How the french love Cebu

IMG_2472_00pic-12080125370422 IMG_2470_00

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKDAY crowd of pilgrims, tourists and hawkers overflows outside Cebu’s Santo Niño Basilica.
IMG_2504_00

 
INTERIOR designer Manny Castro’s folk belen greets visitors to his home, Balay na Tisa, in Carcar, Cebu. Above: Devotees fill up Santo Niño Basilica for weekday Mass
By Augusto Villalon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:33:00 12/08/2008
ICOMOS Philippines and the Embassy of France, together with Les Amis de la France and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation in Cebu, and in Manila, the National Museum, City of Manila and Alliance Française jointly organized and hosted the first Seminaire Malraux in the Philippines, “Heritage Conservation-The French Touch.”
Other sponsors were the Waterfront Hotel and the Carcar Heritage Conservation Society in Cebu, and in Manila, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Museum of the City of Manila at the Army-Navy Club, Heritage Conservation Society and Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.
Seminaire Malraux, a series of international cultural encounters to honor the influential French Culture Minister André Malraux, is part of an extensive program of the French Ministry of Culture and Communications that seeks establishment of strong cultural ties between France and other countries.
Held first in Cebu and again in Manila during the last week of November, the Seminaire Malraux linked Philippine and French heritage conservation practitioners for the first time, and much was learned from this historic meeting.
Flying from Parisian winter directly to Cebu, French conservation experts from the Ministry of Culture began their visit in the sun-drenched, open-air courtyard of the Spanish colonial Metropolitan Cathedral Museum with an early-morning Cebuano breakfast of freshly cooked bibingka from Mandaue and sticky budbud (suman) dunked into steaming sikwate (chocolate).
An initiation to Filipino food was an excellent introduction to Cebuano culture, cuisine being the French national obsession.
Waves of mass-goers
At the Santo Niño Basilica, two blocks away from the cathedral, a crowd of pilgrims leaving an early Mass collided with the next wave entering the church to catch the next service.
There we were surrounded by a mob of people, devotees, out-of-town pilgrims, a few tourists, an army of candle vendors, a multitude of faithful devoutly lighting candles, installing their small flames of supplication on multitiered candle racks dripping with wax, while everywhere milled hawkers offering religious medals, prayer books, balloons, toys, all that happening simultaneously in the crowded open space in front of the church.
Not that the open area facing the church was small. There were just a lot of people, and surprisingly, coming to the shrine at midmorning on a weekday Friday, wondering what size the crowd would be on Sundays. A contrast, they said, from churches in France that today have become silent, visited more by tourists than by its dwindling congregation.
The hour-and-a-half drive south from city center to Cebu’s heritage town of Carcar passed tropical white-sand beaches, coconut plantations, and came across a few of those dwindling Amorsolo-esque rural landscapes of bahay-kubo ringed by a grove of tall bamboo for shade and wind protection set in an agricultural field.
How tropical and wonderfully exotic was all the scenery, they thought, and so did I, taking the cue to shifting my mode into seeing the Philippines through foreign eyes. What sights there were to see! Whatever I had dismissed as uninteresting and ordinary suddenly took on a different light.
All of Carcar was out on the street that day, preparing for the town fiesta happening that weekend. The plaza, where we went first, was packed. So was Santa Catalina, the town’s magnificent 18th-century Spanish colonial church. Inside the church, some walls were being painted, floor sections were being scrubbed, lights were being strung and sound systems tested, and all the while a choir of children rehearsed their next day’s fiesta repertoire huddled out of everyone’s way beside one of the side entrances. Devotees walked in and out, some staying to kneel in prayer for a while, others sitting silently on pews. A cat or two strayed in as well.
Different activities were happening simultaneously within the church, following traditional Filipino practice of using spaces multifunctionally, which contrasts with the European custom of rationally isolating each activity within its own room or space. Space barriers in the Philippines are invisible. When space runs out, sometimes the sidewalk in front of the house is temporarily taken over as an outdoor extension of a family business activity or even a celebration.
Carcar was in celebration mood that day. Huge tents set up in the plaza shielded a maze of little stalls from the noonday sun. The Filipinos in our little group bought pasalubong, the fabulous chicharon, ampao, bocarillo that Carcar is famous for, and had a taste of lechon with pusó, the Cebuano rice individually cooked in a woven coconut container.
Bag fanatics
The French excitedly headed for the craft stalls, trying unsuccessfully to buy out the entire stock of women’s bags encrusted in the best Filipino over-the-top, baroque style, totally encrusted with hand-sewn shell bits, wooden beads and coco buttons, unappreciated (by Filipinos) folk-art delights deserving highest admiration. And that is what the bags and their highly flattered makers received from the French.
Balay na Tisa, probably the best cared-for Spanish colonial house in Carcar, was decked out for the fiesta and decorated for Christmas with a collection of folk-art belens, traditional parols, and swags of ornaments along the windows running the entire length of its ceiling.
Filipino architecture stunned the French visitors, the large windows covered with sliding kapis or persiana panels, the solid hardwood wall panels and wide-plank flooring, carved double doors leading to bedrooms with walls perforated at the top with calado fretwork for interior air circulation.
It took a leisurely break for coffee and dessert served by the owner, renowned Manila interior designer Manny Castro, in the ancestral family dining room of
Balay na Tisa for the French to understand how environmentally sound the bahay-na-bato is. Cooling breezes floated through the windows into the dining area. Water-filled martabanas (large Chinese glazed clay tubs) cooled down the breeze coming from the azotea, a perfect traditional cooling system that brought down the midday heat.
Now cooled and settled down, we indulged in another Filipino tradition, lingering over the dining table.
From where we relaxed over coffee we could see how the large living and dining rooms were really one space although doors divided them; that the adjoining bedrooms opened out into the same living and dining space; walls and doors disappearing to, in effect, turn the entire upper floor, bahay-kubo style, into one single room where, in true Filipino tradition, a variety of activities happens just as we saw in Carcar church earlier in the day.
What started out as my writing a report on the Malraux Seminar for submission to the Ministry of Culture in France turned out unexpectedly to be a journal of Filipino serendipity, timely reminder for me of the wonders of Filipino culture that I had begun to take for granted. All it took was to see with foreign eyes the ordinary things we see every day, to rediscover that our ordinary is really so extraordinary.
Rediscovering the wonders of Filipino culture through French eyes made the exchange from Seminaire Malraux meaningful to all who participated in the introductory program that hopefully will lead to long-range cooperation between the Philippines and France in the area of heritage conservation.

INTERIOR designer Manny Castro’s folk belen greets visitors to his home, Balay na Tisa, in Carcar, Cebu. Above: Devotees fill up Santo Niño Basilica for weekday Mass
By Augusto Villalon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:33:00 12/08/2008
ICOMOS Philippines and the Embassy of France, together with Les Amis de la France and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation in Cebu, and in Manila, the National Museum, City of Manila and Alliance Française jointly organized and hosted the first Seminaire Malraux in the Philippines, “Heritage Conservation-The French Touch.”
Other sponsors were the Waterfront Hotel and the Carcar Heritage Conservation Society in Cebu, and in Manila, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Museum of the City of Manila at the Army-Navy Club, Heritage Conservation Society and Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.
Seminaire Malraux, a series of international cultural encounters to honor the influential French Culture Minister André Malraux, is part of an extensive program of the French Ministry of Culture and Communications that seeks establishment of strong cultural ties between France and other countries.
Held first in Cebu and again in Manila during the last week of November, the Seminaire Malraux linked Philippine and French heritage conservation practitioners for the first time, and much was learned from this historic meeting.
Flying from Parisian winter directly to Cebu, French conservation experts from the Ministry of Culture began their visit in the sun-drenched, open-air courtyard of the Spanish colonial Metropolitan Cathedral Museum with an early-morning Cebuano breakfast of freshly cooked bibingka from Mandaue and sticky budbud (suman) dunked into steaming sikwate (chocolate).
An initiation to Filipino food was an excellent introduction to Cebuano culture, cuisine being the French national obsession.
Waves of mass-goers
At the Santo Niño Basilica, two blocks away from the cathedral, a crowd of pilgrims leaving an early Mass collided with the next wave entering the church to catch the next service.
There we were surrounded by a mob of people, devotees, out-of-town pilgrims, a few tourists, an army of candle vendors, a multitude of faithful devoutly lighting candles, installing their small flames of supplication on multitiered candle racks dripping with wax, while everywhere milled hawkers offering religious medals, prayer books, balloons, toys, all that happening simultaneously in the crowded open space in front of the church.
Not that the open area facing the church was small. There were just a lot of people, and surprisingly, coming to the shrine at midmorning on a weekday Friday, wondering what size the crowd would be on Sundays. A contrast, they said, from churches in France that today have become silent, visited more by tourists than by its dwindling congregation.
The hour-and-a-half drive south from city center to Cebu’s heritage town of Carcar passed tropical white-sand beaches, coconut plantations, and came across a few of those dwindling Amorsolo-esque rural landscapes of bahay-kubo ringed by a grove of tall bamboo for shade and wind protection set in an agricultural field.
How tropical and wonderfully exotic was all the scenery, they thought, and so did I, taking the cue to shifting my mode into seeing the Philippines through foreign eyes. What sights there were to see! Whatever I had dismissed as uninteresting and ordinary suddenly took on a different light.
All of Carcar was out on the street that day, preparing for the town fiesta happening that weekend. The plaza, where we went first, was packed. So was Santa Catalina, the town’s magnificent 18th-century Spanish colonial church. Inside the church, some walls were being painted, floor sections were being scrubbed, lights were being strung and sound systems tested, and all the while a choir of children rehearsed their next day’s fiesta repertoire huddled out of everyone’s way beside one of the side entrances. Devotees walked in and out, some staying to kneel in prayer for a while, others sitting silently on pews. A cat or two strayed in as well.
Different activities were happening simultaneously within the church, following traditional Filipino practice of using spaces multifunctionally, which contrasts with the European custom of rationally isolating each activity within its own room or space. Space barriers in the Philippines are invisible. When space runs out, sometimes the sidewalk in front of the house is temporarily taken over as an outdoor extension of a family business activity or even a celebration.
Carcar was in celebration mood that day. Huge tents set up in the plaza shielded a maze of little stalls from the noonday sun. The Filipinos in our little group bought pasalubong, the fabulous chicharon, ampao, bocarillo that Carcar is famous for, and had a taste of lechon with pusó, the Cebuano rice individually cooked in a woven coconut container.
Bag fanatics
The French excitedly headed for the craft stalls, trying unsuccessfully to buy out the entire stock of women’s bags encrusted in the best Filipino over-the-top, baroque style, totally encrusted with hand-sewn shell bits, wooden beads and coco buttons, unappreciated (by Filipinos) folk-art delights deserving highest admiration. And that is what the bags and their highly flattered makers received from the French.
Balay na Tisa, probably the best cared-for Spanish colonial house in Carcar, was decked out for the fiesta and decorated for Christmas with a collection of folk-art belens, traditional parols, and swags of ornaments along the windows running the entire length of its ceiling.
Filipino architecture stunned the French visitors, the large windows covered with sliding kapis or persiana panels, the solid hardwood wall panels and wide-plank flooring, carved double doors leading to bedrooms with walls perforated at the top with calado fretwork for interior air circulation.
It took a leisurely break for coffee and dessert served by the owner, renowned Manila interior designer Manny Castro, in the ancestral family dining room of Balay na Tisa for the French to understand how environmentally sound the bahay-na-bato is. Cooling breezes floated through the windows into the dining area. Water-filled martabanas (large Chinese glazed clay tubs) c
ooled down the breeze coming from the azotea, a perfect traditional cooling system that brought down the midday heat.
Now cooled and settled down, we indulged in another Filipino tradition, lingering over the dining table.
From where we relaxed over coffee we could see how the large living and dining rooms were really one space although doors divided them; that the adjoining bedrooms opened out into the same living and dining space; walls and doors disappearing to, in effect, turn the entire upper floor, bahay-kubo style, into one single room where, in true Filipino tradition, a variety of activities happens just as we saw in Carcar church earlier in the day.
What started out as my writing a report on the Malraux Seminar for submission to the Ministry of Culture in France turned out unexpectedly to be a journal of Filipino serendipity, timely reminder for me of the wonders of Filipino culture that I had begun to take for granted. All it took was to see with foreign eyes the ordinary things we see every day, to rediscover that our ordinary is really so extraordinary.
Rediscovering the wonders of Filipino culture through French eyes made the exchange from Seminaire Malraux meaningful to all who participated in the introductory program that hopefully will lead to long-range cooperation between the Philippines and France in the area of heritage conservation.