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Monday, 22 July 2013

Cebu and Bohol Island

Teddy at the Magellan's Cross, Cebu. Notice the paintings on the ceiling depicting the landings of Magellan on Cebu Island

Cebu

I went to Cebu and Bohol Island for three days last May 2013 solely for blowing some steam off over my work pressure and perhaps to understand the Philippines better. I really mean to share about the adventure in my blog, but works got in the way somehow and it postponed my write up. However, today taking advantage over my free time with my lap top I've put up the narratives of my adventure in Cebu and Bohol into writing so that my viewers would appreciate the islands and it's history.



Teddy at the Magellan's Cross, Cebu

Teddy at the Magellan's Cross, Cebu

Cebu Island was introduced to me by Jesse, the Philippines National Museum staff as he was explaining to me the history of the nation when I first visited the museum early April in Manila. Cebu was the first place where Ferdinand Magellan landed when he found Philippines and planted his cross on the island which marks the arrival of the first Christian Conquistadors in the Southeast Asian region. It was the race between the Portuguese and the Spaniard of finding a new colony in spreading the Gospel and also finding a new wealth for the Spanish monarch in terms of gold and spices. It was also the time of crusades where the European tried to break the Arabs monopoly over spices trade in the Mediterranean. 10 years after the death of Magellan under the hands of Lapu-lapu, the Spaniards embark the second conquest from Mexico to avenge Magellan death in Cebu. From Cebu after seven years of establishing a Catholic settlements, with the help of colonized Filipinos the Spaniards under Lopez de Legazpi went up north to take Manila from Raja Sulayman, yes the Muslim king. Ever since then and up to this day due to the exploration, Philippines remains the only country in Asia dominated by the Catholic Church almost 95% of its whole populations are Christians followers. Filipinos Cebu are very proud of their long history and they regarded themselves as Cebuano's first and Filipinos second.

I took my cousin Faris for the three days trip in Cebu and Bohol and after arriving in Mactan airport, we went straight to see the spot where Magellan first landed. It was Friday evening and the Magellan's cross site was full of peoples not just tourist but the local Catholic Christian followers which visited the place for a blessing and prayers. The adjacent building also is the famous Santo Nino Church as old as the history of the Catholic religion in the Philippines. The church holds one of the holiest artifact in the country Catholic society which is the doll of baby Jesus which Magellan presented to Queen Juana when he make friends with her husband, King Humabon. I can imagine that the place was just a modest remote island with just a tiny villages during the King Humabon time when he received the landing party of Ferdinand Magellan and extend his friendship with the Spanish Conquistador through a blood pact ceremony. At that time most of the trade were done through the barter trade system and it was recorded by Magellan's writer that Cebu was rich with gold and other resources. 

Teddy in front of the Fort San Pedro at the old city of Cebu


This city was full of history and it stretches way back to the 14th century where the first method of galleon navigation used by the Spaniards was trial and error and by chance they find the Island of Cebu. Ever since the Magellan landing, the place are not quiet without an incidents and most famous one was the assassination of Magellan himself by the local warlords Lapu-Lapu. I can summarized that Lapu-lapu was angry and furious with Magellan for spreading the Catholic gospels as there are rumors that Lapu-lapu himself was a Muslim prince that came from Mindanao. The Islamic teaching spread out in the Philippines in particular Sulu Island located down south a century earlier in the 13th Century by the Arabs traders. One fascinating fact that I find is that the interpreter for Magellan was a man known as "Enrique de Malacca/ Man from Malacca". In Cebu, there were also a visible marks of the Chinese traders and most of their descendants now can be seen living in Cebu with famous name of a rich family. But they also somehow have amalgamated into the Filipinos society through cross marriage.

I also took the opportunity to see the Santo Nino doll in a closer look inside the Santo Nino Church. The artifact is classic evidence of the Roman Catholic influence on the daily life of the Filipino peoples. You can clearly see that peoples queuing up just to have a glimpse of the doll and pray. They does really took religion very seriously and close to their heart. I like the church architecture very much as I am myself was a history buff. I asked the passerby was it a special day as they are praying in masses, she told me that it's an everyday event over there as the church was considered one of the holiest site in the Philippines. The church was the birthplace of Catholic religion for the Filipinos.

Teddy in front of the Santo Nino Church
Apart from the Santo Nino Church, I also visited the San Pedro Fort located nearby the Magellan's landing site at the old city. This is my first experience of having a closer look of the Spanish fort. It was very different from the British built fort as I've seen in Penang or the A' Famosa fort built by the Portuguese in Malacca. I was told by the tour guide that the building material for the fort was an eggs yoke as a mortar. The basic design was a triangle in shape but covers the whole area if there are any threats coming in from the sea and land. It was very nice and practical in design. Very beautiful too with carvings. Peoples those days built a very beautiful structure compared to us these days which relies more on fabricated materials. 

Teddy in Bohol Island
Bohol

I also took the opportunity of my time in Cebu to visit the Island of Bohol located beside Cebu Island. At the first place I thought Bohol was just a tiny island located near to Cebu (without me having a look at the map). However I was a bit surprised as the island of Bohol itself was bigger than Cebu and full of its own unique history. Our ferry ride from Cebu pier took us almost two hours to reach Bohol. We rounded Bohol Island by cycling, the services provided by the Bugoy Bikers. I should have allocate more time in Bohol, it was surely a very beautiful place.

Teddy cycling on top of the Bohol peak

Teddy with Chocolate hill at the background

It was my first cycling 50 Km stretch non stop riding up the hills and it hurts my butt for the next three days. The surprise part of my tour was that I find the remnants of the old Spanish Catholic church in the middle of Bohol out of nowhere. There are also a very beautiful Spanish settlements with old houses and architecture too. It was very beautiful. This country does symbolizes the success of the Spanish Gospel adventure as the Filipinos peoples embrace the religion closer to their breath with the existence of Church and chapels every kilometers of our ride. I also can't help but notice that most of the interior city in Bohol was very clean and tidy such as their road, municipality and public market. I was really amazed. Our tour guide, Diego later brought us to the Chocolate hills and we had lunch at one of the tourist attraction spot on top of the hills. At first I thought Chocolate hills was just one or two hills looks like a cone and that's much about it, however I was wrong as there are hundreds of them in vast area. Formed up millions of years ago, they indeed looks very beautiful. At the bottom of the hills we were shown a unique creature called Tarsier monkeys. It was really cute and they lived by consuming small insects holding up tiny branches of flower and small trees. It was an amazing experience.

Teddy and the Chocolate hills
Tarsier monkeys
Bilar man made forest

Teddy and Faris at the Chocolate hills


On our way back to the pier, Diego brought us on a Jeepney through the Bilar man made forest in the area known as Carmen in Bohol. The view and its beauty is breathtaking. I could never imagine that man can plant a mahogany tree in a arrangement as beautiful as that. It was really gorgeous!

It was a very fruitful trip to Cebu and Bohol Island. I learnt a lot of things during my three days trip there. I meet a lot of nice Filipinos peoples. I even tried the Jeepneys for the first time with eight pesos of fare every ride. Filipinos are really a very hospitable and nice peoples. The thing about Philippines is that this country indeed is a Christian Catholic and their peoples embrace the religion closer to their daily breath. The Spanish Conquistador mission was a successful one. This is very different from the type of Christian religion that was embrace by the peoples in Malaysia. The fascinating thing about its history is everywhere you go there will always be parts of the Spanish Conquistador remnants either it be Church, chapels or milestones reminding us that the Spanish once the master of these peoples. On my ferry back to Cebu from Bohol, it gets to my mind thinking how much I envy peoples those day. They have a lot of things to explore and mark their name in world history. We don't have that kind of chance anymore as all the places in the world have been discovered. Or aren't they? 

This trip also opens up my mind on the context of human history vastness as we should not be confine into any centrality of historical understanding. Be able to see the first hand of Spanish Conquistador remnants, I now appreciate human dynamics and multidimensional better then before. I don't have enough time really to see all of this remnants and history and for this I'm really regret. As I promised Marylou and Diego when we parted, I'll definitely be back. This time perhaps with my wife.
Teddy in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathederal
Teddy in front of the Mayor's office in old Cebu

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Faces of Tun Teddy

Faces of Tun Teddy