Cebu Journal (pg. 5)

by David Kravetz

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September 2005 trip: Page 1

Friday, September 9, 2005: Well, I am back in Cebu.  It has been about 7 months since I left from the first trip.  The trip over from Lexington this time was much better than the last one (see Page 1).  Everything was on time, the plane had no problems.  I arrived in Manila on time to go and stay in the Westin Hotel and get some rest before continuing on to Cebu yesterday.  The only real glitch was that I arrived in Manila with a mangled suitcase.  The pull handle was mangled pretty good and the airline would not let me take it that way, so I just had it removed.  I will need to make a claim to Northwest Airlines. 

After a good night's rest I headed back to the airport and then had a nice flight to Cebu in Business Class this time, though prior to the flight I did have a couple of "interesting experiences."  The Friday before I left I found out that I needed to extend my trip stay from the 19th to the 22nd.  So, I made the appropriate arrangements, but found out that my Philippine Air portion of the return trip had to be changed either by the travel agent or in the Philippines.  Since Monday was Labor Day and I was to leave on Tuesday morning, I had to make the changes myself.  Once I got to the Philippine Air terminal, I went through the security check point and then over to get my flight confirmed and seats on the plane.  I figured that the attendant could also make the changes to my ticket for the return.  WRONG.  I was told that I would need to go out of the terminal and walk to the accompanying building where the ticket office was.  So, I went and got my airport tax taken care of and then walked clear across the terminal building (about 80 yards) to the last exit. There, they took my ticket and gave me a big plastic thing that says I was a checked in passenger.  From there I walked out of the building and over to the ticket office.  Before you can go in, you must leave your luggage outside the door and they give you a ticket with a number on it.  You must wait for your number to be called.  I waited 30 minutes.  They finally got my ticket changed and then I had to go back, get my luggage, walk the seventy yards back to the entrance Security Check and go through security again.  Once in, I had to walk the 70 yards back to where I dropped my ticket off, retrieve my ticket and then walk the 70 yards back to where I go into the gate for my ride.  All totaled I spent an hour taking care of that.  Such are the hassles (or hasol in Cebuano) of doing things in a foreign country.

My arrival in Cebu was interesting.  As soon as I was in the van on the way to town from the airport, I felt as though I had never left.  All of the sights, the tricycles and jeepneys.  When I got to the Marriott everyone here immediately recognized me and said welcome back.  It was a really, really strange feeling.  Even as I sit in my room and write this, I feel the same way.  Was my time at a home a dream?  Am I dreaming here?

Cebu is in the midst of rainy season.  Yesterday, coming back from lunch there was a real heavy downpour for about an hour.  When I was here before it was the midst of the dry season, basically summer.  Now is the rainy season....spring time?? Winter??  It is so tropical here it is hard to tell.

Anyway, it is now 4:30 AM on the 10th and I have not been able to sleep.  The Jet Lag Monster has attacked me and I am losing the battle.  I feel wide awake, but I know that in a few hours I will feel dead tired.  But I would rather type or watch TV then to lay in the bed trying to sleep.  Jet lag is a funny thing.  Different people have different ways of fighting it.  As it is, I only sleep about 5 or 6 hours a night at home.  I went to bed at 9 PM and woke up at midnight.  I have basically been up since.  I tried to go back to sleep twice, but to no avail.

I am excited about this morning.  I am going with some of the Lexmark guys to the Northern Provinces of Cebu.  This is where the sugar cane plantations are.  I also understand there are some nice beaches.  We will be going all the way to Bogo (see map below), thru Danao and then across to San Remigio.

              

Bogo is known for its nice beaches, sugar cane, corn, coconuts and fish.  It is also known as the "Cleanest and Greenest Municipality in the Philippines."  It has a large old Catholic Church building and a large shrine on a hill to the Virgin Mary.  San Remigio is known for its pristine sand beaches.  This entire northern tip is predominantly flatlands in comparison to the hilly southern regions of Cebu.  I understand that up in this area I should have the opportunity to see some Carabao (Water Buffalo).  That would be interesting.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yesterday I got an early start to get ready for the trip to the north.  It was a nice pleasant day, cloudy and not as hot, but still quite humid.  My driver, Triffon, picked me up at the hotel and then we went to go get some of the other Lexmark people who were to go with us.  We headed north along the eastern coast of Cebu Island.  It was a very long trip as there was so much traffic.  Saturday is the day that many of the people go home to the provinces to see their families. Everywhere we went there were loads of people.  I busloads full, with people even riding on top of the bus.  People were crowded into jeepneys, tri-cycles, etc.  A couple of the photos below can give a taste of that.  I have added many more photos to a slide show.  Click here. (There are a lot of photos, so it may take a few moments to load)

          

These are examples of the crowds needing a ride.  The upper left truck and the bus in the middle must have been zipping along at 40 mph or more.  We actually met the guys in the red truck further down the road at a basket maker's home.

Naturally, since this is an island, as we drove north we could see the inlets and the boats along the way.  Fishing is a big industry here.  Along the way we saw a small fish market in Danao City, but were not allowed to stop since there was so much traffic.  It was really interesting.  I wish I could have gotten pictures.  I did, however, get pictures of some of the boats and fishermen.  These are typical of what can be seen all along both coastlines.

      

Since the Philippines was explored and conquered by the Spaniards, beginning with Magellan in 1521 who landed in Cebu, and then through the 1600s and 1700s, there are a great deal of old churches. Catholicism is by far the biggest religion, if not the national faith, here in this country.  Many are very devoted to the church and the Virgin Mary.  One of the examples of the old churches is the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Danao.  This church was originally built in 1755 by Fr. Manuel de Santa Barbara and was originally made up of numerous materials including sugar cane and rocks from the sea.  Most of the church was destroyed in 1942 during WWII, though the front of the church remained intact.  The church has one crucero (which I think means tower) left, though, as can be seen in the old photo below, it originally had two.  The building was rebuilt in 1946, and in 1981 it went under some major construction.  There is a contrast in architecture which makes this an interesting building.  The new white basilica dome up against the old original front and crucero makes this church a fascinating study. The church also has on old bell that was cast in 1845.

    

                          Danao Church 1850                                                   Danao Church 2005

     

On the left is one of the angels in the front of the church. The center photo shows the new white basilica in contrast with the old stone front.  On the right, me in my Lafayette football gear (it was game day in the US!!!)

Danao is also well known in Philippine politics as the capital for the famed warlord Ramon Durano.  From the road through Danao one can see the old cement plant, the sugar mill and others.  None of these are in operation any longer, but prior to WWII Durano wielded a very strong arm in Cebu.  Apparently, the saying in Cebu is that "Marcos (referring to the notorious President Marcos), is beholden to Durano and not the other way around."   Triffon, our driver for the day, explained how powerful the Durano clan is in the area.

One of Durano's lasting legacies is a church on the northern outskirts of Danao, which is known as the Ramon Durano Foundation compound.   This facility has a large Catholic Church, but also has busts of all of the saints and popes from the early 200 AD all the way to those in the 1900s.  There are also dioramas of the Last Supper, a Garden of Gethsemane, a "Calvary rock", and many other statues and dioramas.  Most of these were apparently built in the 1970s.  Unfortunately, the site has not been kept up very well, as can be evidenced from some of the photos below.

        

On the left is the bust of Pope Saint Caius who was Pope from 283-296 AD.  Here are a few of the other busts.  There is supposedly a bust for every Pope through the 1960s.

     

The Last Supper is one of many dioramas on the compound.  The middle photo shows "Calvary Rock" which supposedly came all the way from Calvary in Palestine by ship.  On the right is one of the many stained glass dioramas at this church.

After visiting this church, we proceeded northward.  Along the way we saw the guys in the truck with the baskets (see photo above).  Shortly thereafter we found where they had stopped as there were baskets along the road.  This area is not only known for sugar cane and coconuts, but also for its basket weaving. So, I had to stop and watch them weave the baskets.  I had also hoped to buy one or two from the weavers, but they said all were contracted for export. What a disappointment.  Hopefully I can find some in Bohol next week, since that area is also known for its basket weaving.

       

Baskets along the road made by the weaver above.  Other baskets are loaded into a storage warehouse.

One of the things I have wanted to see in real life is a Carabao or Water Buffalo.  Is is considered to be the National Animal of the Philippines.  It is also the work animal as it pulls the various apparatuses for land tilling and flattening.  I was surprised that they were so small.  I really thought they would be much larger....or is it that I am just so big??

     

The Carabao work hard, but they also enjoy to lounge around in the shade and the muddy water to stay cool.

  

Can you pick out which one is the real Carabao?  The one in black or the one in blue?

After a little buffalo, we continued into Bogo.  Once again, there was another religious stop, this time at a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  It sits up on a hill and can be seen from a distance.  Throughout the day, as we passed numerous churches, I noticed the faith of Triffon, our driver.  He would cross his heart each time, in an act of faith.  At the shrine, Triffon showed his devotion as well.  As a side note, later in the evening, he accompanied me to the Ayala Mall Metro Grocery Store.  Exactly at 6 PM there was a Catholic Prayer said over the intercom.  Everyone stopped in their tracks while the prayer was said.  Triffon repeated each word.  He truly lives his faith as well as he can.

        

There are about 90 steps to the shrine.  Inside is another statue of Mary.  Triffon shows his faithful devotion.

Our next stop was San Remigio on the eastern part of the island.  It is another small town.  Yet, it has nice beaches.  We took a long and winding road to the Casa Del Mar Golf & Dive Club to check out the beach.  This place was right on the coast, but really was difficult to get to.  Once there I noticed that there was nobody playing golf.  Only one couple was at the beach, an American couple.  But, the resort was fairly nice.  The beach area was small, but it was also pleasant.  The funniest thing were the "greens keepers" as evidenced by the photos below.

    

The "greens keepers" taking care of the greens, not a picnic.  The little bungalows are even air-conditioned.

   

The resort's main building has rooms with a view of the beach above and below.  Heck, they even have their own boat!!

  

All in all it was a great day.  The last interesting thing I got to see were all of the sugar cane fields dotted with coconut palms.  This was close to the tropical paradise that some imagine the Philippines to be.  Here are a couple of photos.

    

The entire north is covered with scenes like this.  There is sugar cane everywhere.  It is so beautiful.