Monday, November 28, 2011

Cebu Three - Fort San Pedro, Plaza Independencia, Carbon Market, Ocean View

Cebu City is small. In fact, it's sight-seeing checklist is conveniently completed within two days. I also resisted visiting the city's major malls, SM City and Ayala Center, the city's premiere shopping malls, just so I can leisurely concentrate on the real sights. After ruling out the possibilities of visiting Danao (giant pope statues and life-size stations of the cross), I've abandoned the idea after getting pissed off listening to the ladies minding the internet cafe at Josh's Internet (along Jones/Osmena). I couldn't concentrate.


Most days I don't mind, but one particular counter lady talked at the top of her whiny voice; a irritating voice, it bore deep down my hypothalamus. She was flirting with her male guest overtime and escaping the assault of senses was difficult since I was seated beside them. The other girl kept announcing, "Malibang ko" (She wanted to move her bowels!). It had to be repeated ad nauseam even after she eventually relieved herself. "Kalibangun na pud ko," (She felt like pooping - again!) she proudly announced to the whole community. If I'd get a million dollar every time I heard her desire for bowel movement, I'd be a multimillionaire now. Geesh.

I've never known a bunch of ladies so proud of their pooping. Ever.

From the internet shop, I hopped into a jeep heading towards "Santo Nino" (Basilica Minore del Santo Nino). I was Colon-bound again. This time, there were fewer vehicles plying Osmena Avenue. It was a Sunday and the world moved at a more relaxed speed.

I reached Plaza Sugbu flanked by Cebu City Hall and Magellan's Cross. From a distance, I saw supermarkets bearing "City Hall" in their names. I wonder if they paid royalties for such use. I walked further ahead, passing by Magellan's Cross and beyond. Old buildings in several state of decay dot the streets. I could hear the rush of the waves from the sea nearby. Unfortunately, there's no promenade facing the sea. It could be a popular hang-out had the local government meandered on one.

Jose Rizal writing his prose, "Mi Ultimo Pensamiento", standing beside Cebu City Hall.

La Nueva Supermarket City Hall Center and Prince City Hall Supermart

Cebu Ports Authority

Plaza Independencia has been refurbished, now scenic and beautifully maintained. Old gigantic trees, benches, grassy lawns, a gazebo, statues of Ramon Magsaysay and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi; another statue honoring the war veterans; very quaint! At one point, a group of kids shouted at me, "Keep off the grass, kuya!" I looked around and saw no signs from my entrance (the one beside the Cebu Ports Authority area). I scampered to get to the pavement. True enough, there were a couple of "keep off the grass" signs at the other end of the plaza complex. But none from my entrance.

Veterans Monument at Plaza Independencia

An idyllic sight to behold beside Cebu Ports Authority which not a lot of people can enjoy.

Scenic Plaza Independencia has majestic trees that date back from Cebu's historical past.

I was finally able to enter Fort San Pedro (photo below) - for the first time. At a measly P30, I stepped into the fort complex, a Spanish installation (the first, oldest and smallest Spanish installation in the country). The old museum inside has since moved to another building elsewhere (Museo sa Sugbo), but the room still bears Apolinario Mabini's letters to his Cebuano Katipuneros, as well as a few "bolos".

There's nothing much left to do but climb up to the lookout viewpoint, a sturdy concrete pavement the surrounds the whole fort. There were several Koreans going around the fortress, and a noisy bunch of Filipinos who hugged each spots for minutes, it was hard to take a photo without anyone of them in sight.

Fort San Pedro - the country's first, oldest, smallest Spanish fortress facing the Visayas Sea.

Bolos used by Andres Bonifacio's Katipuneros (revolutionary men)

Graphic representation of Fort San Pedro. It was once a triangular fort made of wood!

From Fort San Pedro, I checked out the Postal Office (Cebu Central Post Office) nearby which was closed since it was the weekend. I tried to find a place that directly overlooked the ocean, but no views were seen anywhere nearby.

I made my way back to Plaza Sugbu and walked along Magallanes Street until I reached San Jose Recoletos University. It was a pleasant sight, huge and beautifully constructed. Just across it is Freedom Park, the "green spot" I found from my map. Mysteriously, there's nothing green there but the leafy vegetables being sold. Freedom Park has ceased to exist and has been turned into rows and rows of makeshjft stalls and shops selling ukay-ukay (second hand garments, think Oxfam), flowers, fruits and vegetables. It was an ugly place, to be pretty fair about it. Freedom Park has been annexed to Carbon Market.

San Jose Recoletos University

Talk about a bouquet of roses... a little lass peddles her blood-red flowers in Carbon Market.

Seemingly abandoned Gottaoco Building previously home of a PCIBank.

I preferred walking Colon Street the day before than going around these chaotic streets completely overcome by vendors and snail-paced jeepneys. Colon, the country's first street, in its crumbling majestic presence, had a lot of character. It reeked of many untold stories from a rich historical past.

I walked around the cascading little streets of the market, immersing myself in such lively local color. People were spilling over this bustling district, even on a Sunday afternoon. I saw the tasteful colors of Oriente Cinemas, an old landmark in the area, along with several other movie houses that we've mentioned from our last post.

This place beats with a pulsating rhythm. It anchors its activities from a crumbling past, but it lives on like a rejuvenated soul. I was witnessing urban decay. But there's a palpable electricity that will probably translate to eventual urban renewal.

Can't wait to see that in this lifetime. Maybe in a decade.


I met her in her most ebullient. "Friends na tayo," (We're now friends) she declared with an infectious grin, without giving me time to ponder. I wasn't in anyway close to any of her friends. In fact, I was there as a favor for my brother. But like a breeze of pleasant wind, she became a friend. She didn't smile; she laughed. She didn't declare; she exclaimed! Her phone calls started like jovial puns and fiery flights of fancy. One day, she learned she was sick. We spoke less. I last spoke to her when she unexpectedly rang a couple of months ago - to seek advise for a TV series she was writing for, and to talk about her trip to Prague. The call bristled with hope and excitement. It lasted for 40 minutes, like she wasn't afflicted with anything fatal.

Last Saturday, she succumbed to breast cancer - in an unGodly time of 4:30 AM while people still dreamed of dreams.

Her decision to go the contentious alternative route took the air off her giggles and ultimately off her breath with so much anguish and pain. Cancer spreads even when you fight back. Imagine when you don't. There are still questions I couldn't help but ask; but it's all moot and academic.

The world is a less happier place without you. But I shall pray for you, my dear friend. May you have a safe journey to the world beyond. Your friends will sorely miss your laughter. I already do. Goodbye, Kune.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Deserted building has an enviable ocean view beside the highway. Imagine the possibilities if this has a park or promenade? Most other cities would kill for such a space. In Cebu, they haven't considered such. Maybe in a few years?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cebu Two - Taoist Temple, Basilica, Magellan's Cross and Colon Street

This would be a satisfying day that actually started with a bland breakfast at just P40. Bad idea. Why scrimp when there's no urgent reason to do so? But I so wanted a Lonely Planet experience in Cebu which was not viable when you're relatively familiar with a place. Fact is, it's just not a remote a place for the usual Eye in the Sky ministrations. At least not for me.

From a carinderia along Jones, I took a jeep ("17D," dictated a guy who overheard my questions). 17D took me to Lahug at just P8. I had earlier reservations because it looks too distant on the map, with verdant greens instead of shanties of irregular settlers that in reality populate the aforementioned area. The jeepney driver had been so helpful, occasionally turning around to update me, "Duul na 'ta. (We're nearby.)" I was dropped off along Gorordo Avenue, just after the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He even waved at a motorcycle taxi for me. There was a small street to my left that lead to Beverly Hills, an upscale residential area that hosts a Taoist Temple.

It was a 1.5 kilometer uphill road from the intersection. "Hop into a motorbike," advised the driver. So I did. The P10 bike ride took me to the security entrance of the village. From the fork of the road, I took the left road, then further turned left at the intersection. It would be a 15 minute leisurely walk to Woolbright Drive and Canyon Road. It was a pleasant hike up this hilly area with huge houses dotting the landscape. To my right was an awe-inspiring view overlooking the city, and went as far as Mactan Island and the Visayan Seas.

The Taoist Temple is one of the city's most pleasant tourist sites. It doesn't collect entrance fees, but photography within altars and in front of Taoist saints are strictly disallowed. The complex rises from a bunch of stairs that lead up several temples above. In fact, there's even a short structure constructed much like Beijing's most famous great walls. In another corner of the complex, a sign loudly declares, "Do not throw coins in the pond! This is not a wishing well." LOL

University of the Philippines -Cebu

After seeing much of the complex, I took another motorbike waiting just outside the village's guardhouse, then on to Gorordo Avenue. I decided to walk along Gorordo and checkout the place: to the right side is a line of squatter houses. The side walk is littered with small stores selling food (fish at P15); smaller sari sari stores. I passed by the Mormon's compound grounds;UP Cebu with a bronze oblation; several hotels (e.g. Golden Peak). At another intersection, I took the jeepney back to Jones. I was drenched with sweat, embarrassed with my state. Now Back at my hotel, I jumped into the shower. Every article of my clothing was drenched with perspiration. I needed to freshen up for my next itinerary. Colon would have to wait for an hour.

Oblation, University of the Philippines Cebu

United Church of Christ

Lahug Barangay Hall

Rizal Statue at the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum, Osmena Blvd.

Later that afternoon, I took another southbound jeepney (P7.50 from Jones, and wasn't given my 50 cents change) to get to Colon and Santo Nino Basilica. The park grounds (Plaza Sugbu) is vast and has been largely pedestrianized. Cebu City Hall stands majestically just acrossMagellan's Cross. Women in yellow catechetical garments were offering candles and prayers for a fee. One transvestite was fielding his one-man show, chanting and dancing around Magellan's Cross as though he was in a trance. It was an interesting sight, but begs the question: Why rally for heavenly favors in front of a cross brought to our shores by a colonizer when the Basilica is a few meters away?

Cebu City Hall (above and below)

I entered the Basilica de Santo Nino grounds and saw balloon peddlers milling around. To my right was a candle hall where intentions could be offered through prayers and lighted candles. After saying a prayer, I went inside the Basilica of Santo Nino ("Holy Child"). The gilded altar is elegantly filled with images of patron saints, and the real deal statue is cloistered at a nearby room. It felt privileged praying before a highly venerated symbol, steeped in history.

From there, I started my adventure around the area. I walked... and walked... and walked. One street was lined by road-side aquariums (aquaria) and a few rabbits being sold. I eventually reached Colon, the Philippines' first and oldest street! Bearing in mind the time capsule involved, I expected a crumbling presence. I was excited.

Magellan's Cross (above and below)

Basilica of Santo Nino

Prayer for intentions at the basilica's altar (above) and the candle hall (below)

Colon was a southern version of Quiapo, with congested sidewalks. My mother remembered the line of old movie houses so I checked them out if they have survived the millennium. Oriente Theater has been repainted, in delectable colors, and was showing first-rate films: "Captain America (The First Avenger)" and "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes". Vistarama (loge and orchestra admission: P90 and P80) is showing the sexy indie "Lamog" (Ace Castro and Maui Taylor). New Cinema Theater has been closed already. New Eden Cinema is showing an old Seiko film, "Sabik sa Halik" with Priscilla Almeida and Gardo Versoza (admission: P80 and P70).

Shops and department stores abound: 138 Mall, Colonnade Supermarket, a couple of Gaisano; hotels like Cebu Business Hotel; University of Visayas touted as the city's first university (circa 1919).

Makeshift aquaria at the sidewalk (Magallanes Blvd. corner Colon).

Close encounters with the fluffy kind.

This is the intersection of Colon and Magallanes/Osmena Blvd, which feels like their version of Leicester Square.

Oriente Cinema is very much a landmark in the area along with the other crumbling antiquated theaters rising from this area.

Manual traffic along Colon.

138 Mall right across University of the Visayas.

Colon Monument (needle)

I walked further until I reached the end of the road. A vertical needle stands - Colon Monument. There wasn't anything special about it. In fact it could be a mediocre landmark. My mother doesn't even remember it. I crossed the road and went leftward. I saw a marvelous art piece at Parian Park called Heritage Monument designed by artist Eduardo Castilloand commissioned by Mayor Alvin B. Garcia. I was already in Barangay Pari-an.

I checked out the Yap-San Diego Heritage House, one of the country's oldest existing residence. I paid P50 (an overcharged rate considering that Fort San Pedro only asks forP30) for the entrance fee and somehow felt uncomfortable inside. Old cupboards, ancient lamps, sepia photographs, decrepit Santo Nino statues and antiquated kitchenware were on display in every nook and cranny. And it felt like I wasn't alone. It was eerie in the presence of objects that have outlived generations. Made my hair stand on end.

This marks the start of Colon from Barangay Pari-an, the Philippines' first known commercial street.

Heritage of Cebu, Parian Park (above and below)

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, one of the country's oldest existing residential houses.

Later that night, I had dinner at Red Ribbon, ordering my favorite - honey-glazed pork tocino(P155) which didn't take 3 minutes. Cebu delivers their food fast. The same order will take 15 minutes anywhere in Manila. The same is true with Chowking's latest winner, Chinese Style Fried Chicken. This takes 15-30 minutes anywhere in Manila. In Cebu (in 3 instances), this didn't take 3 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised. The one that took forever was a Palabok akaluglug (a thin noodle dish) from Jollibee-Osmena. Their 5 minutes became 10, and eventually clocked at 34 minutes. For a Palabok! One for the record huh.

Before the night was over, I noticed half a dozen children sleeping at the sidewalk. This really broke my heart. Once again, I'd be nonchalant if I saw them begging. Why there's a multitude of homeless kids left to starve and freeze in Cebu (which was rainy during my visit) is beyond me. Have people become too callous to really care or feel?

These homeless kids are a dime a dozen in Cebu; it's a jarring scene every time. Earlier in the day, I saw a child in his mid-afternoon slumber. All naked, and asleep, by the road side. Yesterday, I saw another dingy child slumped down the concrete, under the sun, and begging. It took all my resolve not to run over and take him to the sidewalk. I don't care repeating myself. Someone has to stand up for the children.

I am alarmed! Where is Cebu's Department of Social Welfare again? While the children sleep on their concrete bed - hungry and cold, the comforts of an air conditioned office littered with cumbersome paperwork beckons some people into a deep, albeit somnolent routine.

What have we become?

This is the Eye in the Sky!