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!


Siddhartha Joshi said...

Quite a nice set of pictures! Including the food...especially because I skipped lunch today :)

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, Sidd. Was quite hungry myself when I took those. LOL

abrahamdsl said...

oh haha. had i saw this, sa Cebu na lang sana ako nagpareroute ng flight ko.

abrahamdsl said...

lol at my wrong grammar in the earlier comment. #bangag

eye in the sky said...

@ abraham:

In all my travels in the Philippines, I have never been asked to reroute. LOL

You're quite lucky. I think our country has so much riches that need to be explored by others.

ABG of Cebu said...

Never heard of Cebu's Department of Social Welfare unlike in the States. We do not even have a decent health insurance for everybody to have in the Philippines. Remember our month's pay over there is only $100-250/month....exactly you are looking for nothing in Philippines, except for friendly and hospitable people. Thanks for visiting Cebu. You are welcome anytime.

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, ABG. I'm very often in Cebu so I don't feel like a tourist. It has changed a lot in the last 3 years that I have been frequenting it. But the streets have turned smaller and traffic's getting worse.