Cebu City Charter Day

Cebu City Charter Day celebrates the transformation of then municipality of Cebu to a chartered city in 1937 and it is held every February 24. Aside from its historic cityhood, the annual event also pays tribute to then Senator Vicente Rama who is called the Father of Cebu City Charter. Cebu City is the center of commerce, culture, education, and trade in the Philippine South and is often referred by its moniker, the Queen City of the South.

The day is a holiday in the city by virtue of Republic Act No. 7287, otherwise known as An Act Declaring February 24 of Every Year a Special Nonworking Holiday in the City of Cebu, to be Known as Cebu City Charter Day. Its first section reads, “February 24 of every year is hereby declared a special nonworking holiday in the City of Cebu, to be known as Cebu City Charter Day, in commemoration of its foundation anniversary.”

History of Cebu City

Competing claims attempt to explain the word Cebu, also known locally as Sugbu. One such etymology is that the word means trade from sinibuayng hingpit. The island was a major trading center with foreign merchants particularly those from China before the coming of the Spaniards. It was an important outpost for shipping and navigation for its location in the center of the Visayas region and in between Luzon and Mindanao. Another etymology claims that Cebu means scorched earth, a military tactic employed by the ruling rajahnates in response to the rampant sea raids conducted by the Moros and other marauders.

This coastal settlement was ruled by Rajah Humabon when Spanish colonizer Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed from the Limasawa, Southern Leyte in search for provision, set foot on April 7, 1521. The natives were baptized and their lands placed under the rule of the Spanish monarchy, and Rajah Humabon was given the name Don Carlos and his consort Hara Humamay henceforth called Queen Juana. When he attempted to force Lapu-lapu, the chieftain of the neighboring island of Mactan, to come to the fold of the Spanish rule, Magellan was slain in the battle of Mactan.

Prior to his death, Magellan gave the queen the gift of the image of Sto. Niño upon her baptism. The image of the Sto. Niño would be rediscovered when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s expedition arrived in 1565 and a church was erected by Augustinian friar Fr. Andres de Urdaneta on the spot where it was found. The church is the present-day Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño which has been declared a National Cultural Treasure.

Sto. Niño is the centerpiece of many annual Philippine celebrations such as Sinulog Festival, Ati-Atihan Festival, Dinagyang Festival, Biniray Festival, Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival, Sakay-Sakay Festival, Diyandi Festival, and Feast Day of Sto. Niño de Batangan.

Legazpi renamed the island after the Holy Child, calling it Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus (the City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), becoming the first and the oldest city as well as the first capital city of the Philippines.

Economic prosperity in the 19th century was the result of the royal decree issued on July 30, 1860 that flung the port of Cebu open to foreign trade in 1863. It became the central hub of various cash crops and products from different islands such as sugar, tobacco, and hemp for transport to other places in the country and into the global markets.

Cebuanos rose in several uprisings, one of which was the revolt led by Juan Diyong in 1815. He and his men rebelled against authorities for the alleged land-grab by the Chinese merchant class in the city. Towards the end of the colonial period, the famous Battle of Tres de Abril by members of the local chapter of the Katipunan took place where Cebuanos attacked and routed the Spanish forces to take refuge at the historic Fort San Pedro.

After the revolution, the Spaniards relinquished control of the archipelago to the Americans who introduced the electoral system. It was during the American occupation that the clamor to convert the then town of Cebu to a city began to take shape.

Vicente Rama, a member of the national assembly, introduced the legislation for such a proposal. Thus Commonwealth Act No. 58, otherwise known as Charter of the City of Cebu, was approved on October 20, 1936 and Cebu City ceded from the province of Cebu as an independent city. The first city officials were inaugurated on February 24, 1937 with Alfredo V. Jacinto as the first appointed mayor, and this is the date that the Charter Day commemorates every year.

Over the years, several laws were passed that amended the city charter. On June 12, 1948, Republic Act No. 244 was passed that made the mayor an appointive position, among other provisions. Then it was later revised by the passage of Republic Act No. 1233 on June 7, 1955 that made the selection of mayor, vice mayor, and councilors via election. The first elected mayor of Cebu City was Sergio Chiong Veloso Osmeña Sr. and vice mayor Ramon Duterte after the election on November 8, 1955.

Further revisions were introduced by Republic Act No. 3857 on June 10, 1964 and Republic Act No. 4350 on June 19, 1965.

Vicente Rama, the Father of Cebu City Charter

Vicente Rama is regarded as the Father of Cebu City Charter for he authored the legislation that created Cebu City amidst opposition. His life and works are another aspect of the yearly Charter Day celebration.

Born on June 6, 1887, he was the son of Bernabe Raffiñan and Engilberta Ramas. He was sent to Seminario-Colegio de San Carlos and earned a law degree at Escuela de Derecho in Manila in 1910. Later in life, he would drop the last letter of his mother’s family name and thereupon go by with the last name Rama. He married Catalina Genson and the couple had thirteen children.

The trajectory of his political career thrust him from a councilor in 1917 to becoming a Senator before the outbreak of World War II. It was during his stint as an assemblyman beginning in 1935 that he authored the bill for the cityhood of Cebu.

In addition to being a politician, Rama was a Cebuano journalist, publisher, and prolific writer.

Cebu City Charter Day Activities

Various activities are organized during Cebu City Charter Day such as talent contests, business fair, cultural events, etc. On February 24th, the city government offers mass and performs wreath-laying to remember the historic cityhood and remarkable contributions of Vicente Rama.

How to reach Cebu City

Cebu City can be reached via air and sea. It is about an hour away from the Mactan International Airport. Its bustling ports within the city and other ports of the island-province are where inter-island ferries depart and arrive regularly.


Cebu City Charter Day Summary

NameCebu City Charter Day
CelebrationCharter Day, History, Person
Contact(+632) 411 0100
DateFebruary 24
Duration1 week
Historical eventCityhood of Cebu
LocationCebu City, Cebu
OrganizerCity Government of Cebu