Cebu (sābōˈ) [key], island, 1,702 sq mi (4,408 sq km), one of the Visayan Islands, the Philippines, between Leyte and Negros. The coastal plains are intensely cultivated and densely populated. The island was important agriculturally, but overpopulation and soil depletion have virtually halted production. There are coal and copper deposits. Fertilizer is made from local pyrite, and seaweed farming and processing is a growing industry. Magellan landed on the island in 1521; the remnants of the wooden cross he planted is a major tourist attraction. Cebu suffered significant damage from an earthquake in Oct., 2013, and then from a typhoon the following month.
The island, with several small adjacent islands, comprises Cebu prov., the capital of which is the city of Cebu (1990 pop. 610,417), the second (after Manila) most important harbor and city in the Philippines. With its excellent port, which handles both interisland and overseas shipping, it is the trade and manufacturing center of the Visayan Islands. The city has diverse light industry as well as some manufacturing. The first permanent Spanish settlement in the Philippines, it was founded in 1565 as San Miguel by López de Legaspi; it was capital of the Spanish colony until 1571. As a major Japanese base in World War II, it was largely destroyed by U.S. bombs. It has been rebuilt and today is a charming mixture of old and new, East and West. A Roman Catholic archdiocese, it has a bishop's palace, a cathedral, and a church with a jewel-encrusted gold statue of the Holy Child, said to have been given by Magellan. Cebu is the seat of the Univ. of San Carlos (1595), the Univ. of the Southern Philippines, the Univ. of the Visayas, Southwestern Univ., an institute of technology, and several colleges.