The glory of Spain, the grandeur of Portugal

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

ZARAGOZA, Spain – This pilgrimage of ours is not only about religion, but also history, arts, culture, music, food, wine, and laughter. Now that we are about to leave Spain and will soon cross the border to France, it is well to compare Spain and Portugal, the first two countries of our pilgrimage.

It has been a very hectic four days and two days from now, we shall traverse northern Iberia, but not without first passing through the tiny billionaires' paradise, Monaco. Portugal and Spain are very much connected with us, Filipinos because Ferdinand Magellan was Portuguese but he claimed our islands in the name of the crown of Spain. In fact, the name of our country is taken from King Philip II of Spain. Portugal is the oldest nation in the Iberian Peninsula, and one of the oldest in Europe and the world. Spain may be a little richer than Portugal but the latter was first to start colonizing other territories. We can compare the two like the way we compare Australia and New Zealand, US and Canada, Italy and France, France and Germany, and the UK and France.

Since Portugal and Spain share the same border, in fact, the longest uninterrupted land border in the whole world, the two countries share the same landscape, terrain, and climates. Portugal is defined by its long coastline, making it abound with beaches. The north is mountainous, forested, and wet, while the south is rugged and drier. Spain is largely a highland plateau with mountain ranges running across the nation. In terms of historical landmarks, Portugal's capital, Lisbon, is the envy of many tourist destinations. It has the ancient Belem, a sixteenth century behemoth of a structure that sits on a mountain. Then, there are the Sao Jorge Castle and the massive Jeronimos Monastery in Sintra.

In Portugal, we saw the romanticist Pena Palace, the medieval castle of the moors, the Dom Louis Bridge that spans Porto with its environs. In natural wonders, the best cave in Europe is found in Portugal, called the Benagil Sea Caves, with an incredible natural skylight in its ceiling. And the Algavre, with breathtaking beaches and rocky coastlines, with rich fauna and flora, undisturbed by civilization and untouched by modernity. Spain's pride includes the aqueduct of Segovia, which is the best preserved Roman aqueduct in the world. We have seen the moorish city of Cuenca, and the Mesquita of Cordoba, which is perhaps the most beautiful mosque in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the towering reminder that Spain was once conquered and dominated by Muslims.

Spain's Alhambra castle is a grand palace built in 885 AD, so majestic and awesome that one wonders how they built such a magnificent edifice without modern equipment. Also, the very beautiful architectural masterpiece, the Royal Palace in Madrid, we couldn’t believe how craftsmen produced such a breathtaking structure that survived all disasters and calamities and outlived all the kings and queens who used to reside in it. We could not help but sigh at the sight of El Escoreal Palace and the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, one of Antoni Gaudi's architectural masterpieces.

In Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, and Malaga, we all admired the glorious history, arts, culture, and geography of Spain. In Lisbon, Porto, and Fatima, we took our hats off to the grandeur of Portugal's castles, palaces, and museums. We then realized our country will need a century perhaps to catch up with those marvelous nations.

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