Wednesday, June 04, 2014

What is happening at the Bohol churches after the earthquake?

When the earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu on October 15, 2013, the entire nation lamented the destruction of our heritage. But alas, Filipinos are often quick to forget. Several months after the earthquake, are people even asking what is happening at the Bohol churches?

There's a lot of work that needs to be done. Work on all churches is still in the retrieval stage. The National Committee on Monuments and Sites of the NCCA visited Bohol last week to check on the status of the churches. The team visited Dauis Church, Dauis Watchtower, Cortes Church, Maribojoc Church, Punta Cruz Watchtower, Loon Church, Tubigon Church, Baclayon Church, Loboc Church and Loay Church. Except for the Tubigon Church which is not declared, all heritage properties are National Cultural Treasures. Before you look at the current situation, here are photos of the Bohol churches before the earthquake for comparison.

The portico facade of the Dauis Church collapsed during the earthquake
The nave and altar of the Dauis Church are relatively intact. Major damage is on the left and right transept 
Damage to the left transept of the Dauis Church
Damage to the right transept of the Dauis Church
The portico facade of the Cortes Church collapsed during the earthquake
The nave of the church is relatively intact with cracks on the walls
Damage to the left transept of the Cortes Church
Damage to the right transept of the Cortes Church
The Maribojoc Church was totally destroyed during the earthquake
The interior of the Maribojoc Church
A portion of the left lateral wall of the Maribojoc Church that still stands gives insights on the manner and materials used in the construction of the churches
Coral stones are carefully retrieved from the ruins of the Maribojoc Church and properly numbered for any future reconstruction
Student volunteers assist the National Museum and the parish in numbering, cleaning and storing artifacts and materials retrieved from the Maribojoc Church
The Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc sustained significant damage during the earthquake. Inscriptions on top of the main entrance were unfortunately destroyed
The Loon Church was totally destroyed during the earthquake
An employee of the National Museum prepares labels for the retrieved stones
The once majestic Loon Church has been reduced to rubble
Coral stone retrieved from the Loon Church and rubble that is left of the once majestic church
The facade and nave of the Tubigon Church collapsed during the earthquake. Unfortunately, the Tubigon Church is not declared so no government funding can be budgeted for its reconstruction
A few panels are all that remains of the ceiling murals of Tubigon Church 
Portions of the ceiling murals of the Tubigon Church are piled on one side of the church
The portico facade and belfry of the Baclayon Church collapsed during the earthquake
Fortunately, the interior of the Baclayon Church is still intact. But work needs to be done to prevent any further damage from future earthquakes.
Loboc Church was the first declared National Cultural Treasure in Bohol. It sustained major damage during the earthquake
The pipe organ was among the elements of the Loboc Church that were spared from damage. But it needs to be retrieved immediately since the lateral walls that contain it are not stable
Major damage to the lateral walls and ceiling of the Loboc Church and convento
The pediment of the Loay Church collapsed during the earthquake
Fortunately, most of the damage to the Loay Church is limited to the portico facade. The nave and altar remain intact but there is damage to the left transept
Damage to the facade of the Loay Church and the buildings around the church
Hopefully funding allotted for the reconstruction of the churches is put to good use immediately. The parishes of Bohol have been instructed not to touch the declared churches. And yet several months after, progress on the retrieval and reconstruction, particularly for NHCP-assigned churches, is unsatisfactory according to Fr. Ted Torralba who was with us during the assessment. While funding is available, it will take political will to hurdle all the bureaucratic processes. In the meantime, Bohol continues to wait for the much-needed assistance that was promised to them months ago.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 2]

Mui Wo on Lantau Island, Hong Kong was a silver and lead mining community during the late 19th century. But historical accounts mention Mui Wo as early as the 13th century. If you missed the first part of my Mui Wo experience, read Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 1].

Yuen's Watchtower (left) beside River Silver
After lunch, we proceeded to the west side of Mui Wo. As you leave Ngan Wan Estate, you will see Yu Tak Lei Yuen or Yuen Old Mansion and Watchtower. It is an old granite watchtower by the River Silver and mansion of Yuen Wah Chiu, WWII guerrilla commander and chairman of Mui Wo Rural Committee after the war. The view from the bridge leading to the mansion is very picturesque, especially in the morning (the afternoon sun is behind the mountain).

Luk Tei Tong Watchtower
We first passed by Luk Tei Tong Village where another watchtower built by the Tsang family, the Luk Tei Tong Watchtower is located. Beside the watchtower is a small temple. Just like Wang Tong, most of the structures here are recent and three-floors in height.

There was another small temple on the other side of the village, in front of the village square of Luk Tei Tong.

Looks like some of the locals were preparing for a celebration with roasted suckling pig or siu yuk 燒乳豬!

From Luk Tei Tong, we walked up to Tai Tei Tong Village. In the village square is the Pak Tai Temple. The square is actually a venue for the villagers to hold gatherings and banquets. In fact, there was a community barbecue in the square when we passed by, celebrating the anniversary of a local kindergarden school.

A community barbecue at Tai Tei Tong Village Square
You would immediately notice that half of the community were foreigners. As I mentioned, Mui Wo is very popular with expats, especially those with families. This rural town allows them to live and raise their families in a suburban setting, the same way they would do in their home countries. You'd see young European or American kids walking or biking around and wonder if you are still in Asia!

And to prove how rural Mui Wo is, many residents have farms and plant their own produce. Don't be surprised if you see a water buffalo walking around!

There's another small temple in Choi Yuen Village called Kuan Yam Temple. But we skipped that because it was getting dark and we wanted to be back at the pier before nightfall.

Pak Ngan Heung Village and the village square
An old family temple still stands in Pak Ngan Heung, part of the roof unfortunately collapsed
Even further up is Pak Ngan Heung Village where several attractions are located. There's Silver Mine Waterfall, which unfortunately was down to a trickle when we saw it. It gushes during the rainy season, quite I sight I was told. Nearby is Silver Mine Cave, which is a reminder of the silver mining days of Mui Wo. You can't go in though since they closed it off due to safety reasons.

If you follow the path from the cave, that will take you to the Hong Kong Olympic Trail, a 5.6 kilometer trail that connects Pak Mong Village on the north side of Mui Wo to Pak Ngan Heung. There are a lot of directional signs, so you can't miss it.

Man Mo Temple is the oldest temple in Mui Wo, built during the Wanli era of the Ming Dynasty (1573-1619). It's also the oldest Man Mo temple in Hong Kong, a temple for the worship of the civil god Man Cheong Tai and the martial god Kwan Shing Tai. Paintings depicting ancient Chinese sages and heroes can be found on the facade. You will see this temple on your way to the falls.

The walk from Chung Hau to Pak Ngan Heung is about three kilometers. So back and forth is about six kilometers.

Instead of going back, we decided to complete the loop, arriving in Chung Hau from the north. On the way back we passed by more farms and rural houses.

Too bad there was no sunset that day since it was cloudy. As it got dark, you would see the expats and locals arriving from work on Hong Kong Island, biking or walking home.

Since it was a Friday, visitors were starting to arrive in Mui Wo as well. A popular practice among Hong Kong locals is to rent a house or room in Mui Wo for the weekend for a change of environment. And you'll see families and friends enjoying a barbecue meal.

How to get to Mui Wo
Ferries leave Hong Kong Island for Mui Wo from Central Pier No. 6. Tickets may cost between HK$15.20 to HK$42.90 depending on the type of ferry and day. Sundays are the most expensive. Ordinary ferries are the cheapest but take 55 minutes. The fast ferry can take you there in 35 minutes. Here is the ferry schedule.

Alternately you can take the MTR to Tung Chung. In Tung Chung, board the 3M bus which will take you to Mui Wo. Walking is the means of getting around the villages. But bicycles are available for rent near on of the supermarkets.

Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 1]

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a modern city. But many of its rural towns and villages continue to maintain their character. If you want a different view of Hong Kong, I suggest you visit the islands. Among those I've visited are Cheung Chau during the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and Tai O Fishing Village.

Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island is just thirty minutes by ferry from Hong Kong Island (Central Pier 6). But the town retains its old charm. Its relaxed atmosphere is why many expats working in Hong Kong's financial district choose to live here with their families. Building and height restrictions ensure that development is controlled. If you visit on a weekday, it feels like you are not in Hong Kong since the sleepy town is unusually quiet. 

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Around the Mui Wo Ferry Pier is the commercial area of the town, with supermarkets, stores, banks, restaurants, and other establishments. That's where residents with cars also park since motorized vehicles are not allowed in the villages. A bus terminus beside the pier conveniently connects Mui Wo with the rest of Lantau, including Tung Chung (and the MTR) and Tai O Fishing Village. So if you don't want to take a ferry, a longer land trip via Tung Chung is possible. Also in the area is the Mui Wo Cooked Food Market (open from 6 a.m. to midnight) where seafood is a specialty.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
For an introduction to Mui Wo, visit the Mui Wo Culture and Heritage Exhibition Center at the east end of Mui Wo Central Community Road, a few meters behind Silvermine Bay Beach. The center has available maps to guide you as you trek around the town. Chung Hau Village is what one could consider the main village of Mui Wo.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
In the morning, we walked around Chung Hau and further north to Wang Tong Village. As we left the center of Chung Hau, the houses got smaller and shorter. In fact, none of them go beyond two floors. Unlike urban Hong Kong, people here enjoy their own gardens and private spaces.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Further down the road is Wang Tong, a newer community. Many of the structures here are three-floor buildings which often house apartments for rent.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
As the path moves towards Butterfly Hill, the houses get sparser. Many of the houses you will see are much older ones, quite a number of them abandoned. But I learned the owners refuse to sell the properties especially because Mui Wo has become a viable option for simple living in Hong Kong.

You could actually make a loop to the rest of the villages from here. Or even walk all the way to Tung Chung which is about ten kilometers away. Another option is to walk east from Chung Hau to the Trappist Have Monastery up the hills of Mui Wo. But I was not prepared to climb.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Since it was nearing lunch, we decided to walk back to the Mui Wo Ferry Pier for lunch, passing through the rest of Chung Hau. We walked the length of Mui Wo Rural Community Road where you could find small restaurants and stores, a community center, recreational facilities, and a place where many locals play mah jong.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
You definitely get to see a facet of Hong Kong that you will not find in the more popular tourist attractions. And this was just one of several villages in Mui Wo.

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Before crossing the river, you will pass by the Hung Shing Temple, previously located near the beach (it collapsed due to poor maintenance) and reconstructed in Chung Hau. In front of the temple is a pair of stone lions, a female lion playing with a cub, and a male lion stepping on a gold ball. If you look closely at the male lion, you'll find that its genitals are exposed!

Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
You will see a good number of fishing boats docked at River Silver as you cross the bridge connecting Chung Hau and Ngan Wan Estate. Mui Wo remains a fishing community.

We had lunch at a Turkish restaurant which my hosts wanted to try. You'd wonder why there are so many food options in Mui Wo despite its small population. That's because it's a popular weekend destination and these restaurants cater to those visitors. We were planning to visit Tai O that afternoon. But since it was a bit late for Tai O, we decided to explore the rest of Mui Wo. That's my next post. Read Hiking around Mui Wo 梅窩 on Lantau Island, Hong Kong [Part 2].

Thank you to Sonia Zerrudo, Toto de Ramos, and Irene Haagen, active members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong, for taking me around Mui Wo!
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