Monday, May 5, 2014

Carcar - Cultural Wonders of the Heritage City of Cebu

PhP 100 million (US $2.24 million) - that's how much a town should earn annually to qualify as a "city" in the Philippines. Carcar, a relatively new city located 1 1/2 hours south of Cebu, with just a population of 110,000, keeps getting DEMOTED. It first became a city in 2007, demoted by the Supreme Court in 2008, reinstated as a city in 2009, demoted again in 2010, then once again reinstated to cityhood for the 3rd and final time on February 15, 2011. They could celebrate 3 cityhood anniversaries. As I had more than a day to spare before a meeting in Cebu, I decided to hop into a craggy non-AC bus (with wooden planks as window shade) and sweat it out to visit Cebu's "Heritage City" (though it hasn't been declared a museum city like Vigan and Silay yet). 

To get to Carcar, your bus or V-hire cruises along the 40 kilometer (25 mile) coastal highway going south of Cebu City, passing through Talisay, Minglanilla, Naga and San Fernando before finally reaching the Poblacion (further divided into three areas marked I to III). Tourists usually head to the church/munisipio area, a cloister on a western sidestreet just before reaching the iconic Carcar Kiosk at the roundabout. So conductors must be told that your stop is the beautiful St. Catherine of Alexandria Church


There was a known civilization even before the colonization of the Spaniards. It was once called Sialao that was declared a municipality in 1599.

The home of Spanish and American colonial structures, majority of the listed heritage sites are situated in a single area in the poblacion where the city hall, legislative building and the church rise, thus they're easy to check out. The place is immaculately decked in white, as it was on an almost forgotten era. 

The only thing better than it's colonial structures are its gastronomic offerings - Carcar chicharon (sold in huge pails and 3-for-100 packs), ampaw (a sweet puffed rice cake occasionally decked with roasted peanut), bucarillo (colored coconut strips in crystallized white sugar) and caicai (peanut-based chewy delicacy) seen all over the city. 

My favorite place would have to be Carcar Museum and Dispensary (1st photo) - ornate, gracefully designed, with its American Civic architecture, circa 1929. If I just woke up from a dream and find the dispensary, I'd probably get disoriented. The architecture simply takes you to a different place and time.

This visit was my 3rd try to visit Carcar. Last time (October 2013), I just stood outside this congested, chaotic, noisy bus terminal in Cebu's cringe-worthy Colon district and backed out. I made it this time. Third time's the charm really.


I got off the highway and noticed old residences on the four corners of the road - the blue Don Mariano Mercado Residence, Balay nga Tisa, Silva House, and Dakong Balay. I strolled through the palm-lined Sta. Catalina Street going towards the city hall. I first noticed the statue of Leon Kilat, aka Pantaleon Villegas, on a horse. Kilat hailed from Bacong, Negros Occidental. He moved to Manila, but after getting convicted of killing some seafarers in Tondo, he was sent to prison but escaped the Spanish regimen. He joined the revolutionary men of Cavite. Emilio Aguinaldo then tasked him to fortify the Cebuano forces in 1897. During a siege in Carcar, he was killed. His remains were taken back to Negros.

I stood beside a Luneta-styled promenade and saw the Municipal Hall and its Legislative Building. The whole compound has been inundated with landmarks: a Jose Rizal statue, the Virgin Mother carrying Child Jesus standing on a raised ball; Jesus' statue, another Virgin Mary in a fenced garden, statue of an angel child, etc. There are more statues of saints lining the front yard of stately St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, with its gracefully designed Byzantinium minaret so atypical among Catholic churches.

In the same administrative compound, you will find the white-and-yellow St. Catherine's College Administration Building, the very pink Upland Elementary School (1905), Carcar Museum (free of charge, but you cannot take photographs of any kind), Library and Dispensary. One can also find the Parish Convent, the country's first convent built under the tutelage of Fr. Manuel Rubio Fernandez, an Augustinian friar from Asturias, Spain. There's a small City Park right in the middle of this busy compound. 

Beside the Museum is a small gated park paying homage to Don Mariano Mercado, the "Father of Carcar". If Danao has their Don Ramon Durano, Mercado is their symbolic patriarch. His house is situated along the highway, a blue landmark to remind you that you have reached this heritage enclosure. This is where your bus should stop.

Carcar Kiosk, the city's icon is located separately along the highway, at a roundabout in Poblacion III, a couple of blocks further south from the City Hall and church. From there, you can buy your delicacies and chicharons, grab a meal, or catch your ride back to Cebu City. Next up, St. Catherine's Church and Carcar Kiosk.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Carcar Museum and Dispensary (above and below)

Jose Rizal on a pedestal

City Hall

Legislative Building

Leon Kilat

St. Catherine's College (above and below)

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Virgin Mother carries Child Jesus

City Park
Carcar Parish Convent, the oldest convent in Cebu.

The Virgin Mother 

Upland Elementary School
Don Mariano Mercado Residence - the house of the "Father of Carcar" (above and below).

Silva House

Balay nga Tisa

Dakong Balay (notice the big balcony)

A list of Carcar City's heritage sites.

1 comment:

DEElectables said...

The picture captioned "Balay na Tisa" isn't correct. Balay na Tisa is situated short walk away from the house in the picture. :)