Centro. This was literally the “center” ,where things have always happened, as in a town center. It is believed to be where Datu Apanoan had ruled when the first Jesuits arrived in 1595. This is also where the Saint Joseph Church was built at the time when the town of Mandaue was created in the middle of the seventeenth century.
Centro had its start as a mission village – where Christianity was taught and baptism made – before it even became a barangay. From this village, other missions were added, making Centro the mother of mission villages in Mandaue. Later on, the church was built, and since it was the center of Filipino life at that time, people built their homes around it. These were the first households that made up the barangay.
In time, as the barangay grew it became a town. The heart of this town was the Poblacion. Education of the people was done under the trees in proximity to the church; trade was done just nearby, too. Even the gatherings of the townspeople were done in the church’s shadow for there was no separation of church and state; the friars in whose charge the town was, were at the same time the alcalde or capitanes.
So how did the name “Centro” come about? When people began to congregate at a tiny place fronting the church to discuss the events of the day and other concerns of village life (including cockfighting), they began to attract others to do the same and often banded together over native wine. They later organized, had more regular meetings and referred to the meeting place as “centro” for this was where people from near and far could conveniently meet up. So when a meeting was called or when people agreed to meet up, they would say, “Adto kita magtagbo sa sentro, ha.” (We’ll just meet at the center, okay).
In the American era, the townspeople were exposed to self-governance and those who met at the “centro”, the educated and/or economic elite primarily, were the first ones groomed into a party for the political arena. By 1937, a new municipal building was unveiled; government offices did business in the town, a public plaza opened, and to the church’s left side, on towards the landmark Cabahug Causeway, the tribunal court house served. (That was how Tribunal, a sitio of Centro, got its name). The area between church and the municipal hall became the heart of the poblacion and now referred to as a proper noun, Centro, as it was where played out. As Centro, it also became differentiated from adjoining Ibabao and Mantuyong which were eventually made into independent barangays.
Another version simply states that “centro” is the Spanish for the Cebuano taliwala, meaning center.History, however, notes that the Jesuits would not be in Mandaue until 1599 when the chieftain was already Handug, that a parish would not be erected until 1638, and that a town design consisting of church , plaza, among others, was already in place during the Spanish period in accordance with the Law of the Indies. Lastly, a statistical record from the 1890s does not mention “Centro” but “Poblacion”.