Ushering in Year 2009

December 31
Five hours more and still everyone's tied up to the usual preparations for the New Year. This highly anticipated holiday in the Philippines is celebrated mainly with food, to symbolize abundance in the coming year. People are very busy now doing rounds around the kitchen to stock the table with anything that mimicks the shape of money. There's the usual 12 round fruits, each representing a month in a year and the ever-present pancit or any noodle dish to bring in luck of a longer life.
Late afternoon today when I also did my rounds in Carcar's market, I could say that the rains couldn't stop the swarm of people doing last minute shopping along the narrow alleys. Turned muddy by the unusual weather the past few days. Of course don't forget the fact that Filipinos are very fond of doing things at the last minute so every corner, anywhere you turn you'll see people buying bread, fruits and everything they need because you are not supposed to spend on the first day of the year. Superstition dictates that if you spend nothing you'll have plenty of money to spend the rest of the year.
The Filipinos penchant for grand celebrations, not only limited to the New Year celebrations, are influences from the Chinese. And before all fireworks (another great Chinese invention) are lit up later tonight let's think how we can make 2009 a better year for us.
Happy New Year all!
December 31 December 31 December 31


Revisiting Argao church

No doubt, the town of Argao has one of the best churches in Cebu. I have always wanted to see the church all over again without the Sunday church-going crowd. The weather hasn't been good the past few days as a slight drizzle early that morning made me think twice about going there. There's no begging off after all, I commited to do a wedding engagement shoot for my aunt's colleague a day earlier. I am no wedding photographer and weddings are not my specialty but sometimes you just cannot refuse those kinds of requests.

Argao Church

The present church of St. Michael the Archangel recently hugged the limelight after a priest decided to paint the main altar gold without even consulting the right people to do such. An undertaking frowned upon be heritage conservation advocates.

Argao Church Argao Church Argao Church


Cebu Heritage Advocates Night

Heritage Advocates Christmas Party 2008

For the first time, heritage advocacy groups of Cebu came in full force for a night of great food, music and simply the love for heritage. The Cathedral Museum of Cebu and the Yap-Sandiego House were the perfect venues for the casual affair. Though some came garbed in their best Filipiniana, the rest were in their most comfortable wear but nevertheless, the moonlit Sunday night turned out to be one of the most memorable for us this year as another milestone came into fruition.

A Federation of Cebu Heritage Advocates will soon be created from the groups that came last night. Taytayan, the Carcar Heritage Conservation Society, SkyScrapercity.com-Cebu, Hambin, the Cathedral Museum of Cebu, Cofradia de San Juan Bautista & the Casa Gorordo Museum will each have their representation in the said federation.

Good luck to all of us!

Heritage Advocates Christmas Party 2008 Heritage Advocates Christmas Party 2008 Heritage Advocates Christmas Party 2008 Heritage Advocates Christmas Party 2008


Happy people

I mentioned how chaotic Philippines fiestas are in my previous post. And how these kind of events become opportunities for many.

Carcar celebrates the feast of its patroness St. Catherine on November 25. Two days prior to that the Kabkaban festival and the Festival of Lights were held around the town's major streets. Both events held ahead to lure more crowd as this year's fiesta fell on a weekday which is also workday for most. I already had it in mind not to invite friends on the day of the fiesta because there's really not much to see. I also reasoned out that the traffic situation is also getting worse, a major turn-off for those coming from Cebu city.

And so the day was all for me. An opportunity to do what I love to do.

The following set is all about the happy nature of Filipinos, in a study a year ago by Axa Asia Life and research company Taylor Nelson Sofres where the Philippines came second to India.

Happy people

Happy people Happy people Happy people Happy people Happy people


The Nomads of Cebu

Philippine fiestas are chaotic yet vibrant in a way. These occasions are huge crowd drawers. And where the throng gathers business thrives. Like pilgrims who have come to venerate the saint they too have come but in pursuit of other desires.

The Nomads of Cebu

The candle vendors are the wanderers of the modern times. They have no known permanent abode. Often coming in large groups wandering from town to town, where fiesta celebrations are.

The Nomads of Cebu The Nomads of Cebu The Nomads of Cebu The Nomads of Cebu


The Festival of Lights of Carcar

Yet again the fiesta in Carcar came to a close with another emphasis on the life of its patroness St. Catherine of Alexandria. The Festival of Lights is not just a mere spectacle of colorful gaiety but more importantly a way to revive the long forgotten devotion to the virgin-martyr. Four carrozas depicting major events in her life, her journey to sainthood, were paraded down passing through a street aptly named after her.

Sta. Catalina de Alejandria Carroza

At the first sound of the drum people started to gather at the Balay na Tisa where the processional image of the saint dating back to the Spanish times is kept. The ceremony is reminiscent of dapit which I witness in my trip to Malolos, Bulacan for the Sto. Niño festival early this year. In dapit, different images of the Holy Child borne on carrozas decorated or not, are brought to the church late in the afternoon for a short procession around the town. The procession is first of the three, the remaining two happens the following day, always falling on the fourth Sunday of January. One in the morning and the grand procession in the evening.

The Festival of Lights is never complete without the Kabkaban dance. Fresh from their win from the previous days Kabkaban Festival, the Carcar Central Highschool dancers lent their talent by igniting the jovial mood of the people gathered around as the procession makes its way to the church for the mass.

Festival of Lights

A sonorous sound echoes this time coming from the church belfry signaled the end of the mass. Then festal music is played by the band as the carrozas went down the hill. The dancers now have changed to their hats mounted with lamps, from a distance one would see them meander through the narrow streets of the plaza.

It takes almost two hours for the reach back the church grounds through the traditional route of narrow streets around town. At the moment St. Catherines carroza nears the Balay na Tisa it makes a quick stop. Photos are taken with the house as background but more importantly the men also have their quick break from pushing the antique carriage. Water is served attentively them by the helpers of the house

Carcar Festival of Lights 2007

The last stretch of the procession is a few hundred meters from the house. And then the last set of sounds from the belfry can be heard from a distance. The carroza finally reached its destination. A few minutes more it started its descent together with the untiring dancers accompanied the the joyous Kabkaban beat. They make their final dance before everyone.

Until the next fiesta!


Balay na Tisa Collection

Sta. Catalina frame

A token to add to the Balay na Tisa collection of Sta. Catalina images now on temporary display at the Carcar City Museum.

Copy of a painting by Spanish Renaissance painter Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina at the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Embroidery by Raffy Lopez in stylized Kabkad fern commonly found in Carcar. Nakar shells done by James Yee.

Carcar, Cebu, Philippines


St. Catherine of Alexandria

The church in Carcar dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria is among the few that exists in the Philippines. The other known church established in her honor is the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral in Dumaguete City.
Sta. Catalina de Alejandria
Often depicted holding a sword, a palm and a spiked broken wheel, devotion to St. Catherine is pervasive throughout the town.
On November 24, the 2nd Festival of Lights depicting her life through tableaus and the solemn procession along Sta. Catalina street will cap the annual festivities.
Note: Image above of the saint is owned by the Noel family and can be viewed at the church until the festivities are over.


Die in style

Die in style

Mortuary services are getting the buzz these days after the e-burol or online wake viewing is becoming the practical option for the departed's relatives abroad. Technology really has it's way.

Also getting enough attention are the artsy custom designed caskets handpainted to suit your style. Make a statement with these. Angels and any other religious themes are the popular designs sought.

The dead come here for their final pampering but the furnitures fashioned like caskets are hauling tourists in. Luckily, I was the sole visitor that day as everybody else got so busy in the cemeteries.

Carcar, Cebu


Kalag-kalag 2008 Sidelights

Here are some rather amusing and bizarre scenes from the cemetery in Carcar. Filipinos have their peculiar ways of celebrating Kalag-kalag.
Condominium type of dwellings for the dead. Reaching up to five layers these are common in cemeteries where vacant spaces are hard to find. Getting coffins inside the penthouse units is a spectacle one should see.
When you don't have the means to buy a lapida (stone tablet), just carve out the name of the dead on the still wet cement. Just don't push so hard, the seal might open. The young girls in the photo are removing the weeds before lighting the candle.
Paper flowers
Fresh flowers have doubled in cost. To save on money, make flowers of your own. Colored papers are so cheap. Fashion it out to the desired blooms. Tie it with copper wires and put it on an empty sardine can. Fill with pebbles to stabilize. Your worry now is the rain to ruin your obra maestra.
Lastly, before you head home don't forget to get yourself smoked. A pile of dried leaves or weeds will do. Add some bits of candle for a desirable aroma. Palina is a pagan ritual practiced in faraway towns and provinces. The smoke is said to ward off bad spirits that might decide to go home with you. Just in case you forget this ritual rubbing your body with fresh lemonsito leaves will do.


Business as usual

While many are enjoying the comforts of airconditioned malls in the city. Cemeteries are also getting their fair share of the consumer traffic. It is business as usual even on the last day of the Kalag-kalag celebrations. Enterprising people young and old are taking advantage of this once-a-year occasion.

Nobena ug uban pa

Just in case you forgot your prayers, everything is available here. Amulets, herbs, various concoctions, love potions or what have you, these are popular among visitors.


Candles are the most sought-after commodity. This young boy tends to their makeshift store near the entrace at the public cemetery in Minglanilla town.


This young woman takes an early lunch amidst the hustle and bustle of the narrow street leading to the cemetery. A much needed break indeed. Most vendors have been here a day before Kalag-kalag. Flowers grown from nearby towns are the cheaper alternative and will get more cheaper once the festivities are nearly ending.


Masses are held by the hour. The church has the monopoly of this business. Aside from the pamisa, they also exercise control over the lighting of tombs charging a hefty amount for only two days of use.


At the last minute

The great mass exodus as what Estan in his blog described the large throng of people trooping at the last minute just to get home to their hometowns for the Kalag-kalag celebrations. It was totally expected, as this is just one of the three occasions where massive migration of people out of the city and into the provinces. (Holy Week, Kalag-kalag & the Christmas Holidays) The holiday fell on a weekend and as what most would have wanted there came no prior announcement of a free day last October 31.

Kalagkalag 2008

I decided to see for myself the phenomenon at the South Bus Terminal. Cebu being a small island, the only way to get around is by land transpo. And there is no other way to go down south but thru this hub.

Kalagkalag 2008

It was already 9 am and the place was unusually noisy and hot. A slight drizzle earlier in the morning made the dust settle down but as soon as the sun took its place clouds and clouds of dust started to spread out. The main building is undergoing renovation and there is no space to move around. There was just this unimaginable long line of people meandering through each corner of the building. And as each bus arrived people started pushing themselves inside the narrow bus entrances, unmindful of the kind torture they are in.

Kalagkalag 2008

I did not want to experience this kind of agony. I took the unpopular route instead.


Where all roads lead

Argao Cemetery
A week before cemeteries, like this one in Argao, would be crammed. Graves would then have been cleaned and repainted. The living would stream with candle and flower offerings to the departed.
Argao Cemetery
For a large Catholic country like the Philippines, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day for that matter, is one of the most celebrated occasions of the year. Aside from the usual trip to the cemeteries to offer prayers and all, it is also a time to meet and catch up with relatives and friends who have come for the occasion.

Argao Cemetery

[Note: The photos above show what remains now of the colonial cemetery in Argao built in the 1900s. In the cemetery complex is a small lake. Behind the cemetery is a beach, the level of the water on the artificial lake varies throughout the day. When I visited the place the capilla was under repairs.]


Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor

Cebu churches were once again the highlight in a painting exhibit by known Carcaranon painter Tony Alcoseba. The exhibit dubbed “Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor” was one of the big events in conjunction with the celebration of the commemoration of the founding of the Parian district of Cebu City.

The Carcar Heritage Conservation Society and the newly-formed Taytayan heritage conservation group spearheaded the exhibit at the Cathedral Museum of Cebu last October 11 and runs until October 30, 2008.

Art enthusiasts and heritage conservation advocates alike were joined by no less than Ace Durano, the Secretary of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and the Archbishop of Cebu, Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal. Both ended up buying the church paintings of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva church of Danao City and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral respectively.

Each painting costs Php65,000 but part of the proceeds go to support heritage conservation.

Archbishop of Cebu Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor Simbahan: Cebu heritage churches in watercolor