Cebu is the base for plenty of the Philippines’ most acclaimed crafts and furniture icons, including Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug, and the Alegre family, one of the province’s numerous guitar makers.
Still family-owned and on its third generation of proprietorship, the Alegre Guitar Factory is perhaps the most visitor-friendly guitar shop in Lapu-Lapu City. It offers a walk-through of each stage of the manual production, apart from 2 large showrooms that display top-quality guitars.
Located down the road from the Maribago resort area in Mactan Island, the Alegre shop produces handmade guitars, mandolins, bandurias, and ukuleles fabricated from indigenous or rare wood. Imported wood can be used; the most expensive guitar it has manufactured reportedly is made from blackwood ebony from Madagascar.
The instruments are exported worldwide, mainly to Canada, Japan, the US, and Australia. Other companies offer a do-it-yourself guitar workshop, while the Alegre factory can custom-build a guitar to your specifications. Lapu-Lapu city tours arranged by travel agencies usually include a stop to the Alegre Guitar Factory.
Mactan’s Expert Craftsmen
Mactan Island’s guitar-making industry traces its roots to the 16th to 19th century, when the Philippines was a Spanish colony.
Common lore is that the colonizing friars, who brought their guitars from Spain, needed a more practical solution to repairing instruments than shipping them back and forth to Mexico. And so they instructed the locals of Opon town (the original name of Lapu-Lapu City) to learn to repair and eventually manufacture guitars. The locals’ guitar businesses flourished and have since been handed down from generation to generation.
Today, meticulous traditional techniques are still employed. Craftsmen are frequently seen working barefoot with homemade chisels and gourds.
Cebu-made guitars are often made with jackfruit, acacia, narra, oak, and ebony woods. They are known for producing a clean and mellow sound. And famously, they can look eccentric — with touches of Filipino novelty like elaborate capiz shell inlays, carvings, and stenciled murals.