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Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A Scoop of Europe

Stacy Danika S. Alcantara - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines -  There is more to Macau than being Asia's City of Lights.  Although almost every square inch of this former Portuguese colony is now filled up with the glaring glitz of larger-than-life hotels and casinos, to truly enjoy Macau, one must go beyond its gambling houses.  To truly enjoy Macau, one must seek out its culture.

Macau's history is perhaps as interesting as its cultural blend.  Once located in the old silk route during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it became one of the most important points of trade, an entrepot, in Southeast Asia, where east and west eventually converged.

Its name was derived from the name of the Chinese Goddess who was worshipped by seafarers and fishermen, especially around A-ma-gao Bay.  It was her temple that the Portuguese first spied on the moment they anchored on the shores of Macau back in the early sixteenth century.

The blend of Chinese and Portuguese gave Macau and interesting hybrid culture, permeating every aspect of life in the city located at the southern tip of China's Guangdong province, and creating an entirely unique culture and language borne from those of Chinese-Portuguese descent.

Patua or Makista, as that language is called, is a blend of Portuguese, Chinese, and Malay.  But with the steady influx of Chinese immigrants and the equally steady migration of the authentic Macanese to other parts of the world, the language has slowly begun to die out.

Macau is a tiny slice of Western Europe with its distinct air of romance and nostalgia literally unfolding before your eyes the moment you set foot at one of its most popular hotels, The Venetian, which serves as an ideal start to enjoying a taste of Europe right smack in Asia.

It's easy to make believe that you are in a completely different continent when you are in Macau given that most, if not all of the signs are written in Portuguese.  With a slight background in Spanish, you will most likely be able to make out the meanings of the signs.

Macau is an easy day tour best enjoyed on foot.  Explore the street corners and be swallowed up completely by the sights of old colonial buildings that show no signs of Asian heritage-apart from the occasional Chinese signs – before finding your way to Lago do Senado, or Senate Square, which takes you right smack in the middle of the grounds, covered in delicate mosaic waves, rustic street lamps, and rising buildings brimming with Portuguese influence.

Follow the ebb of the crowd and find your way to Macau's most famous landmark, the Ruinas de Sao Paulo, a 16th century complex that once included both the St. Paul's College and the cathedral that was dedicated to the apostle Paul.  After the entire structure was swallowed by fire back in the 17th century, what stands today like a portal to another world is the cathedral's façade.  Walk right through the cathedral's entrance and find your way into the underground museum which houses many of the religious artifacts and relics that were excavated at the grounds of the ruins.

Overlooking the Ruinas de Sao Paulo is Fortaleza do Monte which is tucked slightly beyond the garden beside the ruins.  The mountain fortress' location is strategic as it gives a perfect view of the city from all directions, considering that it was initially built to prepare the colony for the impending Dutch invasion in the 15th century. 

Upon reaching the topmost part of the fortress, one will be surprised to find a manicured garden amidst a bevy of canons peeping from the parapets of the fortress.  In the middle of the garden is the Museu de Macau, which is a cultural treat in itself for those who wish to take a careful trip back into the beginnings of what is now China's Special Administrative Region.

Generally taken as a side trip for those who have plotted Hong Kong as the main agenda, Macau is a day trip that is wasted when one is in a hurry.  To appreciate Macau is to savor the day slowly and if time permits, to watch the steady transition from day to night as much of Macau's magic unfolds when its city light flicker to a full bloom. 

Here, one doesn't only see the interesting marriage of the east and west, but more importantly, between the old and the new.

vuukle comment

CHINESE AND PORTUGUESE

CHINESE GODDESS

CITY OF LIGHTS

HONG KONG

MACAU

ONE

OVERLOOKING THE RUINAS

PORTUGUESE

SAO PAULO

SENATE SQUARE

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