The Cebu Provincial Capitol is one of the iconic architectures in the Philippines. It has been declared as a National Historical Landmark in recognition of its beauty, expressing Cebu’s rich culture and history. Drawing inspiration from the U.S. Capitol Building, it is one of the oldest structures of its kind in the entire archipelago, making it a well-known tourist attraction.
Before the construction of the present Capitol, the Cebu Provincial Government was housed at the Casa Provincial, located at the Plaza Independencia, along the Calle de los Trece Martires (now M.J. Cuenco Ave.) near the port area. The Casa Provincial was then under the management of the Filipino revolutionaries in 1898 and by the American army in 1899.
The planning for the establishment of the present Capitol (Cebu Provincial Capitol) started in 1910, during the inauguration of Osmeña Waterworks but the construction only began in 1937 during the term of Governor Sotero Cabahug. The building was completed in June 1938, during the term of Gov. Buenaventura Rodriguez. The inauguration of the new Capitol was then held, attended by the former president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. At the ceremony, Cebu Archbishop Gabriel Reyes blessed the new building, and Governor Rodriguez's wife uncorked a bottle of champagne. During the Second World War, the Capitol sustained serious damages, but a year after the end of the war, it was completely restored through the Tydings War Damage Act of 1946.
Today, the Cebu Provincial Capitol is the seat of government of the province of Cebu. The building houses the offices of the governor, the legislative hall of the provincial board and other provincial and national government offices. It is located at the north end of Osmena Boulevard at the corner of Escario Street. It was declared one of the National Historical Landmarks in the Philippines on July 9, 2008. Since the National Historical Institute put a historical marker in the Capitol in celebration of the 439th founding anniversary of Cebu, bus tours pass by the building to showcase a part of Cebu’s history.
The Capitol was designed by a famous Filipino architect, Juan Marcos Arellano. As part of the master plan by William E. Parsons in his 1912 Cebu plan, the Capitol is positioned dramatically at the end of a new avenue (Osmena Boulevard). The architectural style of the building is neoclassical in spirit, but its extreme simplification foreshadows Arellano's changing architectural language towards the art deco style. It is also a part of the bigger City Beautiful planning for Cebu City during the early colonial days of the American Period.
The center structure of the Capitol building is designed in a U-shape, embracing the Osmena Boulevard ends figuratively. The exterior is painted in all white, with the large dome and the concave façade positioned in the center, drawing the most attention. Just below the concave façade is the main entrance with a green marbled wall and three large doors. On the concave façade is an inscription that reads, “The authority of the government emanates from the people. Erected A.D. MCMXXXVII.” The two columns on both sides of the façade each has a gold-painted statue in Roman costumes. The female statue stands on the right side while the male statue stands on the left side, holding a winged wheel and a shield. On the sides of the Capitol grounds are two prominent figures in Cebu’s history. Standing on the right side of the grounds is the statue of Sergio Osmeña, Sr., while the statue of Lapu-lapu stands on the left.
The main three-story building is bordered by two service buildings, overall creating a wide courtyard - a ceremonial courtyard bounded by a balustrade. The structure is built in a typical neoclassical style. The first floor has rusticated stone blocks occupied by halls and offices from different departments. The second floor houses several executive offices and can be reached by the main staircase from the foyer. The Gallery, the Dignitaries Hall, and the Social Hall is also located in the second floor. The attic or the third floor, also housing different departments, completes the structure of the Capitol main building.
At the back of the Capitol is the Marcelo B. Fernan Hall of Justice Building, which houses the courthouses and offices of the metropolitan trial courts and regional trial courts, and other government offices attached to the national government’s Department of Justice.