Cebu Day 1-3

First visit to the Philippines. Arrived in Cebu on Wednesday. Had dinner in Jollibee near the Maxwell Hotel.

On Thursday, visited the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. The Christ child is the patron saint of Cebu, but a child with dark skin and black curly hair. Devotees lined up to pray to the icon in the chapel but there were replicas for sale in the church gift shop too. Replicas in the basement museum too, which are for traveling around the country and for bathing in the sea on a holy day. Along the cloisters of the church were paintings and stories about the miracles of the Child. The Tuba (drink) Provider. The Fishmonger (the Child plays a prank on a seller of fish). The Patriot (The Child signs up to defend the Philippines). The Speedy Boater. The Rainmaker. Beautiful and cool garden in the middle. Woman sitting under the shade of the Church. Saw Magellan's Cross behind the basilica.

Walked through the Carbon market to Ermita neighborhood, which reminded me of Goh Poh Seng's poem "Girl from Ermita." Shirtless young men with smooth brown bodies and natural muscles sorting out mangoes and avocados. Old women behind vegetable stalls. Shopped at Super Metro and bought a white shirt and a pair of shirt shorts. Walked all the way to the Fuentes Circle, where I had lunch in the basement food court of Robinsons. Went into a National Book Shop and was astonished to find so few books, and what books there were were technical, self-improving, and recreational. The fiction titles, mostly popular romances, came from the USA.

Enjoyed the hotel massage by Lance. In the evening, Larry's book event for his family and friends at a restaurant called Circa 1900. It was an old house, once owned by a wealthy Cebuano family. Had my first taste of Cebuano lechon and it was good. Larry sold all the copies of his books. Hendri Oh, the organizer of the Cebu Lit Fest, was there. Met National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares, who writes mostly history and essays. He described to me the lamentable state of literary publishing and distribution in the Philippines. National Book Shop has a monopoly but they have gone all commercial. The independent bookstores have shuttered (with the exception of Solidaridad in Manila).

This morning I visited Casa Gorordo in the . Lovely house built in the 1850s by a Spanish man who married a Chinese mestizo woman. Architecture with indigenous, Spanish, and Chinese influences. Was struck by the formality of the way of life back then. Had lunch at the cafe with Haidee Palapar, a friend of Larry's, and talked about her work for the foundation and the local literary scene. On Larry's recommendation, I visited the 1730 Jesuit House. When the Jesuits were suppressed by the Papacy, the house was turned over to the Municipal Government, which then sold it to private families. It ended up in the hands of a Chinese Filipino family, whose scion saw a picture of the house in a book in the Jesuit university he was attending and recognized his father's warehouse. The son was the one who turned the family home into a museum for public viewing of the old Jesuit house. The museum now adjoins a metal workshop of some kind.

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