The Colors of Spain

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I have always associated people, places and events with smells, colors, tastes. I guess this is our mind tagging them in its archive with some sort of filing system. Sinulog has always been red and gold. Growing up I have always wondered why these two colors, I have always thought they were so 80’s. Later on, I found that these are colors of Spain, our conquistadores.

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Without fail, every year on the 1st day of the novenario, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino will always be decked with banderitas and swags in red and gold. Last January 10 was the 1st day of the novenario and it was gloomy and rainy. This didn’t stop devotees from showing up to complete their 9 – day commitment.

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To my delight, the Basilica had prepared large umbrellas for everyone to use! In the usual colors of Spain. Good job Augustinians!

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Drums Beating

Last weekend we went to the City Sports Center after almost a month of wolfing down tons of food from the holiday parties.  We wanted to start our early morning walks again.  How time flies!  When we got there, we saw that the Sinulog stage is already up and a whole contingent was hard at work rehearsing at 530am!  It is Sinulog Month and in a few weeks time, the Grand Parade.

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Ofcourse, the oldies would always caution and remind everyone to focus on the solemnity and the real reason for the season – Sto. Nino.  This sounds like Christmas to me but I, erring on the side of sounding self-righteous, have always been one to celebrate this festival for the right reason.

For almost 12 years now, I have always completed the 9 day novena.  Okay there may have been years I didnt, but for those years, I made sure to join the foot procession.

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So anyway, when we got home from the sports centre I went online to check out news and updates around the festivities.  I ran into an article that posted the English version of the Prayer to Sto. Nino.  Reposting here with some images of my beloved baby Sto Nino taken from exhibits around the city.

Prayer to the Sto. Nino:

O Senor Santo Niño, you are our king and our God, we worship you. You are our strong defender, we turn to you. You are the patron of Cebu, the Philippines and the world, we come to you; You have made extraordinary wonders through your miraculous image in those chosen islands, remember us. Look down at this poor soul that comes to you for help. Lead us with Your wisdom; discipline us with your truth; console us with your tenderness, protect us with your might.

We consecrate today our thoughts of you, only with you shall they be occupied; our words, only of you shall they speak; our sufferings, that we may endure them for your sake. We beg you Señor Santo Niño, illumine our understanding, kindle our will, cleanse our body, sanctify our soul. We wish what you wish, because you wish, as you wish, as long as you wish.

Grant us, Señor Santo Niño, that we may feel love toward you, be strict toward ourselves be zealous toward our fellowmen, and rightly despise the things of the world. Help us to overcome sensuality with strict discipline, avariciousness with generosity, anger with gentleness, indolence with zealous industry. Make us wise in counsel, courageous in danger, patient in adversity, humble in prosperity.

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Teach us, dear Santo Niño, how worthless is the world, how sublime is heaven, how brief is time, how long is eternity. Grant us, lastly, that we may remember you, adore you, love you and serve you here on earth that we may be happy with you forever and ever in heaven.

Amen

Revisiting Kawasan Falls

 

August 2012, Shaun and I went south to another one of our spur-of-the-moment road trips and ended up in Badian.  Shaun has been missing this place which was an oft visited seminar venue in college.  As always, “kinowboy” or rugged was the order of the trip.  We checked into La Playa and after a good night’s rest, went for an early walk to Kawasan Falls.

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We stopped for breakfast by a roadside eatery and found nicely prepared native pickled fish “inun-unan”.  Fish slow-cooked in vinegar and salt in a claypot with ginger and tomatoes.  We were told that the governor had shut down operations and had not allowed people in to the waterfalls area.  The governor was said to have been worried about buildings and commercial structures sprouting along the trail towards and around the waterfalls.  We were surprised to learn this as we have always assumed it was open.  At the same time we were secretly pleased that the government cared enough to want to leave nature be.

We were told not to worry and to just take the trail on the other side of the river.  So off we went and like always, the trek alone already made me feel refreshed from all the busy days at work.  Shaun hadn’t been here for 12 years and myself, even longer.  It felt good to be back and trekking along fresh air and green foliage, not to mention the occasional dip into very cool waters.  And since operations had been shut down, did I mention we had the place all to ourselves, on a weekend!

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what better way to warm up than to have our very own San Miguel Beer!

Humba, Lard, Tuba and Sikwate

One of the things I like about travelling is the rare chance to have a taste of their local cuisine.  Now for short trips across neighboring towns in the island, this may mean tasting not just the delicacies but also variations of familiar local fare.
 

Shaun and I were in Argao last Saturday and found ourselves in a quaint and eccentric cafe for lunch.  My heart started to beat faster than usual when I saw an old building just a block outside the church square.  It had a familiar trelis overtaken by some climbing, flowering plant by its entrance.  This is Alex Kafe. 

I have read about this place years ago in a local newspaper and forgot its name and its location.  I have been constantly asking friends from the south about it with no answers.  I know it had the trelis up front and they were supposed to serve the best torta(local baked pastry) and sikwate(local chocolate drink).  For a long time, I thought they were in Carcar.  But here we are now!

 

 

The place looked abandoned when we got there.  For a minute, we thought they were not in operation anymore if not for the fresh flowers on the tables.  The refrigerated pastry display counter was bare and the artwork and various abubots (knick knacks)  were dusty.  Nobody met us when we got in, we had to go way back to the kitchen and announce our presence.  The lady in the kitchen told us the whole place was reserved but will accomodate us if we ate fast.  So we settled ourselves in a corner and tried our best to eat before the expected guests arrived. 

And they came just when we started dessert.  We were told  that it was Col.  Angan and his whole family.  Oh well, I am sure he didn’t mind 4 family members of his relegated to a garden table outside as we sat cozily enjoying dessert.

 

I was to learn later on that this used to be a boarded up bodega(warehouse) almost 90 years old.  It was turned into a restaurant in recent years(2002) by Alex Gonzales of the Kintanar Family.  The Kintanars are a long line of prominent politicians, professionals and artists in Cebu.  Alex was into developmental work before finally settling to a slower lifestyle after a cardiac attack.  He now takes an active part in promoting tourism in Argao.   The place held some curious items as decor. 

19th Century sink
Goddess of Mercy

One of the items I found really interesting is a Goddess of Mercy with burnt incense in front of it.  It is Chinese and out of place.  I was told later that Alex’s wife was a mestiza insik and that was that.  In fact, one of the most sought after dish in the menu was her humba(Chinese braised pork).  We tried it and found it really delicious.  The meat was so tender with just the right amount of fat.  I always say Humba will never be humba without the fat.  This particular version was so tender the fat and skin melts in your mouth.  It also had just the slightest hint of fruit in its sauce, was that pineapple or orange?  Hmmm.  And as a very Chinese touch, black beans were added for a little pungent and salty kick.

Ofcourse this meal in particular and this trip in general, would not be complete without us tasting the fabled torta and sikwate.  Now torta is local pastry with many variations, some add star anise or cinnamon for the aroma, some add cheese etc.  Alex’s version is a no-nonsense affair.  Just plain lard and tuba (palm wine).  This is what make’s Argao torta as a whole, very unique.  Instead of using yeast as leavenning, the tuba does the job.  Alex’s torta did not have any fancy flavoring or aromatics added.  Just some sprinkling of crystal sugar on top.  When you bite into it, you will taste just a hint of sourness from the coconut wine.

Together with this torta is sikwate.   Now Alex’s cafe is also said to serve good coffee.  But we asked the attendant for her suggestion and she suggested sikwate instead.  Good one, considering we can always have coffee in the city and not enjoy sikwate as conveniently.  This sikwate is made from original Argao cacao, grown and processed locally.  These tablea(chocolate chips, if you will) are already being exported abroad.  I was also surprised that they now take on a very Western shape and packaging, very different from the round tablets I know from childhood. I bought a pack for champorado at home. 

At any rate, the sikwate was hot, thick and had just the right amount of bitter and sweet in it. 

The torta and sikwate were more novelties to me than stellar. But the Humba is something else, it humbled me, a Humba master myself.  In fact, I am already planning on copying this version next weekend.  Service at the cafe is family style or as we say “inato”.  But this is exactly what lends the place its charm.  Pricing is cheap, and I believe, fair. All the dishes come as singular servings and priced not higher than P80 bucks.

Would I recommend the place?  If you are in the area and just about ready for food at an affordable price, sure!  This place was said to have been featured in Lonely Planet (yes, of the Discovery Channel) around 2006.  I wonder how different it is now from back then?  What could get a resto into a show like that?

Road Trip

It is another Holy Week and the summer heat has just started to creep in.  A little late than in past years but it wasn’t any less in its fury.  My rhinitis and migraines had started to show up too.  Fortunately, I was allowed a week’s vacation.

I spent the first few days cleaning my room and just catching up on sleep.  Then the Lenten Holidays came, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  It was yet another rare occassion to have the whole family together.  I found myself the official kusinero.  Guess what?  It is my 1st year to cook binignit and biko!

Anyhow, the long stay home kind of got a little blah.  Such that, when Shaun suggested a road trip when he woke Saturday morning, I lost no time packing.  Just to put this into context, Shaun is someone who can be locked up in a room for weeks on end as long as there is cable tv, internet and lots of food.  Not rarely do I have to beg for him to get out and go around town with me.  So Saturday was a surprise.  It was like there was some divine occurence while he slept that he decided to be merciful and suggested the trip.  Sabado Gloria!

Off we went to the South Bus terminal without any destination or itinerary in mind.  On the spot, I decided on Boljoon.  I was there a couple of years ago but failed to explore the church and the museum as they were closed that time. 

 But somewhere between Carcar and Sibonga, we thought it would also be nice to take a dip at a beach.  It was steaming hot, our skin were dewy with the moist, dense humidity.  The next line up was Argao, Dalaguete and Alcoy.  Why not?  Argao has a Baroque – Rococo Church I haven’t explored too, it has its white sand beach as well, Dalaguete has its fresh water cold spring while Alcoy has a beach.  We can go visit them all!  We were dropped off Argao.

This trip turned out to be really fun with lots of new discoveries.  We had a glimpse of life-sized gold plated idols in a Baroque church.  Lunch at a quaint cafe featured in Lonely Planet a few years back was yum.  We brought home the famous Argao cacao for champorado.  We also dropped by a castle.  Who can beat that?  And then to end the day, a cool dip and the sunset at a rare white sand, clean public beach.

One of the many reasons I love being in Cebu is precisely this, that at any given day, on a whim, I can just hop on a bus and enjoy whatever it is I want.  The noisy fun of the metro, or the quite study of its history or just plain hanging out with its natural bounty.  All within reach. 

Espadrilles – The Return of the Comeback!

Espadrilles (French) or Espardenyes (Spanish) are making a come back.  I remember them from the 80’s when my then teen-aged cousins wore them regularly.  Now, instead of the regular cream-colored canvas material, they come in many fun and vibrant colors!

What a joy to behold!  Espadrille soles are commonly made of natural fiber, wood or rubber.  This is what makes them really comfortable to wear.  They can be flat, platform or wedge-shaped.  The top is usually made of cotton or canvas.  I see them proliferating the online shops and envy those who I see at the malls wearing them.  They look so chic and comfy.

My curiosity was further tickled when I learned that a former colleague is now posing as a “shoe designer” selling hundreds of these shoes.  I later found out that although there are imported ones, there are those made in our very own Carcar.  So off I went to the south on a shoe shopping spree!

I was giddy, drunk from all variety to choose from.  There was just too many of these colorful shoes!  Since Christmas is just around the corner, my friends and I bought no less than 20 pairs in total! 

I also cannot help but be happy that Carcar is now catching up with the times.  What used to be just a sleepy shoe industry is now turning into a bustling shopping spot.  I was there on two separate weekends and can’t help notice the young, hip crowd.  I also noticed that from the old leather sandals and slippers, they now make chic wedges and gladiator slippers. 

Carcar has a lot of potential.  Now, if only they can be more original when it comes to materials and design, that would be something.  Cebu is now at the forefront of fashion and furniture design, who knows shoes maybe next?

Disappointed to see a shop selling shoes using counterfeit Louis Vuitton material
One of the shops sold fake Crocs side by side the Carcar espadrilles

 

Read more about espadrilles:http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=496295&publicationSubCategoryId=89

Carcar Photoblog 3

Carcar celebrates the feast of their patron saint Sta. Catalina every 25th of November in a colorful and religious way.  In recent years, aside from the usual religious procession, they also have a street parade called the Kabkaban. Well, we missed all of it since our trip was scheduled a day AFTER the celebrations. 

I knew about St. Catherine a long time ago as her death(beheading) stirred my curiosity as a young Christian.  (read more here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Catherine_of_Alexandria)Also, back in high school, we did hear about a girl’s school down south – St. Catherine’s.  So now that we are finally in Carcar, I did not hesitate to visit their parish church.

Church of Sta. Catalina as photographed from the veranda of the City Museum

The church was made in 1859 and was finished several years after. It combines Islamic, Graeco – Romano and Neoclassical architecture. Note the onion – shaped minarets.  This type of architecture is very rare in Cebu churches.To me, it all has a nice unpolished provencal feel to it. 

What really caught our attention were the many epitaphs that lined the church floors and posts.  Ordinarily, old churches hold the remains of its departed clergymen, but there were just too many in this church.  We learned that these were bone chambers for the more affluent and influential parishioners of the church. 
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an angel guards an epitaph by Dante Giudetti, Italian sculptor and Cebu resident
This is the winner. Epitaph made by Dante Guidetti, Italian sculptor and Cebu City resident in the 19th century. He was also the man behind the beautiful Vision Theater facade in Colon.

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Carcar.  The pool party in Valladolid, the shopping for shoes (more in a separate article) and visiting the old heritage sites.  After living in this island for 3 decades, I wonder what took me so long to explore.

Carcar Photoblog 2

Carcar brings to mind ampao(blocks of rice crispies), bocarillos(candied coconut meat) and chicharon(pork cracklings).  It also conjures memories of prominent old Cebuano families and their even older houses.  So it was a pleasant surprise for me to learn that there was a public swimming pool in the early part of the 20th century in this town(well, technically a city now).  It is just that Carcar to me has always been an old provincial town, and a public pool is so urban chic, most especially during those days.  In part 1 of this series, I did mention that the City Musuem (which was a dispensary for the longest time) was originally a clubhouse.  This swimming pool is just behind that building and I would surmise that this was a main attraction to the clubhouse.

Again, the famous Mayor Mercado commissioned this very forward thinking social center during the 1920’s.  Built around it is a two – storey pavilion with beautiful lattice-work.  I can only wonder how it was during those days when it was anything but grey. 

(Seen from this side, the ground level is chopped into individual dressing rooms.  It was also said that prior to the dispensary becoming a museum and the restoration work began, these dressing rooms housed the local juveniles as well)

To the right of the ground level are gazebos where I believe picnickers would enjoy refreshments, the rest of the area is lined with individual dressing rooms, separate ones for men and for women.  

The pool itself look to be around 5-6 feet deep on the shallow side and maybe up to 10-12 on the deep end.  I can only guess as the guide also did not have any estimation.  Two concrete posts jut out in the middle of the shallow end, as per our guide, it used to support the diving board. 

I wonder if the pool was tiled during those days.

Carcar Photoblog 1

 

It was a day after the town fiesta in the name of their patron Sta. Catalina which was also Thanksgiving Holiday (Pacific Standard Time) for those of us in the call center industry.  My team and I decided to take advantage of this long weekend to bond.  The team rented a private resthouse and partied like there was no tomorrow.  We all had a blast.

Shaun followed later that day and slept over.  The next day, when the rest were getting to head back to Cebu, he and I decided to stay awhile and explore Carcar.

We discovered that it was one of four heritage towns in the entire country.  While Silay, Vigan and Taal are Spanish heritage towns, Carcar is more American owing much to Mayor Mercado in the 1920’s who was an architect himself.   Although you will see Spanish Mestiza architecture, these are side-by side Victorian architecture.

The most prominent of the Spanish era houses was the Balay na Tisa. The architecture itself is not Spanish but very Filipino.  It has a roof made of tisa (clay material) tiles, high ceilings, large windows with the ventanillas(mini windows) below them. All these serve to deflect the heat and make it more adoptable to the temperate humid climate.  Th ground floor is made of stone.

The Carcar City Musuem is one of the buildings that is more American – Victorian.  It has a beautiful facade with intricate lattice-work.  It used to be a clubhouse complete with a swimming pool at the back.  It was then turned into a dispensary between 1937 -2005 when it was turned into a museum.

What could be more American than a bandstand at the town center?  The bandstand-rotunda was commissioned by Carcar’s most famous Mayor Mercado around the 1920’s.  The very first settlers in Carcar were from Valladolid, a seaside baranggay.  They wanted to get away from the Moro raiders so they moved inland to where the rotunda stands now.  The rotunda was said to have been built to mark where these first settlers set up camp.