By: Bong O. Wenceslao | September 16, 2016


MORE than a year ago, it was just a concept. The press con I attended wasn’t even on the site of the planned heritage hotel along Junquera St. called Palm Grass. I was therefore intrigued about how the establishment’s owners would execute the concept. Yesterday, I attended another press con called “Kulukabildo” inside the hotel itself. This time around I was presented with a concept realized.

Palm Grass, the Cebu Heritage Hotel, is no doubt a capitalist endeavor. But it is different in that it offers Cebu to its clientele, or specifically that chunk of its history before and during the Spanish period, topped by the participation of its people in the 1898 revolt against Spanish rule. As historian Michael Cullinane would put it, as quoted by Serafin Guivelondo, one of the Cebuano Katipunero Isidro Guivelondo’s descendants who built Palm Grass, the hotel is a monument.

The hotel stands on the Guivelondo property near the old Cosmopolitan funeral parlor and across what used to be rows of night spots along a road stretch that was once called Cebu City’s red light district. But the face of Junquera is changing as more and more commercial establishments are rising there, from the corner with Colon St. to the corner with P. del Rosario St. Palm Grass is one of these firms.

The hotel is an imposing structure, all of seven floors. While some construction works are still being completed, especially on the roof deck where workers are putting the finishing touches on the Hardin Dagami Bar (the view at the top, as always, is magnificent). The bar is named after the chief of Gabi in Cordova town who, in 1565, led a revolt against Spanish occupation.

Which brings me to my initial reservations on the hotel’s use of Cebu history as a come-on. Before Palm Grass started operation, my worry was that the tackling of Cebu’s history would be superficial. The worry has turned out to be misplaced. Palm Grass is not skimming the surface of Cebu’s past—it’s knowledge of it is deep. The key was the hotel reaching out to those with good knowledge of our history.

When you enter the hotel, you’ll find Cebu’s past everywhere. For starters, it made sure that the floors and the suites would be named after known personalities in the latter part of the 19th century. When you do that, you are forced to give additional info about the said personalities, which the hotel does.

The lobby (“hulatanan”), for example, is identified with the Spanish-era Cebu governor, the Spaniard Inocencio Junquera (from where the street got its name). The second floor is named after the leader of the Cebuano revolt against Spain, Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas, while the third floor is named after the former governor Luis Flores and the fourth floor after Katipunan Gen. Candido Padilla.

The chaplain of the Katipunan in Cebu, Fr. Toribio Padilla, takes the fifth floor, the popular Gen. Arcadio Maxilom the sixth floor and finally the Mactan chieftain Lapulapu for the seventh floor. The suites also have such names as Rajahs Humabon and Tupas, Paulino Solon, Gregorio Abellana, Florencio Gonzales, Juliana Revilles, even the three who made the flag for the Sudlon revolutionaries, etc.

On display at the Galeria Independencia at the second floor are items representing the three phases of Cebu history: pre-colonial, Spanish period and the 1898 Cebu revolution. Interestingly, the gallery curator is Radel Paredes of the University of San Carlos, a fellow columnist. Some of the interesting items are replica of Leon Kilat’s “vistidura” and other amulets, a “galingan sa mais,” “lusong ug alho,” a “sungkaan and a plow (“daro”). Every floor and room has relevant paintings. You also find there the works of Sun.Star Cebu cartoonist Josua Cabrera.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 16, 2016.