A Short History of Cebu's Osmeña Waterworks System

Fuente Osmeña Fountain, American Colonial

William Cameron Forbes started working in the American Colonial Period in 1904 as he was appointed by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1909, he was named Governor General by President Howard Taft. He would served as governor until 1913. One of his key projects was to develop the waterworks system in the Philippines.

Three years later, the Osmeña Waterworks System in Cebu was completed. It brought piped water from the Buhisan Dam to Tisa, Labangon and then onwards to the other northern parts of Cebu City.

Buhisan Dam spillway

Governor General Forbes arrived in Cebu to inaugurate the Waterworks, a public holiday was declared. Great fanfare, parades and speeches marked the special occasion. He was accompanied by Cebu's leading politician, Sergio Osmena Sr. It was years later at the insistence of Manuel L. Quezon that the Cebu Waterworks System was named after Osmeña.

William Cameron Forbes was a lifelong bachelor

The fountain that is now a familiar landmark in Fuente Osmeña was part of the celebration. Governor Forbes led the way in turning on the fountain to signify that the Osmeña Waterworks was now operational.

On the New Design Series/BSP Series (1985- 2017) of the Philippine Currency, the fifty-peso note shows President Sergio Osmeña Sr. on the obverse or front. And in one corner of the banknote, the Fuente Osmeña fountain is depicted.


There were already American expatriates who lived and worked in Cebu during this time. Most of the funds that were used to finish the project came from American financing through a bond issue that was floated in New York. It was spearheaded by the International Banking Corporation, predecessor of Citibank, in the Philippines.

American engineer, Eusebius Julius Halsema, would oversee numerous public works all over the Philippines. He supervised both the construction of the Manila and Cebu waterworks respectively. From 1919 onwards,he became mayor and city engineer of Baguio. The Halsema highway that connects Baguio to Bontoc was named in his honor.

Another trivia worth knowing: the father of National Artist for Music, Lucrecia Kasilag, was Marcial Kasilag who was among the pensionado returnees who became part of the team of engineers under Halsema.

References:

Citibank: The Philippine Century (1902-2012)

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