’s Cross

This cross is one of the famous tourist spot in Cebu and is housed inside a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street. It was planted after the natives of the island accepted Christianity which was brought with the spaniards led by the famous Ferdinand Magellan.

magellans cross old cebu then and now 1960
magellans cross old cebu then and now 2014
2013 © Emjae Fotos

Currently the chapel is still under maintenance and partially covered as the structure showed cracks and minor damages during the earthquake last October 2013. Still there are lots of tourists visiting this place which is nicely maintained and luckily I had this photo taken before the quake happened. 🙂

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is a typical Spanish colonial church in the country. Its belfry was built in 1835 during the Spanish era which is one of the remaining structures, including its facade and walls, that remained intact after the Allied bombings of the city during World War II. The church was later rebuilt in the 1950s.

cathedral throwback old cebu then and now
cathedral throwback old cebu now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

Several reconstructions and renovations were done to the church and it is now one of the famous wedding destination in Cebu. Well this photo does not give justice to it with the trees blocking the view but one will be amazed definitely with its interior.

Rizal Memorial Library and Musem

Another building built before the World War II is the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum. Obviously it is named after our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and is located along Osmeña Boulevard.

museum throwback old cebu 1945
museum old cebu now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

The ground floor is now utilized as a public library where books on Cebuano history and culture are kept while the upper floor has been a performing arts hall for concert and theatre productions. Everything looks good except for the wires covering our national hero.

University of San Carlos

The University of San Carlos – Downtown Campus (formerly the Main Campus) is located along P. del Rosario Street. The Second World War saw the closure and occupation by Japanese troops. And shortly before Liberation, in 1944, bombs from US planes fell on San Carlos, almost reducing the school to rubbles.

usc main throwback old cebu then and now
usc main throwback old cebu now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

It is now a premier university and consists of five campuses in different areas of Metro Cebu.

University of the Philippines Cebu

Located in Gorordo Avenue, Lahug Cebu City, the University of the Philippines Cebu is a pre-World War II building. It even served as a camp during the war for American and British civilians and later occupied by the Japanese troops.

up old cebu then and now
up old cebu then and now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

University of the Philippines Cebu is now an autonomous unit of the UP System after several births and rebirths through out the years. It also has a new campus in South Road Properties which features the UP Professional Schools which offers masters degree.

Mango Avenue

Mango Avenue is one of a kind in the 1940s because it was hedged with obviously none other than mango trees. It is also called General Maxilom Avenue which was named in honor of General Arcadio Maxilom y Molero, a katipunero and a hero of the Philippine Revolution.

mango avenue 1940 old cebu then and now
mango avenue old cebu now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

Today, it is popularly known as one of Cebu’s main entertainment spot crammed with nightclubs, disco bars, hotels, restobars and the Filipino all-time favorite karaoke bars. It is on top of the list when you want to hang-out and party the night away. And sadly you don’t see the mango groves anymore. 🙁

Fuente Osmeña Circle

In the midst of a bustling traffic lies a magnificent fountain named after the late Cebuano president Sergio Osmeña. Fuente Osmeña which literally means “Osmeña Fountain,”, is a small rotunda park at the heart of uptown Cebu City. Look how awesome you can clearly see the Capitol from the circle back then.

fuente osmena throwback old cebu then and now
fuente osmena throwback old cebu then and now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

This small park gets the highlight during Sinulog and Christmas season as it is the venue for events, concerts and gatherings and becomes packed with food stalls at certain times of the year. On a normal day you can see people jog around it while others just chill. You can still slightly see the Capitol today but a lot of establishments have sprouted around the place.

Fruit and Vegetable Sellers

And last but not the least, let’s take a look at the people of Cebu. One thing that has not really changed over a hundred years is the trading system in a typical Filipino market. This is where items offered range from fresh food products to handicraft materials which are low-priced.

vegetable sellers old cebu then and now
vegetable sellers old cebu then and now 2014
2014 © Emjae Fotos

The best place to be is in Carbon Market, the oldest and largest public market in Cebu City located in the downtown area. I personally prefer buying goods from these people since aside from being inexpensive and fresh, you are directly helping their livelihood. 😉

Cebu is evidently a significant cultural center in the Philippines with its Spanish and Roman Catholic imprint. Through the years, the structures, landscapes and even the people have dramatically changed. But at the end of the day, let us be reminded with this famous quote from our national hero.

He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.
― José Rizal

So, which Cebu then and now photos did you like? What can you say about the old Cebu and the recent changes? Share your thoughts in the comments below and spread good vibes. 🙂

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  1. Very important & historic places you emphasize.I salute you for such great effort.As if I travelled back in time where everyone now a days doesnt know how it look look like.Great & amazing job Emjae,Thank you!!!

  2. Wow! This is a great visual comparison. I love how you shoot from the same angle since we’re really able to catch a wonderful glimpse of the past from these present shots. I’m from the city and I ALWAYS come across to most of these places but never looked at them the say way you did from your lenses. Good job bai. 🙂

    • Hi Andy.. I saw a photo of that mansion in Karaang Sugbo page and planning to include that in my future post but it would be better if the horizon 101 will be finished by that time. Anyway if it’s a different photo, feel free to email me at , thanks 🙂

  3. Amazing how Cebu was able to preserve these landmarks. The first one still looks good, though better before. Your city looks pretty much the same since the 1940’s. I wish Manila is still how it used to be.

  4. Nice one Emjae! Maayo ni nga post for people who were not able to experience Cebu without the hustle and bustle like me! Kamingaw pa gyud sa Cebu sauna! I wish we could turn back time! 🙂

  5. Emjae, I really enjoyed this article on your blog. I just moved here in Cebu a couple of months ago, and these photos makes me want to discover this City’s heritage even more. The two photos of Mango Ave. really caught my attention :-D, it looked like two different places. Thanks man!

  6. It’s good to compare the old Cebu with the new, from which we would know how to improve the city. Before the city was clean, with no dangling cables serving as photobombers. Hehe.

  7. Hi Emjae, great effort for doing these then and now Cebu photo comparisons. I was born in the early 50′ s and some of these old pics here had some imprints on my memory, but it’ s nothing like really seeing what these places now really looked like then when I was not yet around. More power!!!

  8. I’m a cebuano and i am really proud of you Emjae. You just lifted my inner core to brag Cebu more.
    Been to these places and you sure as hell correct about not going back to this places the same way i did. Thanks a lot, looking forward for part 2 🙂


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