Fort San Pedro or Fuerte de San Pedro in Spanish, is a military defense fortification built by Spanish and native Cebuano laborers and started under Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. He led the expedition that occupied the island of Cebu under the crown of Spain and laid the groundwork for the Spanish settlement in Cebu. Fort San Pedro is the smallest and oldest fort in the country and is located at the Port Area of Cebu City.
The fort was built to protect the Spanish settlement in Cebu to defend it from Muslim pirates and raiders who occasionally plundered the coastal villages in the island. Construction of the fort began in May 1565, and it was initially made of logs, wood and mud. The fort was finished in 1738, 200 years after the construction started.
The fort is triangular in shape, with two sides facing the sea and the third side fronting the land. The two sides facing the sea were defended with artillery and the front with a strong palisade made of wood. The three bastions were named La Concepcion (South West); Ignacio de Loyola (South East), and San Miguel (North East). The fort has a total area of 2,025 sq. meters. Its walls are 20 feet (6.1 m) high, 8 feet (2.4 m) thick and the three towers are 30 feet (9.1 m) high from the ground level.
The circumference of the fort is 1,248 feet (380 m). The sides are of unequal lengths and the side fronting the city is where you may find an entry into the fort. The fort had 14 cannons that were mounted in their emplacements, most of which are still standing today. After the threats of pirate attacks ceased, the Spaniards continued to use Fort San Pedro as a military barracks and a weapons armory.
During the Philippine Revolution for independence from Spain, Cebuano revolutionaries were imprisoned in the fort from 1896 to 1898. The decisive victory of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 as part of the Spanish – American War led to the end of the Spanish era in the Philippines. Fort San Pedro was turned over by the Americans to the Cebuano revolutionaries.
During the American colonial regime, the fort was part of the American Warwick Barracks. From 1937 to 1941, the barracks was converted into a school where many locals received their formal education.
During World War II from 1942 to 1945 under the Japanese occupation, the fort was converted into a prison camp and as a base for Japanese soldiers. When Cebu was liberated by American forces in 1945, the fort served as an emergency hospital for the wounded. It then became a Philippine military army camp from 1946 to 1950.
Since 1950, Fort San Pedro has been used for various purposes. The Cebu Garden Club took over the fort in 1950 and turned the inner part into a miniature garden while the upper deck was used as offices for government agencies. The fort courtyard was turned to a zoo in 1957.
By 1968, the fort was in ruins with only the two towers recognizable. Restoration works for the fort was started and the zoo was relocated. The restoration was a tedious, time and labor consuming project since coral stones were hauled from under the sea of Cebu’s coastal areas and used for the fort in order to restore it as close to the original appearance. By 1970, the facade, the main building, the walk, and the observatory roof garden were fully restored.
Fort San Pedro Today
The fort is presently under the care and administration of the city of Cebu as a historical park. The main building serves as the regional office of the Department of Tourism, the inner courtyard is an open air theater, and the open grounds outside the fort is a park.
The fort has a museum that shows its history and displays artifacts such as Spanish documents, old coins, paintings and sculpture, and other artifacts. Also open to the public are prison dungeons, living rooms, bedrooms, school rooms, a chapel, and an oasis garden. A large statue of Legazpi may be seen outside the fort.
Visitors to the fort pay an entrance fee, specifically Php40 for adults, Php20 for children and kids younger than 4 years old can enter for free (Updated 07/13/2011). The fort is located at Barangay San Roque in Cebu City. The easiest way to get to the fort if you’re taking public transport is either by riding a taxi or by taking the jeepney, the Philippine icon of mass transportation. Just look for jeepneys with Pier 2 or Plaza signboards.