Sunday, November 20, 2005

Macau: The Historic Centre of Macau

My feet are killing me! I literally spent the whole day walking and have in fact covered the entire lower half of the Macau Peninsula. The morning was spent going around more of the UNESCO properties included in the listing "Historic Centre of Macao." There are 25 of them and by tomorrow, I hope to have visited them all. Sad though that several have ongoing restoration work like the Moorish Barracks, Mandarin's House, St. Augustine Church and adjacent St. Augustine's Square. So I just got to see them from the outside.

Here is the description in the UNESCO listing: "Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade, was under Portuguese administration from the mid 16th century until 1999, when it came under Chinese sovereignty. With its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the historic centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West. The site also contains a fortress and a lighthouse, which is the oldest in China. The site bears testimony to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West based on the vibrancy of international trade."

My goal for the day was to visit at least seven churches, a visita iglesia, as a personal sacrifice and and chance to reflect. The morning trek began at 9 a.m. with a short hike to the
St. Lawrence Church, one of the three oldest churches in Macau which was built by the Jesuits in the mid-16th century. Good thing there was Sunday Mass, albeit in Chinese! Hehe!

A few meters away was the coral pink Headquarters of the Government of the Macau SAR, the seat of power of the territory. From there it was a scenic strech along the banks of the man-made Nam Van Lakes where one could see old houses that lined the former seaboard, as well as the Macau Tower and the 2.5-kilometer Ponte Governador Nobre de Carvalho which links Macau with Taipa Island. I went up Penha Hill hoping to visit my second church for the day, the Ermita de Penha. But a wrong turn lead me to the middle of a posh residential area that dotted Penha Hill. And I had no choice but to walk back, wasting close to 45 minutes of my time. Oh well! By the time I was up Penha Hill, the reving of motors could already be heard from a distance as the morning events of the Macau Grand Prix 2005 were well under way.

After getting back on course, I made it to the next site, the
A-Ma Temple which already existed long before the city of Macau came into being. From A-Ma, it was a short walk to the Moorish Barracks, constructed in 1874 to accomodate an Indian regiment from Goa appointed to reinforce Macau. Although the exterior was well-kept, the inside was still undergoing restoration. Along the same road was Lilau Square and the Mandarin's House. The house was also undergoing restoration. While there were preparations for filming in Lilau Square so no chance to take photos as well. Sigh!

Back to St. Lawrence Church which was a few meters away from St. Augustine Church and Square (which was being restored),
Dom Pedro V Theatre, the Sir Robert Hotung Library (which was closed), and the St. Joseph's Church and Seminary, all in the UNESCO inscription.

The
St. Joseph's Seminary and Church was closed earlier but by this time was already open. I wonder why the Jesuits have a liking for the name San Jose Seminary. Anyway, the seminary became the principal base for the missionary work implemented in China, Japan and around the region. But what struck me the most was the fact that it was the church with a bone of St. Francis Xavier! Being from a Jesuit school, I remember stories about the remains of St. Francis Xavier being scattered across the Far East. But I didn't realize that Macau had one of them.

Back to the Leal Senado Building and Senado Square and off to church number three, St. Dominic's Church which was closed the night before. Another of the older churches, the inside was a sight to behold. But of course, it's nothing compared to what's left of our own in the Philippines, moreso our pre-war heritage. Walking around well-preserved colonial cities like Macau makes me sometimes resent the Americans for carpet bombing the "Pearl of the Orient."

I had to take a break from my heritage hike since I had to run to the Mandarin to get my complimetary pass to the Macau Grand Prix 2005 vantage point at the hotel parking lot. Finally got there after another long walk... Pant! Pant! Most of the roads in the casino area were blocked for the races so I had to go the long way. I stayed to watch a race but since I'm not into car races, I decided to continue my tour. But at least I got to watch it live thanks to brod Phil who's wife works at the Mandarin.

Since the roads were blocked, I had to go the long way again to reach Guia Hill. I was dead tired and quite hungry (I had a "walking" lunch, a beef turnover I bought along the way), so I decided to stop for a sandwich. When they said salty beef sandwich, I was expecting the dried beef I had been craving for but which was quite pricey. I was disappointed to get an ordinary corned beef sandwich... hehe!

Finally, I reach the hill entrance. There were two ways to get up. One was by walking up I don't know how many steps, and the other was by cable car. Guess which I picked? Hehe! When I got up the hill, I still had to hike to the other side where the Guia Fortress was located. The Guia Fortress was built between 1622 and 1638. Inside the fortress stands
Guia Chapel, church number four, and the Guia Lighthouse, the first modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast. As I was about to take my photos, my batteries failed. So I had to run back to the middle of the hill to get a new set. Arggggh!!!

Down from the hill and off to St. Michael Cemetery and Chapel, church number five. But before I got there, i had a great vantage point of the F3 races which were ongoing. It was nearing 5 p.m. (and churches close early in Macau), so I had to run to St. Lazarus Church. Just my luck, it was closed. But outside the church were fabulously restored heritage buildings. So it was off to the Cathedral which was also closed the previous night. Good thing it was open. Church number six! I still had a chance to complete seven but the St. Anthony Church was quite a long walk away. But I went for it and for some reason, I felt it was still open. My second name was given by my parents in honor of St. Anthony. So more reason to rush. It was open, visita iglesia complete!

To cap the day's dose of heritage was a photo with Macau's most well-known symbol, the
Ruins of St. Paul. I had been there the night before but it was a different sight during the day. Beside it were Na Tcha Temple and the Section of the Old City Walls.

If you thought the day was over, guess again! It was time for some Macanese street food. Got myself some sweets and dried beef to take back to Manila. But the best delight was the local version of a fish balls stand. You thought Filipinos have already seen everything from fishballs, squid balls to kikiam, shrimp balls, and chicken balls. Not quite! The picture would show what I'm talking about. And the way the food is cooked is healthier too! No cooking oil or deep frying. The bite-sized delights are cooked in broth, drained and put in a stryrofoam bowl. Plus you can even mix in some vegetables like Chinese cabbage and mushrooms. Then the sauce is put. I'm not sure what the others are but I know there's spicy curry and the ordinary sauce which I had. Yummy!

Back to the hotel for a short rest. Then it was off to check out the neon lights of Macau's casinos. Hehe! I don't gamble so don't ask me how it's like inside. Tomorrow I wake up early to get a head start at the Red Market. Then it's a choice of Hong Kong or Zhuhai City in the People's Republic of China. Will tell you more about it tomorrow. Hehe!
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