Who can remember the famous Shamrock Hotel? In the 1930’s, this was the hotel at the bustling harbor of Cebu. When you visit the area, this is the only remainder of the tremendous history in trade our island has that dates back to the Spanish regime. If you’re not familiar with it, the building is now known as the Compaña Maritima, the name of the shipping company that took over the building after the last world war.
Back in the Good Old Days...
The structure was built in 1910, making it 101 years old today and was originally owned by the Fernandez Hermanos Inc. By the 1930’s, the entire building became the famous Shamrock Hotel except for the ground floor, which was already occupied by the shipping company. Not much else is known about the building before it became the well-known hotel.
With its size and architecture in that period of history, this 3-storey building that must’ve been a striking landmark of Cebu in its time. It’s fame did not last very long, however, because it was not spared by the havoc of war. When World War II reached the shores of Cebu, the building was damaged in a bombing in 1945 during the liberation of the province from the Japanese. It underwent repair when the Compaña Maritima, “one of the biggest shipping companies in the country,” according to the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), used it for its offices. By the 80’s, the company went bankrupt and the structure was abandoned until the city government converted it into offices for it’s own use. Yet, it still is known after its last occupant.
Today, Compaña Maritima In the Middle of Ownership Battle
Despite Mayor Michael Rama expressing plans to convert the Compaña Maritima into a museum, the Cebu City government has moved in and started using the as an office building and the V-hire terminal. Now, the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) has recently filed a lawsuit against the city government for “interfering with CPA’s rights over its property,” as reported in the The Freeman. The report continues, “CPA filed the case on behalf of the national government.”
The government agency said the building is listed as a port facility which places it under the jurisdiction of the CPA. Issues between the local government and the agency began in 2012 when the city government under Mayor Michael Rama had the fence around the property demolished. Cebu City also began claiming ownership of the structure in the year after. The CPA has demanded the local government to leave the property within 5 days. In all the confusion, we have to ask, will their plans preserve the culture and history the Compaña Maritima represents? In the midst of all this, what will happen to this heritage site remains to be seen.
Feature photo - Digital Tourism
End photo - “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era” by Lucy Urgello Miller