Cebu is not like a simple glass of tap water you can understand in one gulp. Instead, it is a vast ocean characterized by mysterious depths.
So, when the chance to sail through its history and heritage came up, I was immediately on board with the idea. This was an excellent opportunity to swim beyond the shallows.
What a fantastic night of exploration the Gabii sa Kabilin turned out to be!
This wasn’t my first Gabii sa Kabilin (GSK), but that did not take away from my enjoyment of this year’s event.
I love traveling and I’m not only curious about other countries’ history and culture. I also relish the opportunity to be exposed to my heritage. Since my friend, who was not from Cebu, haven’t tried this yearly event organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., we were all hands on deck at the chance to join the Gabii sa Kabilin 2019!
First Destination: Aduana House
Guided by our map, we set our course to where the event’s opening ceremony was held – the Aduana House or the Malacañang sa Sugbo. This is the official residence of the Philippine President if ever he visits Cebu and is just a stone’s throw away from the port area and Fort San Pedro.
On this day, the Gabii sa Kabilin commenced within the Aduana House grounds. It was a fitting start because the program was held at the port side and this year’s theme is “Setting Sail”. Everything was all about celebrating Filipinos’ pre-colonial history and getting a glimpse of our country and city’s colonial heritage.
The best part was that two fast maritime vessels served as a backdrop to the opening ceremonies. The Ivatan and Salvador Abcede swayed gently at the docks, belying their power and speed. They were used to patrol and protect our seas. The fact that we got on board, inspected them from bow to stern, and talked to their crew was just plain awesome!
Walked to the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum
Off to a great start, we headed to our next stop – the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum.
Customary to the Gabii sa Kabilin is the different routes you can take that will lead to various museums, heritage, and cultural sites in Cebu City. There is a walking route and there are also routes that involve bus rides.
To maximize our time and energy (since the GSK only runs from 6PM-12MN), we decided to do the walking tour first and see later where else we can visit depending on available time.
We walked to the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum, which has undergone a massive restoration. It is not officially opened to the public yet but they decided to participate in this year’s GSK, which is a boon to us because we got to see the beautiful repair work on that gorgeous and historical building!
More than that, a visit to that museum highlighted the Chinese heritage in Cebu City and learning these things about Cebu further whets my appetite to explore my home city and appreciate it as a full-blooded Cebuano.
Next Stop: Museo Basílica Del Santo Niño
Eager to explore some more, we headed to the Museo Basílica Del Santo Niño. I was excited about this part because I have been to the Basilica numerous times but I never found the chance to visit the museum, not even during the previous GSK I attended.
Spurred on by that excitement for a first-time adventure that intrepid sailors of old must have felt, I eagerly walked into the Sto. Niño Museum.
It was amazing to view all the display inside. I never knew that the Basilica had a huge collection of such precious artifacts. The super old books, valuable pieces of jewelry and vestments, and the beautiful art were all a great experience in themselves.
I was also amazed to learn that the Sto. Niño has its own coat of arms! Enjoying and learning new things like this is precisely one of the main reasons why I love to travel.
Saw a Fire Dance at the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House
My friend and I decided upon Casa Gorordo for our next landmark. On the way there, we came across a huge crowd gathered at the front of the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House. Turned out we were just in time for a fire dancing performance. Lucky!
The fire dancers set the crowd alight, including me, with their blazing moves. There were even firecrackers at some point!
This Gabii sa Kabilin was definitely getting better as the night deepened.
Outdoor Theater Show at Casa Gorordo
After being happily waylaid for a bit, we arrived at the next destination on our course – Casa Gorordo. Again, the timing proved fortunate for us because an outdoor theater show was just starting.
We enjoyed just sitting on the grass and watching the performers weave a historical tale of sailing, exploration, and finding new places. The costumes were great and the garlands of light that brightened the Casa Gorordo lawn made everything a warm memory worth cherishing.
Cultural Performances at the Gullas Halad Museum
Our next plan was to go to the assigned bus stop beside the Gullas Halad Museum to catch a ride to the University of San Carlos and then visit the Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple.
But just like any adventure, there are always unexpected moments and you’ll just have to go with the flow. Upon arrival at the Halad Museum, we found out that a cultural performance was starting. I asked my friend if we could abandon our original plan and watch the show instead.
We definitely didn’t regret that decision. The show, albeit short, was definitely worth it. I am a huge fan of classical music and cultural performances. The Gullas Halad Museum wowed us all. I certainly enjoyed the orchestral music (kudos to the violinists and bassists), the short and hilarious play about “Banawa”, and the singing and dancing of folk music. Loved it all!
Last Stop – Palm Grass The Cebu Heritage Hotel
Due to time and distance constraints, we decided that our final stop for the night would be Palm Grass Hotel.
I am truly glad I was able to visit there and enjoy the interesting art pieces on display and the cultural activities they prepared for the guests.
To end the night with a bang, I decided to try as many activities as I could. So, I tried to dance the traditional folk dance called Tinikling. Then, I took a very short crash course on the Philippine self-defense art of Arnis. I even tried playing the traditional musical instrument there without much success since I am tone deaf. Haha.
Gabii sa Kabilin – A Night of Heritage
One thing is for sure – we had so much fun!
I am definitely happy that I was able to join the 2019 Gabii sa Kabilin. It was so fulfilling to figuratively set sail through the pre-colonial and colonial history of the Philippines and Cebu. We learned a lot and everything we saw and experienced definitely enriched our lives and existence as a Cebuano.
I am also delighted to be able to show a non-Cebuano friend a part of this city I call home. Looking forward to next year’s GSK.
Let’s continue unfurling our sails and scanning the horizons in search of new adventures!