August 23, 2007

A city of firsts

(Cebu: Part 1 of 4)

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Magellan's Cross
My favorite brother, who just happens to be my only brother, moved to Cebu from Bacolod a few months ago. I had been meaning to visit him much earlier to help fix up his place but unfortunately never got around to it. I did finally manage to make it down to that Queen City of the South for the long weekend with a friend in tow. We almost didn't make it though. A typhoon raged on outside while we sat in the lounge of the Manila domestic airport. Rain whipped the glass windows and we couldn't see the tarmac and the wind howled angrily. I assured my friend (myself, really) that we would be alright, that most plane crashes were caused by mechanical failure and not bad weather. Whereever did I get that anyway? Some of the earlier flights were cancelled, but thankfully ours was only delayed by a little over an hour.

At last, at almost 10 pm we touched down in Cebu and soon after my brother, who answers to Woody by the way, whisked us off to Arano's where friends and food were waiting patiently for us. Even though I get to see my bro often (he comes home about twice a month) it was still see nice to him. He is 11 years my senior (he'll kill me for saying that!) but that never kept us from being very close. He takes immense pleasure in teasing me, and I indulge him. Not that I have much of a choice, really. But when he wasn't picking on me, I couldn't complain. He was good to us and a model son to my parents. And seriously, anyone who can put up with four bratty younger sisters and their quirks is a saint in my book!

So here I was in his brand new home. It was hard to believe it had been almost 8 years since my last real visit to Cebu. By "real visit" I mean not one where I was just passing through, in transit between islands. I had nothing planned for the next three days, which is a little unusual for me. I felt I didn't have to draw up an itinerary this time, thinking we would take it easy and let the wind carry us where it wanted.

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Basilica del Santo Niño

To kick off this Cebu series, I thought I would start with the city's most famous landmarks: Magellan's Cross and Basilica del Santo Niño. So here is your history lesson (or review) for the day:

The city of Cebu is the oldest in the Philippines. Among it's many claims to fame are: the nation's first street (Colon), first church (Santo Niño), first fort (Fort San Pedro), and first school (San Carlos). It was here where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan suffered his fate under the sword of Lapu-Lapu shortly after his arrival in 1521, in what came to be known as the Battle of Mactan.

What you see in the picture above is the cross Magellan left behind. It is encased in tindalo wood and housed in a shrine commemorating the early Filipino Christianization and the archipelago's first encounter with the West. Nearby is the Basilica del Santo Niño which was erected by Augustinian Fathers in 1565 making it the first church in the Philippines. It was built as a home for the country's oldest religious relic, an image of the Santo Niño or Holy Infant Jesus. The statue is considered miraculous and a blessed replica can be found in practically every Cebuano household, store, and vehicle.

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On this day, devotees are seen queueing up to see the Image, kneeling in quiet prayer, giving alms, and lighting candles. Outside, children beg for change while their elders hawk their wares. It was a typical day at the Basilica.

So there you have it. Isn't it pretty? Before I end this post, I'll leave you with a few more snapshots taken at this beautiful stone church.


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16 comments:

The Knittymommy said...

The cross is really very nice. You know what? I am really looking forward to your posts on Cebu. I would really like to see it from your eyes. Since my family is from there, we never really looked around as tourists. Now I really wish we did. I hope there will be more stories from Cebu.

nina said...

I am so amazed by your photos Christine! I can't wait for your next post.

mtan said...

I enjoyed the interior shot of the basilica, it has a soft buttery glow.

The last time I was inside the basilica, I looked up at the rafters near the altar and wondered what those black birds were hanging upside down on the ledge... then realized they weren't birds. Yes, bats in the belfry indeed!

Rasa Malaysia said...

I haven't been to the PH but am dying to go. I love tropical islands and PH has thousands of them. I love the islands in Palawan, Bohol, and the list goes on. I want to go to everyone of them. You guys are too lucky to be in PH. :)

christine said...

Hi Mieke, I'll try to do your province justice. :) There should be about 3 more posts about Cebu, I think.

Thanks Nina, I'm glad you like them! I personally liked this series too. :)

Yikes! I didn't go up to the altar so I can't tell you if your friends are still there. Though I can tell you their cousin hung out outside the door in our resort in Bantayan!

Bee, you should come over! You have friends here (Joey and I) who would love to take you out. The islands here are amazing, I'll be writing about one of them shortly. It was a new discovery for me. :)

christine said...

BTW, Bee, Malaysia is lush and tropical and beautiful as well, so you are lucky too! :)

32 flavors said...

what great timing! we're off to cebu next week. all i have to do is compile your posts and we're good to go! hahahaha.

nena, your camera is excellent! your pictures were jumping out at me! the colors are so vibrant! i wish, i wish my pictures were of the same quality!

keep 'em coming!

Ben said...

As much as I like your food posts with the interesting stories that come with it, I enjoy your travelogues and pictures the most. Great that I have a new series to look forward to. I'm loving the pictures.

joey said...

Great shots! I love the way you capture our home country so well and draw people into the stories you weave Nens...it's a gift :) Are you going to post about our friend Carcar?

Bee, I second Christine's invitation! :)

christine said...

Naku Katrina, pressure! :) That means I have to move fast. Expect another 3 or 4 posts on Cebu. Are you going with the family, for work?

Thanks Ben! Happy to know you enjoy them. :) Hope I live up to your expectations.

Thanks Jojo! I'm still laughing about Carcar! If I write about it, I'll have to tell your story. ;)

Sidney said...

Indeed, great pictures!

What camera do you use? ;-))))

oggi said...

I got a little bit nostalgic reading your beautiful post. I lived in Cebu many years ago and I just realized I miss it a lot. *Sniff*:=(

I'm so excited to read and see more photos of my beloved Cebu. Hope you'll feature the markets too.

Wonderful photographs as usual!

Belinda said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous photographs, Christine! I love reading about your travels as much as I love reading about your cooking adventures. And isn't that a beautiful cross? :-)

christine said...

Thank you, Sidney! I am very flattered, that's a huge compliment coming from you! :) I use a Nikon D40, it's my new baby and I'm loving it to pieces.

Aww Oggi, I'm sorry if it made you sad. There will be markets in the future posts, I promise. :)

Thank you, Belinda! It's always nice to know that my online foodie friends enjoy my travel posts as well. :) You're the best!

grumpyurbanslacker said...

"Most plane crashes are caused by mechanical failure, not bad weather."

Ahh, actually they're caused mostly by "pilot error", as the ATO would have us believe.

And syempre, the pilot can't be faulted if he/she makes errors, if the weather is bad AND something is mechanically wrong with the plane, diba? wink, wink

on that cheerful note, happy flying! hehehe.

christine said...

Hehe, thanks GUS! Hopefully I don't remember you next time I board a place. ;)