Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Casa Gorordo - Rewinding to an Affluent Past (Cebu City)

Notice the graceful wooden calladas dividing the hallway.
Along Lopez Jaena Street, in Barangay Parian, Cebu stands a beautifully maintained 19th century house built in 1850 by Alejandro Reynes. In 1863, this was sold to Spanish merchant, Juan Isidro Gorordo. Through the years, this became home to the first Filipino bishop of Cebu, Juan Bautista Perfecto Gorordo (photo below, left).

The bishop was of mixed ancestry. His father was from Vizcaya, Spain while his mother was a Cebuano native. He was said to be exceedingly brilliant that even as a student studying philosophy and theology, his last two years were spent teaching Humanities at the University of San Carlos, then a seminary.

His family was wealthy enough that during his term as bishop, he donated 54 hectares of land in Consolacion where a leper station was built. The bishop's father was, after all, a wine tax collector. When the bishop passed away at the age of 71, 40% of his fortune was donated to the church. The rest went to his remaining relatives.

The ground floor is made of Mactan coral stones, while the upper level is constructed out of hardwood. It became the living quarters of its affluent owners. Wooden pegs were employed instead of nails, making this an architectural marvel these days. The house became representative of the aristocratic Filipino abode from an almost forgotten era. The first floor has implements for land preparation and farming. A statue of a lady is seen harvesting corn. There are tools used for food processing and for laundry. The main stairway is well preserved, which was a good index of wealth in that era. The stairway looked sturdy, and made of balayong and tindalo. The whole set up suggests the owner's degree of influence.

Capiz shells, held together by laths, have been fitted to the sliding panels that make up the window. Molave wood (tugas) supports the structure of the house from ground level to its clay roof.

The second floor is a continuous hallway divided by partitions, i.e. an area for socializing, an area for receiving guests, a corner for dining, etc. These divisions are provided by "calladas", hanging dividers in comedors (hallways). There's a prayer room. The "sala" is in the middle of the hallway. Bedrooms have four-poster beds with canopy and wash basins, typical in that era. There's an "aparador", an "armario" (pillow rack), a "lavador" with porcelain-made basin. We saw a cello, a phonograph, a sungka; a library, etc.

There were dining halls meant for different users - an 8-seater for formal dining and another for informal dining. The kitchen has an "abuhan" (earth stove), a food cabinet, a dish dryer (banggera) and the rectangular kitchen table, with 2 balayong benches. The banyo has a big jar filled with water. Modern shower back then hasn't existed yet.

The caida ("fallen:) represents the area where ladies linger, holding their long skirts as they ascend the stairway. This is usually longer than the "sala", extending up to the boundary of the dining area. The prayer room is where the family would gather to pray. The bishop would also occasionally hold mass in that small chapel.

There is a suitor's corner where young maidens can receive their suitors and guests. Notice the "chaperone chair" at the opposite side. Even the simple arrangement of a house reflects social mores of that era.

The azotea has a creeping plant called yellow bells. It's a breezy balcony perfect for balmy nights of introspection.

What's more engrossing are the signs and explanations placed in each section. When Gorordo became bishop, he'd visit this house on weekends and sleep in his own bedroom. Mostly though, the Barili-born priest lived in the seminary.

There's a water well in front of the souvenir shop, on a manicured lawn. It isn't for the wishing kind, but it makes a great setting for profile photos. There's an entrance fee of PhP70 ($1.60) to be paid prior to entry. Cameras are allowed, but there are restrictions for the use of the photos. From Yap-San Diego House, turn right, then right again at Lopez Jaena. You will find Casa Gorordo.

Prayer Room

The azotea has trellis filled with vines.
Found at the silong are these displays (above and below).

Casa Gorordo is located at 35 Lopez Jaena Street, Cebu City. The museum is open daily except Mondays, from 10 AM to 6 PM. For more information, call them at (63-32) 255-5630.

#casagorordo   #cebucity   #history   #philippines

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Restaurant called No. 9 - Close Encounter with the Eclectic and Delectable

"Where to, sir," asked the taxi driver. "Number 9," I replied, "along E. Benedicto Street". He paused for a second and asked again. That's the name of the restaurant that's barely 6 months old. In fact it opened September 2014. In that short span, it has managed to make it as Trip Advisor's no. 3 best reviewed restaurant in Cebu City, just behind 2 hotel buffet diners. This one's a la carte dining.

Situated in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of the city, just beside the building occupied by the Belgian and Romanian consulate, No. 9 is a 50 year old ancestral home of the Martinez family turned into a restaurant. The patriarch's son is a chef, the joint's think tank, who's conjured relatively few, albeit well chosen dishes.

Few? Let me elaborate. Main course has been divided into "Small Plates" and "Big Plates", where the latter category would suit two persons. I froze when I learned that their popular "Fideo Negro" falls under "Big Plate". But there's just me dining. Hmmm. "It's a big serving," assured the waiter who patiently went through the dishes while I was finishing my order, and he continued in a hush, "But, personally, I could finish a plate of Fideo." Big enough to finish huh? I like that. Fideo Negro it is.

Fideo Negro is, this early, stuff of legends and has to be tasted. It's a gastronomic serving of broken noodles with squid, chorizo, aioli and soaked with squid ink enough to taint your morning-after (pardon the term) bowel movement with tar. You'd think that something like the fideo would eventually overpower your gustatory senses, right? The delectable concoction makes you want to empty your plate. No wonder my waiter couldn't recommend it more than necessary. He did emphasize on the restaurant's exquisitely tender pork strips marinated for a day, the "pork belly" with wild arugula and salsa verde. However, I only have a single stomach. So I resisted.

But I wasn't done. I was there to try what most of their customers talk about. On their "Small Plate" menu is "Morcilla y Calabaza", which is blood sausage and pickled apple. A household dish in Ecuador, Panama and Colombia, the restaurant's morcilla is complimented perfectly by the admixed garnishing of pickled apple and pumpkin. The first taste is tangy; there's a tender sweetness with a bit of a bite creeping all over my tongue. I thought I'd gone to heaven. If you think I've taken to hyperbole again, go try. Who'd have thought of pumpkin tasting this good?

I had to order dessert - "Pina y Coco", which is rum cake, caramelized pineapple (which you hardly notice), whipped coconut, and cashew nuts. This is a must for those who love their sweets. I ordered the No. 9 iced tea, though if you wanted wine, they have Riesling (PhP165 per glass), the Argentine Los Cardos Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, the Spanish Cava, Cabernet, Monastrell, Merlot, or maybe a Pinot Noir from Greg Norman Estates. Others talk about the ox tongue and the arroz con pollo. But they're just some of the reasons to return to No. 9. If the address and name of the restaurant are very telling, there are, in fact just 9 dishes in the small and big plate menu. How's that for a thematic concept? Does that mean I need to complete 9 pilgrimages to No. 9?

My solitary gastronomic adventure wasn't inexpensive; it cost me PhP1,150 (about $30, inclusive of tax) but it was worth every morsel of food. The restaurant could be enjoyed at the garden or inside where there are two halls. There are big red photo of the patriarch's children at the loft, and a long, if seemingly misplaced table at the back. Though there are taxis plying the road outside No. 9 (usually on their way to SM or the airport), I wasn't able to get one, I had to walk to the next block where the Travelbee building (below) stands.

I was supposed to go to Maya (another popular Spanish Restaurant famed for their tacos, among others) but ended up here. Boy, was I glad. The next time you're in Cebu City, hop into No. 9 for your eclectic, delectable Spanish cuisine.

This is the Eye in the Sky!    

Fideo Negro

Fideo Negro after the big mix.

Morcilla y Calabaza tasted like dessert.

Pina y Coco

No. 9 Iced Tea

I came in 15 minutes before the night crowd started coming in.

For more information, please visit their website: http://www.no9restaurant.com/gallery/ and contact them @ (63-32) 253-9518.

Travelbee building at the next block.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nightime @ Fuente Osmena Circle (Cebu City)

Valentines Day in Manila moves in a frenzy you'd want to just stay home and hibernate until all the revelry has ebbed down. Thank heavens I was in Cebu City last February 14th and the experience was more pleasant.

For this special occasion, I saw Fuente Osmena Circle (Fuente Osmena Park) all dolled up with its squirting fountain waters. In all my travels in Cebu, I have never seen the fountain with water. It was always dry and, well, seemingly forgotten. But the fountain, built in 1912, has always been there since the installation of the city's water system so it's baffling why the fountain's water spout isn't operational most of the time considering how many tourists come to visit the Queen City of the South.

On a pleasant night, people visit the park to unwind or pay homage to the city's "Grand Old Man". The fountain looks like some South American accoutrement in the middle of a plaza, laying claim to a historical site. Mostly though, it seems like it has been left to its own devices, but for a not-so-recent white paint job to mask the passage of time. .  

Since it's the heart of Cebu City, this fountain located at the roundabout park midway spanning Jones (Osmena Boulevard) might as well be Kilometer Zero.

Named after a Cebuano President, Sergio Osmena, Sr. who served as the second president of the Philippine Commonwealth, many tourists ignore it, oblivious of the fact that other than Magellan's Cross in the old quarters, this is the other iconic symbol of Cebu. And just FYI, "Fuente de Osmena" stands for "Osmena Fountain". There should be an eñe (ñ) but my keyboard doesn't have it and I'm too lazy to individually seek it out every time there's a need for one. Pardon this laziness.

Go visit Crown Regency's Extreme Adventure rides to get a breathtaking view of this roundabout. We shall feature this extreme ride in the succeeding posts.

Meanwhile, posted herewith are images I've taken from Ayala Mall on different occasions.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fuente Osmena Circle - Heart of a Thriving Southern City (Cebu, Philippines)

Right in the heart of Cebu City stands Fuente Osmena Circle, oblivious to the constant vehicular hum going around the rotund. The fountain itself is built in 1912 in honor of Cebu's "Grand Old Man", Sergio Osmena, Sr. who was the second President of the Philippine Commonwealth. This is the epicenter of the Sinulog Festival and one of the city's green lung.

Curiously though, I couldn't find President Osmena's name written on the fountain structure. That, or I wasn't looking hard enough. At the lower tier of the fountain are names of other personalities during that era, including Governor General Cameron Forbes, a banker-turned-diplomat who went on to become Governor General of the Philippines from 1908 to 1913, during the administration of U.S. President William Howard Taft. After his 5-year stint in the country, He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Japan where he served for two years.

On a sunny day, Fuente Osmena circle looks like a neglected corner in this queen city, and probably needs a bit of sprucing up, compared to the more minor plazas found all over Cebu. The politicians are busy playing politics, of course. Political grandstanding and filibustering are difficult jobs, after all.

The circle has uneven benches all over the park, some under canopy of trees surrounding the perimeter. The park would benefit from a bit of sprucing up, that's for sure.

Despite its size, the park is mostly harmless though some people constantly warn against this place after sun down. Like most public parks, it turns into convenient homestead of the city's less favorable creatures; those who languish in the dark. But then many parks carry two faces. Yes, most public arena aren't what they seem - under dimly lit or under-populated conditions.

If I have to say this, the circle is a must-visit, if it's your first time in the city.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Crown Regency has the Sky Adventure who loves their stratospheric fix. 

Rajah Park Hotel just across the park has a casino.