Cebu News

Tartanillas to ply city streets soon

Isabella G. Obor - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Tartanillas or horse-drawn carriage will soon be plying the streets in downtown Cebu City in a bid to boost tourism and to preserve and promote the city’s cultural heritage.

The “Tartanilla sa Sugbo” program was launched by the Cebu City Tourism Office last December 19 at Fort San Pedro in Cebu City. It is set to be operational by end of this month.

Aside from promotion and preservation of heritage, City Tourism Officer Hearty Marie Rizzari said the program is also aimed at improving the livelihood of kutseros or coachmen.

"Tartanilla is one of those features that give downtown Cebu City a unique identity," she said.

"Over the decades, the demands of the fast changing times turned the tartanilla into an outmoded transportation and discounted the prestige it once boasted, however it is definitely remarkable how it continues to be a public transportation until today," she added.

The tartanilla, also known as calesa in Filipino, is a two-wheeled carriage drawn by a single horse. It dates back to the Spanish colonization era before motorized vehicles were introduced in 1901.

The arrival of motorized vehicles in the Philippines in 1901 saw a slow decline in the popularity of the tartanilla.

Rizzari is looking at the Tartanilla sa Sugbo as a long-term program, which is in coordination with the Department of Veterinary Medicine & Fisheries (DVMF), Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) and Cebu Tourist Guides Association.

Dr. Wilfred John Salvador of DVMF said the department is tasked to look after the well-being of carriage horses by giving them vitamins and other basic health services.

The city’s challenge though is how to market the tartanillas to Caucasian tourists, he said.

"Caucasians don't actually like the idea of horses na i-parada, for them that is animal cruelty," he said.

Dr. Librado Macaraya, Parks and Playground Commission head, said the horses shouldn't be seen as “frail and weak.”

"We have to show to the foreigners and the tourists that we have such tartanilla," he said.

As for CCTO, the office will finalize the tartanillas’ route, which starts from Plaza Independencia to Basilica del Sto Niño then to other heritage sites and museums in the downtown area.

The tartanilla will start from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. and will operate daily, except Fridays.

The Cebu Tourist Guides Association, for its part, is training the kutseros as tour guides.

"There will be no guides na magkakuyog sa tartanilla, the kutseros will be the one to guide the tourists," Rizzari said.

Junrey Espinosa, a coachman for seven years, said the program would actually give them better income.

"Dako man ni og income kumpara sa among panginabuhi didto sa Carbon,” he said.

Teofilo Zabala, a kutsero for 56 years, agreed saying the program would help uplift the lives of the kutseros like him.

At present, the tartanilla can take you around Pasil, Tabo-an, Carbon and Duljo streets.

From the ‘30s to the ‘70s, the tartanilla proudly trotted in great numbers through Cebu’s major thoroughfares and highways from Colon Street to Sanciangko all the way up to Tabo-an market and Tres de Abril in Cebu City’s south district. (FREEMAN)



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