Away from the nature and the Filipino humour, our final stop was Cebu where we learnt about religion and history of the Philippines. As mentioned previously, the main religion in the Philippines is Roman Catholicism which was introduced to the Filipinos by the Spanish colonial masters. Funny how today the Filipinos are generally stronger Catholics than the Spaniards. A couple of significant religious events took place in Cebu historically – the Spaniards brought Magellan’s Cross to Cebu and even today, it remains as one of the 3 most important Catholic symbols in the Philippines. Tourists could visit and worship the cross. However, it must be noted that the cross is actually a replica as the original was destroyed/ went missing between the landing of the cross and Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Apart from the Magellan’s Cross, Santo Nino is also a widely celebrated and worshipped image in the Philippines. There are so many Santo Nino images all around Cebu! We queued for quite a while to say hello (by resting our hands on the glass enclosing the image) to Santo Nino at Basilica del Santo Nino. The basilica was built where Santo Nino was sighted many years ago and it is in fact the oldest Roman Catholic church in the Philippines. The Feast of Santo Nino takes place there every year in January, I would certainly love to watch it one day.
We also visited the Fort San Pedro which was a Spanish fort. The fort was located quite near to the sea but it was surrounded by cannons. I wonder whether the fort guards against invaders from the sea or from the land. I would imagine that there would be some sort of residence in the fort given the design which protects the fort from all directions. However, there was little indication of former residence at the fort. I wonder how the fort works.
We hired a taxi for a day package and visited several places including Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, Casa Gorordo, Taoist Temple and Tops for about SGD$5 a person. That was awesomely cheap. Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is apparently one of the oldest Chinese houses outside of China. Although the house serves primarily as a museum today, the owner and his family still live in the house on weekends. Because of this, I felt as though I was invading the family’s privacy when I entered the house. Soon those feelings quickly evaporated as a guy took our cameras, told us to pose at various locations and took photos of us. Somehow the tourist traps in the Philippines have that same “photoshoot” vibe. I am not such a big fan of it though. There were family photos from many different generations hanging on the walls and I thought that was a bit scary to live in a house with so many eyes belonging to dead people staring at you. But on a related note, I am a bit jealous of people who know a lot about their lineage. I don’t know so much about my family history beyond my grandparents’ generation and that is quite a shame I think.
Casa Gorordo was the house of the Gorodos – a leading family in Cebu. The house has a mixture of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese influence. Unfortunately, there were no proper information signs and I didn’t manage to appreciate the historical value of the house as much as I would like to.
Away from the city center, we were headed towards the Taoist temple. I thought it would be interesting to visit a Taoist temple in a country where 85 % of its inhabitants are Roman Catholics. The Taoist temple was constructed in the middle of the “Beverly Hills” of Cebu by the rich Chinese who live there. It is quite a fancy looking temple which looks more like a place for people to socialize than a place of worship.
Our final stop was the Tops. Tops is a popular observation deck (yes, you got to pay to get in) in Cebu which offers magnificent views of Cebu city and its outskirts. We sat on the ledge, drank beer and waited for the sunset. Tops is rather touristic – there are many bars and expensive restaurants in that small area. I noticed how sun seems to set quite slowly when you start waiting for it at an early hour. But that was a good end to a great trip with nice friends. 🙂