Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mexico: Good Friday procession in Puebla

The bus ride to Puebla, Mexico was quite interesting. The highways were no doubt scenic. It was difficult to sleep since I didn't want to miss the view.

Along the way, I marveled at the sight of two snow-capped volcanoes: Popocatepetl (5,426 m) and Iztaccíhuatl (5,230 m). It was Good Friday and we were off to Puebla to watch the Good Friday procession.

Like most of the places we planned to visit, the Historic Downtown of Puebla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a good thing we arrived a few hours before lunch since people were just starting to troop to the Puebla Cathedral for the noon procession. At least we got to take some photos of the streetscape while it wasn't jampacked with people. Later in the afternoon, moving around, especially around the Zocalo, was quite a challenge.

Our first stop was the Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción. The archbishop was leading the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis inside the cathedral. So we could not really appreciate the grand interior.

We walked around the Zocalo hoping to visit other sites. But after seeing the growing crowd, we decided to find ourselves a spot to observe the procession. At about 11:30 a.m., a small procession passed by, with images of the Señor Nazareno and Señor de las Maravillas borne on andas, making its way to the Catedral. They were accompanied by a marching band and women with matracas, a percussion instrument that is used especially during Lent.

Some parishes and confradias have passion images that participated in the procession. And at 12 noon, these images were brought around the historic downtown in a colorful and solemn Good Friday procession. What I noticed about processions both in Spain and in Latin America is that images are on andas, borne on the shoulders of devotees. While in the Philippines, most images are on carrozas with wheels.

After the procession passed by, we tried to walk around. But we ended up going back to the Zocalo for lunch at an al fresco restaurant. It was also a good vantage point for the return of the procession back to the Catedral over two hours after it started. Of course, I had to have mole poblano because it originated in Puebla, hence the description poblano.

So we got to see the procession a second time. The first image was the Virgen de la Soledad, followed by the Padre Jesus de Analco, Virgen de los Dolores, Señor Nazareno and Señor de las Maravillas.

After the procession, we walked to the Templo Conventual de Santo Domingo de Guzmán or the Santo Domingo Church. If there's one church you have to see in Puebla, it's this one, particularly the Capilla del Rosario. We got to see the church. But unfortunately, the chapel inside was closed until Black Saturday. So we only got to see it through the grill entrance.

For some reason, it must have been the dense crowds, we decided to leave earlier than scheduled. It was warm and there were just too many people, it got a bit exhausting walking around. So we took a cab back to the bus station and tried our luck to board an earlier bus which we were able to do. If I do get to visit Mexico again, I'll make sure to include Puebla and nearby Chulola in the itinerary. More photos of Puebla in Ivan About Town in Facebook.

How to get to Puebla
Puebla is about 2 hours by bus from Mexico City's Tasquena Terminal (MX$142). From the terminal, take a taxi to downtown Puebla.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cavite: Maligayang ika-113 na Araw ng Kalayaan! Happy Independence Day!

President Benigno S. Aquino III presided over his first Araw ng Kalayaan or Independence Day ceremonies at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite this morning. I found myself driving to Kawit at 4 a.m. to make sure I arrived there before the PSG closed the streets.

After arrival honors and a 21-gun salute, the president proceeded to the grave of Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo behind the shrine for a ceremonial wreath-laying. This was followed by the raising of the flag at the balcony of the shrine (which had to be delayed a bit for the nationwide simultaneous flag-raising at 7 a.m.) and the speech of the president.

Before the speech, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, a descendant of President Aguinaldo, read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence. The program is not over and I'm off to the Quirino Grandstand later in the afternoon for the Independence Day Parade. For photos of the event, check out Ivan About Town on Facebook.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mexico: Santa Prisca Church and Holy Week in Taxco

A horde of white beetle taxis and combi vans doing their rounds of the narrow cobblestone streets was the sight that greeted us in Taxco, Mexico. Walking to the historic center from the bus station was a challenge because the only way to go was further up this old mountain town. But we managed to make it all the way up to the Templo de Santa Prisca, the crown jewel of Taxco. But not without exerting so much effort that got me working out a sweat.

Mining towns are plentiful in Mexico. Taxco is said to be the center of the silver-mining heartland of Mexico. And the most famous resident of this mining town is José de la Borda, who made his fortune in this mining town, but lost it as well building the Santa Prisca Church.

Just before we began our ascent, we got delicious servings of tacos in a neighborhood tacqueria a few meters from the station, probably among the best we had during our Mexico journey. It was Holy Thursday and a motorcade of honking trucks jampacked with people followed an image of the crucified Christ that was led by several men on horses. Holy Week is one big fiesta in Mexico, as I would further discover in the next few days.

Back to Santa Prisca. It's popularly referred to as the Catedral de Santa Prisca although it's not a cathedral. My jaw dropped to the floor as we walked in the church. The interior was an impressive assemblage of twelve exquisitely carved wooden altars generously covered with gold leaf. It was a fine example of Mexican Baroque religious art. The main altar or retablo mayor is dedicated to the Purísima Concepción and the patron saints of Taxco de Alarcón: Santa Prisca and San Sebastián.

The exterior is equally impressive with twin belfries built in the Churrigueresque style. They were the tallest structures in Mexico from 1758 to 1806. Outside the church, a makeshift hut was built for Holy Thursday veneration of the image of the Agony in the Garden. The Garden of Gethsemane is recreated in the front atrium of Santa Prisca.

We wanted a grand view of Taxco and we were told that we could take a combi all the way to the Guadalupe Church. We spent MX$4.50 for the ride through Taxco's winding streets that would turn, climb, descend and even drop at times. Drivers have mastered the art of speeding through these capricious single lane streets without hitting vehicles moving in the opposite direction.

It was a view worth the ride. And whenever we could, we would later try to enjoy other towns we visited from high vistas to enjoy spectacular and panoramic views of Mexico's old towns.

Back down, we walked around town while waiting for our bus. There were very interesting vistas and pathways at every turn. Too bad we missed the evening Recorrido de los Soldados Romanos since our bus was left 30 minutes before it started. But we did see locals dressed as Roman soldiers making their way to the church. For more photos of Taxco, check out Ivan About Town in Facebook.

Holy Week (Semana Santa) Activities in Taxco
Taxco has processions everyday from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Here is a list of activities in the Parroquia de Santa Prisca y San Sebastian A. R. de Taxco during Holy Week or Semana Santa. Times are based on the 2011 schedule. But I would assume that they are the same every year.

Palm Sunday
- Procesion Solemne de Domingo de Ramos (7 a.m.)
Holy Monday
- Procesion Dedicada a Siempre Virgen Maria (10 p.m.)
Holy Tuesday
- Procesion Dedicada a las Animas del Purgatorio (10 p.m.)
Holy Wednesday
- Procesion Dedicada a la Santisima Trinidad (10 p.m.)
Holy Thursday
- Recorrido de los Soldados Romanos (6:30 p.m.)
- Visita de las Siete Casas (7 p.m.)
- Procesion del Divino Preso (8:30 p.m.)
- Procesion de los Cristos (10 p.m.)
Good Friday
- Procesion de Jesus Camino al Calvario (11 a.m.)
- Reflexion de las Tres Caidas de Jesus (12 p.m.)
- Crucifixion de Jesus (1 p.m.)
- Solemne Adoracion de la Santa Cruz (3 p.m.)
- Reflexion del Descendimiento de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo y Procesion del Santo Entierro de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo (5 p.m.)
- El Pesame a la Santisima Virgen de los Dolores (10:30 p.m.)
Black Saturday
- Procesion del Silencio en Honor a la Santisima Virgen de los Dolores (12 midnight)
- Paseo de los Soldados Romanos (9 a.m.)
Easter Sunday
- Procesion de la Resurreccion de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo (5 p.m.)

How to get to Taxco
Taxco is about 2 hours and 30 minutes by bus from Mexico's Tasquena Station (MX$158)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mexico: Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Insigne y Nacional Basílica de Guadalupe) in Mexico City is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a complex of several churches, including an old and new basilica, built near the place Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to San Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. It's quite accessible via public transport since the La Villa-Basilica Metro Station is a few minutes walk from here.

The Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Complex has several churches including the Old Basilica (Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey) and New Basilica which was completed in 1976 to replace the sinking Antigua Basilica, the Templo del Pocito, Ex-convento y Parroquia de Santa Maria de Guadalupe (Capuchinas) and the Capilla del Cerrito on top of Tepeyac Hill among others.

I was particularly impressed with the Templo del Pocito with its very elegant interior and intricate carved stone and tile exterior.

The Antigua Basilica is another well-preserved colonial period church. Juan Diego's cloak was venerated in this church from 1709 to 1974. Because it was built on weak ground, the city being a former lake, the church started to sink, which is very noticeable. It was closed for many years and has been reopened after repairs were completed.

A New Basilica was designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the architect of the Aztec Stadium and the National Anthropology Museum, and built from 1974 to 1976. It is where the cloak is currently venerated and where most of the services are held.

We climbed the steps up Tepeyac Hill to visit the Capilla del Cerrito, which has interesting mosaic murals. The hill also offers a panoramic view of Mexico City.

On the way back to the Metro station, we had dinner at local restaurant. Aside from the usual tacos and torta, I finally got to taste the Pollo con Mole Poblano, which is a chocolate-based sauce. I would later taste other versions which had more chocolate and more on the bitter side. So the one I had in Guadalupe was my favorite.

For more photos, check out Ivan About Town in Facebook.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Zamboanga del Norte: Old Town of Dapitan is the first declared Heritage Zone

With the enactment of the R.A. No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 last year, a new designation for built heritage was created: the Heritage Zone or Historic Center. On May 24, 2011, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared its first Heritage Zone, the Old Town of Dapitan, through Resolution No. 03, s. 2011, in time for the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal.

The NHCP, in its resolution, notes that "Dapitan is one of the oldest settlements in Northern Mindanao inhabited by Subanens" and that "according to Horacio de la Costa, S.J., the Dapitan mission was founded by Pedro Gutierrez, S.J. (in) 1629."

We all know the connection of Rizal with Dapitan. As the resolution states, "Jose Rizal lived in exile in Casa Real, the official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of the District, from July 1892 to March 1893; and transferred to Talisay, now the Rizal Shrine Dapitan, where he spent a productive life."

The Old Town of Dapitan Heritage Zone includes "the established Heritage Dapitan district, the Rizal Shrine in Talisay and the buffer strip of creek along northern and eastern Heritage Dapitan." It is where "historic sites and structures such as Rizal National Shrine, Rizal's Disembarkation Site, Dapitan Plaza and Rizal Monument, Rizal's Relief Map of Mindanao, Town Hall Building (City Hall), Old Rizal Memorial District Hospital, Ilihan Hill, Parochial School, Casa Real, Gabaldon Building, St. James Church, the Sta. Cruz marker, Gabaldon school building, and old ancestral houses are located."

In fact, the zone is quite significant because the Relief Map of Mindanao and the Dapitan Town Plaza were previously declared as National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark respectively. Dapitan's declaration as a Heritage Zone is indeed a welcome development.

Anyway, we look forward to the declaration of more Heritage Zones or Historic Centers in the near future!
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