Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Danao City's Scenic Diosdado Macapagal Park and Boardwalk (Cebu Province)

Durano-Macapagal Boardwalk 
I first encountered Danao when I had to inadvertently take a different ocean route out of Camotes Island due to an impending storm a few years ago. It was a fast transit because I had to catch a flight thereafter. But even then, I vowed to come back to check out the city located some two hours north of Cebu City. With its population of 120,000, Danao is part of the conurbation of Metro Cebu and enjoys a certain vibrancy to its daytime demeanor.

With a well organized transport terminal beside a Gaisano Mall, it's a breeze getting in and out of Danao. I was also aware that Danao Church required a visit. But what caught me by surprise was how elegant the center of town was. As a coastal city, the government made use of the seaside complex to build a promenade - the President Diosdado Macapagal Park and Boardwalk as it's written in the park. The local government's website however refers to the 13,000 square meter facility as the Durano-Macapagal Boardwalk. The fish port and pier are nearby.

Plaza Rizal is contiguous and overlaps with the promenade. You can't miss Jose Rizal's statue standing on a roundabout. Like many other Philippine towns, Rizal's statue graces the town plaza, and why not? If European capitals like the ones in Switzerland and Spain have parks paying homage to Rizal, why not our own cities and towns?

There's an old canon nearby, and Danao Church is just a block away from here. The Spanish vintage church is made of coral blocks with white-washed angels guarding the front. The Augustinian friars constructed it in 1671. It is 343 years old as of this writing!  


Local legend has a Spanish Captain, Manuel Aniceto del Rosario traveling around northern Cebu. He was tasked by the Spanish government to build and develop towns. While resting beside a lake, the captain met a few resting natives with their carabaos. He then asked where he was. Thinking that he was asking about the lake, one of the farmers answered, "danawan" (Visayan term for a "small lake"). The Spanish Captain then documented the place as "Danao" which really underlined the fatuousness or laziness of some of our early colonizers. Getting a name right is part of your job, buddy!

The poblacion is pretty much concentrated near the eastern coast where the main highway travels on a north-to-south axis. There's a playground called "Children's Paradise" with a misplaced heroic statue of a Filipino guerrilla raising his rifle as he steps on a lifeless body of an enemy, presumably a Spaniard or a Japanese. Why misplaced? Because while we adhere to nationalism, an impressionable child might think that killing a man is heroic. Messages like that have to be contextualized to avoid misinterpretations. There should be signs that explain the statue. After all, this is a playground; children can't just hop on the slides and swings and absolutely disregard the said statue.

Another church worth visiting is the St. Antonio of Padua Church, more popularly called "Durano Foundation Church", located some 15 minutes west of town. The city acknowledges a beloved local figurehead - Ramon Durano, Sr., known as the "Father of Danao". The city is, make no mistake, the bailiwick of the powerful Durano clan. It is also home of guns and ammunition. This gun industry has been legalized by the local government, owing to its history which dates back to 1905; the same industry that, for a short time, went underground during the second World War.

The boardwalk provides a leisure place and a breathing space for its people. I did not expect to find anything this scenic outside Cebu City, to be honest, but I am up for a lot more surprises as I traveled south of Cebu. But that's for another story. In my next post, I shall feature Danao Church.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

A memorial for President Diosdado Macapagal (above and below).

Plaza Rizal is just beside the boardwalk.

A school is located beside Danao Church.

Children's Paradise

Danao Church is 343 years old!

Danao City Hall

Ramon Durano, Sr. - the Father of Danao

Danao City Terminal beside Gaisano Capital Mall

Hop on a multicab to get your ride back to Cebu City.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pope John Paul II Tower - Paying Homage to a Beloved Pope and Saint (Bacolod City, Negros Occidental)

Earlier this year, I found myself doing a fast detour to Bacolod City en route to Cebu. While I do have a blogger friend there, this was a spur-of-the-moment trip and I felt it improper to come on short notice. After all, some surprises are unwelcome for working folks, and I don't like that. So I deferred contacting my friend. There will be another time. The good news: we got to visit the Pope John Paul II Tower.

The Pope John Paul II Tower is Bacolod City's homage to the beloved Pope who once officiated mass in the city's reclaimed area in February 20, 1981. The 8-story edifice (the top deck is the observatory) contains memorabilia of the papal visit, including a chair used when he said mass in the once-desolate area. These days, it's a bustling commercial property by virtue of the SM City Bacolod operating there.

You can walk from the mall to the tower, although when the sun's up, some people prefer to take the "trisikad" at just P10 (P5 per person, but you have to pay for the 2 available space). There is an entrance fee (P20 for adults, P10 for students) at the first level. And you can leave your stuff at a locker.

You climb your way up the floors, checking out the memorabilias of the Papal Visit, some photos of young Karol Wojtyla, and a good collection of paintings from talented local artists. Each floor is enclosed by glass panels so navigating around, even with children, is safe. The lift wasn't operational during my visit.

The best part of the tower is the 8th floor which has a gradual ascent, with bars (grills) enclosing the top floor (instead of glasses). This drastically improves ventilation from the lookout point. An elevated stage could further raise your vantage point, though it doesn't really make much difference. Students mill around the top floor. Since there are no benches, you may slouch down the floor to relax.

While the collection here seems sparse, reaching the 8th floor balcony is pure pleasure. In fact, I could stay there all day. The view is less than spectacular, but it isn't bad either. You get to see a 360 degree sprawl of the city: the ocean stretching all the way to the Guimaras strait, the grassland at the adjacent lot; the newly developed City Baywalk, SM Mall, etc. There isn't much view further afield because the urban skyline is kinda flat and the tower isn't high enough for us to appreciate even Lacson Street where our hotel was. But the rush of the wind up there is like a rejuvenating blow, a balm to the weary soul. While there's hardly wind below, it's another story up there. If it blew harder, I surmise it could repel every burden that human kind carries on his shoulder. Designed as a pilgrimage center, the landmark feels less of a religious site than a tourist attraction, though very few actually come for a visit (if we're to base this during my visit).

There's a bronze statue just outside the tower. Across the road, Bishop Antonio Fortich has his own monument, the city government's homage to the bishop who significantly contributed to the "social, economic, educational and moral development" of the city and its populace.

If you're in the city, this landmark is not to be missed. Finally, I join the rest of the country (and the world) in rejoicing for the canonization of our beloved Pope John Paul II. We've loved him dearly even before he was saint so his sainthood is just icing on the cake.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Papal Chair

Cross from the top of the tower.

Bacolod City Baywalk (above and below). It opens from 3 PM onward.

SM City Bacolod

Pope John Paul II canonized as a saint.
 Some of the paintings we found during our visit:

Bishop Antonio Fortich Monument

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Delectable Ribs and the Smirking Waitress at the Blue Elephant (IT Park, Cebu City)

Fruits and vegetables salad? Not really. It's a babyback with honey sauce at the Blue Elephant. I was mentally slapping myself for not having gone to Zubu Chon (an upscale lechon restaurant in IT Park) after a protracted wait for my order, but when it finally arrived, I was dumbfounded. This huge slab was just P180 which is actually worth around P400 at Racks. But it isn't even the size. Meat was superbly tender and tasty - and the sauce wasn't a sauce but a "soup" of lemony honey with a bit of a bite... a little piece of salivating heaven on Earth!

Blue Elephant is a specialty Thai restaurant operating in Bangkok and Pattaya, with branches in London and Brussels too, so I was surprised to find the franchise in Cebu City's yuppie land, I.T. Park in Lahug. My first time in the area was well worth it. P85 taxi going there from Jones, P8 jeepney ride going back.

Here's my babyback on our second visit. Notice how dry it is compared to the first one. :)

The third time I visited the place, I took my whole family with me, all the way from Manila. When I asked the waitress to have just a wee bit more sauce (the second time I was there, it was "dry"), she actually smirked! That was odd. I asked nicely. I did NOT impose! In my book, the customer pays for something he wants. In this case, he wanted his food served the way it was the first time he visited (see photo above for the first visit)! And what's a request from a paying family of 7 who flew all the way from Manila? Why else would I take my family there? Some employees definitely need a lesson on customer service - or a session of spanking. Kalami pitkan sa dalunggan.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bagacay Point Lighthouse and Stories from Liloan (Cebu)

Bagacay Point in Liloan, Cebu - I doubt if sweeping tales of romance were born out of the stark romanticism that the "Parola" (light house) renders to Bagacay Point, north of Cebu City. But it might as well have. After all, there's nothing more cloying or enduring than symbols of benevolence from the light of a structure that guides ships to their harbor.

On my way to Danao City, I decided to take a short stop in Liloan to check out a 110 year old light house standing guard on a hill at the dreamy Bagacay Point. Cansaga Bay Bridge has considerably cut travel time of people going to northern towns. Midway between Consolacion and Compostela, I hopped off my cramped V-Hire upon reaching the town of Liloan, a first class municipality with a population of roughly 101,000. The place itself was named after a legend concerning a natural whirlpool, a "lilo" (glottal stop at the second syllable). There's a considerable manual and commercial activity in the center of town, just as the bus makes its coastal left turn.

The municipal hall is particularly stately, though small, with shrubs diligently shaped into balls of canopy. There is a new light house standing near the market. Its presence is of course a curiosity. Nope, that's not the "Parola" that tourists come here for.

Liloan Church, officially called San Fernando Rey Parish Church, across the munisipio, is likewise fetching. Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit. The church was constructed in 1847. It was an ambitious project then because population that time was only 5,000. So 167 years later, it can still accommodate a sizable crowd.


Another interesting tidbit about Liloan is a biscuit that looked like ringlet cookies. In 1907, Margarita "Titay" Frasco, started selling it to the public. When then Cebu governor Sergio Osmena, who went on to become a Philippine President, got wind of it, he sought for a taste and called the still unnamed cookie as "ronquillos" - after the Spanish term "roscas". Yup, this is the home of ronquillos. Other than this, Liloan is proud of its lechon and "tuyom" (sea urchin) dishes that you find by the roadside and in carinderias.

I went to a pedicab queue and started to negotiate the ride to Bagacay Point located some 15 minutes to the coast. We shook hands on a special one-way tourist rate of P150, which I knew was exorbitant because locals hand over a mere P30 for a 15 minute ride. But I did not want to haggle because it cuts too much into my time and I still had to go to Danao. Off we went. The road was craggy, and dust billowed as we headed to the hill.

The Parola of Bagacay Point gazes towards the Visayan Seas. Fifty years before this present structure, the Spaniards beat the Americans to construct a lighthouse that eventually crumbled. In 1904, then Governor General William Howard Taft, an American, instructed the construction of what we now see. To my mind, this is one of the few "authentic" American-regime architectural relics outside Luzon. There's a Civil War-era American architecture in Carcar (South Cebu), but that's about it. 

I was worried to let go of my pedicab because vehicles rarely go to the hill but I didn't want anyone rushing me up; otherwise, it's a hefty P300 fee for what should usually cost P60, and the drivers are fiercely unrelenting. The area is part of Barangay Catarman


The other barangays dotting the roadside are an interesting lot: Barangay Sayote, Barangay Alugbati, Barangay Ampalaya, Barangay Talong, Barangay Sili, even Barangay Chinese Cabbage... makes you want to head to the nearest salad bar while singing that familiar tune. The place has been known to evince dramatic vistas at sunset, but I didn't want to test my luck. I am sure there will be plenty more sunsets to cover.

Meanwhile, I had to walk down the hill, stroll 500 meters or so towards the barangay center where I eventually found my tricycle back to Liloan town proper. Once again, dust billowed and I found myself humming softly. "Sa paligid ligid ay puro linga."

What the heck is "linga"? Hmmm.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sugba Sugba sa Parola, the only restaurant near the light house.

The hill of Barangay Catarman is a gentle slope making your ascent relatively easy.

From the hill's parking lot, you could see the main road that goes back to town.

Amara Village flanks both sides of the light house. One hopes that sometime in the future, Ayala Land won't restrict visits to the light house.

From the hill, I walked...

... and walked...

Until I reached the "centro" of Barangay Catarman where I found my pedicab (tricycle) back to town.

Typical "sari sari store" in small Pinoy towns.

Liloan's stately municipal town center

This Rizal statue in front of the munisipio was donated by then Representative Vicente Sotto, the father of the Visayan Literature, in 1927. Fast forward to the present, his namesake wouldn't think twice of plagiarism. An improvement of the race eh?
This new light house is a curiosity. It is found in the center of Liloan near the municipal hall, the market and the church.  
San Fernando Rey Parish Church was built in 1847.

Still part of the church complex.

Turn right from where the trikes are and you will find Liloan Church.

My pedicab ride.