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Heritage Places

Santa Catalina de Alejandria Church in Carcar

One of the very first things people notice about the Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church is the life-size statues of the 13 apostles perched on the columns of the structure’s fenced patio.

Another is of a similar sculpture of the fourteenth apostle, the betrayer Judas Iscariot, standing apart on a pillar near the rectory.

Construction of the present-day Carcar Church started in 1860 under the supervision of then parish priest Fr. Antonio Manglano, according to Balaanong Bahandi, a book on the religious history of the Cebu Archdiocese.

It was only in 1875, though, that the structure was completed under Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio, who was also credited with building the church rectory of stone and wood, the book added.

Carcar Church
The Santa Catalina de Alejandria Church in Carcar was built from 1860-1875.

A relief of a different church, this one with a single belfry, carved on the door of the sacristy and a bell dated 1810 suggest another stone structure had stood on the site of the current one in the early 19th century, revealed the Balaanong Bahandi.

Fr. Felipe Redondo, in his book Breve Reseña published in 1886, described the present-day church as made of mamposteria or cut stone, with three naves and roofed with tiles, and two bell towers incorporated in the facade.

The Carcar Church has a rectangular floor plan with a main nave and two side aisles. Its facade is divided into segments by cornices, and the pediment flanked by the topmost part of two bell towers.

Judas Iscariot image
Judas Iscariot is set apart from the life-size images of the other apostles.

A cross decorates the apex of the pediment and the two belfries.

Although some writers have described the Carcar Church bell towers as being capped by onion-shaped domes, their base is square instead of circular and the arch flat instead of full like those of the Roman Orthodox churches.

Balaanong Bahandi said the church’s architecture bears Graeco-Roman influences.

A massive recessed arch that occupies almost two-thirds of the facade’s height frames the main doors.

Angels decorate the arches inside the church. Like several other Spanish colonial churches, the one in Carcar also has a painted ceiling.
Angels decorate the arches inside the church. Like several other Spanish colonial churches, the one in Carcar also has a painted ceiling.

The Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish was originally established as the convent of the La Visitacion de la Nuestra Señora on June 21, 1599, wrote another church historian, Fr. Pedro Galende, in his book Philippine Church Facades. This was in the coastal village of Sialo or Siaro, known today as Inayagan in Barangay Villadolid.

Frequent Moro raids prompted the transfer of the settlement to what is now the city center, known then as Mowag or Kabkad after the name of a fern which used to grow abundantly in the area, he added.

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Heritage

Boljoon ready for tourists during Holy Week break

If you’re planning a Cebu trip during the Holy Week break and feel that the holiday island of Bantayan will be too crowded, you might want to consider Boljoon and its neighboring towns in your travel itinerary.

Many tourists now consider Boljoon as an alternative Cebu destination during the Lenten season, Mayor Merlou Derama said.

It is not difficult to see why. Boljoon sits, like a postcard picture, on a narrow strip of land between the towering green mountainsides and bright blue seas.

Travelers come across Boljoon when the coastal road makes a sharp turn along a colossal promontory that hides the town from view. Boljoanons consider this natural rock formation one of the town’s landmarks and call it Ili Rock.

boljoon cebu
Boljoon sits, like a postcard picture, on a narrow strip of land between the mountain and the sea.

I’ve been to Boljoon several times but I’m never tired of the sight that greets me when our vehicle completes that bend in the road. From that spot some distance away from the town center, Boljoon is laid out in a picturesque marriage of land, sea, and mountain.

The town is also a jump-off point for travel to the nearby towns of Oslob with its whale shark watching attraction as well as Samboan and Santander, which are the last two towns south of Cebu island.

Boljoon attractions

This southeastern town was a prime target of Moro attacks in the early 17th up to the 19th century possibly in retaliation to Spain’s attempt to conquer and subjugate Mindanao, according to Paul Gerschwiler in his book “Bolhoon: A Cultural Sketch”.

He said one destructive raid that occurred in 1782 reduced the town to ashes – its houses and church burned – and prompted a Spanish priest assigned to the parish in 1802 to organize a proper defense system against the Moros.

boljoon church
The Patrocinio de Maria Church in Boljoon, completed in 1841, served both as place of worship and fortress during the Moro sieges.

The priest’s name was Fr. Julian Bermejo and he was behind many of the Spanish colonial structures that have become major Boljoon travel attractions.

These centuries-old buildings, located within the Parish Complex, are enclosed by almost intact ancient stone fortifications and include the Patrocinio de Maria Church, El Gran Baluarte, and rectory. Also worth visiting are the old cemetery walls and gate, American era edifice called Escuela Catolica, Plaza Bermejo, and museum.

Farther away from the town center, there are 19th century houses, an old spring called Baño sa Poblacion, and baluartes (watchtowers).

For more information about the town and its many attractions, we have a mobile web guide to the town as boljoon.myguide.ph.

Boljoon resorts

When it comes to accommodations, the town has a choice of seaside resorts and inns as well mountain retreats.

Many of these places are just by the sea or near it. They are affordable and easily accessed from the coastal road that runs through Boljoon.

Escuela Catolica
Escuela Catolica

Club Fort Med is nestled between the mountain and the sea. It is a combination of fine white sand, lush gardens, and quaint cottages on a hectare of seaside land. There is also the Granada beach house, which is an eight-bedroom rustic property set atop a cliff with a 180-degree view of Boljoon’s seas.

Since the beach is located about a kilometer from the main road and reached through a narrow winding road, it is secluded and very private.

Noordzee Hostel offers both budget rooms that appeal to backpackers. On its rooftop is the Noordzee Restobar which serves Dutch cuisine.

Palanas Farm and Resort distinguishes itself by its location, which is not by the seaboard but in a tranquil valley of the rural town. Getting to this mountain retreat is through a well-paved mountain road. For a list of more places to stay in Boljoon and what they have to offer, go to boljoon.myguide.ph.

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Heritage Places

Rich symbolism in Argao’s St. Michael the Archangel Church

Like other Augustinian structures built in the late 18th century in the Philippines, the San Miguel Arcangel or St. Michael the Archangel Church of Argao is an edifice of impressive dimensions.

This structure set in stone is 72 meters long, 16 meters wide, and 10 meters high.

It is adjacent to the Argao town plaza and other Argao heritage structures like the Casa Real, Capilla Mortuario, Paso or Way of the Cross wall, and Hall of Justice building.

With its vaulted wooden ceiling that covers a simple nave and a transept that gives it a cruciform shape, the Argao church is typical of other Spanish colonial churches in the Philippines.

Paul Gerschwiler, who wrote about Argao history, described the construction as massive, with its “12 strong supporting buttresses reinforcing the walls and enhancing stability.”

argao church and belfry
The Saint Michael the Archangel Church and its belfry, in this photo taken from the Argao church’s courtyard.

The completion of this present-day Argao church can traced back to 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi, citing Archdiocesan Records.

Although another historian, Pedro Galende, attributed the current structure to Fr. Mateo Perez, which served as parish priest for 33 straight years from 1803 to 1806, the date “1788” engraved above the arch of the Argao church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.

Argao was one of eight vicarages established in 1599 and, while it became a town or mission pueblo as early as 1608, it was only set up as a parish over a hundred years later or in 1733, said the Balaanong Bahandi, adding the reason for this oversight was never adequately explained.

Argao church features

Originally, the San Miguel Arcangel Church had the typical Spanish clay tiles for its roof but this collapsed during the typhoon of November 25-26, 1876, wrote Gerschwiler. He said Argao native Msgr. Pablo Alcarez narrated that the tiles were replaced with galvanized iron in 1924 due to fear of earthquakes.

The church facade is a horizontal rectangle topped by a triangular pediment and divided into nine panels, a style that can be found only in five of over 160 documented Augustinian churches and all of them built along the southeastern coast of Cebu, according to Gerschwiler.

What distinguishes the San Miguel Arcangel Church, he added, is the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry, although Augustinian records had failed to identify many of the master carver-artists behind the structure’s artistic ornamentation.

It is clear from their work they were masters of their crafts, itinerant Chinese and Chinese-mestizos who were familiar with Christian themes and motifs as well as early Christian symbolism, according to Gerschwiler.

An example of such one-of-a-kind feature, he noted, is the four pairs of half columns that run up to the pediment and divide the facade into three panels.

“On the first level the paired columns stand on rectangular pedestals. The two outer pedestals depict lions sitting on their hind legs, holding a ball in each of their paws; a very typical Chinese motif,” wrote Gerschwiler in his historical outline.

The two pedestals flanking the main door each depict a bird, with its head down and wings spread out protectively, nursing three of its young that cling to their mother’s breast, he added in his description.

Rich ornamentation

Rich and elaborate ornamentation can be seen in the way the double cornices that horizontally divide the facade create an entablature when it intersects with Corinthian capitals richly decorated with floral motifs; atlante-angel carvings carry the paired half-columns running up to the pediment; a stylized peacock sits atop an orb; sequence of carvings of angels, fruits of the ivy, and a little snake run down the columns.

An example of the bas reliefs of angels and other Christian symbols that adorn the Argao church's facade.
An example of the bas reliefs of angels and other Christian symbols that adorn the Argao church’s facade.

“In a cascade if motifs, the artist carved his message…(he) thought this particular message to be so important and essential that he repeated it with slight variations on all half-columns of the first level, no less than eight times,” Gerschwiler said.

Four of the nine panels in the front face are particularly prominent, including the central panel of the pediment where St. Michael the Archangel, armed with spear and shield, and flanked by two angels – one carrying his standard as light bearer and the other holding the Tuba Christi of the Last Judgement – is depicted.

Its massive front and side doors made of vertically joined hardwood planks are integrated with smaller semicircular doors and decorated evenly with bronze rosettes embedded on the wood.

The church, according to the Balaanong Bahandi, has been the recipient of Baroque and semi-Rococo embellishments like its wooden pulpit and its pipe organ in the choir loft.

A wooden retablo of majestic proportions dominates the altar section but this has unfortunately been unnecessarily gilded, including even the centuries-old life-size estofado statues of saints enthroned in its niches, added the book.

Interior details

There are five altars or retablos inside the Argao church. The main one, which a priest decided to paint gold, has neo-baroque influences, said Gerschwiler. This altar has four niches: the lower level contains statues of the archangels St. Michael (center), St. Gabriel (right), and St. Raphael (left) while the center enshrines a sculpted image Center of the Virgin Mary.

Gerschwiler said the church’s pipe organ is one of three that remains in Cebu. It was believed installed in the second half of the 19th century and, although Mexican in design, used local materials so it was probably built locally, he wrote.

Argao church’s pipe organ has a total of 700 pipes and provided the organist with 22 different timbres, he added.

According to him, only the murals on the apse and transept of the vaulted ceiling can be attributed to famous 20th century Cebuano painter Raymundo Francia.

The four scenes span the whole width of the nave and transept at their crossing point and depict the battle between the fallen angels of Lucifer and the good angels of St. Michael, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the fall of man. One scene can’t anymore be discerned.

There are two other altars with four semicircular statue niches with round arches bearing ornamentation of Chinese influences and Moorish arabesques.

He described the pulpit as made up of rectangular recessed planes angled against each other and on them are painted wooden reliefs of (in clockwise direction) evangelist St. Luke, the evangelist St. Mark, the Virgin Mary, the evangelist St. John, and the evangelist St. Matthew.

Church historian Galende describes the three-level campanario or belfry erected in 1830 as “one of the best in the Philippines.” It rests on a solid and thick wall base and has small rectangular openings. It used to house nine bells and the earliest one brought there, Santa Barbara, was founded in 1875.

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Heritage Places

Top Bohol destinations included in Travel Village day tour

It took longer to reach some of Bohol’s popular tourist spots and attractions because of the damage to some roads and bridges but they are open and welcoming visitors again.

The drive to the famous Bohol destination named Chocolate Hills took two hours because of road diversions and the viewing deck built atop one of the 1,268 mounds was destroyed by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake on October 15, 2013.

Fortunately, another observatory had been constructed in Carmen before the quake.

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Heritage

Bohol attractions reopen after 7.2-magnitude quake

There’s no better proof that quake-stricken Bohol is slowly getting back on its feet than moves showing it is back to welcoming tourists to its many attractions.

Although the viewing deck on top of one of the Chocolate Hills was destroyed, a recently opened tourist site provides a vantage view of the famous Bohol landmark, an assessment of SuperCat ferry operator 2GO showed.

This new site that has recently joined the list of Bohol attractions is called the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park.

It is a nature park with a coffee shop and a serpentarium.

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Heritage News

State of Cebu, Bohol churches after the earthquake

Checked out the newest earthquake update and saw a long list of Bohol churches, chapels, and convent that were destroyed or have sustained varying degrees of damage.

I counted 22 churches, seven chapels, and a convent. I’m not sure, though, which of these structures are heritage ones.

It has been reported often enough that the San Pedro Church in Loboc collapsed while the churches in Maribojoc, Loon, Baclayon were destroyed as well when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Sagbayan, Bohol occurred on October 15.

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Events Heritage

Sinulog 2014 mobile web guide now available

It’s less than three months to the Sinulog 2014 celebration in Cebu and accommodations along and near the procession and parade routes are fast filling up. (Update: We now have an Android app version)

Have you made your reservations?

Some Cebu hotels and pension houses require two-night, three-night, or four-night stays during the Sinulog Festival 2014 weekend when the Solemn Procession and Grand Parade will be held, which is every third Saturday and Sunday of January.

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Events Feature Heritage News

Cebu-wide digital tourism project launched in Argao

When someone mentions torta, I usually and immediately think of Argao because I associate this popular Cebu delicacy with the town. I’m sure a lot of Cebuanos do the same.

Our frequent visits to Argao however have made me realize that its indigenous industries of torta and tableya, another specialty, are just one of the many facets that make up this southern town of Cebu.

From research and interviews, I’ve learned things about Argao that are not common knowledge and have come to better appreciate my visits. Beyond the torta, and it is delicious by the way, I’ve come to know Argao as a town steeped in history, rich in socio-cultural heritage, and with an abundance of natural resources.

Trips are truly more meaningful if you know what to look for in a place. The problem is, information about Cebu’s rich historical and socio-cultural heritage as it relates to towns like Argao is not easily accessible to the ordinary traveler.

argao guide
The unveiling of a quick response (QR) code marker marks the start in Argao of a province-wide implementation of a digital tourism program for Cebu. In the photo are: (from L) Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero, PLDT-Smart Public Affairs head Mon Isberto, Cebu Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide III, Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos, and InnoPub co-founder Max Limpag.

Take for example the San Miguel Arcangel Church, a late 18th century structure remaining of Spanish colonial times.

While it may seem at first glance to be like any other church built by the Spanish clergy, this structure in Argao differs in the artistic and elaborate ornamentation that can be found on the facade, pediment, retablo, pulpit, ceiling, and other interior portions.

A marker at the Argao Hall of Justice contains a short paragraph about the structure and  a quick response (QR) code that allows the download of more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet.
A marker at the Argao Hall of Justice contains a short paragraph about the structure and a quick response (QR) code that allows the download of more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet.

Its facade, according to Paul Gerschwiler in his historical outline of Argao, is divided into nine panels by two double cornices that intersect with four vertical paired half columns and only five of the more than 160 Augustinian churches used this style, all of them built in the southeastern coast of Cebu.

This and other relevant information related to the church in particular and travel to the town in general is being made available to travelers through a digital tourism program that is a collaboration among our new media start-up, InnoPub, our main partner Smart Communications, Inc., and the local governments of Cebu Province and Argao.

Our digital tourism project comes in three components. It involves a web-based guide to Argao, mobile application format, and markers placed on historical and heritage structures. The markers carry quick response codes which allows guests to download more information when scanned with a smartphone or tablet. The guide, web-based an app versions, lists all places and activities of interest in the town.

The project was launched Friday at Argao’s historic “cabecera” or town center, with Cebu Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide, Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos, and PLDT-Smart public affairs head Mon Isberto in attendance.

If you ever find yourself going around the town, we have a quick guide accessible at argao.myguide.ph, mobile app for Android devices that can be downloaded at Google Play, and QR code markers placed on important structures within the “cabecera de Argao.”

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Heritage Places

Around Argao in a day

One Friday, we found ourselves free from any pressing work or other commitments and decided to make our way to the town of Argao.

We were a motley crew of parents, teens, and children with a need for a break from home and work duties. Since the children had the Friday off from school, we decided to spend the day in a town 68 kilometers from Cebu City.

Our first stop was the “El Pueblo Hispano Antiguo de Argao” – which translates to old Spanish town center of Argao – or simply “cabecera de Argao (town center of Argao).”

Argao’s pueblo was patterned after Spain’s blueprint for its settlements in the colonies, which specified a church-rectory-municipal hall-plaza-complex and with the natives living nearby or “bajo el sonido de la campana (under the sound of the bell).”

argao church
San Miguel Arcangel Church in Argao, Cebu.

This means that if you were a Cebuano and you lived in those times, your residence must be within reach of the ringing of the church bells.

Argao founding

Existing church records say the town of Argao was founded in 1608 but it became a parish only in 1733, and this oversight was never fully explained in the history books, said the Cebu Archdiocese book Balaanong Bahandi.

The cabecera was once enclosed in a high and solid rectangular wall of cut coral stones, with entryways on each side of the perimeter. Only two massive gates remain of the wall constructed in the early 1800s as defense against Moro attacks.

Paul Gerschwiler wrote in his historical outline of Argao that the cabecera, as it stands today in Argao, and its fortification were rebuilt around the church by Fr. Mateo Perez during his tenure from 1803 to 1836.

Of the cabecera before Perez’s time, there has been no account of it in any church or history books.

Inside Casa Real in Argao. The door to the right used to lead to the old telecoms office.
Inside Casa Real in Argao. The door to the right used to lead to the old telecoms office.

Gerschwiler said we don’t know when it was raided by the Moros and the extent of the destruction, except that the defense structure put up by Fr. Perez came about as a consequence of these attacks.

San Miguel Arcangel Church

The existence of the present-day church — the central structure upon which the locations of other cabecera buildings were based — can be traced to as far back as 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi.

Although another church historian, Pedro Galende, attributed the current structure to Fr. Mateo Perez, which served as parish priest for 33 straight years from 1803 to 1806, the date “1788” engraved above the arch of the church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.

While the San Miguel Arcangel Church appears to look like any other built in Cebu by the Spanish clergy, this structure in Argao differs in the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry.

Take for example the division into nine panels of the church facade, formed by two horizontal double cornices intersecting with four vertical lines made up of paired half columns.

Gerschwiler said only five of the more than 160 Augustinian churches built in the Philippines used this style of division and all were built along the southeastern coast of Cebu.

Aside from the church, other buildings inside the cabecera that are worth a look or visit include the campanario (belfry) beside the church, museum in the rectory ground floor, paso or way of the cross wall, capilla mortuario or mortuary chapel, and Casa Real or municipal hall.

Argao Hall of Justice
The Argao Hall of Justice stands on the site of what used to be the cuartel de infanteria or infantry barracks during Spanish times.

Nature park

Seeing that our kids needed a break from history, we decided to go to a place that would allow them to expend their boundless energy.

We heard about the Argao Nature Park and went there after taking our lunch at Carmen’s Eatery located on the town highway. The park is just a short drive from the road across Carmen’s.

argao nature park
A boat ride is one of the activities at Argao Nature Park.

The entrance to the park, built by the Municipal Government on a property owned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is only P5 per person. It’s just a small park with plenty of trees and activities guaranteed to make any child happy. It offers a canopy walk or a walk on a hanging bridge built on the treetops, boating on a medium-sized pond, short zipline ride, and wall climbing.

It even has a mini-zoo and an outdoor chess set. The area is where the train used to make a stop in Argao, a staff at the Argao Tourism Commission told us.

Torta, tableya

Hungry after all that running around, we decided to make food our next stop. We ended up at Jessie’s Homemade Torta bakeshop and eatery.

The owner, Jessie Magallones, gave us a tour of her bakery, showed us the hurno (clay oven) where she bakes the torta, and talked about she got into the business of torta-making. Jessie’s contact details: 367-7455 and 0947-6994027.

Argao Torta and Sikwate
TORTA AND SIKWATE. Torta (native sponge cake) and sikwate (native chocolate) in Jessie’s Home made Torta in Argao. The town is known for these delicacies.

Afterwards, we had torta and sikwate (hot chocolate drink made from tableya) at Jessie’s and even bought some to take home. Jessie’s torta is baked using tuba (coconut wine) as leavening, which is the traditional way of doing it.

We just couldn’t go home without bringing Argao tableya (bitter chocolate rounds made from cacao beans) so we hied off to the main maker of the product, Nang Guilang, in Argao. This is the same tableya used by the Tablea Chocolate Cafe branches for its chocolate and choco drink products.

Interested in ordering tableya from Nang Guilang? Call her store at 0909-8226747.

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Heritage

Matilda L. Bradford Memorial Church on Juan Luna St. now Osmeña Boulevard

Bradford Church on Juan Luna St. now Osmeña Boulevard

This photo taken in the 1920s shows at left the Matilda L. Bradford Memorial Church on what was then known as Juan Luna St. The street was later renamed to Jones Avenue and finally to Osmeña Boulevard, its official name today. Cebuanos, however, continue calling the street “Jones.”

Osmeña Boulevard is the main thoroughfare that traverses downtown and midtown Cebu City.

The Matilda L. Bradford Memorial Church belongs to the United Church of Christ of the Philippines and was completed, according to this Cebu Daily News report, on October 26, 1913.

This photo is part of the collection of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos and is used here with its permission.

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Heritage

Calle del Norte America, now D. Jakosalem St.

norte-americano-street

A traffic man directs the flow of vehicles inside a traffic box on Calle del Norte America in Cebu City. The street is now known as D. Jakosalem St. To the left of the photo is the old Cebu City Hall, which is now the Legislative Building.

The photo was taken by Galileo Medalle and forms part of the Medalle Collection that is now with the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos. The photo card indicated this was taken in 1930. This photo is published with the permission of the Cebuano Studies Center.

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Events Feature Heritage News

Bathalad, InnoPub Media launch free Bisaya poetry e-book

Literary group Bathalad Inc. and journalism start-up InnoPub Media have released an e-book anthology of Cebuano poems for smartphones, tablets and e-readers.

“Skina Balak” can be downloaded for free from certain websites, including MyCebu, and through QR or quick response code scanning of posters and offline download stations.

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Heritage

Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery

The Cebu Journalism and Journalists (CJJ) Gallery officially opened on September 24, 2010 to showcase the vibrant journalism in Cebu. It is the first community media museum gallery in the country.

On June 25, 2009, Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) executive director Pachico Seares had obtained approval for the project from the CCPC en banc, following initial talks between broadcaster Bobby Nalzaro and Seares with Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on locating the gallery in the Cebu Provincial Government-owned Museo Sugbo.

OPENING. Guests view displays in the gallery during its opening. The Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery is the first community media museum gallery in the country. (SUN.STAR CEBU PHOTO)
OPENING. Guests view displays in the gallery during its opening. The Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery is the first community media museum gallery in the country. (SUN.STAR CEBU PHOTO)

Then congressman Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district) offered P200,000 from his Priority Development Assistance Fund to finance the exhibit.

Last March 11, 2010, the CCPC en banc approved the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Province of Cebu, represented by Garcia, and the CCPC, represented by its president, Dr. Pureza Oñate, to use this space in the Museo Sugbo for the exhibit for 25 years, free of charge. The contract is renewable for another 25 years.

The gallery contains photo frames with captions of pre-war and post-war journalists of Cebu with captions on their contributions to Cebu journalism. It also contains equipment like a Minerva letterpress, an ink knife, radio microphones and a Royal Quick Deluxe typewriter.

NEWSFLASH FROM THE PAST. Antonio Tormis Jr. takes photographs of a display focusing on his father, the editor and columnist Antonio Abad Tormis of The Republic News, inside the Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery. Tormis was gunned down on July 3, 1961, following his pursuit of stories about local government corruption. (SUN.STAR PHOTO)
NEWSFLASH FROM THE PAST. Antonio Tormis Jr. takes photographs of a display focusing on his father, the editor and columnist Antonio Abad Tormis of The Republic News, inside the Cebu Journalism and Journalists Gallery. Tormis was gunned down on July 3, 1961, following his pursuit of stories about local government corruption. (SUN.STAR PHOTO)

Play the video below to listen to one of the gallery’s curators.

(This article is part of a project on Cebu tourism supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the Philippines’ telecommunications leader)

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Feature Heritage

Battle of Mactan: history and myth

This spot is revered by Mactan Island residents more than any other place. A marker says it was on that site that a man who had sought dominion over the island in the name of the Spanish king had died in the hands of the brave warrior chieftain Lapu-Lapu 485 years ago.

Lapu-Lapu’s deed is fact but it spawned legends about the man–how he defeated the Spanish forces with their powerful artillery (guns, swords, cannons, cross-bows, body armor) and killed their leader Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan–and what became of him.

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Feature Heritage

Cebuano musical heritage comes alive at Halad Museum

(Information for this article was provided by Halad Museum curator Audrey Tomada)

Halad means “tribute” or “offering” in Cebuano and the Halad Museum of Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas in downtown Cebu City serves to immortalize Cebu’s musical heritage.

The museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu’s musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments.

Standing at a corner, a piano used by no less than Ben Zubiri, that popular ’50s-’60s Visayan entertainer and radio personality behind the timeless piece “Matud Nila.” On a glass case is an original music sheet of Maning Velez’s “Sa Kabukiran,” popularized also by his daughter, the actress Lilian Velez. Then there’s a guitar, not just anyone’s but Minggoy Lopez’s, the artist behind the folk song Rosas Pandan that has become a favorite choral contest piece even in international competitions.

MUSICAL HERITAGE. The Halad Museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu's musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments. It is located in the old The Freeman building on Manalili St. in downtown Cebu City. Click on image to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)
MUSICAL HERITAGE. The Halad Museum displays memorabilia of Cebuanos who contributed to the formation of Cebu's musical culture with their compositions celebrating the Visayan language and their favored instruments. It is located in the old The Freeman building on V. Gullas St. in downtown Cebu City. Click on image to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

These are just some of the wide ranging and enduring legacies of Cebuano cultural heritage expressed through music and available for everyone to see at the museum. There are also old photographs, musical scores, lyric sheets, vinyl records, awards, and personal items from gowns to gadgets of Visayan musicians.

Behind this laudable undertaking is Jose Gullas through his Tipiganan sa mga Handumanan (Treasury of Memories) Foundation. The idea came to him in 2007 when he started a series of concerts that were to serve as tributes to Filipino composers.

Treasuring Cebuano songs

Gullas explained he created the museum as a way of preserving and treasuring beautiful Cebuano songs that would otherwise have been lost or forgotten and honoring the memory of his parents Vicente and Inday Pining.

The museum has something for the younger crowd, too, with its video screens and sound stations where Cebuano classics can be played in its various interpretations — whether by Pilita Corrales, Susan Fuentes, or Dulce.

Indigenous musical instruments of Mindanao tribes like the Manobo, T’boli, Yakan, Subanon, Talaandig, and Kulmanon are new acquisitions.

In contrast, a high-tech phonograph from Europe is also on display.

Aside from the Halad Music Gallery, the museum also hosts other exhibits including the:

Kinaiyang Sugbuanon Gallery

A walkthrough is a rediscovery of Cebuano traditions from the distant to near past. Every image tells its story, and the photo collection depicts Cebuano life cycles, popular practices, and religious expressions.

Jose R. Gullas Memorabilia Gallery

The life of the man behind the museum. A section that traces his story, lineage,and passion.

Permanent Exhibitions

Cebuano songs played on old-school phonographs and digital music stations. Imagine a time in old Cebu when serenades were common and expected. See a vast collection of LP records and journey back to a time when life was and afternoons were spent listening to music. Touch and play instruments like no one’s watching. Explore displays that will bring you to a magical musical journey.

Changing Exhibitions

Thematic exhibitions aimed at capturing the spirit of prevailing events. These change year round and promises something for everyone.

How to get there

The Halad Museum is located on the corner of V. Gullas and D. Jakosalem Streets in Cebu City. The site is the old offices of The Freeman, Cebu’s oldest newspaper, and taxicab drivers know where it is. It is less than 30 minutes away from Cebu City’s big shopping malls.

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Events Heritage News

Bigger, more colorful Gabii sa Kabilin this May 25

One event that should not be missed in Cebu this May is the annual Gabii sa Kabilin, which is bigger this year since it will involve 21 heritage sites and include children’s activities as well as an exhibit of Cebuano delicacies.

Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, said they are aiming to attract 10,000 people to the May 25 event that will start at 6 p.m. and end at midnight.

Tickets cost P150 and allow participants access to the 21 sites where cultural performances, exhibits, art fairs, food markets, and interactive demonstrations will be held.

TOUR THEMES. Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, says this year's Gabii Sa Kabilin offers different tour themes. Click on photo to enlarge. At right is Cebu City Police Office Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe, who assured participants of their safety. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY RAMON ABOITIZ FOUNDATION INC.)
TOUR THEMES. Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI)-Culture and Heritage, says this year's Gabii Sa Kabilin offers different tour themes. Click on photo to enlarge. At right is Cebu City Police Office Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe, who assured participants of their safety. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY RAMON ABOITIZ FOUNDATION INC.)

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Feature Heritage

Centuries-old churches in southern Cebu

Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church in Carcar. Construction of this structure started in 1860 and was finished in 1875.

Centuries-old churches of various architectural influences that were built during the Spanish occupation of Cebu can be found along the entire stretch of the mainland and even in satellite islands. A trip down Cebu’s southern part is a glimpse into the religious aspect of Spain’s influence on Cebuano heritage.

Spanish period churches in souther towns and cities:

1.
Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish Church in Talisay City

• Church construction started in 1836 and was completed in 1848, roof was replaced in 1877 after it was destroyed by a typhoon
• Located at the city center, near the old City Hall

The structure bears influences of Greek and Roman architectural styles in the use of Doric columns to support a second floor balcony that serves as an awning shielding the entrance and in the arches used on the massive domed-roof belfries flanking a recessed facade.

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Heritage TBT

San Juan Bautista Parish Church, once Cebu’s most opulent church

DIONISIO Alo stood seething with anger as authorities tore down the magnificent San Juan Bautista Parish Church in Parian in the late 1870s.

“His heart bled with every stone that was removed and all he could do was bite his lips causing them to also bleed,” said Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go.

Alo, who was capitan of the Parian gremio, was so angry at the destruction that he unknowingly crushed the golden handle of his baston.

The destruction of what had been described in various historical sources as the most magnificent church in Cebu was the end of centuries of struggle between the local mestizo community and the Spanish friars who wanted control over the structure.

San Juan Bautista Parish in Parian
The San Juan Bautista Parish Church in the Parian district is described as having been the most magnificent church in Cebu. (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER OF USC)

The Parian church, according to Go’s translation submitted to the University of San Carlos as her masteral thesis in history, “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” It was built in 1602.

What remains on the site today, the San Juan Bautista chapel, is but a faint reminder of an opulent past.

“The church was made of stone blocks, plastered together in a mixture of lime and the sap of the lawat tree. The roofs were made of tiles, and the lumber used was molave, balayong and naga. The paraphernalia used in the mass was made purely of gold, the pews were carved by a sculptor of the Parian, the altars were covered with stone slabs with money and gold inlaid, and the church bells were big and loud. The tolling of these bells was so loud that it could be heard as far as Hilotungan ang the town of Talisay,” Go said in her thesis.

“The Augustinian friars upon seeing the magnificence of the church of the Parian, got envious, and employed every shrewd means they could think of to take over the Parian church,” the thesis said.

Fr. Rafael Vasquez, a Parianon, however, fought back and kept the friars at bay.

San Juan Bautista Church in Pari-an
The San Juan Bautista Parish Church in a diorama of the old Pari-an district located inside one of the galleries of the Museo Pari-an sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House, which is just a few meters away from where the Pari-an church was located. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Go said in one of her footnotes that Augustinian Fr. Santos Gomez Marañon filed a petition “to have the Parian parish supressed and incorporated into the Cathedral.”

Rivalry

Go said, “Many reasons for this request were given, but it definitely had the earmarks of a direct challenge against the dominance of the Chinese mestizo community of Parian and their elaborate church, which far outshone the cathedral.”

Through the years, however, the rivalry with Spanish friars continued with succeeding priests and capitans of the Parian gremio.

During the time of Don Pedro Rubi as Parian captain, the bishop ordered that masses be held at the church only on Sundays.

During the time of Don Maximo Borromeo as captain, the bishop “removed the right of the Visayas priests to officiate mass in the Parian Church.”

“In retaliation the residents of the Parian decided to make use of the school across from the church and converted it into a chapel where the parish priest of Parian could officiate the mass.”

In 1875, Dionisio Alo, known as Capitan Isyo, became capitan of the Parian gremio. With the San Juan Bautista fiesta in June approaching, Capitan Isyo called for a meeting to discuss preparations. The fiesta was a big affair in the area with most Parian residents spending “as much as three thousand pesos” for the celebration.

Capitan Isyo also wanted to discuss who would replace their parish priest, the Ilonggo Fr. Anselmo “Pari Imoy” Albanceña, who died in December 1874. The replacement would be celebrating the fiesta mass.

Fr. Tomas de la Concepcion, the parish priest of the cathedral, told the group “to request the bishop to appoint a white priest.” De la Concepcion said there was no Filipino priest capable of being named to the post.

Capitan Isyo, however, strongly disagreed and shouted at a cabeza de barangay who agreed with the suggestion.

“At that instance, a quarrel broke out between the two. While Capitan Isyo used his prerogatives as head of the mestizo gremio, Padre Tomas also made use of his power as representative of the Bishop in order to force Capitan Isyo to yield and accept (a) white priest as their parish and spiritual guide.”

The heated and bitter exchange ended with the two deciding not to hold a mass for the fiesta or even holding any celebrations.

Grudge

Followers of Capitan Isyo feared he would be excommunicated and tried to change his mind but the nationalist community leader just told them, “I would prefer that the church be destroyed rather than have a friar in it.”

Parian Church, according to "Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon", “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER)
Parian Church, according to “Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon”, “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” (PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CEBUANO STUDIES CENTER)

Fr. Tomas kept a grudge against Parian and “boasted to his priestly friends, especially the friars, that he was obsessed with the complete destruction of the Parian church.”

When Fr. Tomas reported the incident to the bishop, including Capitan Isyo’s declaration that he would rather have the church destroyed than have a white priest in it, the bishop felt insulted.

On June 24, 1875, the bishop forbade the parish priest from saying mass in the Parian church. The community’s fiesta celebration was also overseen by the Cathedral parish priest. Capitan Isyo could not do anything and his enemies made sure he would keep his post so that they could exact their revenge. They told residents that the capitan was to blame for what happened in Parian.

The bishop then ordered a Spanish engineer to check the durability of the Parian church. The engineer later informed the governor that the materials used to build the church were weak and the structure, including the stone wall that surrounded it, should be torn down.

Date of destruction

The governor of Cebu then ordered the destruction of the church. He also ordered the bishop to take possession of everything inside the church, including its statues and bells.

While Ang Sugbo Sa Karaang Panahon listed the destruction of the church as having occurred in 1875-1876, Go said “the actual destruction of the church seems to have taken place in late 1878 or 1879.

According to information printed on a photograph found at the Cebuano Studies Center in the University of San Carlos, “the convent of the church was spared and was used later during the American regime as a public library and a fire station.”

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Heritage

Casa Gorordo, home of Cebu’s first Filipino bishop

An authentic Spanish mansion with period furniture, the Casa Gorordo along Lopez Jaena St. in Cebu City showcases a lifestyle from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.

The stone and tile structure, restored and maintained as a museum by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), is one of few remaining houses called “balay nga tisa,” which was the building of choice of Cebu’s local rich families in the 1800’s.

Architect Melva R. Java, writing about island architecture in “Cebu: More Than an Island,” said the Spanish-period houses of coral stones and clay tile roofs depict a synthesis of “two world views–Asian transiency and Western permanence.”

SINUG SA RAFI. Every Monday after the Sinulog grand parade, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. holds a traditional "Sinug sa Rafi" at the Casa Gorordo. Click on photo to enlarge. (Photo by Max Limpag)
SINUG SA RAFI. Every Monday after the Sinulog grand parade, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. holds a traditional "Sinug sa Rafi" at the Casa Gorordo. Click on photo to enlarge. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Casa Gorordo’s lower floor served as storage spaces and probably also housed the horses and carriage like the other “balay nga tisa” of the landed gentry in colonial Cebu. Today, it accommodates museum offices and an area for art exhibitions.

The house’s lower floor walls are made of coral stones, and it bears all features typical of a balay nga bato: spacious interiors with ventanillas or vents below the window sills, sliding Capiz windows, and tugas posts and 12-inch wide floorboards.

An arch with intricate carvings of plants and birds separate the dining room or comedor from the landing and living room. At the end of the dining room is a kitchen typical of that period when the house was built.

Sliding doors open up into a wide balcony or azotea that runs by a long section of the house. Beside the house was built a new service building inspired by 19th century architecture and the garden, which has been landscaped, has been the venue of several events.

Aside from being one of the few remaining Spanish-period houses in the country, Casa Gorordo also gained prominence because it was the residence of Cebu’s first Filipino bishop.

The house was owned by the Reynes-Garces family before it was bought by Juan Isidro Gorordo, father of Juan Gorordo–who served as bishop of Cebu from 1910-1932, in 1863.

Casa Gorordo, which was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1991, was opened by RAFI as a museum in 1983. Displayed inside the house are antique furniture and altar pieces as well as relics of a lifestyle at the turn of the century.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Entrance fees are: P10 (elementary and high school students), P15 (college students), P40 (local), and P70 (foreign).

How to get there

Casa Gorordo is part of surviving heritage structures found in Parian, which got its name from the word “pari-pari (to barter or trade)” because it used to be the Chinese trading district of old. The area was the home of Cebu’s affluent citizens in the 19th century.

Parian is 20 to 30 minutes by cab from other areas in Cebu City.

Video tour

Click play on the YouTube video below to load a video tour of Casa Gorordo by its curator, Florencio Moreno II. Caution: the audio is loud because it is meant to be listened to on a phone without using earphones.

Categories
Heritage

Yap-Sandiego ancestral home: Soul of old Cebu

The house exudes the essence of a bygone era, a time already lived and long forgotten.

You can feel it in the creaking of the wooden stairs and floorboards that sigh the burden of the years.

You can see it in the second floor banggera–an extended windowsill that continues to hold a clay jar for storing drinking water and chinaware, and Capiz windows as well as in the intricately carved old furniture and images of saints with their ivory heads and hands.

The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home holds the distinction of being one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and possibly the oldest Chinese home outside of China. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)
The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home holds the distinction of being one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and possibly the oldest Chinese home outside of China. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

Its cut coral stone walls, hardwood posts and beams, and roof of red clay tiles tell of a Cebu much, much younger and vastly different from what it is today.

Indeed, the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home holds the distinction of being one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and possibly the oldest Chinese home outside of China.

Current house owner Val Sandiego, famous choreographer and antique collector, estimates its construction to be between 1675 to 1700.

“In 1614, the church of Parian was built. Then after around 60 years later, the house was put up,” said Sandiego, who is a descendant of original owners Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florido. The couple’s eldest daughter married Don Mariano Sandiego of Obando, Bulacan–who was then the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief during the Spanish colonial period) of Parian where the structure is located.

The house’s roof and walls are 95 percent original, according to Sandiego, making this edifice that he and his family continue to live in during weekends a little over 300 years old.

The things inside are not nearly as ancient as the structure but some, like the huge mirror in the living room, are over a hundred years old. The mirror that now adorns the second floor wall of the Sandiego ancestral home was used on several occasions by Negros native Pantaleon Villegas, better known as Leon Kilat, who led the revolution against the Spaniards in Cebu in 1898.

Some of the images of saints have missing hands, stolen or sold because these were made of ivory which was how they used to do them back then.

Sandiego, who acquired ownership of the house in early 2000, did an expensive restoration work on the structure in 2003 and has since opened it and his antique collection to the public.

The house is open for visits from Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., for P50 per person.

How to get there

Parian, which was where the wealthy and influential Chinese mestizos lived during the Spanish period, is in downtown Cebu City and cab drivers know where it is. The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home is across the towering Heritage of Cebu monument on the side of Mabini Street at the junction of Lopez Jaena.