Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP) updated 08/24/2011

It's time to update the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP). Today, we got the latest list from the Cultural Properties Division of the National Museum. While they've declared several movable heritage objects, this list I'm compiling only includes built heritage.

The additions to the list include new National Cultural Treasures declared from late 2010 to present: Nuestra Senora de la Luz Parish Church Complex (Loon, Bohol), Immaculada Concepcion Parish Church (Baclayon, Bohol) both National Historical Landmarks, Tabon Cave Complex (Quezon, Palawan), Spanish Era Colonial Bridges of Tayabas: Alitao, Isabel II, Francisco de Asis, Gibanga, Malagonlong, Lakawan, Mate, Ese, Despedida, and Tuloy (Tayabas, Quezon); Watchtowers of Bohol: Maribojoc, Dauis, Panglao, Pamilacan, Loay, and Balilihan; San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish and Ermita Ruins (Dimiao), San Sebastian Basilica (Manila) also a National Historical Landmark, Santa Monica Church (Minalin), and the Shrine Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Complex (Dauis) also a National Historical Landmark.

For Important Cultural Property, there is one new declaration, the Parish Church of San Salvador del Mundo (Caraga, Davao Oriental).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mexico: Walking around San Miguel de Allende

It was a bit dark when we arrived in San Miguel de Allende, also in the state of Guanajuato. The bus ride from the city of Guanajuato was just a little over an hour. We had decided to spend the night in the Protective Town of San Miguel, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, so that we could begin our walking tour of the centro historic first thing in the morning.

Our hostel was behind the Templo de San Francisco which we could see from our balcony window. The rooftop gave us a good view of the old quarter with several bell towers hovering above the low structures that dominate the city. It's a good thing they have strict height limits and building codes in Mexico's old towns. Well, for whatever it's worth, the town sleeps quite early. So we did too.

The next morning, we made our way around San Miguel's centro historico. According to UNESCO, "San Miguel de Allende is an early example of a rational territorial and urban development in the Americas, related to the protection of one of the main Spanish inland roads. The town flourished in the 18th century with the construction of significant religious and civil architecture, which exhibits the evolution of different trends and styles, from Baroque to late 19th century Neo-Gothic. Urban mansions are exceptionally large and rich for a medium-size Latin American town and constitute an example of the transition from Baroque to Neo-Classic."

From our hostel, we made our way to the Templo de San Francisco and the adjacent Templo de la Tercera Orden. It reminded me of the same churches in Intramuros which shared the same plaza. I noticed that all structures were in various earthen colors from ochre, orange, yellow, brown and brick red which was a stark contrast to the bolder palette we saw in nearby Guanajuato.

In the center of town is the Parroquia de San Miguel de Arcangel, Templo de San Rafael and Torre del Reloj. The Neo-gothic San Miguel Parish Church has become a symbol of San Miguel de Allende.

The adjacent San Rafael Church seems to be a memorial to the passion of Christ owing to the many tableau altars depicting scenes from Semana Santa, including an elaborate one featuring the events at Golgotha.

Outside the church, I noticed several women sewing together muneca de trapo (traditional rag dolls) which are quite popular all over Mexico.

We also got to visit the Templo de la Inmaculada Concepcion, Oratorio de San Felipe and the adjacent Templo de la Nuestra Senora de la Salud.

San Miguel de Allende is quite easy to explore. In fact, we saw most of the major attractions before lunch. From San Miguel, we took a bus to Queretaro which we planned to visit for the afternoon.

More posts on Mexico here. Photos of San Miguel de Allende in the Ivan About Town FB page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mexico: Historic mining town of Guanajuato

The Historic Town of Guanajuato, another old mining town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, was our next stop. We took an early morning bus from Zacatecas to Guanajuato which was about 5 hours and arrived late in the morning. Like in most towns of Mexico, the bus terminals are outside the city center and we had to take a cab into Guanajuato. We actually didn't know where to go and we just told the cab to drop us off in the centro historico.

Several minutes later, we found ourselves in front of Mercado Hidalgo, Guanajuato's old market. And just at the right time since it was nearing lunch and we were sure the market had some great local fare. We were attracted to a stall selling carnitas, a choice we did not regret at all. We tried out both the tacos and torta de carnitas.

After getting maps from the nearby tourism kiosk, we made our way to the Guanajuato Basilica. From where we started, we thought Guanajuato was going to disappoint. After seeing a good number of Mexican towns already, we were yearning for something new.

As we moved further from Mercado Hidalgo towards the basilica, the interesting character of Guanajuato started to emerge. Its winding roads kept producing surprises at every turn, charming colonial buildings or old churches with pocket plazas with neatly-trimmed trees which looked like tall hedges forming a natural perimeter around the squares.

Then appeared the Plaza Mayor and Guanajuato Basilica or the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, painted in a vibrant yellow and red. Guanajuato definitely had a different architectural vibe which we very much appreciated.

There were actually more churches to visit nearby including the Templo de la Compania de Jesus and the Templo de San Francisco among many others. Behind the Templo de San Diego and Teatro Juarez is a funicular which takes you up a mountain that overlooks Guanajuato. A monument to local hero El Pipila was built with a commanding view of the city. Seeing the grand view of Guanajuato was definitely worth the trip up.

After taking photos, we took the funicular down again and continued walking around, making our way back to Mercado Hidalgo for a late afternoon snack before returning to the bus terminal.

We explored more of the market and enjoyed the colorful local culture that one can experience when visiting markets.

Although our plan was to eat in the market again, we ended up eating at a taqueria across the street called El Paisa. Those were among the best tacos I had during the trip. Of course, the best taquerias have a complete set of condiments which includes tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime, guacamole and salsa rojo.

If you get a chance to visit Guanajuato, and have time to spare, you might want to visit the Museo de las Momias since Guanajuato's mummies are very famous; and the Casa Diego Rivera, the birthplace of Diego Rivera among other museums. The mines are also part of the UNESCO inscription and a tour there would be very interesting as well.

Guanajuato was literally a day trip for us since we decided to spend the night in San Miguel de Allende.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Mexico: Around the Centro Historico of Zacatecas

The sun was just making its appearance and the morning was chilly as we stepped out of our bus in Zacatecas. We had endured an eight hour bus ride from Mexico City to reach this former mining town and UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the bus terminal, we took a cab to our hostel, driving through deserted cobbled streets which would later be bustling with activity. Since it was too early to check-in, we left our bags at the hostel and decided to walk around the centro historico a bit.

The Historic Centre of Zacatecas is about 2,400 meters above sea level. According to UNESCO, "With Guanajuato, Zacatecas is among the most important mining towns of New Spain. It was a major centre of silver production, and also of colonization, evangelization and cultural expansion. The townscape of the ancient centre is moulded to the topography of the steep valley in which it is situated and is of outstanding beauty."

Our first stop for the day was the Catedral Basilica de Zacatecas. The highlight of the church was its richly-decorated red stone facade, an explosion of Churrigueresque ornamentation which appears like a huge stone retablo or altarpiece. The cathedral was open for earlybirds who were there for their morning prayers. The interiors were more austere. The main altar is in fact a modern one, but very tastefully done.

After that short walk around the vicinity of our hostel and getting some hotdogs at a convenience store for a really quick breakfast, we checked-in, freshened up and rested a bit. We actually had a grand view of the centro from our balcony window. And the hostel rooftop was a perfect place to chill.

We explored more of the town later in the morning. The Festival Cultural de Zacatecas, a music festival, was ongoing that month. Good coincidence you would think. But for architecture enthusiasts, it was quite unfortunate since stages and bleachers were set up in the charming plazas of Zacatecas, covering some iconic heritage buildings.

In front of the cathedral is an alley which leads up to the Templo de Santo Domingo, another significant church in Zacatecas. Built by the Jesuits from 1746 to 1749, it has an interesting Baroque facade and exquisite gold wood-carved Churrigueresque altars inside.

After lunch, we took a taxi to Cerro de La Bufa, a hill overlooking Zacatecas, to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. An equestrian statue of Pancho Villa greets you at the site of his greatest victory, the Battle of Zacatecas. Also on top of the hill is the Capilla de la Nuestra SeƱora del Patrocinio. Beside the church is an arcaded balcony which offers a grand view of Zacatecas and the surrounding hills.

From the hill, we took the teleferico or cable car down to La Mina El Eden, another major attraction of Zacatecas. We were a bit tired and since there were no English explanations inside the mine and we felt it was not worth the cost, we decided not to enter anymore. The chilly morning had transformed into a really hot afternoon. So instead, we walked back to the hostel for an afternoon siesta.

We continued our walking tour of Zacatecas late in the afternoon and the crowds started to grow. Bands and singers started performing in the designated stage areas around the centro historico. But nothing beats street performers churning out traditional Mexican music. I wish we had these in Manila. Our night ended early since we had to catch an early bus to Guanajuato. But at least we got to enjoy the sunset from our balcony window.

How to get to Zacatecas from Mexico City
Zacatecas is approximately 8 hours by bus from Mexico City's Terminal Central del Norte (MX$540). You can also opt to fly from Mexico City to the Zacatecas International Airport. The airport also has direct flights to international destinations such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and Houston.
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