Cebu Guitars: Testaments of Fine Cebuano Music, Craftsmanship, And Culture
Have you ever been serenaded by a Cebuano with his guitar? The Cebuanos’ flair for playing the guitar springs from their long-been-around guitar-making industry. Aside from the province’s world-famous dried mangoes, Cebu guitars are equally as popular for their craftsmanship. The Cebuanos’ guitar-making skills have been passed from generation to generation. Find out why these stringed instruments are worthy of the attention they’ve been getting across the globe.
How it all began
Mactan island’s guitar-making industry started way back in the Spanish era. For the love of music, Spanish friars brought their guitars with them to the Philippines. Eventually, their stringed instruments suffered wear and tear and needed repairs. Sometimes, they needed completely new ones. Needing to ship guitars back to Mexico for repairs, this method became impractical. It also took too long for the guitars to get back.
As a solution, they asked the locals of Opon town, which is now the modern city of Lapu-Lapu, to repair their musical instruments and learn to make new ones. The clever townsfolk saw this job as a perfect opportunity to create their own businesses! And that eventually became the famed guitar-making industry of Cebu.
Today, although manufacturing of the guitars has slightly been changed (for aesthetic purposes), the traditional techniques are still largely similar.
What makes Cebu guitars different
People believe that the stringed instruments’ melodious tune is owed to the combination of quality materials and superb craftsmanship by the local artisans. Because each piece is meticulously handmade, Cebu guitars can be bought custom-built.
Jackfruit, acacia, oak, narra, and blackwood ebony are the traditional woods that locals mostly use in guitar production. Products made of exotic or imported woods are expensive and rare, but they incorporate such materials as well. These materials altogether bring out a crisp, clean, and mellow sound. Experienced players would even say that they could single out the sound of individual strings of a Cebu-made guitar!
These guitars are also incredible works of art that showcase the unique creativity of our local craftsmen. With their fine woodcraft, some of them even take it up a notch by inlaying capiz shells, carving beautiful designs, or painting stenciled murals. The finished masterpieces range from the most elegant to the most eccentric looking.
More than just guitars
The classic six-string guitar is the most popular product in the market. However, Oponons, ever crafty and ingenious, explored other variations. Today, other stringed instruments such as ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, and acoustic bass guitars are available. They share the same high-quality craftsmanship as the traditional six-string guitars.
Where to buy
Cebu guitars are famous worldwide, and some are even exported to other countries. It’s not surprising that they’re high in demand when visiting the province. Local and foreign tourists, as well as expats, purchase these Cebu stringed instruments either for their own use or as gifts and souvenir items. The next time you book a trip to Cebu, consider buying one of these as a gift to bring back home!
While these instruments are readily available in big shopping malls in Cebu, their prices are definitely higher than the ones found in stores along M.L. Quezon National Highway in Lapu-Lapu City. They’re also more expensive than in factories owned by the old-time manufacturers.
With the amount of hard work and skill invested into each piece, Cebu guitars definitely reflect the dedication and passion of Cebuanos, which make the industry steadfast in the global market. These guitars and other stringed instruments are the testaments of Cebuanos’ innate relationship with music, incredible craftsmanship, and Filipino culture. They are real Cebu pride!