Museo Sugbo: A Cebuano heritage structure restored

By: Izobelle T. Pulgo August 21,2016 - 09:11 PM
The main entry way into Museo Sugbo, a building that was designed and previously used as a jail (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO).

The main entry way into Museo Sugbo, a building that was designed and previously used as a jail (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO).


In the early morning of October 15, 2013, the whole of Cebu and its neighboring provinces were jolted by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that toppled buildings, bell towers and churches, causing major damage to centuries-old infrastructure.

After the tremor, Museo Sugbo, a heritage structure that was once Cebu’s provincial jail before it was turned into a museum, had to close down for seven months as a precautionary measure though fortunate that none of its displays were damaged.

Although no major visible damage could be seen, the calamity brought into question the safety of the structure and the possibility of it holding up for more years ahead.

The earthquake also brought to the fore ways to improve the building’s structural integrity and how it could be reinforced and fortified.

According to museum researcher Masi Cabañes, the temporary closure was needed to assess the structural integrity of the building, constructed in 1871, as slabs of coral stones were shaken off from certain portions of the wall during the tremor.

Work on its restoration began in November last year and took more than seven months to complete.

Restoration process

During the turnover ceremonies last July 11, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Executive Director Ludovico Badoy said that the whole restoration of Museo Sugbo cost government around P15 million to P17 million, with the budget coming from NHCP’s funds.

Badoy explained that the hardest part about the whole restoration of Museo Sugbo was figuring out how to reinforce the old structure and what materials to use, considering that it is made up of coral stones that had withstood the test of time.

“The hardest part was yung papaano (how to) i-strengthen yung mga materials,” he said.

“This is an under-enforced structure. So how do you strengthen the structure so it solidifies? That’s the hardest thing and it needs a lot of research — what kind of materials and chemicals do we use to strengthen this?” the head of NHCP added.

The road to restore Museo Sugbo consisted of two parts starting with the pre-restoration phase where detailed engineering studies were conducted.

Aside from fortifying coral-stone walls, the only major change made on the structure was the removal of the guard houses, the remnants of the prison past of the edifice, located on top of each corner of the building.

Cabañes explained that since the guardhouses were made of concrete materials, over time, their weight would bear down on the coral-stone walls.

To prevent a possible collapse, it was decided that these guard houses would have to be taken down.

The menu with a historic twist at the 1871 Celda Cafe inside Museo Sugbo  (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO).

The menu with a historic twist at the 1871 Celda Cafe inside Museo Sugbo

More than a museum

Aside from the galleries, patrons can also check out two quaint little shops inside the compound of Museo Sugbo — one is Crafted Trails, which sells beautiful hand-made wares and museum gifts reminiscent of vintage knick-knacks; the other is the “1871 Celda Cafe” which offers hearty snacks such as sandwiches called “crime of passion,” “first day in prison” and “last meal request.”

Surrounded by high coral-stone walls, the open grounds have become a beautiful venue for any celebration. The vintage architecture in the background, perfect for those who want to celebrate in a place that exudes classic charm with a dash of history.

Rental is pegged at P4,000 for four hours for the quadrangle, which has a capacity of approximately 200 persons.

Museo Sugbo is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., from Monday to Saturday, while special arrangements can be made for private tours.

Adult entrance fee is P30 for locals and P75 for foreigners. Discounted entrance fee rate for local students and senior citizens is P10 while a foreign student’s rate is at P50.


Indeed, in the words of Badoy, Museo Sugbo represents the resilience of the Cebuano people over time amidst adversity.

Ang museong ito ay naging halimbawa at kumakatawan sa pagiging malakas at matapang ng mga Cebuano. Sa hinarap na hamon ng ating kasaysayan, ating pakatatandaan na responsibilidad nating lahat ang pagtataguyod at pagpapanatili ng museong ito,” the NHCP head said.

(This museum is an example and a representation of the strength and bravery of Cebuanos in facing adversities through time. Let us all remember that it is our responsibility to preserve this museum.)

Along M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City, is a building that bridges us to the past by giving us a glimpse of a time gone by.

Museo Sugbo stands proud with its high coral-stone walls that speak volumes of how it has stood witness to the most colorful chapters of our history.

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TAGS: 2013 cebu Earthquake, 2013 Earthquake, Cebu, Museo Sugbo, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, NHCP

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