Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong Cultural Center

The Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Chinese: 香港文化中心), a multipurpose performance facility, is one of the most iconic cultural buildings in the city.  Together with the adjacent historic historic Clock Tower,  they are tourist favorites for grabbing photos of Victoria Harbor.

The center is located on the southwestern tip of Tsim Sha Tsui, on the former location of the Kowloon Station of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. Adjacent to the centre on the west is the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier of the Star Ferry, while to the east are the Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Check out “Hong Kong Space Museum

Built and operated by the former Urban Council , its construction was started in 1986 and the venue was officially opened on November 8, 1989, in a ceremony officiated by Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana who unveiled a commemorative plaque.

Auditoria Building

The center opened with the International Celebration of the Arts, a special program that ran from November 5 to December 6.  The program showcased Hong Kong musicians, Kunju opera, Cantonese music and performances by a range of international artists including the Cologne Opera, the Alban Berg QuartettSadao Watanabe, and the first Hong Kong appearance of guitarist John Williams.

Studio Theatre

Since 2000, it has been administered by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government.  Today, this curved and concave shaped building is the go-to venue for a wide variety of cultural performances such as international touring theatre shows, world-class concerts, opera and performances. The trademark beige bricks of the building also make it a popular background for wedding photo shoots.

The 2,019-seat Concert Hall, the home of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, is an oval two-tiered auditorium.  The acoustics in the Concert Hall are often praised for elevating any musical performances thanks to its high quality oak panels and ceiling.

It includes an adjustable acoustic canopy and curtains and houses an 8,000-pipe, 93-stop pipe organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in Asia.  Built by Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau at the cost of $10 million, it was installed from August to November in 1989.  It has been recorded by Christopher Herrick on Organ Fireworks VIII.

The Grand Theatre, designed for large scale opera, ballet, and musicals, has 1,734 seats in three tiers. The annual Hong Kong Film Award presentation ceremony also takes place there. The Studio Theatre, with 300 to 496 seats (depending upon the set-up), can accommodate smaller-scale theatre and performance works.  The center also has an Exhibition Gallery, 4 foyer exhibition areas and 11 rehearsal and practice rooms.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre: L5, Auditoria Building, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2734 2009. Website: www.lcsd.gov.hk.

How to Get There: The centre is adjacent to the Star Ferry Pier (you can also take the Star Ferry from Central or Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui and walk to the centre) and the Star Ferry bus terminus served by Kowloon Motor Bus. It is also within walking distance to Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit E) and East Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit L6 or J), which serve the Tsuen Wan Line and West Rail Line respectively.

 

Meiji Jingu Shrine (Tokyo, Japan)

The Meiji Jingu Shrine

As we delved deeper into Yoyogi Park, we soon came across the entrance to the Meiji Shrine. Located directly in front of the entrance to the shrine was the temizuya (font), a cleansing station where visitors used wooden ladles to spiritually cleanse themselves by pouring water over their hands (left before right) and rinse mouths with their left hand.

The temizuya (hand wash pavilion)

The Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji Jingū), the largest and one of the Japan’s most popular Shinto shrines, is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (the shrine, however, does not contain the emperor’s grave, which is located at Fushimi-momoyama, south of Kyoto) and his wife and consort, Empress Shōken.

Torii (Japanese gate) at the entrance of the Meiji Jingu Shrine.  Devotees usually bow once here upon entering and exiting the shrine.

After the emperor’s death in 1912, the Japanese Diet passed a resolution to commemorate his role in the Meiji Restoration, choosing an iris garden, in an area of Tokyo where Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken had been known to visit, as the building’s location. The building of the shrine, a national project, mobilized youth groups and other civic associations from throughout Japan, who contributed labor and funding. In 1915, construction began under Itō Chūta.

The Minami-Shinmon Gate

The shrine, built in the traditional nagare-zukuri style, primarily uses Japanese cypress and copper. On November 1, 1920, eight years after the passing of the emperor and six years after the passing of the empress, it was formally dedicated and completed in 1921.  Its grounds were officially finished by 1926. Until 1946, the Meiji Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社), meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.

The author at Minami-Shinmon Gate

During the Tokyo air raids of World War II, the original building was destroyed and the present iteration of the shrine was funded through a public fund raising effort and completed in October 1958. The shrine has been visited by numerous foreign politicians, including U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Kyle, Grace and Jandy in front of the Honden (Main Hall)

The entrance to the shrine complex, marked by a massive torii gate (one of the largest in Japan) in the Myojin style, constructed from a more than 1,500 year old hinoki (Japanese cypress from Taiwan), leads through the Jingu Bashi bridge. Upon entry into the shrine grounds, the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest and Meiji Jingu’s buildings, at the middle of the forest, that have an air of tranquility distinct from the surrounding city.

A lady worshiper praying at the Main Hall. In front of her is an offertory box where coins are dropped

Visitors to the shrine can take part in typical Shinto activities – making offerings at the main hall, buying charms and amulets, writing out one’s wish on an ema (piece of paper) and tying them on a prayer wall, etc. On the first days of the New Year, Japanese usually visit a Shinto shrine to prepare for the Hatsumōde (初詣), the year’s first prayers, and the shrine is the most popular location in Tokyo for this, regularly welcoming more than three million visitors. During the rest of the year, traditional Shinto weddings can often be seen taking place there.

Visitors shopping for omamori (lucky charms, talismans and amulets for all kinds of occasions) or ofuda (emblems bearing the name of the shrine or enshrined deities distributed by the shrine)

The shrine itself is composed of two major areas – the Naien and the Gaien. The Naien, the inner precinct, is centered on the shrine buildings, dating from 1958. The buildings, all great example of Japanese Shinto architecture, are made from Japanese cypress wood from the Kiso region of Nagano (regarded as the best in Japan) with green cooper plates used for the roofs.

Interior of the main hall

It consists of the honden (The Main Hall, the main shrine building proper and the innermost sanctuary of the shrine), noritoden (The Prayer Recital Hall where Shinto liturgy is recited), naihaiden (The Inner Shrine Hall), gehaiden (The Outer Shrine Hall), shinsenjo (the consecrated kitchen for the preparation of the food offerings) and shinko (The Treasure House).

A prayer wall where ema are hung on hooks. An ema is a wooden tablet, obtained at the juyosho (amulet offices), where wishes are written.  There are two main types of ema – Kigan-Ema (bear the crest of the shrine on their front and the word Kigan on their back) and the Eto-Ema (depicting this year’s Eto  or zodiac).

The Treasure House, at the northern end of the shrine grounds, was built in the Azekurazukuri style one year after the shrine was opened.  It displays many interesting personal belongings of the Emperor and Empress, including the carriage which the emperor rode to the formal declaration of the Meiji Constitution in 1889. The Museum Annex Building, just to the east of the main shrine buildings, displays temporary exhibitions.

Kaguraden (Hall of Shinto Music and Dance). Goshuin (Meiji Jingu Memorial Seal), to remind you of your visit to Meiji Jingu,  are stamped and hand-painted here.

The quite beautiful, simple and classic Minami-shin Mon, the main shrine gate to the inner precinct, was built in 1921.  Made entirely of Japanese cypress, it has a copper plate roof. You reach it upon passing the final myojin torii gate. This gate and one of the amulet offices (shukueisha) were the only constructions in Meiji Shrine not destroyed by the World War II raids.

The reception and registration area of the Kaguraden Hall

The Kaguraden (Hall of Shinto Music and Dance), built to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Meiji Jingu, was started in 1990 and completed in October 1993. This 3-storey building (one floor is above the ground and the other two floors below ground level) follows the traditional Irimoya-Nagarezukuri architectural style The front entrance, with the reception and registration area, is slightly below ground level. One flight of stairs leads down, and another flight of stairs leads up to the waiting area and the hall for ceremonies.

The Gaien, the outer precinct, includes the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery (housing a collection of 80 large murals illustrative of the events in the lives of the Emperor and his consort); a variety of sports facilities, including the National Stadium (Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium and later, since 1956, on the same site, Tokyo Olympic Stadium); the Meiji Kinenkan (Meiji Memorial Hall).  The latter, originally used for governmental meetings (including discussions surrounding the drafting of the Meiji Constitution in the late 19th century), is now used for Shinto weddings as well as meeting rooms for rent and restaurants services.

The Meiji-jingu Gyoen (Inner Garden), a large area of the southern section of the shrine grounds, becomes particularly popular during the middle of June when the beautiful irises here are in bloom. Kiyomasa’s Well, a small well located within the garden visited by the Emperor and Empress while they were alive, was named after a military commander who dug it around 400 years ago. The well has become a popular spiritual “power spot.”

Meiji Shrine: 1-1, Kamizono-chō, YoyogiShibuya-kuTokyo 151-0053.  Open daily, from sunrise to sunset.  Admission to the shrine precinct is free. The Inner Garden, open from 9 AM to 5 PM, requires an entrance fee of JP¥500 to enter.

How to Get There: From JR Tokyo Station, get on the Yamanote Line and get off at the busy Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Lines. It is about a 25 minute train ride. The approach to Meiji Shrine starts a few steps from Harajuku Station.  The main complex of shrine buildings is a 10-min. walk from both the southern entrance near Harajuku Station and the northern entrance near Yoyogi Station.

The Kabuki-sa (Tokyo, Japan)

Kabuki-za (Kabuki Theater)

The fifth building on the site, it was first built as a wooden structure in 1889 but this was destroyed by an electrical fire on October 30, 1921.  Reconstruction began in 1922 but had not been completed when it again burned down during the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake.

Rebuilding was finally completed in 1924. Destroyed once again by the 1945 Allied bombing during World War II, the theater was restored in 1950, preserving the style of 1924 reconstruction.  It was, until recently, one of Tokyo’s more dramatic and traditional buildings.

The author

In the spring of 2010, the 1950 structure was demolished, due to concerns over the building’s ability to survive earthquakes as well as accessibility issues, and rebuilt over the ensuing three years. The new theater complex was opened on March 28, 2013 and staged its first performances on April 2, 2013.

Grace and Jandy

The new structure, designed by Japanese architect  Kengo Kuma (whose works include Tokyo’s Suntory Museum of Art and the Nezu Museum), kept the style of the 1924 structure which was in the Wafu-Momoyama style (with its signature extravagant façade), an ornate Baroque Japanese Revivalist style meant to evoke the architectural details of Japanese castles as well as temples of pre-Edo period.

The Kabuki-sa Tower looming over the theater facade

While the theater still looks much the same as in 1924, it now has the attached 29-floor Kabukiza Tower office block looming over it. The office building’s fifth floor gallery displays Kabuki costumes and props that have been used in actual performances as well as other culture-related exhibitions.

The theater’s ticket booth

The theater, consisting of three floors, has 1,808 seats, three height-adjustable stages, of varying sizes, as well as an even larger height-adjustable stage and a new revolving stage. Performances are held most days of the month.  If you aren’t sure about committing to an entire show, you can purchase single-act tickets (Hitomaku-mi) for  ¥1,000-¥2,000.

Kabukiza Theater: 4 Chome-12-15 Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan. Tel: 03-3545-6800.  Website: www.kabuki-bito.jp.

How to Get There: The theater is a short walk from Higashi-Ginza Station Exit 3 on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line or the Toei Subway Asakusa Line.

Church of Our Lady of the Purification (Binmaley, Pangasinan)

Church of Our Lady of Purification

This church, once the largest church in the province during the latter part of the 19th century, was first constructed in the 16th century but burned down in 1745. The succeeding brick church, built towards the west of the former, was begun by Fr. Jose Salvador in 1747 finished by Fr. Francisco Barroso, OP, in 1754.

The right side of the church with some of the original brick facing now exposed

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged (only the walls and the partly damaged bell tower were left after shelling by American warships from January 7-9, 1945) and later rebuilt.

The 5-storey bell tower on the church’s right

AUTHOR’S NOTES:

This church’s 3-level, relatively simple Baroque brick (now plastered over) façade has  semicircular arched main entrance, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the first level; and a semicircular arched statued niche, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the second level.

On display in front of the church is a huge 1880 bell that bears the logo Fundicion de Metales de Santos Supangco.

The segmental pediment, separated from the second level by 3 rows of cornices, has a recessed octagonal window (above which is a cornice and a centrally located seal in the tympanumflanked by smaller, recessed octagonal windows. The huge scrolls flowing down from the base of the pediment are typical of the Italian Baroque style.

The 1880 church bell on display outside the church

The 5-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s right, has blind semicircular arched recesses (canopied with triangular segments), at the the first 3 storeys, and semicircular arched open windows at the receding upper levels.  It has 3 bells. One bell, weighing 4,130 pounds and cast in 1804, was once of the three biggest bells in the Philippines.

The main altar and retablo

The church measures 94 m. long and 16.8 m. wide. Juan Fuentes y Yepes, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia, is buried here.  The 35 m. long  transept has a high dome with 4 windows and is supported by 8 elegant columns with Composite capitals. The interior also houses 5 exquisite altars.

The church’s dome

Church of Our Lady of the Purification: Urdaneta Junction, Dagupan–Binmaley Road, Poblacion, Binmaley 2417. Tel: (075) 540-0047.  Feast of Our Lady of Purification: February 2.

How to Get There: Binmaley is located 223 kms. from Manila.

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine (Dimiao, Bohol)

 

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

One of the churches severely damaged during the October 15, 2013 earthquake was the Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in Dimiao.  The ceiling of the church received heavy cracks, the walls of both the left and right wings of the transept cracked open, and large portions of the outer stone finishes in various areas of the church exterior fell down.

As of early 2014, the structure, though still standing, was deemed unsafe to enter. Only priests and church convent authorities were allowed to enter the church. As of this writing, the church is being repaired, with scaffolding installed throughout the exterior and interior. We were allowed to enter the church.

The painted ceiling

 

The town’s present magnificent church, one of the oldest in the province, was built from 1800 to 1815 by Fr. Enrique de Santo Tomas de Villanueva with cut stone blocks. On  July 30, 2011, the church complex, including the Ermita Ruins, were declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum due to its outstanding historical, aesthetic, social and architectural significance.

Check out “Ermita Ruins

The church has a cruciform plan with an atypically short transept. The church is the only other Spanish-era church, aside from Loon,  that was not originally built with a portico

Its powerful Early Renaissance façade, with subtle hints of baroque and Muslim influence, is divided into segments by square pilasters ornamented with a shallow octagonal relief of fine floral carvings arranged as vertical bands.  On the lower level is a semicircular main entrance (above which is the Spanish coat-of-arms) flanked by blind windows.

On the second level is a statued niche of San Nicolas Tolentino topped by a small pediment and flanked by semicircular windows.

The octagonal bell tower

The steep stone stairway leading up to the right bell tower

On the church’s flanks are two minaret-like octagonal bell towers with seven bells, the earliest dating from 1841.  The tower on the right is accessible by a steep stone staircase followed by a wooden one.

The main altar retablo

Inside are three Neo-Classical retablos, a pulpit with wrought iron banister and a spacious sacristy and choir loft.

The pulpit with wrought iron bannister

The convent, now a school behind the church,  was constructed by Fr. Manuel Carasusan (1842 to 1855 and 1858 to 1864).  Part of its ground floor has a small parish museum. It is linked to the church sacristy by a bridge-like corridor.

Left side retablo

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: Poblacion, 6305 Dimiao. Tel: (038) 536-1009. Feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: September 10.

How to Get There: Dimiao is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) east of Tagbilaran City.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of the Holy Trinity (Loay, Bohol)

Church of the Holy Trinity

Upon arrival in Loay, our van entered the  church complex via the short bend from the road to Loboc. This old and charming church, built on top of a plateau overlooking the sea, near the mouth of the Loboc River, is also reached by short flight of stairs from the main highway.

The church after the October 15, 2013 earthquake (photo: Wikipedia)

Built with cut coral stone, it is cruciform in plan, with a low quadrangular pyramid atop the crossing, and was probably finished in 1822. The church was recently declared as a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark in 2003.

The restored portico facade

The church has two facades: an inner (1822), decorated with low relief (atop the inner doorway is inscribed the year 1822, indicating its presumed date of completion), and an outer three-level Neo-Classical portico-façade (apparently completed in the 20th century as its upper register is in reinforced concrete).

NHI Plaque.  It states that a certain Fr. Leon Inchausti was once assigned to this parish, that he was subsequently martyred during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and that he was canonized in 1999 and is now a saint

It has a semicircular arched main entrance (which formerly had a Latin inscription “Deus Trinus et Unus” above it, alluding to the parish’s dedication to the Holy Trinity) at the first level, rectangular windows on the second level and a low triangular pediment topped by allegorical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity. The sides of the church are reinforced by huge buttresses.

The ceiling murals obscured by a maze of scaffolding

During the October 15, 2013 earthquake, the church’s portico-facade fell down but, during our visit, it had already been restored. Inside, there were still a lot of scaffolding with repair work still ongoing.  The painted trompe o’eil ceiling is filled with murals of Biblical scenes finished by Ray Francia on June 15, 1927.

The colonnaded main altar has a Neo-Classic retablo with images of the Holy Trinity (with God the Father seated on the right, God the Son on the left, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above them) topped by a baldaquin.

There’s also a massive pipe organ installed in 1841 and a pulpit topped by a torravoz with Neo-Gothic dome and fringed by a “lacework” of metal and wood.

Stairs leading to the choir loft

The separate, three-storey octagonal bell tower, topped by a domed roof, was built by Fr. Carlos Ubeda (1859 to 1865).  The stone and wood convent now houses the Holy Trinity Academy, founded in 1947.

The separate, 3-storey bell tower

Church of the Holy Trinity: Tel: (038) 538-9158 and (038) 501-1145. Feast of the Holy Trinity: Trinity Sunday (May).

How to Get There: Loay is located 22.1 kms. (a 30-min. drive) east of Tagbilaran City.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

First built with forced labor by Jesuits in 1787, it was burned on December 23, 1798 (8 PM) and reconstructed and enlarged from 1839 to 1855 by Fr. Valero de San Sebastian. Between 1888 and 1894, Fr. Escolastico Enciso made improvements by sumptuously painting it and adding iron cornices, wooden flooring and chandeliers. In 1941, the church was made into a cathedral.  Very little remains of its Spanish-era past.

The new left wing of the cathedral

Between 1945 and 1951, ill-conceived and deeply regretted renovations were initiated by Msgr. Julio Rosales (the first Bishop of the Diocese of Bohol and later Cardinal), assisted by the parish priest Fr. Arturo Tecson. The coral stone facing was totally replaced by cement, the antique wooden flooring was replaced by reinforced concrete and the original ceiling, featuring beautiful, centuries-old frescoes depicting catechetical themes and Biblical scenes found in many historic churches of Bohol, was totally changed and lost forever.

The right wing

Between 1952 and 1970, the church façade and the choir loft were totally changed by Msgr. Manuel Mascarinas, with the assistance of parish priests Fr. Pedro Namoc and Fr. Camilo Auza.  Major renovations were also done in the interior and exterior walling.  To widen and enlarge the presbytery, massive stone walls were demolished so that the main altar can be moved back by 3 m. and additional wings (which forever altered its cross-shaped plan) were built to accommodate a fast-growing congregation.

The statue of St. Joseph the Worker that replaced the small, Spanish-era obelisk

Also, on May 1, 1996, as part of the Cathedral Expansion Project, a small obelisk in front of the church, erected in February 1828 and repaired on February 1949 was removed, replaced by a statue of St. Joseph the Worker. The church was slightly damaged during the strong October 15, 2013 earthquake.

The cathedral interior

The cathedral has a Neo-Romanesque facade with corbelled arches underneath the cornice, a porch over the main entrance and tall, semicircular arched windows. The Augustinian Recollect Order’s seal are carved on the doors, arches and cornices.

The main and 2 side altars

Inside are 20 venerated, wooden and historic images along the walls of the church. The main altar, elegantly decorated with ornate gold designs depicting symbols of Old Testament times, is in the 19th century Neo-Classical style.

The main altar

At its center is the 18th century image of St. Joseph the Worker, with the image (dated 1848) of San Roque (St. Roch), the secondary patron, on the left, and that of St. Vincent Ferrer, dated 1861, on the right. Immediately above St. Joseph’s throne, on the main altar’s second storey, is the image of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes (Our Lady of Lourdes), said to have been donated in 1895 by Dona Maria de Bourbon of the Royal House of Spain, and installed, with great pomp, on February 19, 1895.

The left side altar

The 2-tiered side altars are of the 18th century Baroque style. The left wing retablo contains images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (acquired in 1897) and 4 different devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus, and St. Therese of Liseuix, the Little Flower.  On the right side altar are the Risen Christ, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (acquired in 1897), St. Anthony of Padua, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The new ceiling frescoes

The 4-storey bell tower (currently being repaired), with a dome roof and six bells (dating from 1891 to 1907), was started in 1886 by Fr. Jose Sanchez and finished and blessed in April 1891.  The 2-storey convent, also destroyed in 1798, was enlarged and roofed with galvanized iron in 1872 by Fr. Lucas Coromina. It is now the bishop’s residence.

The 4-storey bell tower

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker: J.A. Clarin cor. F. Sarmiento St., Tagbilaran City. Tel: (038) 411-2282 and (038) 411-3522. Feast of St. Joseph the Worker: May 1.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

The Ancestral Houses of Sitio Ubos (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

Tagbilaran City has a number of heritage houses that can be found in Sitio Ubos (Lower Town), the oldest district of the city. During this period, old rich Chinese families built their houses in this formerly major port town in the city to establish their wealth. In 1916, there were only four families living there – the Oppus-Borjas, the Rochas, the Manigques and the Butalids. Through the positioning of their houses, the Rochas almost wholly owned the place, showing their great economic clout. We visited three of these, all located in close proximity to each other.

Fortich-Rocha House

The first house we visited was Fortich-Rocha House, the home of Don Fernando Gorraiz Rocha. Formerly a renowned schoolteacher (known as Maestro Andoy) in the Spanish school for boys and also a former governor of Bohol in the early 20th century, Don Fernando lived here with his wife, Dona Catalina Fortich, a local lady of Spanish extraction. The house, probably built before the 1850’s, was made with wooden boards and had a nipa roof.

The ground floor of this house once served as a bazaar.  However, the house was made popular by the baking skills of the Las Hermanas Rochas, the unmarried sisters of Don Fernando, who once produced the best pastries in town – hojaldres, broas, kinatloan and the plebeian fare called dugmok (toasted left-over bread).

Antonio Rocha House

The most distinct and impressive house in Sitio Ubos today is probably the house of the mestizo sangley Don Antonio Rocha, once the escribiente (clerk) of the Tagbilaran parish.   It has a tile roof and stone skirting at the ground floor. On the back wall is inscribed the date 1831, most likely the year when this house was built. In the 1970’s, the owners rented out some of the rooms to students in Tagbilaran.

Later on, the owner sold it to a Manila-based antique collector who shelled out some earnest money so as to gain foothold in the house, after which he began methodically stripping the house of valuable antiques, including the frame of an Antonio Rocha painting.  He then sold it to the present Swiss owner.

On the opposite side of the road is the impressive Beldia House, built in 1858 by Don Esteban Butalid, a gobernadorcillo and businessman. Don Manuel Timoteo Hidalgo, the brother-in-law of Jose Rizal (married to sister Saturnina), stayed in the house for four months (in January 1889 and then again in December of the same year) during his exile to Bohol.  It is also possible that Jose Rizal himself may have visited the house when he supposedly toured Bohol in 1894. During the Spanish regime, the house served as a provisional municipio before a new one, long since disappeared, was built high on the cliff above Sitio Ubos. In 1971, Judge Antonio Beldia bought the house from the Butalid-Calceta-Gallares family corporation.

The Beldia House

The Beldia House, with its elegant floating volada atop massive masonry walls, has a lot in common with its neighbor, the equally outstanding and exceptional Antonio Rocha House.  Both have curving gambrel roofs of clay tiles with its bent-down ridges.  Unique in the province, it gives the houses a distinct Chinese feel. Likewise, both houses have massive ground floor walls made with coral stone.

Hidden in one of the side walls (which used to be the main façade), fronting a now vanished road, is the original main entrance, now serving as window to the former office of the late Judge Beldia. Its elaborate Neo-Classic facade, unique in Boholano domestic architecture, is flanked by two pilasters with particularly attractive Composite capitals (a whimsical interpretation of the Corinthian model) hewn from coral stone.  Its three-centered arch is topped by an architrave of Classic proportions.

Originally having a U-shaped floor plan, the house’s internal courtyard has now been roofed over and now serves as the main entrance. The upper floor has since undergone considerable alterations.  There are new jalousie windows and the old wooden panels were largely replaced by contemporary materials.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Balili Heritage House (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Balili Heritage House

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

Our first stop in our Tagbilaran City tour was the majestic, two-storey Balili House, built sometime in 1934 by the then bachelor Mr. Eladio Balili, a history teacher of  Bohol National High School and businessman  (dried fish, lumber, furniture, transport and construction),  who later married Ms. Pancrasia “Caring” Castro.

The grand concrete stairway leading up to the porch

Barely visible from the street, its main facade is crowned by a wide overhanging gable roof with roof eaves adorned with Art Nouveau carvings.

The park-like garden

We passed through a park-like garden before climbing a sweeping grand concrete stairway leading to the artistically designed, second floor porch with its rounded corners, rough-hewn wooden posts, topped by semicircular arches with embroidery-like carvings on the fringes.

Arch. Gloria Balili-Katz (right) briefing members of media

The delicate calado wood carvings (in harp design), lattice screens, and barandillas (framed by carved wooden harps and friezes) underneath the windows add grace and playfulness to the house. The two sets of sliding capiz windows, with air vents above it, flank the porch on both sides.

February 18, 1957 (Eladio’s 58th birthday) picture of the Balili Family. Gloria is at the center

Elegant wooden canopies, with tooth-like fringes, protect the windows. The house has a square floor plan, unusual for Bohol houses.

The dining area

Upon entry, we were all welcomed by architect Gloria Balili-Katz, the youngest (of seven children) of Eladio and Pancrasia who gave us a tour of the well-preserved, incredibly beautiful mansion. According to her, the house served as a venue of grand social functions of Tagbilaran which were attended by prominent political and social personalities from both the local and national level.

Photo of Roxas-Quirino meeting on March 9, 1946

One such grand gathering was the March 9, 1946 meeting of then Pres. Manuel A. Roxas with senator (and later president) Elpidio R. Quirino, former governor Perfecto Balili (the brother of Eladio) and other important local political personalities. In March of 1942, during World War II, the Balili Mansion was requisitioned for use by high ranking Japanese military officers.

In the 1950s, after building a new larger house on the huge compound, Eladio finally moved out. The descendants of Eladio also preferred to build their own homes on the large family compound. The house was rented out but its last tenants moved out in 1998. For various reasons (accessibility, water supply, fear of ghosts, etc.), it was vacant for more than a decade.

Office desk with the agila chair (which Roxas sat on) behind it

Today, this well-maintained, virtually unchanged “sleeping beauty” has reawakened after it was converted into The Oasis lodging house (PhP450/pax for a fan-cooled room and PhP750/pax for an airconitioned room).  Meals are available upon request.

Antique wall-mounted clock

Inside are wooden walls (above which are calado woodwork) and ceiling, old photographs (including the photo of the Roxas-Quirino meeting) and floor of wide hardwood planks. Antique furnishings include the wooden chair (where Roxas sat on) with an agila (eagle) at its crest, an office desk, a butaka (a chair with long arm rests) and an old clock.

The sliding capiz windows with ventanillas below it

Balili Heritage House: 6 J. Borja St., Tagbilaran City. Tel: (038) 411-2511.  Mobile number: (0918) 299-1865. Website: www.oasislodgeHeritagehouse.com.

How to Get There: the house is located near the old Holy Spirit School, in front of Mang Inasal.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar (Sibonga, Cebu)

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar

Part 9 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This southern Cebu town’s present stone and brick church was started by Fr. Juan Alonso (parish priest from 1868 to 1881) and finished by Fr. Enrique Magaz in 1881. Fr. Emiliano Diez was applying the finishing touches when the revolution broke out in 1898.

The simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic facade

In 1907, the church was restored and blessed by Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty, Archbishop of Manila, American Bishop Thomas Hendrick and 17 other priests.

NHCP Plaque

On December 2, 2010, a cast-iron national historical marker was unveiled at the church’s facade by National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Ambeth R. Ocampo along with Sibonga’s parish priest Fr. Leo Cabahug and the Sibonga Ecclesiastical Heritage Commission’s president Dr. Noel Ponce.

The convent

The solid and beautiful convent was built by Fr. Prospero Puerto (parish priest from 1833 to 1868) following the plans of Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon. The oldest bell, dedicated to Santa Filomena, was installed in 1863. The bell tower was destroyed during the typhoon of November 25, 1877.

The church’s beautiful interior

The altar

The church’s simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic façade, divided into three sections by shallow pilasters, has a flame-like arched main entrance flanked by massive twin bell towers with pyramidal roofs and flame-like arched windows. The Gothic-style triangular pediment has a rose window sporting the Augustinian seal in wrought iron.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

The one-nave interior, clearly influenced by Carcar City’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, has a wooden colonnade and a mesmerizing series of  ceiling murals at the nave.

Baptism

Confirmation

Holy Communion

 

Matrimony

Holy Orders

Extreme Unction

Penance

Painted in amber and brownish tones by famed Cebuano artist Raymundo Francia (popularly called the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”) in 1924, they feature the  Seven Sacraments (“Baptism,” “Confirmation,” “Extreme Unction,” “Penance,” “Matrimony,” “Holy Communion” and “Holy Orders”).

Christians Defending Their Faith

Christ Purging the Temple

At the entrance vestibule are the ceiling frescoes  “Christians Defending Their Faith” and “Christ Purging the Temple.” The “Creation of the World,” the mural above the altar, shows the Biblical scene of the seven days of creation (Genesis). The ceiling of the side aisles was expertly painted to create an optical illusion of a coffered ceiling woodwork. 

The Creation of the World

Optical illusion of coffered woodwork at ceiling

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar: National Highway, Poblacion, 6020 Sibonga. Tel: (032) 486-9390. Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar: October 12.

How To Get There: Sibonga is located 60.7 kms. south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.