CEBU DAILY NEWS, 25 May 2014

The choice of venue was a hint that this would not be an ordinary hotel launching. It was held at the Jesuit House, a 1730 stone house-turned-museum located inside the warehouse of a hardware store in Zulueta Street in downtown Cebu Cit y.

In fact, there was no corporate launching at all. It looked as if a book and not a hotel was going to be launched, with mostly professors from universities, historians, heritage advocates and media workers in attendance.

The event, in fact, was a forum on local history. It was sponsored by Palm Grass, a hotel being built along Junquera Street. Owned by the Guivelondo family, descendants of active members of the Cebu Katipunan, Palm Grass is being branded “The Cebu Heritage Hotel” although its name suggests its original positioning as an eco-friendly hotel.

The family that owns the hotel considers it their tribute to their forebears Caridad Guivelondo and Mamerto Blanco, who both played significant roles during the insurrection against the Spaniards in Cebu.

It was in the Guivelondo house in Mabolo that the Tres de Abril uprising in 1898 was planned. The Blancos, on the other hand, were Cebuano Katipuneros who were hunted by the Spaniards. Today, the heirs recall how their patriarch Mamerto Blanco escaped from the Guardia Civil by going through the esteros of Colon Street.

This we learned from the lecture about the revolution in Cebu by local historian Emil Justimbaste who authored the book, “Leon Kilat and Cebu’s Revolution”. In his talk, Justimbaste traced the Cebuano resistance against the Spaniards all the way to the battle in Mac¬tan, but focused less on how Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan and more on how the natives plotted to finally drive away the foreign invaders from our shores after the fabled duel between the native chieftain and the leader of the Spaniards .

Justimbaste explained how the April 3, 1898 uprising was skillfully planned by Cebuano Katipuneros with the help of sympathetic illustrados who supported the insurgents secretly. Although the native Katipuneros were mostly armed with machetes, they were able to defeat the Spaniards who were armed with rifles, thanks to Leon Kilat who was a clever tactician.

With the Spaniards forced to retreat to Fort San Pedro, the Cebuano revolutionaries took control of the city for three days before they were shelled by the Spanish gunboat that came with troop reinforcements from Manila.

Heritage writer Gavin Bagares, on the other hand, gave a lecture on Parian during the Spanish period, particularly on the roles of important families there in the important events that shaped the city.

He explained how Parian grew from a small enclave given by the Spanish authorities to the Christianized Chinese to become a major business center during the late 19th century, competing politically with the town of San Nicolas, which prided itself as the bastion of resistance against the Spaniards. And so, according to Bagares, while those in San Nicolas were busy fighting the Spaniards, the residents of Parian kept Cebu’s economy afloat during those turbulent years.

Time has changed, so that today even the business sector is taking part in the advocacy of historical awareness, particularly on the revolution in Cebu. While aiming to be a business hotel downtown, Palm Grass plans to use its walls and halls to display fragments of local history in order to remind its Filipino and foreign guests of Cebu’s past and unique culture. Its halls and rooms will be named after Cebuano heroes who fought the Spaniards. The hotel also aims to promote heritage walks and tours to Cebu’s historic places. It plans to provide spaces for exhibits by local artists.

The lecture last May 20 at the historic Jesuit House already indicated that the management of Palm Grass is into business unusual. Mass tourism, which creates a demand for accommodation that investors in the hotel business try to fill, has a tendency to destroy local identity and values.

Palm Grass exemplifies a branding strategy that can actually reverse that. We hope that others in the business can come up with ways to uniquely contribute to the preservation and promotion of Cebuano heritage and culture. That should be the next revolution.