Prehispanic native tradition had an unwritten law, name places after shrubberies. Mandaue was named after a plant called Mantawi, said to have grown and crawled to great abundance in the area. The Kastila who came, saw and conquered warped the indigenous name to fit their tongue.
Mandaue historically has a reputation for having the finest wood furniture makers in the country. This explains why they have a carpenter for a patron saint. So admired was their wood products that they were exported to Spain in great quantities back in the day!
The sea salt harvested in the town is also well known. It has an exceptional quality and fine texture but unlike the wood products which is still big business to this day, the salt making industry is only a shadow of what it once. It’s an endangered trade now limited to some barrios.
San Jose parish, a national shrine, is home to the only life-size carved depiction of the last supper in Asia, el Senor de Cena. Miraculously spared during the fire that partially destroyed the church in 2001.
The extent of the fire damage was tremendous. It destroyed the centuries old sacristy and icons. Brass plaques attached to the walls now offers a tribute to all the generous donations both monetary and gratis labor that paved the way for its reconstruction.
One Fray Bermejo successfully defended the southern towns of Cebu from seasonal pirates. He called upon the natives to help him devise a series of protective measures to warn them against the Moro raiders. His innovative approach has succeeded, inspiring the series of defense towers from Daang Bantayan to Mandaue. One of this defense structures is the mighty Bantayan sa Hari [the city’s great symbol] armed with cannons and manned 24/7, and this ancient defense system gave a clear break for Catholicism to spread. Unfortunately, this once magnificent watchtower, symbol of Spain’s colonial authority is in a depressing condition, left to deteriorate, vandalized. Both citizens and government seem to have forgotten about the crucial role it played in preserving Sugbuanon Christianity, history and culture.
The tower is more than 1 kilometers away from the church of Sn. Jose. This solid watchtower is pretty close to the waters and is situated almost under the old bridge that was built during Marcos’ administration. The tower is perfectly aligned with the church in a straight path [now a concrete pathway ending at the oil depo] with clusters of shanties right next to it. This could only mean that the church was built away from the shores to protect it from the raiders, a signal from the bantayan would’ve given sufficient time to defend their sacred Iglesia and the community around it.
The Presidencia is another interesting structure that’s located just in front of San Jose church. It was built in 1937 and was inaugurated by the legendary Cebuano Governor S. Cabahug. It is said that Katipuneros fought hard to capture it from the Spaniards in ’89. These men pledged that will never desert it again. Then the Americans came and demanded the revolutinaries and this building to be surrendered unconditionally in 1901. From what I read they resisted. So the bombs started falling on its roof. The Spanish structure was completely destroyed by the Americans. The Presidencia we see today was only built in 1937 as a testament to the Mandaueños resilience and appreciation for their town’s past.
Mantawi Festival is celebrated on the 1st week of May, I’ll try to catch it!