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Interesting Heritage Buildings in Carcar City Cebu Philippines [Historical Tourist Spots]

Carcar, located 40 kilometers south of Cebu City and between the municipalities of San Fernando to the north and Sibonga to the south, was the southern terminus of the now-defunct Cebu railroad, whose railway began at Carbon Market in Cebu. Carcar is strategically located at the southeastern coast of Cebu Island, at a point where Cebu narrows and the central mountain range opens to a pass where it is possible to cross to the northwestern coast to the towns of Barili, with Dumanjug, Ronda, Alcantara, Moalboal and Badian to the south, and Aloguinsan all the way to Toledo City to the north. While there are other cross-island roads such as Cebu to Balamban, Talisay and Naga to Toledo, and Sibonga to Dumanjug, Carcar was an important crossroad before World War II because of the railroad.

Exterior of the Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria
Exterior of the Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria, 2003 (Photo by Betty Lalana and Lino Arboleda, Ortigas Foundation Library Collection)

The Augustinians, who established Carcar, first established a visita (mission chapel) of the Santo Niño Priory in Cebu at a coastal village called Sialo or Siaro on 21 June 1599. They dedicated the visita to La Visitacion de la Nuestra Señora, at a site known as Inayangan, presently a sitio of Tuyom in Barangay Valladolid. The site is also known as Daanglungsod or “old town.” The ruins of the church were reportedly still identifiable some time back, but its stones have been quarried by unknown persons. Because of its coastal location the visita at Inayangan was subject to slave raiders. So the Augustinians moved it to its present location, which was then called Mowag or Kabkad, after a local fern. By 1620, Augustinian records no longer mention Sialo but instead refer to Cabcar or Carcar.

While not officially declared a Heritage Zone, National Historical Institute (NHI) has recognized the heritage quality of Carcar by declaring four residential structures as heritage houses. Carcar’s heritage area can be mapped out as a cross. The main artery is defined by the Natalio B. Bacalso South National Highway that links Carcar to the neighboring municipalities. The north end of this zone is in the area of Carcar Central School and the south end the rotunda beside the public market and from which the Carcar-Barili Road originates. Crossing the highway is the upper town of Carcar, where the Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria, the town plaza, and other heritage structure are located. Contiguous to it is the lower town defined by the roads called General Luna, Santa Catalina and Burgos. Most of the heritage structures are found in these three areas. Exceptions are three lantawan, bantayan or watchtowers at Bantayan, Bas, Bacsiji and the church ruins at Daanglungsod.

Upper Town

The Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria

The Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria was built on 1860 under Father Antonio Manglano, OSA, and completed in 1875 by Father Manuel Fernandez, OSA. The church design uses various revivalist styles in a pleasing combination of forms. Roman arches allude to classical architecture while the recessed entrance is reminiscent of the iwan or main entrance in Muslim mosques. This design element, the minaret-type dome and the pointed windows point to a revival of Mudejar, a Spanish style influenced by the Islamic caliphates of southern Spain. At Cogon, the chapel of San Vicente Ferrer is dated to 1859, making it almost two decades older than the Church of Santa Catalina. 

Interior of Carcar Church
Interior of Carcar Church, 2003 (Photo by Betty Lalana and Lino Arboleda, Ortigas Foundation Library Collection)

The Jose Rizal Monument, which stands near the church, consists of a tall plinth, a standard in town plans since the early 20th century.

Carcar Church 

(Roman Catholic Parish Church of Santa Catalina / Location: Carcar, Cebu / Built 1860 to 1875)

Carcar (formerly Sialo or Siarro) was a visita (mission chapel) of Santo Niño. Its first church, erected in 1599, was burnt by Muslim pirates. This did not hinder the rapid growth of the parish nor of the convento’s treasury which, in the 17th century, was reportedly one of the largest in the Visayas. In 1860 the Augustinian Father Antonio Manglano began constructing the present stone church which Father Manuel Fernandez Rubio completed in 1875.

The church is classical with Muslim influence. Tall and rectangular, it measures 68 meters long, 22 meters wide, and 12 meters high. An integral part of the facade, framing the main door and the pediment, are the two three-story bell towers capped by cupolas, which resemble minarets. Beneath a grand arch linking the twin towers is the arched main door. Apart from the order’s coat of arms, a blind rose window, and floral designs above the door, the facade is bare of embellishment. The pediment is more ornate, with a round clock at its center. Recent additions in the patio fronting the facade are statues of the apostles. The interior has one central and two lateral naves. A square apse houses the sanctuary and sacristy. The original wooden pulpit and the choir loft have been retained. The columns dividing the naves are thick and square; on each are attached small pedestals, the lower for a station of the cross, and the upper for a statue of an angel. The ceilings are carved and painted with geometricized flora. The roof over the central nave rises above the roofs of the lateral naves. This was designed to accommodate 10 clerestory windows for natural lighting. The sidewalls of the church have nine evenly spaced arched windows. All walls have been finished with plain cement plaster.

The Carcar City Museum

The dispensary in Carcar, now a museum
The dispensary in Carcar, now a museum, 2016 (Karl Alfred Jamandre)

Built in 1929, the Carcar City Museum was formerly the Carcar Dispensary, operated by the Philippine Health Service as the town’s primary health institution. This two-story structure is in the style of Victorian gingerbread houses, named after the delicate, filigree-like ornamentation that decorates the foyer, the balcony above it and the windows. Elevated from the ground by a cement platform, it is approached through a cement staircase with flanking balustrades that flares outwards and terminates in a graceful curve. The characteristic decoration of the exterior is a fan-shaped wooden cut-out, described as a sunburst or half a flower. This design is repeated in all the openings of the building. It has also been adapted informally as Carcar’s signature motif, appearing in renovations of the city hall facade and adjoining annex and in the public market. The building’s soffit is pierced with a floral type design, a development of the fan shape.

Detail of colored glass window arch in Carcar City Museum
Detail of colored glass window arch in Carcar City Museum, circa 1990 (CCP Collections)

The interior is divided into rooms with pierced wooden transoms. Access to the upper floor is through a balustraded stairs. The pierced transoms are also found in the upper-floor rooms.

Saint Catherine’s College Administration Building

Staircase of Saint Catherine’s Academy
Staircase of Saint Catherine’s Academy, 1990 (CCP Collections)

Saint Catherine’s College Administration Building, Carcar’s Catholic school, was formerly known as the P. del Corro building, which was inaugurated 15 September 1931. It is a two-story structure along the neoclassical line with its extensive use of arch openings for windows and doorways. The central section has a projecting balcony supported by pillars. The balcony serves as an awning for the building entrance. Like the neighboring Carcar Museum, metal awnings over the window, decorations on the arches, and grille work on the windows soften the starkness of the neoclassical design, giving the building a warm feel.

Uphill Elementary School

Carcar City Cebu Uphill Elementary School
Carcar City Cebu Uphill Elementary School (Constantine Agustin via Flickr)

Older than the dispensary or the del Corro building is the Uphill Elementary School. Built in 1905, this school antedated the Philippine Assembly Act No. 1801 of 1908, which appropriated money for the construction of schools all over the Philippines. Named Gabaldon School, after Isauro Gabaldon, the assemblyman who authored the bill, the school type was made of reinforced concrete and wood and easily replicable. Although it bears resemblance to the Gabaldon School, especially in its layout, Uphill is a one-of-a-kind building. Painted in shades of pink and dark red, it is classical in design. The building is composed of three bays, where the central bay projects outwards and rests on a cement podium and is in turn raised from the podium by about a meter in the manner of the Philippine tsalet (chalet). A triangular pediment, which is echoed in the decorations over the windows, caps the central portion. Windows and bays embellished by pilasters with stylized wheel and leaf designs define the building’s vertical lines.

Three floors, with an extension and perpendicular two-story building, the Carcar City Hall has a core that goes back to the American colonial era. Windows with roman arches bearing the same fan-shaped filigree design found in the dispensary harmonize the city hall with the nearby buildings.

The Leon Kilat Monument

Leon Kilat Monument Carcar City Cebu
Pantaleon Villegas "Leon Kilat" monument (1873-1898), Carcar (National Historical Commission of the Philippines)

The Leon Kilat Monument, located at the foot of upper town, was erected in 1959. The equestrian figure is by Roman Sarmiento. The monument commemorates the revolucionario Pantaleón Villegas y Soldi, who was born 27 July 1873, at Bacong, Negros Oriental. Better known as Leon Kilat, Villegas led the revolution in Cebu on 3 April 1898, Palm Sunday. He was killed by his own aide-de-camp, Apolinario Alcuitas on 8 April 1898 in Carcar, in a plot hatched at the church of Santa Catalina by some local leaders who did not want Kilat to bring the revolution to Carcar. Fearing that their town would be razed to the ground by avenging Spanish troops, like they did to San Nicolas, the leaders wanted Kilat out at all cost.

Lower Town Heritage Houses

The NHI has declared four residences in the lower town of Carcar as heritage houses. The declaration was made through NHI Resolution No. 7-10 on 4 September 2009. It listed the Silva House as one of the four houses, the other houses listed on the declaration were:

Don Florencio Noel-Filomena Jaen House (Dakong Balay) 

Don Florencio Noel-Filomena Jaen House (Dakong Balay)
Dakong Balay or The Don Florencio Noel - Doña Filomena Jaen Heritage Listed House (Cebu Channel Online

The Don Florencio Noel-Filomena Jaen House (Dakong Balay) is located at 312 (Old No. 367) Santa Catalina Street. The original owners of the house and lot were Jacinto Aldocente-Benita del Corro. Acquired by the Noel family, it was renovated around 1873. Listed as having worked on the house were Carcar-born Segundo Alesna as carpenter and Lito Alesna as mason and carpenter. Pelagio Gutiérrez, stone-cutter, worked on the renovation. Residents of Carcar, but born in San Nicolás and Cebu City respectively, Críspulo Zábate and Celestino Sarmiento were also listed to have worked as carpenters on the renovation.

The Mercado Mansion

Don Mariano Mercado House, circa 1990
Don Mariano Mercado House, circa 1990 (CCP Collections)

The Mercado Mansion (the Simplicio Mercado-Filomena Guerrero House or Nyor Nanoy Mercado’s House) is located along the main highway, Jose Rizal Street. Painted in brilliant aqua and white, this eye-catching house was built in 1899. The 19th-century house was originally owned by the couple Simplicio Mercado and Filomena Guerrero from Manila. It is presently owned by a descendant, Catalina Camotes-Lucero, daughter of Mariano Mercado. Carcar mayor Mariano Mercado y Avila or Nyor Nanoy, 1877-1944, was reported to be its architect and builder, but this claim has not been corroborated.

The Balay na Tisa

The Balay na Tisa (the Sarmiento-Osmeña House) along Calle Santa Catalina Street
The Balay na Tisa (the Sarmiento-Osmeña House) along Calle Santa Catalina Street (NHCP Photo Collection, 2010) 

The Balay na Tisa (the Sarmiento-Osmeña House) is along Calle Santa Catalina Street and was built in 1859. It is two-story longitudinal structure with a lower story of plastered stone and an upper story of wood. Its wide windows are shuttered by persianas or louvers. Its roof of terra cotta tiles flares at the side in the manner of Chinese-style roofs. At the center is a dormer, covered with a capiz window, also roofed in tiles. The ceiling is stamped metal. It is believed to one of the older houses, if not the oldest, in Carcar.

Although not officially declared as heritage houses, the following residences in lower town Carcar are potential candidates for heritage houses.

The Yap House

Yap House Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines
Yap House Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines (eazytraveler via Flickr)

Located on 232 Jose Rizal Street, the Yap House was erected by the couple Juan Ramos Rodriguez and Consolacion Florido Yap in 1905. Its builders are recorded as Salustiano (or Gonzalo) Abellana as architect and Andres Cui as chief carpenter. In 1936, the house was renovated with Mariano Mercado as designer, and Ceferino Bargamento as chief carpenter. This house, minus the azotea, was the model for the scaled-down version Visayan house in the now-defunct Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque. Rodriguez, a mestizo español, married Consolacion Yap, a mestiza china from Cebu in 1892. The house was built after a few years of married life in the same year as the construction of the Upland School.

The Sato House (Dodoy Jaen’s House) 

A vintage photo of the Sato house
A vintage photo of the Sato house

The Sato House (Dodoy Jaen’s House) is presently owned by Leto E. Sato. This grand house on Jose Rizal Street was the residence of Timoteo Barcenilla (“Kapitan Tiyoy”) and Petrona Alcordo. It was in this house that the revolutionary Leon Kilat was assassinated in 1898. The house transferred ownership to Leocadio Jaen and his wife Anacleta Noel. Dadoy or Vicente “Dadoy” Jaen is Tiyoy’s son and the only surviving heir.

The Aleonar House

The Aleonar House Carcar City Cebu
(Photo by Emigdio Sedon for Fe Studio, 1953 Apr-17)

The Aleonar House, located at 442 General Luna Street, was erected in 1934. It is said to have been built by master carpenters remembered as Oming or Tiyoy, which could either be Timoteo Ybañez (Tiyoy), or his son Bartolome (Oming), or both of them. It was the residence of Aurelio Tigley Aleonar and Dolores Rodecindo de Veyra.

The Santiago Alegado Barceló-Juana Peñalosa House 

The Santiago Alegado Barceló-Juana Peñalosa House (Dr. Pablo Tumaliwan’s House and Valencia House ) is located at the corner of Jose Rizal and Sta. Catalina Streets. The residence is presently owned by Guillermo Valencia, an heir of Catalina Osmeña-Valencia. The house is associated with Santiago, one of the younger children of Arcadio Barceló and Modesta Alegado. Santiago, the descendant, 1834-1891, married a Cebu City native, Juana Peñalosa. The house was also commonly known as Tumaliwan house because the strategically located house was rented by Dr. Pablo Tumaliwan, a dentist. The house served both as family residence and clinic. Later, when the Valencias resided in the house, it was called the Valencia House. The house came to be the possession of Catalina “Nyora Taring” Osmeña-Valencia because it was allegedly used as collateral for a debt by an Aleonar.

The Mancao Panuncialman House

Mancao Panuncialman House
Mancao Panuncialman House (Constantine's Blog)

The Mancao Panuncialman House is set from the road by a long driveway. This American period house follows a U-shaped plan with the central section receding, while the flanking sections project outward. Between the flanking sections, on the second floor is a balcony that serves also as a port cochere. The house is painted in pink and white and has a green roof.

There are several more residences that may be added to this list of potential heritage houses such as the Marfori-Cui House, Juario Villarosa House, the family homes of Archbishop Teofilo Camomot, and the house and studio of master painter Martino Abellana, who has been compared to Fernando Amorsolo.


The crossroads that connect the highway running north-south to a mountain road running east-west is ornamented by a circular cement kiosk. On top of the kiosk is a cement sculpture that depicts two women, one in Filipina dress with butterfly sleeve and one in Western dress, both in the act of taking a step forward while the woman in the Western style dress points upward. It is said to represent the United States leading the Philippines to the future. The kiosk had four stairs with banisters that curve outward. It is divided into eight arches supported by columns. The arches are embellished with the fan shaped design found in the Carcar Museum.

Kiosk at a rotunda in Carcar
Kiosk at a rotunda in Carcar (Cebuano Studies Center, University of San Carlos)

At the perimeter of the rotunda are statues of couples dressed in different attire representing the diversity of Filipinos. The statues stand at the base of a street lamp. Across the street, on the opposite side of the road that runs around the rotunda, are pergolas for sitting. The precise year when the kiosk, pergolas, and statues were made is uncertain, but they can be safely placed during the American era, before World War II. 


Aleonar, V. P. 2015. Carcar Families: A Genealogy Blog for Carcar. Accessed 12 May.

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