Po Lin Monastery (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

The author at the courtyard of Po Lin Monastery

After our visit to the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), we proceeded to the nearby Po Lin Monastery,Buddhist monastery located on level Ngong Ping Plateau, between the lush, green Lantau Peak and Lei Nak Peak.  The wooden bracelets sold near the Big Buddha statue (an extension of the monastery) are made at Po Lin (translated as “precious lotus”).

Check out “Tian Tan Buddha

View of Po Lin Monastery from Tian Tan Buddha

Founded in 1906 by three monks visiting from Jiangsu Province on the Chinese mainland, it was initially known simply as “The Big Hut” (大茅蓬 Tai Mao Pung) but was renamed to its present name in 1924.

In 1918, three nuns ordained at this monastery established a private nunnery, dedicated to Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy), called Chi Chuk Lam (紫竹林) on Lantau’s Lower Keung Hill (下羌山). In the 1950s, there were about 20 jushi and nuns residing there but, today, only an elderly abbess remains. On June 2013, the site was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hall of the Heavenly Kings

Hall of the Heavenly Kings

We spent some time admiring the architecture of the structures of this orderly Buddhist monastery complex which houses many Buddhist scriptures.

Kyle, Jandy and Cheska at the courtyard of Po Lin Monastery

Its many halls (Da Xiong Bao Dian, the Maitreya Hall, the Hall of Ti-tsang Bodhisattva, the Weituo Hall, the Banruo Hall, the Sutra-Collection Hall) and prominent architectural buildings and structures sit tightly on the north-eastern to south-western axis, overlooking the South China Sea. On the south side of the axis are the Po Lin Hall and the facility for ceremonial and religious activities.

Hall of Bodhisattva Skanda.  On the upper level is the Hall of Great Hero while on the lower level is the Hall of Arhats

San Men (Mountain Gate) leads up to the Hall of Bodhisattva Skanda, the Main Shrine Hall of Buddha, and the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.  In symmetrical arrangements on the flanks are the Bell Tower (houses a 1,000 kg. bronze bell) and the Drum Tower, the Hall of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, the Meditation Hall, the Dining Hall and the Sangha Hall.

Hall of Great Hero (off limits to visitors)

These edifices enclose and create roomy space and airy courtyards. The Hall of Ti-tsang Bodhisattva houses an approximately 200 kg. (441 lb.) bronze statue of Ti-tsang Bodhisattva.

Hall of Arhats

Hall of Arhats

In its effort in spreading Buddhism and in moving forward towards globalization, the monastery has changed its architectural concept from local southern China to that of Beijing palatial design.  The seven-span Hall of Bodhisattva Skanda, completed in 1970, adopted the architectural design of the Ming and Qing’s Dynasty palaces.

Its double-eaved gable roof, made of yellow-glazed tiles, has a ridge decorated with zoomorphic ornaments, dragons, phoenixes and animal patterns. Coiled granite dragons, carved in the Minnan style, can be seen on the front and the back of the hall.

Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas

On the other hand, the incredibly ornate Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which went on the drawing board in 2000 and was completed in 2014, adopted the classical architectural concepts of the Song Dynasty.

Koi Pond

Covering an area of more than 6,000 sq. m., it now enshrines more than 100 statues and has a shrine hall, an exhibition hall, a meditation hall, an abbot’s chamber, a scripture library and other multi-functional facilities.

Bell Tower

The Great Hall of Treasure (Da Xiong Bao Diane) enshrines three bronze statues of the Buddha (Sakyamuni, Dipamkarara and Maitreya, representing his past, present and future lives). Many visitors here join in praying and giving offerings at the temple.

Drum Tower

Interior of Drum Tower

For those who fancy typical, good quality vegetarian cuisine, the monastery also has a vegetarian kitchen where a multi-course lunch can cost you up to HK$138.  Dishes are served at the dining hall and at the Fat Ho Memorial Hall. Opposite the dining hall, snacks such as salty dimsum, steamed cakes, spring water bean curd, glutinous rice dumplings with mango filling and noodles are sold.

Fat Ho Memorial Hall

Near the giant Tian Tan Buddha and the monastery is the Ngong Ping Village and Ngong Ping 360, a gondola lift running between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping.

Check out “Ngong Ping 360 and Ngong Ping Village

Deli Vegetarian Cafe

Po Lin Monastery: Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2985 5248.  Fax: +852 2985 5600.  E-mail: info@plm.org.hk.  Website: www.plm.org.hk.  Open daily, 8AM to 6PM. The Vegetarian Kitchen is open daily from 11:30AM to 4:30 PM  (7 PM on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays).

Tian Tan Buddha (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Tian Tan Buddha Statue

The majestic Big Buddha statue, sitting atop the peak of 479 m. high Mount Muk Yue, is sited near Po Lin Monastery.  At ground level, the statue was quite a formidable and imposing sight. Together with many other tourists, we were huffing and puffing on our way up, only catching our breath at a number of stair landings. The view of Lantau Island, the 934 m. (3,064 ft.) Lantau Peak and the South China Sea from the top was ’breathtaking.

Check out “Po Lin Monastery

This large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, a major center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and a popular tourist attraction, symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.  The statue, skillfully mastered and conceptualized by the artist to shape the perfect design of the Buddha statue that we see today, was a culmination of the characteristics of Buddhist sculptural art of the Sui and Tang Dynasties (when Buddhism was at its prime).

Taking 12 years to plan and build, this bronze Buddha statue, an outstanding piece in Buddhist sculptural art in recent history, is now a major landmark in Hong Kong attracting numerous local and overseas Buddhists and visitors.  It symbolizes the stability of Hong Kong, prosperity of China and peace on earth.

The author at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Buddha

The Big Buddha Statue, combining traditional bronze art with modern science and technology, embodies the harmonious resonance of Buddhist spirit and modern civilization – a solemn epitome of human beings’ continuous and unyielding pursuit of moral happiness and peace on earth.

Grace (near left), Cheska (fifth from left), Bryan (sixth from left) and Kyle (right) making their way up the stairs

Here’s the timeline of the statues construction:

  • In 1974, the government granted Po Lin Monastery 6,567 sq. m. of land in Mount Muk Yue, at a nominal premium, for the building of the Buddha statue.
  • On December 26, 1981, the Committee for the Construction of the Tian Tan Buddha Statue was formally established, by Po Lin Monastery, to coordinate the project, including the artistic design and concept of the statue, building materials and details of construction.
  • On April 1982, the work on the 1:5 scale, 5 m. high plaster model of the statue, fashioned by Ms. Hou Jinhui of the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts, was started.
  • On February 1984, the plaster model was completed, the draft of which had been revisited eight times, following discussions and consultations with the artist responsible for the conceptual design of the statue.
  • On September 26, 1986, the plaster model of the statue was shipped to Nanjing from Guangzhou.
  • On April 1989, the bronze pieces were transported to Hong Kong by sea.
  • On October 13, 1989, the last bronze piece of the statue was put in place and a solemn topping ceremony was held on the same day.
  • On December 29, 1993, which the Chinese reckon as the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the statue was inaugurated, with monks from around the world invited to the opening ceremony. Also taking part in the proceedings were distinguished visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Halfway up the stairs

The project was divided into six stages, with Nanjing Chengguang Machinery Plant of the China Astronautics Science and Technology Consultant Corporation principally carrying out the actual casting, finishing and assembly of the Buddha statue.  During the overall project design stage, over 5,000 drawings and 300 technical documents were produced within less than three months. The daily and monthly work progress for the subsequent three years was mapped out and prepared by system analysis.

The enlargement, carried out by the technical staff through a special “survey-controlled box enlargement method,” involved the use of stereoscopic photography to find out the position of the statue in space.  When over 3,900 coordinate points were established, the computer was then used to calculate the enlargement. At the same time, to form the inner frame of the statue, a traditional method of using boxes which were stacked up in layers was used. Then plaster was applied to the outer surface, producing a 1:1 scale model.

The body of the statue, cast in 202 bronze pieces after careful studies and surveying, was supported by an inner steel framework and fixed by connecting bolts. Auxiliary supports were used to connect the bronze pieces to the main framework.  The bronze pieces had thicknesses ranging from 10 to 13 mm. and the error margin of each cast piece was less than 3 mm..  Precision molds were prepared according to the different shapes of the pieces.

Halfway up the stairs

After overcoming numerous difficulties, the professional staff, in an effort to portray fully the splendor of Buddha Sakyamuni and to achieve a perfect artistic design, managed to finally cast the face of the Buddha in a single piece. To rehearse for the on-site assembly, a trial assembly was carried out in the plant where any problems that might occur on site were detected and solved.

View of Po Lin Monastery

The Buddha statue was trial assembled separately in three sections (upper, middle and the lower) and various necessary adjustments and trimmings were made to the bronze pieces plus initial mechanical finishing was also carried out.

Jandy with the Big Buddha in the background

On arrival at Lantau Island, the very large face piece and two other large bronze pieces were safely transported up to Mount Muk Yue with the help of the Transport Department who provided a large lorry and two large cranes (which sandwiched the lorry in the middle) for this arduous journey up the winding and narrow roads on the island. The arduous task of assembly and welding (the length of weld was over 5 kms.) of the statue was carried out, in open air, from bottom upwards in eight layers.

To ensure that the Buddha statue would not be damaged by strong winds, calculations on the wind pressure, imposed load and material strength of the various parts of the statue were conducted the specialists using computers and the Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics specially created a testing model, utilizing the wind tunnel employed for satellites and rockets, to conduct unidirectional as well as multi-directional wind tests on the statue as a whole and on the various parts.

The Offering of the Six Devas

The optimal coating for the surface coloring of the statue, carefully studied for over a year, was selected from various formulas for surface coloring.  Oozing an air of classical simplicity and solemn dignity, it is not susceptible to fading because of corrosion due to the exposure to the elements.

One of the halls inside the podium

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the statue:

  • The design of the statue was based on the 32 laksanas (“physical marks” of the Buddha as described in the sutras).
  • The Tian Tan Buddha is one of the five large Buddha statues in China and is the biggest sitting Buddha statue built outdoor.
  • The statue was named The Big Buddha because its base is a model of the Earthly Mount of Tian Tan (or Altar of Heaven), the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
  • Enthroned on a lotus on top of a three-platform altar, it is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas,” symbolizing the Six Perfections of generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment.  They are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to the Buddha.
  • Every feature of the Buddha statue has a symbolic meaning of religious significance. The face, measuring 4.3 m. by 5.8 m., with a thickness of 13 mm. and a weight of 5 metric tons, was modeled after the Buddha Vairocana of the Longmen Grottoes for its fullness and serene beauty. The clothes and headgear had their inspiration from the soft and smooth flowing lines of the Buddha Sakyamuni image in Cave 360 of the Mogao Caves.
  • For the building of the Buddha statue, the original idea was to use reinforced concrete. However, due to artistic requirements, structural problems as well as the anticipated difficulties in quality and cost control, bronze was finally chosen as the building material.
  • The Big Buddha is 34 m. (112 ft.) tall, weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons) and was constructed from 202 bronze pieces.
  • Reputedly the figure can be seen across the bay from as far away as Macau on a clear day.
  • In addition to its exterior components, there is a strong steel framework inside to support the heavy load.
  • Visitors have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha. However, to accommodate the handicapped, the site also features a small winding road for vehicles.
  • The Buddha’s raised right hand represents the removal of affliction while the left hand, resting open on his lap, is in a gesture of generosity.
  • The statue faces north, which is unique among the great Buddha statues, as all others face south.
  • One of the statue’s most renowned features inside is a relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his alleged cremated Only visitors who purchase an offering for the Buddha are allowed to see the relic, entering to leave it there.
  • On October 18, 1999, the Hong Kong Post Office issued a definitive issue of landmark stamps, of which the HK$2.50 value depicts The Big Buddha.
  • In 2000, the Big Buddha Statue was elected as the fourth of the 10 Engineering Wonders in Hong Kong (the others, all public works projects, are the Lantau Link, the Hong Kong International Airport Passenger Terminal and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre Extension). Of the projects in the private sector, the Big Buddha Stature came as the first.
  • On May 22, 2012, it was also featured on the HK$3 value of the Five Festival set, this one celebrating the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. The MTR corporation also issued a souvenir ticket featuring a photograph of the statue.

View of Lantau Island and South China Sea

There are three floors beneath the statue – Hall of the Universe, Hall of Benevolent Merit and Hall of Remembrance.   In the show room, there’s a huge carved bell, inscribed with images of Buddhas and designed to ring every 7 minutes, 108 (symbolizing the release of 108 kinds of human vexations) times a day.

View of Lantau Peak

Tian Tan Buddha: Ngong Ping Rd., Ngong PingLantau Island, Hong Kong. The Buddha (as well as Po Lin Monastery) are open daily, 10 AM to 5 PM. Access to the outside of the Buddha is free of charge, but there is an admission fee to go inside the Buddha.

How to Get There: Visitors can reach the site by bus or taxi, travelling first to Mui Wo (also known as “Silvermine Bay”) via ferry from the Outlying Islands piers in Central (pier No. 6) or to Tung Chung station via the MTR, or via the 25-min. Ngong Ping 360 gondola lift between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping. Visitors may then travel to and from the Buddha via the Mui Wo ↔ Ngong Ping (NLB No. 2) and Tung Chung ↔ Ngong Ping (NLB No. 23) bus routes.

Ngong Ping Piazza (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

New Pai Lau of Ngong Ping Piazza

During our cable car ride to Ngong Ping Village, we already saw the huge Tian Tan Buddha (also called the Big Buddha) statue sitting on the side of the mountain and, after our return from our visit to Tai O Fishing Village, we proceeded to go there.  Along the way, we had to traverse the length of the 1.5-hectare Ngong Ping Piazza.

The author at Bodhi Path

The piazza, where visitors could get started and tour to observe the religions and nature of Ngong Ping, connects with Po Lin Monasterythe Big BuddhaNgong Ping Cable CarNgong Ping Village and the Wisdom Path, a landing with 38 impressive, 8-10 m. high wooden rectangular beams, each beam inscribed with Chinese scriptures that  make up the prayers of the Heart Sutra, one of the most popular Buddhist prayers.

Check out “Po Lin MonasteryTian Tan BuddhaNgong Ping 360 and Ngong Ping Village

This intensely Buddhist piazza has four main components – New Pai Lau (built to reflect the northern architectural style of Qing Dynasty); Bodhi Path; Di Tan (Altar of Earth); and a Chinese landscaped garden constructed to echo with the design of Po Lin Monastery.

Stone statue of General Mihira

As we left Ngong Ping Village, we walked through the New Pai Lau, the towering ornamental archway to Bodhi Path, the central walkway paved with lotus tiles, where we were surrounded by Chinese structures that emit an aura of antiquity, appreciating the stone statues of the 1.8 m. high “Twelve Divine Generals” (each weighing about 1 ton) as well as 40 lotus-shaped stone lanterns installed on both sides.

Stone statue of General Anila

The “Twelve Divine Generals,” the protectors of the Healing Buddha, are also guardians of the hours of the day, each responsible for a two-hour period.

Di Tan at Ngong Ping Piazza

In addition, they represent the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, as denoted by the different zodiac signs on their crowns. Di Tan, the open space of Po Lin Monastery, is primarily tiled with grey granite paving. The four lotus ponds, built on the perimeter, facilitate the staging of religious ceremonies and rituals held from time to time.

Ngong Ping Village (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Ngong Ping Village.  In the background in Lantau Peak while on the right is the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)

The terminus of our 5.5-km. long Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride  was Ngong Ping Village (Chinese: 昂坪; pinyin: Ángpíng; Jyutping: ngong4 ping4), located on a highland in the western part of Lantau IslandHong Kong. Lantau Peak, the second highest peak of Hong Kong, is at its southeast.

Check out “Ngong Ping 360

The arched entrance to Ngong Ping Village

When we arrived at the village, “360 Ultimate Masters Face-off: Shaolin vs Emei” kung fu show (running from September 29 to October 28) was ongoing.

360 Ultimate Masters Face-off

Featuring kung fu masters from Shaolin and Emei, they performed a marvelous mock up of a vigorous battle featuring three new weapons – the meteor hammer of Shaolin and the fans (an offensive and a defensive weapon) and long-tasselled sword (an aggressive but flexible weapon) of Emei.

Long-tasselled sword

The kung fu of Shaolin is said to be strong and powerful while Emei emphasizes softness and flexibility in their moves. Their battle is a fusion of Yin (Emei) and Yang(Shaolin).

Fans of the Emei

The fairly new Ngong Ping Village, created at the top of the Ngong Ping plateau, was opened in 2005 together with other facilities and tourist attractions that include the Walking with the Buddha (Stage 360), the Monkey’s Tale Theatre and Ngong Ping Tea House, all built to accommodate the influx of tourists now flocking to the Tian Tan Buddha (or Big Buddha) and the Ngong Ping Cable Car.

Monkey’s Tale Theater

This well appointed, 1.5-hectare open-air and culturally-themed village, built at along a “tourist corridor,” serves as the central point for the many highlights and tourist attractions in the area.

Blessing Drums

It has modern facilities, 6,000 sq. m. of shop space and an 18,600 sq. m. piazza between the cable car terminal and the Po Lin Monastery (a youth hostel is located near here), a quick 5-minute walk from the Village. A visit to the Tai O Fishing Village is a short 15-minute ride away from Ngong Ping Village.

Walking With Buddha Show Theater

This tourist trap is complete with a wide array of “themed” souvenir shops, tea houses as well as fast food outlets (Subway, Starbucks, etc.) offering both Western and Asian fare. Monkey’s Tale Theater and the Walking with Buddha Show are short 15-minute audio-visual, multimedia attractions that recount Buddha‘s legends and stories.  We chose to skip these shows and save on the extra ticket costs.

Monkey’s Tale Theater

It also serves as a transportation hub. The nearby Public Transport Interchange has bus lines and taxis for easily getting around to other parts of Lantau.

For visitors who expect to see something more “genuine” and less “commercialized,” it is, by no means, an “old village.” Though built in the old traditional Chinese architectural designs to mirror and uphold the cultural and spiritual veracity of the Ngong Ping area, it has somewhat of a theme park atmosphere and this is what disappoints some visitors. Unless you need to eat (we had a late lunch here), this was an attraction not particularly worth spending time at.

Ngong Ping Village: 111 Ngong Ping Rd, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.cChinese New Year, Christmas and the three days of Buddha’s birthday are among the most crowded days.

How to Get There:  Ngong Ping Village is connected, via the Ngong Ping Cable Car, to the Tung Chung lower terminal which is linked via the Tung Chung Station MTR to the rest of Hong Kong.

 

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. The wax figure of the founder is at left

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong is part of the renowned chain of wax museums founded by outstanding French artist Marie Tussaud (1761-1850), well known all over the world for her wax products).  It was opened in 2000 at the second floor of the Peak Tower (on Victoria Peak) on Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong. Since its opening, it has drawn the attention of numerous visitors.

Bryan, Kyle and Cheska mixing it up with Bruce Lee

In September 2005, in an effort to bring an interactive and immersive entertainment experience to visitors, it began its renovation, at a cost of HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) and, on May 18, 2006, reopened, adding a further 700 sq. m. (7,500 sq. ft.) of exhibition space on three floors and five themed areas.

The late King of Pop Michael Jackson

Though this was my second visit to The Peak, it was only my first visit to this museum. Upon entry, we journeyed through each incredibly lifelike wax figure of “stars,” stopping to immerse ourselves with K-pop culture at K-wave Zone, practiced our kung fu moves with Bruce Lee at Kung Fu Zone, glammed it up with Taylor Swift and Madonna on stage, enjoy the patterned world of Yayoi Kusama, and took selfies with some of the world’s most respected historical and political leaders.

Yayoi Kusama

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this museum:

  • It is the first Madame Tussauds museum in Asia (the others are in Shanghai branch, which opened in 2006, and the third in Bangkok, which opened in 2010).
  • The museum houses over 100 wax likenesses of internationally known personalities and local celebrities to date, and 11 interactive zones.
  • Asian figures take up more than a third of the total (16 are Hong Kongers) and Asian celebrities and superstars have often graced the unveiling of their wax likenesses, with sizable groups of their fans tagging along.
  • The wax figures are featured in a range of themed settings such as Hong Kong Glamour, Music Icons, Historical and National Heroes, The Champions and World Premiere.
  • The figure of Miriam Yeung (well known for her fun-loving and bubbly personality), unveiled on November 2006, is the first in the world designed to giggle via in-built sensors.
  • The figure of Connie Chan Po-chu, unveiled on August 2006, was the first figure to appear in full Chinese regalia. The model’s costume was inspired by the musical Only You, set in the Yuan Dynasty, in which Chan formerly starred.
  • The figure of Bae Yong-joon, unveiled on May 2006, is the first Korean star to be included in a Madame Tussauds exhibition.
  • The figure of Andy Lau, unveiled on April 2005, was the first animatronic model that was crafted out of silicone rather than wax. Lau’s animatronic heartbeat was modeled on a similar system installed in a replica of Brad Pitt at Madame Tussauds Amsterdam.
  • In 2019, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will be the first Filipino to have her wax figure in Madame Tussauds Hong Kong.

Hong Kong celebrity Lee Lai Shan

Celebrities and historical figures from Hong Kong include Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Kelly Chen, Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Donnie Yen Ji-dan (added on April 30, 2010), Janice M. Vidal (added on July 18, 2007), Sandra NgLee Lai Shan, Andy Lau Te-wah, Leo Ku (added on April 4, 2007), Miriam Yeung, Sir Ka-shing Li, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen (added on April 7, 2008), Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, Joey Yung, Anita Mui Yim-fong and Leon Lai-ming.

Japanese sumo wrestler Chiyonofuji Mitsugu

Other Asian celebrities and historical figures include Lin Chi-ling, Jay Chou and Teresa Teng from Taiwan; Michelle Yeoh from Malaysia; Ayumi Hamasaki, Shigeru Yoshida and Chiyonofuji Mitsugu from Japan; Jet Li (added on September 28, 2010), Yao Ming, Liu Xiang, Connie Chan Po-chu, Sun Yat-sen (added on July 2007), Yang Liwei (added on July 2007), Li BingbingDeng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Mao Zedong (added on July 2007) and Hu Jintao from China; Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore; Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Sukarno (added on June 5, 2014) and Joko Widodo (added in 2017) from Indonesia; Amitabh Bachchan, Varun DhawanShah Rukh KhanMahatma Gandhi and Narendra Modi from India; and Bae Yong-joon, Suzy and Lee Jong-suk from South Korea.

India’s hero of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi

Chinese President Li Jin Ping and First Lady Peng Liyuan

Actors, actresses and directors on display include Angelina Jolie (added on September 27, 2007), Brad Pitt, Cher, Eddie Murphy, Audrey HepburnElizabeth Taylor, Mel Gibson, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Harrison Ford, Johnny DeppMacaulay Culkin, Marilyn Monroe, Vin Diesel, Benny Hill, Robert PattinsonPierce Brosnan, Anthony Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Gérard Depardieu, Hugh Grant, Joanna Lumley, Alfred Hitchcock, Bruce Lee and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Cheska with Angelina Jolie

David Beckham, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Stephen Curry,  and Ronaldinho (added on December 2007) represent the world of sports.

Tramcar at the Fashion Zone

The brand-new Fashion Zone, opened last July 10, 2017, consists of three themed areas (Backstage Studio, Billboard Superstar and Runway) and features features AR (Augmented Reality) technology.  On hand are the stars of the  catwalk Elle Macpherson, Kendall Jenner and Naomi Campbell as well as fashion designer Victoria Beckham.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova

David Beckham, Ronaldinho and Yao Ming

Animated World, officially launched in April 2017, brings together famous animated characters such as Yo-kai Watch, McDull and Madame Mak, Marvel Avenger superheroes (Hulk, Ironman and Spiderman), Hello Kitty and Balala the Fairies. 

Animated World: Jandy in the clutches of The Hulk

Iron Man with fan Jandy

Historical and national heroes from the Europe, U.S.A. and Africa  include Sir Winston Churchill, John Howard, Diana, Princess of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh; Elizabeth II; The Prince of Wales; The Princess Royal; The Duke of Cambridge (added on August 7, 2007) and William Shakespeare of the United Kingdom; Luciano Pavarotti of Italy; Nelson Mandela of South Africa; Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; Barack Obama (added on January 20, 2009) of the USA; Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia; Adolf Hitler of Germany; Pablo Picasso of Spain; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of Austria; Rembrandt van Rijn from The Netherlands; and Marie Tussaud herself.

The author seated between the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth

Music icons include Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Tina Turner, Twins, Westlife, G.E.M. and TVXQ. 

Grace as the fifth Beatle

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong:  Shop P101, Peak Tower, 128 Peak Rd., The Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong.  Tel: +852 2849 6966. Website: www.madametussauds.com/hong-kong. Open daily, 10 AM to 10 PM. Admission:s HK$140 (adults) and HK$70 (children aged between 3 and 11 years old).

How to Get There: Take bus 15C from Central Pier 8 or walk from MTR Central Station Exit J2 to take the Peak Tram from the Peak Tram Lower Terminus on Garden Road; or bus 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus (near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D); or minibus 1 from the public transport interchange at MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit E.

Hong Kong Space Museum (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong Space Museum

The Hong Kong Space Museum (Chinese: 香港太空館), a museum of astronomy and space science managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government, is one of the most famous and outstanding landmarks in Hong Kong. Conveniently located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront (next to Hong Kong Museum of Arts and HK Cultural Centre), Mr. Joseph Ming Gun Lee of the Public Works Department was the chief architect of the project.  Construction started in 1977 and the museum opened on October 8, 1980.

The planetarium and other equipment, worth HK$3,050,000, were purchased from the Carl Zeiss Company. With the aid of interesting hands-on exhibits and advanced equipment such as seats installed with multi-language and interactive systems, coupled with lighting effects and environmental decorations, the exhibition introduces astronomy and space science in a vivid approach.

The planetarium’s dome

The museum, occupying an area of 8,000 sq. m., has two wings.  The East Wing consists of the core of the museum’s popular planetarium, the first local planetarium for the popularization of astronomy and space science education and the first planetarium in the world to possess a fully automatic control system at its Stanley Ho Space Theatre (boasts the first OMNIMAX film projector in the eastern hemisphere) beneath it.

The planetarium’s rather unusual, easily recognizable and striking egg-shaped hemispherical projection dome, a famous landmark on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, has a diameter of 23 m.. Also beneath the planetarium is the Hall of the Cosmos, the Hall of Space Exploration, workshops and offices.

Hall of the Cosmos

There is also a mockup of the nose and cockpit section of the Space Shuttle orbiter.  The West Wing houses the Hall of Astronomy, a thematic exhibition hall on the first floor; the Lecture Hall; a gift shop and offices.

Hall of Space Exploration

The “Hall of the Cosmos” (showcases the Universe from near to far, travelling from the solar system that we are living in, to the stars, Milky Way and galaxies further away and exploring the science and evolution of the universe all along the way), on the ground floor, and “Hall of Space Exploration” (depicts the development of space exploration and space technology), on the first floor, covering a total area of 1,600 sq. m. (17,200 sq. ft.), houses a hundred exhibits, about 70% of which are interactive, enabling visitors to learn through a series of entertaining and educational experiences.

Stanley Ho Space Theatre

The museum houses a large collection of meteorites and offers an extensive range of activities for both adults and children, producing 2 planetarium shows as well as introducing some of the best foreign OMNIMAX and 3D Dome Shows productions, using the digital planetarium projection system, in Hong Kong.

The museum also organizes plenty of extension activities each year including Astronomy Carnival, Astronomy Happy Hours, fun science lab sessions, astronomy competitions, lectures and astronomy film shows, etc.

Hong Kong Space Museum: 10 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha TsuiHong Kong.  Tel:+852 2721 0226. Website: hk.space.museum. Open Mondays –Fridays, 1 – 9 PM; Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, 10 AM – 9 PM; closed on Tuesdays, the first two days of the Chinese New Year and at 5 PM on Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Admission: HK$10 (standard). Concession (HK$5) is applicable to full-time students, people with disability (and one accompanying minder) and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Children under 3 years old will not be admitted. Free admission on Wednesdays (visitors are required to queue on site for admission by session). Full-time students and museum pass holders are eligible for free admission to the exhibition halls and need not purchase tickets, but are required to book the admission session online before the visit (except Wednesdays). Booking will be available within one week of the visit.

How to Get There: Take the MTR to get to Tsim Sha Tsui Station. Get out of the station through Exit E and cross the road. Walk 150 m. to Salisbury Road. You’ll see the museum across the road. Then use subway to cross Salisbury Road. When you exit the subway, walk a little along Salisbury Garden. You can also take MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui Station.  Get out through Exit J, then walk about 10 mins. to the museum. Via Star Ferry Pier, from Central or Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui, walk for approximately 10 mins. to the museum.

Heritage of Cebu Monument (Cebu City, Cebu)

Heritage of Cebu Monument

The Heritage of Cebu Monument, a visually and contextually interesting tableau of concrete, bronze, brass and steel sculptures in the historic Parian District, shows scenes of significant and symbolic events in the history of Cebu back from the time of Rajah Humabon to the recent beatification of the Cebuano martyr, Pedro Calungsod.

Battle of Mactan

It was built on the site of the St. John the Baptist Church which was demolished in 1875 by the diocese of Cebu.  This work of art stands on a traffic circle, with narrow streets flanking the sides. Across the street is the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House.

Check out “Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

Galleon Trade

The late, multi-awarded Cebuano sculptor Eduardo Castrillo designed and conceptualized the monument and, with the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, together with donations from other private individuals and organizations, funded the construction of the monument.

Plaque

Construction began in July 1997 and, after three years, the monument was inaugurated on December 8, 2000.

Magellan’s Cross

The structures carved into the huge monolith are the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the St. John the Baptist Church, the Magellan’s Cross, and a Spanish Galleon while scenes depicted are the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his followers to Christianity, the local revolution against the Spanish rule, a procession of the Santo Niño, a Roman Catholic mass, and the April 21, 1521 Battle of Mactan between Lapu-Lapu and Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The persons depicted in the monument include the late president Sergio Osmena Sr. and St. Pedro Calungsod.

Spanish Galleon

Heritage of Cebu Monument: Sikatuna St., Plaza Parian, Cebu City, Cebu.

How to Get There: Jeepneys along Colon Street, with the signboard showing “SM” and “Pier,” pass by the monument. You may also take a taxicab as most drivers are familiar with the place. From Ayala Center or SM, it is a 15-20 min. taxi ride.

The Jesuit House (Cebu City, Cebu)

The author at The Jesuit House

The grand opening of One Central Hotel & Suites had just ended and, as we still had a little over an hour to make it to the Jesuit House (claimed to be the oldest dated house in the Philippines), Rona, Rhea and I took a taxi to quickly get there. However, the driver only spoke Cebuano, which none of us spoke, and, coupled with that, didn’t know the destination.  But, thanks to Waze, we were able to make our way there.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: One Central Hotel & Suites

The entrance to the Jesuit House (also called Museo de Parian sa Sugbo) was through the main gate of Ho Tong Hardware along Zulueta Street. A streamer, with the words “Welcome To The Jesuit House of 1730,” hangs on the hardware gate. Most people, including us, would probably  have just passed by the area, ignorant of the historical treasure inside as a towering fence, built to protect it from theft (it still is a warehouse for the present owner’s business),  hides the house from street view.

At the office, we paid the admission fee and waited, at the adjoining coffee shop, for museum curator Christian Joseph Bonpua who was to guide us through the museum. The knowledgeable and versatile Christian was well versed in the history of the Jesuits in relation to the Philippines (considering he was a graduate of the Dominican-run University of Sto. Tomas), sharing a lot of historical and current facts. 

Museum curator Christian Joseph Bonpua

He  presented a birds eye view of the history of the Jesuit house during the Spanish and American periods of history via a video presentation.  The Jesuit House is actually two houses connected by a bridge.

“Ano de 1730” plaque atop the entrance (photo: Ms. Rhea Vitto-Tabora)

During our guided tour, Christian pointed to a low relief plaque, bearing the date “Año 1730,” on the inside wall above the main house’s entrance door, an artifact in itself. However, the house’s history remains murky, even contentious.  Some historians argue over the exact year of the house’s construction, some saying that the date on the relief plaque was not 1730 but 1750, pointing out that the third number from the left resembled “5” more than “3.” One piece of evidence hints that the house was built even earlier.

Airconditioned ground floor gallery

In his book Pictorial Records and Traces of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines and Guam prior to 1768, published in 1936, Fr. William Repetti, S.J. (1884-1966), a seismologist (he was Chief of the Section of Seismology and Terrestrial Magnetism of the Manila Observatory, 1920 to 1936) and archivist of the Jesuits, noted the existence of this house, identifying this old structure as the “Jesuit House of 1730.”

It is also widely believed that a tower once stood beside the house. An old, badly damaged painting of the house showed that it was attached to what is believed to be a watchtower for spotting seafaring raiders. In his book, Fr. Repetti also included a reproduction of this old painting of the house. Today, pictures of Fr. Repetti’s visit as well as a framed drawing of that painting hangs on the Jesuit house wall.

However, recent restoration works proved that the house could even be older than 1730. A coin, found buried in one post of the original house, was dated to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).  Broken ceramics, also pointing to the Ming Dynasty, were also dug out.

Display of pottery shards

It gives the idea that the house may have gone through a number of transformations and that its first owner may  have been Chinese (the Chinese were among the early settlers in the area). In her book Life in Old Parian, memoirist Concepcion G. Briones happily noted that the house has now come full circle – somehow it is back to Old Parian hands (as the current owner is Filipino-Chinese).

Japanese porcelain shards

Chinese influence in the house construction can be seen in rafters that feature a design resembling a pagoda plus the intricate carvings on the trusses also show that Chinese artisans may have worked on it.  Sy believes the Jesuit house is even older than the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House because its second level, like the ground floor, is still made of cut coral stones, indicating it was built before a Spanish decree disallowed this practice.

Statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The decree, indicating that the second level of all houses should be made of wood, was made to prevent the loss of life after a number of houses using coral stone on both floors were destroyed and many lives were lost during a strong earthquake.

Check out “Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

The remarkably preserved house, sitting on around 2,000 sq. m. of land, served as the residence of the second highest official of the Jesuit society in the Philippines.  Other priests of the order or deacons going to or coming from other provinces for missions were also received here. Historians say that the Jesuits were indeed in possession of the house until 1768 when, following their suppression in Europe, they were expelled from the Philippines. The Jesuits are credited to have introduced masonry construction to the Philippines.

Old movie projector

In 1910, after having been built and occupied by the Jesuits, this huge stone-and-tile mansion bordered by two streets on a lot in old Panting, adjacent to Parian, was bought by Don Luis Alvarez y Diaz, the Alvarez family patriarch.  The Alvarez family, originally from Asturias (Spain), settled in Cebu via Lawis, Leyte.

Scaled model of a Chinese junk

Who Don Luis brought it from is still mystery but, based on a lead provided by Edwina Link-Harris (Don Luis’ granddaughter), it is surmised that it may have been from Don Cristobal Garcia, a Spaniard and a Tabacalera agent of the then municipality of Cebu who returned to Spain. At one point in time, Don Jose Alvarez leased the house to Gov. Sergio Osmeña who used it as a meeting place for Cebu’s elite. The Alvarez family are the current owners of Montebello Villa Hotel.

Diorama of the the old Parian area, showing the now non-existent Church of St. John the Baptist, the Jesuit House and other landmarks.

During World War II, the house was also used by the American forces.  In the 1960s, the house was leased to Peping “Jap” Rodriguez, an Alvarez kinsman, for use as a club. Within the decade it again changed hands, this time going to the Sy family. Jaime “Jimmy” Sy, the current owner, inherited the property from his father.  Jimmy, who operates Ho Tong Hardware, is married to the former Margie Vaño of the Old Guard, related to the Sanson-Velosos, the Coromina-Fortiches, and the Escaños.

Stairs to second floor

Dr. Michael Cullinane (associate director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies), an American historian on the Philippines, has a different version of the house’s history. Unearthing the earliest record on the house, he revealed that it once belonged to the pious Villa family of the Chinese mestizo principalia (local aristocracy). Around 1880, the Villas gave the house to the Jesuits on certain conditions, including one on the dedication of specific prayers for living and dead members of the family.

Azotea

Jimmy questioned this claim, saying that, even before 1880, the house was already in the possession of the Jesuits as indicated on the Jesuit seals, carved in two separate places in the house, which are definitely in the 18th-century style, as well as the legend “1730,” which is definitely in 18th-century calligraphy. Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ, a Jesuit art historian and professor based at the Ateneo de Manila, supports Jimmy on his contention as the Jesuit presence in Cebu was not reestablished until the erection of Our Lady Queen of China, Sacred Heart Parish in 1952, debunking the 1880 deed.

The two-storey house, along the defunct main entrance on narrow Binakayan Street, has cut coral stone walls with original molave (tugas) hardwood floors of alternating planks of dark and light shades, carved decorative corbels that support the ceiling, stout posts made from the trunks of trees, and a terracotta clay tile roof (a double row of tiles, with each row with a tile atop the other, facing down and cupped by a single tile facing up in the kulob-hayang pattern).

Antique sala set and television

The ground-level interior space (zaguan) has terracotta flooring.  It has 3 m. high ceilings and big door and window openings. Its second floor is connected, by a covered wooden walkway, to a smaller house.  The smaller house is the building we entered. A bipartite building, the smaller house’s lower storey is of coralline limestone while the upper portion is wood, typical of Fil-Hispano colonial houses.

Antique cash register

Antique typewriter, cameras and telephones

According to a 1989 essay written by Fr.  Javellana, the smaller house is believed to have served as an azotea or recreation area.  Another possible explanation, according to Sy, for why this structure was built separately but close to the main house and connected to it at the second level through a wooden bridge, is that it could have functioned as a kitchen situated outside of the house in case of fire.

Jukebox

This house annex, though still retaining its original wood reliefs, the corbels that support the ceiling, the huge, uncut tugas posts and big planks of tugas floorboards lined side by side, already has a galvanized iron roof and renovated modern walls. The presence of disjointed smaller corbels indicates that the ceiling was much higher today than when it was first built.

Tugas (molave) post and coralstone wall at second floor

The original wooden staircase leading up to the livable space on the second floor, described by Fr. Repetti as having a newel post and decorated with intricate carvings or motifs (similar to the monastery of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño), is also gone. It is said that, when they left, the Alvarez family brought the banister and post with them and used these in a house they had built in Bohol.

A towering concrete fence, resting on the original fence of coral stone (said to be older than the house), hides the house from street view. The original entrance to the property, through a narrow road called Binakayan near Colon, has been closed off to protect, on the gate’s lintel, the monograms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Though the Sys do not live in the house anymore, they turned the house into a semi-public museum in 2008, making it as a repository of antique furniture and other items (including a jukebox, old GE electric fan and an antique payphone) they’ve collected over the years, thus preserving it as a testament to Cebu’s rich cultural heritage.

Kitchen

In addition to the antiques collected by the Sy family, the museum also features a diorama showing the house during the Spanish era as well as the old furniture owned by the previous owners and items (Ming Dynasty coins, pottery shards, animal bones, etc.) that were unearthed at the location and displayed at the airconditioned ground floor gallery.

Cross at fence

Typical of its time, everything about the house was generous, almost grand and made to last generations. Even with the clutter of warehouse items, the innate importance of the Jesuit House was immediately apparent to us visitors.

Bas relief at the coralstone fence

The Jesuit House: Hotong Hardware, 26 Zulueta St., Brgy. Parian, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu. Tel: (032) 255 5408.  Admission: PhP50/pax (PhP15 for students). Open daily, 8 AM – 12 noon and 1 – 5 PM.  The museum is one of the stops of the annual Gabii sa Kabilin where locals and visitors alike can take a tour of the rich heritage of Cebu City.

How to Get There: The Jesuit House, across the Heritage of Cebu Monument built right on the old Parian plaza, is a few steps away from the obelisk that marks the start of Colon Street at its northern end. Taxi drivers may not be familiar with the Jesuit house so just say you want to go to the Parian Fire Station, which is 10-15 mins. away from Fuente Osmena.  From Ayala Center, take a 13C jeepney and drop off at the Heritage of Cebu Monument. From Colon, take the 01K jeepney and also drop off the monument. 

Casa Gorordo Museum (Cebu City, Cebu)

The author in front of Casa Gorordo Museum

From the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, Rhea, Rona, Javelyn and I walked the short 140 m., via Eduardo Aboitiz St., to the Casa Gorordo Museum.  Upon entry, we first registered ourselves at the museum office and paid the PhP120 per pax admission fee.

Check out “Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

As a guided tour was still ongoing, we waited for our turn at a patio that now serves as an airconditioned waiting room for visitors, its furniture partially made of bamboo.

Visitors Waiting Room

Near the patio is the zaguan, the old basement storage area for crops and livestock.  After a few minutes our guide arrived in the person of museum curator Florencio Moreno II who explained the rooms and the artifacts.

Javelyn, Rona and Rhea with museum curator Florencio Moreno II

Located at the middle of the historic Parian District, this historic, two-storey, former bahay na bato (a typical architectural type during the Spanish colonial period) was built in the 1850s and was originally owned by Alejandro Reynes y Rosales.  In 1863, it was bought by Juan Isidro Gorordo, a Spanish merchant.

Plaque installed by National Historical Institute

According to historian Resil Mojares (author of the book “Casa Gorordo in Cebu: Urban Residence in a Philippine Province 1860-1920”), four generations of the Gorordo family, from 1863 to 1979, have lived in this house, including Bishop Juan Perfecto Gorordo y Garces (1862 to 1934), the first Filipino bishop of Cebu.

Portrait of Cebu Bishop Juan Gorordo

In 1980, it was acquired by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI). Between 1980 and 1981, after it was acquired by RAFI, the house underwent extensive renovation and restoration works and, on December 15, 1983, was officially opened to the public as a museum. On September 24, 1991, Casa Gorordo Museum was designated as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute.

Paintings and Farming Implements

In 2005, to replace aging elements, a major second renovation was undertaken. In late 2013, it was again closed to give way to an enhancement project and reopened to the public on November 2016 with an upgrade aimed at elevating visitors’ experience by incorporating more interactive presentations and digital technology.

1939 Schwinn Mead Ranger Bicycle

The museum is maintained by RAFI through its Culture and Heritage Unit. The foundation aims to promote, through the museum, the importance of history and culture to the kids and millennials. RAFI also continued the house traditions of the Gorordo family, which include the Sinug sa Casa Gorordo (the original Sinulog steps done a day after the festival’s grand parade), the Kuwaresma procession, Pista ni San Juan and the display of the Gorordo Belen.

Mobility in Early 20th Century

The house, surviving two turbulent revolutionary conflicts and the Second World War, showcases mid-19th century and early 20th century Philippine culture and lifestyle.  It has an enriched artifact collection reflecting the lifestyle of Cebuanos from the late 1800s to the pre-World War II years.

Courtyard

It has a courtyard, a terra-cotta tile roof with Chinese upturned eaves, bayong (mahogany) wood sidings, ground floor with coral stone blocks (glued with egg whites), tugas (molave) and narra hardwood flooring and capiz windows.

1860s Tankard

1880s Flat Iron

The stonewalled ground floor displays contemporary paintings by Cebuano artists; miniature furniture sets; a 1939 Schwinn Mead Ranger bicycle; an 1860s tankard, an 1880s flat iron (plantsa); a corn mill (gilingan ng mais); models of vehicles used in Cebu; ceramics; pottery; eighteenth and nineteenth century agricultural implements (plow, tools, etc.) and other household objects such as a duwang (a large hardwood basin), four big palo-palo, clothes wringers and dryers, and a wooden for ironing clothes.

Miniature Furniture Set

Now an interactive museum mixing a little bit of old and new, Moreno also showed us a 3D virtual map (the only one in the city that has this map), an interactive exhibit that showcases the history of Cebu City from 1614 to 1945.

Mini Theater

At the mini-theater which can accommodate 30 to 40 people, we were shown a short, 10-min. film that traces the development of the payag or bahay kubo (native house) to become the balay nga tisa (house with clay tiled roof) such as Casa Gorordo. There’s also a diorama of Cebu’s social life with prominent families, originally from or linked to Cebu’s Parian district, listed.

Interactive Exhibit of Prominent Cebuanos in Old Parian

After a short flight of four stone steps which ends in a descanso (landing), we went up a higher flight of wooden stairs with banisters that lead us to a caida (anteroom) and the sala (living room) fronting the street and flanked by two bedrooms.

Stairs leading to the second floor

Intricate wood carvings on the ceiling divide the house into function rooms. The sala has rattan sets and Vienna chairs, cabinets and tables.

Second floor living area

The bedrooms have canopied, four-poster beds, made of narra or molave, with delicate carvings; rocking chair and baby crib.

Master’s Bedroom

Ladies’ Room

The Ladies’ bedroom has a crescent moon-shaped mirror said to bring good luck.

Crescent-shaped mirror of Ladies’ Room

The library has old photographs of Cebu during the early American era, books (including faded copies of Rizal’s novels) and an old globe with the former names of countries.

Old globe with the former names of countries at Library

The office has nineteenth century period furniture.

Comedor (Dining Area)

The comedor (long dining hall) showcases gold and silver kubiertos (silverware), antique plates and tazas (cups).

China Cabinet

The kitchen, with American colonial fixtures, also has eighteenth century water jars and cooking utensils.

American-era, ceramic Berkefeld Water Filter at kitchen

There’s also a chapel as Juan Gorordo, the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu, was one of the house occupants.

Chapel

Prior to leaving the museum, Rona, Rhea and I engaged in some cosplay by having our “period photos” taken, at a photo studio (obviously a late addition), wearing period costumes.

Victor gramophone

Other interesting items include a giant grandfather clock, a Victor gramophone and an 1890 Singer Sewing machine.

Azotea (Patio)

The second floor also has an unusual trellised azotea (patio), overlooking the garden (where there’s a deep but not functioning well), with 80-year old flower vines (called the “Bridal Bouquet”).

The unused well at the courtyard

Recently, the patio has been the venue for book launchings and lectures.

Museum Shop

Across the patio is a museum shop (which also underwent enhancement) that sells Casa Gorordo Museum-branded merchandise that cannot be bought from other stores.  From here, a stairs leads down to a ground floor coffee shop.

Museum Cafe

Casa Gorordo Museum: 35 Lopez Jaena St., Cebu City, Cebu. Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 AM to 12 noon and 2 to 6 PM.  Closed on Mondays and holidays. The museum offers different informal guided tour packages, ranging from P120 to P180. The P180 rate will include a tour guide, free use of tablets (to scan the QR codes affixed to the items on exhibit, which give more detailed information), free earphones, a booklet, a souvenir item, and a free drink at the museum cafe.  A 20% discount is given to senior citizens, students (13 to 18 years of age), and undergraduate college students. Tel: (032) 411-1767 (RAFI Culture and Heritage Unit) and (032) 418-7234 loc. 532.  E-mail: rafi.chu@rafi.org.ph. Facebook page: RAFI-Casa Gorordo Museum.

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House (Cebu City, Cebu)

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

After breakfast at One Central Hotel, we still had time to kill before the 1 PM grand opening of the hotel, so I, together with lady media colleagues Maria Rona Beltran, Rhea G. Vitto-Tabora and Javelyn J. Ramos, decided to do some museum sightseeing.  Outside the hotel, we hailed a jeepney that took us to the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, part of the Casa Gorordo Museum Complex.

Check out “Casa Gorordo Museum”

After paying the PhP50 admission fee to a lady receptionist clad in old Filipiniana dress and logging our names in the visitors’ logbook, we were toured around the house by a well-versed guide.

L-R: Ms. Maria Rona Beltran, Ms. Rhea G. Vitto-Tabora, Ms. Javelyn J. Ramos and the author

The Spanish-Colonial era Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, in Cebu City’s Parian District (founded in 1590 after the arrival of Chinese traders), is said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China.

Listening to our guide explaining the history of the house

Often referred to by the locals as the Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy (“House of Wood and Stones”), this ancestral house was built, sometime between 1675 and 1700, and is considered as one of the oldest existing residential structures in the country and a proof that the Parian district in Cebu City was a bustling barangay where houses are often designed with a second storey.

The house was originally owned by Don Juan Yap, a Chinese merchant, together with his wife, Doña Maria Florido.  They had three children, namely: Maria, Eleuterio and Consolacion.

Portrait of house owners Val and Ofelia Sandiego

In the 1880’s, their eldest daughter, Maria Florido Yap, married Don Mariano Avendano San Diego from Obando, Bulacan, who was, at that time, the Parian’s cabeza de barangay (district head). Since then, the structure had become a busy center of activity in Parian.

In 2008, the house was handed down to the aforementioned Val Mancao San Diego, Doña Maria’s 10th generation great great grandson, and his wife Ofelia Zozobrado-San Diego.

An art collector, one of Cebu’s famous choreographers and a heritage icon, Val believe that this ancestral house was part of Cebu’s history and heritage so he carefully restored his ancestor’s home and turned it into a private museum.

Fine china

And though there have been offers to buy the house from him, he still continues to ignore such proposals and vows never to sell this historical house in his lifetime, no matter what the offer is.

Religious statuary

Though Val and his family don’t live in this house, every so often, during weekends, they still come over to stay at the house. This ancestral house was been featured in the book Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia of noted Chinese cultural historian Ronald G. Knapp (2010, Tuttle Publishing)

An antique harp

This 2-storey house, its design combining Spanish and Chinese architectural influences, has a ground floor built with coral stone, glued with egg whites, and a second floor built with tugas (molave) and balayong wood. The curving roof was made of tisa (red terra cotta clay tiles) from China, each piece weighing 1 kilogram.

Four-poster beds

Outside is a beautiful garden (a boat from the 1800s is currently being used as a flower bed) and a still functional old well (its water is only used for the plants).

The beautiful garden

The ground floor was unpaved (since it was only used as a warehouse or kamalig) but, before we ascended the second floor’s creaking staircase, we had to wear shoe cover booties to protect the hardwood floor upstairs from scratches.

Stairway

The house was filled with well-crafted life-sized statues, religious icons and images of santos, especially of the Sto. Niño (including one sitting on a rocking chair) and angels, in every size and material imaginable (the family was known to be deeply religious).

Dining Area

There’s also an impressive array of new contemporary and ancient artworks; priceless, century-old antique pieces; a wooden harp; fine china and cutlery; antique décor; clay jars for storing water and Cebuano-made native period furniture made of balayong, tugas and narra.

Most the old items which were preserved here came from Carcar, Cebu. The front door has a knocker that came from a Chinese temple.

The bedroom had a four-poster bed and a wooden baby crib. Also at the second floor is a banggerahan with its rack for drinking glasses and cups. Having survived natural calamities and earthquakes, the house has retained over 90% of the original structure.

Yap Sandiego Ancestral House: 155-Lopez Jaena corner Mabini St., 6000 Parian District, Cebu City, Cebu. Open daily, 9 AM – 7 PM. Admission: PhP50 per person.  Tel: (032) 514-3002, 514-3003 or 253-5568. Facebook: www.facebook.com/Yap-Sandiego-Ancestral-House-214835631903226/

How to Get There: From Marina Mall, ride a multicab or jeepney that carries a ‘highway’ signage and tell the driver to drop you off at Maguikay. From there, ride any Mandaue jeepney (with a “Catedral” or “Colon” signage) that will take you to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral or Colon Street. Upon reaching these landmarks, The Yap-San Diego Ancestral House is just a walk away. At SM Cebu or near Radisson Blu Hotel, you can ride a jeep with 01K code. Go down at Shamrock and take a short walk to the right where you’ll find the Parian Plaza and its Heritage of Cebu Monument. The house is just a few steps away from it.

Check out “Heritage of Cebu Monument