Mactan Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

Mactan Shrine.  On the left is the small building housing two plaques while on the right is the Magellan Monument

Part 4 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This shrine is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu (the Philippines’ first National Hero) and the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and was erected on the supposed spot where the Battle of Mactan (April 27, 1521) took place. The shrine has three prominent monuments

Lapu-Lapu Monument

The 20-ft. high Lapu-Lapu Monument, beside the shore, features a bronze statue, on a pedestal, of Datu Lapu-Lapu, sculpted with great realism, holding a kampilan (curved sword) on his right hand and a shield on the left.  The Magellan Marker, shaped like a large headstone, allegedly marks the spot where Magellan fell dead in the hands of Lapu-Lapu’s men.

Magellan Monument

A little farther away is the 30-ft. high Magellan Monument, on a base of several levels and surrounded by a low fence. It consists of plain, coralstone obelisk, on whose apex rests a sphere, mounted on a tall plinth that rests on a tripartite structure – an octagonal base, on which rests a tall quadrilateral structure, divided into a lower part, decorated with high relieves of vases, and an upper part pierced by narrow arches.

Relief of a vase

The monument is inscribed with texts. On one side is A Hernando de Magallanes, Ferdinand Magellan’s name written in the original Portuguese language.

Inscription with Magellan’s name

On a second side is the phrase Glorias Españolas (“Glory to Spain”),  on the third is the phrase Siendo Gobernaor Don Miguel Creus (the Spanish governor of the Philippines at the time) and on the fourth side is the phrase 1866 Reinando Ysabel II (the Spanish monarch at that time).

Inscription with Gov. Miguel Creus’s name

The monument was said to have been built in 1866 during the administration of Augustinian Fr. Simon Aguirre, who was cura (parish priest), from 1857 to 1871, of Opon (the old name of Lapu-Lapu City).

The plinth with two plaques

Between the Lapu-Lapu and Magellan monuments stands the Philippine flag.  East of the Magellan Monument is a small building housing a plinth flanked by plaques.

The Lapu-Lapu plaque

The plaque about Lapu-Lapu (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1951) reads:

Lapulapu

Here on 27 April 1521, Lapulapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan thus Lapu Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.

The plaque about Magellan’s death

The other plaque about Ferdinand Magellan (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1941) reads:

Ferdinand Magellan’s Death

On this spot Ferdinand Magellan died on April 27, 1521 wounded in an encounter with the soldiers of Lapu Lapu, Chief of Mactan Islands. One of Magellan’s ships, The Victoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, sailed from Cebu on May 1, 1521 and anchored at San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522 thus completing the first circumnavigation of the earth.

The huge mural painting

Behind the plinth is a huge mural painting depicting the battle. The Battle of Mactan is reenacted along the shores near the shrine during the 27 April Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival.

The Kadaugan sa Mactan re-enactment site

Mactan Shrine: Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

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.

Bonifacio Trial Museum (Maragondon, Cavite)

This two-storey bahay-na-bato (stone house) was the site where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were court martialed by a military court presided by Gen. Mariano Noriel from May 5 to 6, 1897. The court  found the two accused guilty of treason and recommended execution.

Bonifacio Trial Museum

Built by Teodorico Reyes in 1889, this house was formerly known as the Roderico Reyes House (which was the name of the former owner). The house now belongs to Mr. Jose Angeles.  In 1999, it was fully restored and declared as a National Heritage Site. Today, this stone, brick and wood ancestral house has been converted into a museum called the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio or Bonifacio Trial Museum. It was formally inaugurated on November 28, 2014.

The house has capiz sliding windows, ventanillas and calado woodwork on the eaves

The museum has five galleries.  Gallery 1 (Maypagasa) provides a short background on Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan; Gallery 2 (Pagsalubong) focuses on the conflict between the two Katipunan factions in Cavite, the Magdalo and Magdiwang; Gallery 3 (Pagdakip) narrates the events leading to Bonifacio’s arrest; Gallery 4 (Ang Paglilitis) re-enacts the Bonifacio brothers’ court martial through a light and sound presentation; and Gallery 5 (Kadakilaan) recounts the anguish of Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus, in learning of her husband’s death.

National Historical Institute (NHI) Plaque

The museum also has an audio-visual corner offering a brief documentary about the trial and death of Andres Bonifacio and an e-learning room for online lessons on the history of the Philippines. The shrine is administered and managed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (formerly the National Historical Institute).

Philippine Historical Committee (PHC) Plaque

Bonifacio Trial Museum: Col. Crisostomo Riel St., Brgy. Poblacion 1-A, Maragondon, Cavite. Mobile number: (0917) 553-7375 (Mr. Melanio Guevarra – museum curator). E-mail: bonifaciotrialmuseum@gmail.com. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 AM – 5 PM. Admission is free.

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Naic, Cavite)

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was first constructed in the 1800s with wood and cogon grass. Six years after its initial construction, a kopa, a pair of cruets and ornamentation was added. In 1835, the construction of a new stone church was started by Don Pedro Florentino. Its bell tower was completed in 1892.

The church convent

After the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, the the church convent was used as the headquarters of Andres Bonifacio and the Naic Conference was held there. In this conference, the old Tagalog letter of the flag was replaced by the “Sun of Liberty,” with two eyes, a nose and a mouth and its symbolic eight rays.

The church interior

Before World War II, the church was one of the tallest (about 5 storeys high) and the longest (almost 10 blocks long) churches in Cavite. In width, it was second to the Imus Cathedral. On November 17, 1996, it was made into a Diocesan Shrine.

The church’s Neo-Gothic facade

Author’s notes:

The church’s three-level Neo-Gothic façade, the only one of its kind in Cavite, has a pointed, lancet-like arched main entrance flanked by square pilasters and similarly pointed arched windows.

The 4-storey bell tower

The second level has three pointed arched windows while the triangular pediment, with inverted traceries below the eaves, has a circular window at the tympanum.  The central pilasters rise up to the pediment and end up in pinnacles, dividing the façade into 3 vertical sections. The sides of the church are reinforced by thick buttresses.

The thick buttresses

The 4-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s left, has alternating circular and pointed arched windows and is topped by a pyramidal roof.

The main altar

Its interior has 3 major and 2 minor Gothic-style altars with the Very Venerated Image of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patron Lady of Naic, in the main altar.

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Capt. Ciriaco Nazareno St., Poblacion, Naic 4110, Cavite. Tel: (046) 412-0456. Feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8.

How to Get There: Naic is located 47 kms. from Manila, 13.3 kms. from Trece Martires City, 12.9 kms. from Maragondon and 12.8 kms. from Tanza.

Noveleta Tribunal (Cavite)

Noveleta Tribunal

The Noveleta Tribunal, the first municipal hall of the town, was where, on August 31, 1896, Noveleta-born Gen. Pascual Alvarez, under orders from his uncle Gen. Mariano Alvarez of the Sangguniang Magdiwang, killed the Guardia Civil Capt. Antonio Rebolledo within the hall of this building.

The narrow wooden stairway leading to the second floor

Lt. Francisco Naval, the adjutant of Capt. Rebolledo, was also killed. The rest of the Guardia Civil were disarmed and imprisoned. This incident further intensified the Cavite front of the Philippine Revolution. It was repaired on August 1998 during the term of Mayor Dionisio L. Torres.

Capiz windows and ventanillas

Author’s notes:

This historical, 2-storey building, with its narrow, centrally located wooden stairway leading to the second floor, has wooden columns, a balcony in front, a bank of sliding capiz windows with ventanillas, and calado (lace-style fretwork or latticework) on the soffit and roof eaves.

Philippine Historical Committee plaque

Noveleta Tribunal: Gen Antonio St. Poblacion, Noveleta, Cavite. Coordinates: 14°25’38″N 120°52’51″E.

How to Get There: Noveleta is located 27 kms. from Manila, 18.7 kms. from Trece Martires City, 6 kms. from Tanza and 3.5 kms. from Kawit.  The highway divides in this town, one branch going to Naic and Ternate and the other towards Cavite City. The Tribunal is situated just 10 m. from the Church of the Holy Cross. You can park your car in front of the church.

Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The oval, entirely free-standing Colosseum or Coliseum,  an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Following the reign of Nero, it was began by emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and completed in AD 80 by his son and successor Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Vespasian’s younger son Domitian (81–96).

The outer wall

The outer wall

It has suffered extensDSC00278ive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. In 217, the wooden upper levels of the amphitheater’s interior was destroyed by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) and was not fully repaired until about 240.  Further repairs were done in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are. Various parts of the Colosseum were restored under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443.  More work followed in 484 and 508.

 

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The great 1349 earthquake severely damaged the Colosseum.  The outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrDSC00283ain, collapsed and much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. The interior of the amphitheater was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere.  The marble façade was burned to make quicklime. The bronze clamps, used to hold the stonework together, were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.

 

The Colosseum interior

The Colosseum interior

In 1807 and 1827, the façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges and, in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s, the interior was repaired. In 1810–1814 and 1874, the arena substructure was partly excavated and, in the 1930s, was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini. Between 1993 and 2000, due to the effects of pollution and general deterioration over time, a major restoration program was carried out at a cost of 40 billion Italian lire ($19.3 million/ €20.6 million at 2000 prices).

The raked areas that once held seating

The raked areas that once held seating

Here are some interesting facts and trivia regarding the Colosseum:

  • Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built.
  • One of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, it receives millions of visitors annually.
  • Elliptical in plan, it is 189 m. (615 ft./640 Roman ft.) long, 156 m. (510 ft./528 Roman ft.) wide and has a base area of 24,000 sq. m. (6 acres). Its outer wall is 48 m. (157 ft./165 Roman ft.) high. Its perimeter originally measured 545 m. (1,788 ft./1,835 Roman ft.). The central arena is an oval 87 m. (287 ft.) long and 55 m. (180 ft.) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m. (15 ft.) high, above which rose tiers of seating. The arena itself was 83 m. by 48 m. (272 ft. by 157 ft./280 by 163 Roman ft.).
  • Its outer wall was estimated to have required over 100,000 cu. m. (3,531,467 cubic ft.) of travertine stone which were set without mortar and  held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
  • According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 spectators, although modern estimates put the figure at between 50,000 and 80,000, having an average audience of some 65,000.
  • The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests (last mentioned around 435) and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts (continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes), executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
  • In the Early Medieval era, the building ceased to be used for entertainment but numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were later reused for housing and workshops.  It was also reused as a fortress (around 1200 by the Frangipani family), quarters for a Christian religious order (from mid-14th century until as late as the early 19th century), a quarry (stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites), and a Christian shrine (in 1749, by Pope Benedict XIV).
  • The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.
  • The Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. The color of the Colosseum’s night time illumination changes from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released,or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty (most recently on November 2012, following the abolition of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut in April 2012).
  • Large concerts, using the Colosseum as a backdrop, have been held just outside. They included  concerts o Ray Charles (May 5, 2002), Paul McCartney (May 11,  2003), Elton John (September 3, 2005), and Billy Joel (July 31, 2006).
Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

The iconic Colosseum has been featured in numerous films:

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Colosseum seating

Colosseum seating

The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is, in fact, the original interior wall. The surviving part of its monumental façade comprises three stories of superimposed arcades framed by half-columns of the DoricIonic, and Corinthian orders and surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic decorated with Corinthian pilasters, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. At the second- and third-floor arcades, arches framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology. The north side of the perimeter wall, though still standing, has distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end that are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall.

Maenianum Primum

Maenianum Primum

Positioned around the top of the attic are 240 mast corbels that originally supported a retractable awning,known as the velarium (a canvas-covered, net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center), that kept the sun and rain off spectators over two-thirds of the arena and sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Working on the velarium are sailors specially enlisted from the Roman naval headquarters at Misenum and housed in the nearby Castra Misenatium.

Maenianum Secundum

Maenianum Secundum

DSC00299The amphitheater was ringed by 80 numbered outer entrances, many of which have disappeared with the collapse of the perimeter wall (only entrances XXIII to LIV still survive) at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators.  All four axial entrances, richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs (of which fragments survive) consisted of a northern main entrance  reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides and three other axial entrances most likely used by the elite. Special boxes at the north and south ends, for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, provide the best views of the arena. They were provided with separate tunnels to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds. A broad platform or podium, for the senatorial class (they  were allowed to bring their own chairs), flanked them at the same level

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

The maenianum primum, the tier above the senators, was occupied by the non-senatorial noble class or knights (equites) while the next level up, divided into two sections, is the maenianum secundum, originally reserved for ordinary Roman citizens (plebeians). The lower part (the immum) was reserved for wealthy citizens while the upper part (the summum) was for poor citizens. The maenianum secundum in legneis, a level added at the very top of the building during the reign of Domitian (either standing room only or having very steep wooden benches), was a gallery for the common poor, slaves and women. Gravediggers, actors and former gladiators were banned altogether from the Colosseum.

The author

The author

Inscriptions identified the areas reserved for specific groups (boys with their tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign dignitaries, scribes, heralds, priests, etc.) with the names of some 5th century senators still seen carved into the stonework (presumably reserving areas for their use). Stone (and later marble) was provided for the seats of citizens and nobles (presumably they brought their own cushions with them).

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Curved passages and low walls (praecinctiones or baltei) divided each tier into sections (maeniana) and were further subdivided into cunei, or wedges, by the steps and aisles from the vomitoria. Each row (gradus) of seats was numbered, permitting each individual seat to be exactly designated by its gradus, cuneus, and number.

Hypogeum

Hypogeum

The arena (part of it re-floored), comprising a wooden floor covered by sand (harena or arena is the Latin word for sand), covers the hypogeum  (literally meaning “underground”), an elaborate two-level subterranean network, built by Emperor Domitian, of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. It was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath were provided instant access to the arena by 80 vertical shafts while larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like.

Hypogeum (2)

A museum, dedicated to Eros, is located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building.

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Colosseum: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 RomeItaly. Open daily, except January 1 and December 25. Tel:  (+39) 06 39967700 (Mondays-Saturdays, 9 AM -1:30 PM and 2:30 -5 PM).  Tickets (€2) can also be bought (often avoiding a long queue) at the ticket offices in Via di San Gregorio (Palatine), Largo Salara Vecchia (former Largo Romolo e Remo  – Roman Forum) and Via Sacra (Roman Forum, Arco di Tito). The Colosseum, together with the Forum/Palatine Hill ticket, is valid for both.

How to Get There
The Colosseum is located a few hundred yards from Piazza Venezia, and close to the Forum.

  • On “B” line Metro station Colosseo
  • “A” line Metro station Manzoni, then two stops of Tram No. 3 going southwards
  • Bus lines 60, 75, 85, 87, 271, 571, 175, 186, 810, 850, C3, and the electric minibus 117
  • Tramway Line No. 3.

Palatine Hill (Rome, Italy)

The Roman Forum

The surprisingly peaceful and majestic Palatine Hill (LatinCollis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; ItalianPalatino) is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 m. above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. Here are some interesting trivia regarding the Palatine Hill:

  • The English word “palace,” the Italian word “palazzo,” the French word “palais,” the German word “palest,” the Czech word “palace,” etc.,  are all derived from the Palatine.
  • Cacus, a ferocious, fire-breathing giant cannibal , was said to have once lived in a cave the Palatine. Regularly terrorizing the residents of neighboring Aventine Hill, he was finally defeated by the hero Hercules.
  • The Palatine is site of the festival of the Lupercalia, derived from the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus the mythical founder of Rome, and his twin brother Remus were found and raised by the she-wolf.
  • Regarded as one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the city because of its mythical association, central location, spectacular views of the city, cooler summer temperature and cleaner air, the Palatine was the site of the residences of many affluent Romans of the Republican period (c.509 BC – 44 BC) and, during the Empire (27 BC – 476 AD), was the site of the palaces, now in ruins, of Emperors Tiberius (14 – 37 AD) and Domitian (81 – 96 AD).
  • The emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) was born on the Palatine.  He later lived there in luxury, with his wife Livia (58 BC – 29 AD). The remains of the House of Augustus and the House of Livia, with some of the most impressive ancient art in the city, are beautifully decorated with colorful frescoes. Beside his own palace, Augustus also built a temple to Apollo. Situated near the House of Livia is the temple of Cybele, currently not fully excavated and not open to the public. Cut into the side of the hill behind this structure is the so-called House of Tiberius.
  • In 41 AD, the 28 year old Emperor Caligula was assassinated in the cryptoporticus, a a semi-subterranean, barrel-vaulted corridor of about 130 m. beneath the palaces on the Palatine, stabbed up to 30 times by his loyal guard who responded by indiscriminately slaughtering anyone (including innocent bystanders) who were nearby.
  • During the Middle Ages, convents and churches (the oratory of Caesarius, Santa Anastasia, Santa Lucia, San Sebastiano) were built over the remains of older buildings of the Palatine, and the noble Frangipani family used them, along with the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, to create a fortified stronghold.
  • In 1550, during the Renaissance Period, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese purchased a section of the Palatine and created beautiful Farnese Gardens, the first private botanical gardens in Europe.  Featuring a nymphaeum, an aviary, a tree-shaded park of terraces, lawns, flowerbeds, pavilions, fountains and a wealth of art, over time it fell into disuse but some parts can still be visited today.

The Palatine Hill, and the Forum Romanum  beneath it, is now a large open-air museum.  Using the same ticket as the Colosseum, we visited it via the entrance on Via di San Gregorio, the street just beyond the Arch of Constantine, going away from the Colosseum.

Check out “Colosseum” and “Arch of Constantine

Jandy and Grace at the Via di San Gregorio entrance

Overlooking the  Roman Forum is the enormous Flavian Palace  (also known as the Domus Flavia or the Domus Augustana) which was built, extended and modified largely during the reigns of VespasianTitus and Domitian of the Flavian dynasty (69 – 96). This palace, which extends across the Palatine Hill, looks out over the Circus Maximus, a huge structure which could accommodate 300,000 spectators. During the reign of the emperor Septimius Severus (146 – 211), the imposing brick building of the greater part of the palace visible from the Circus was undertaken.

Domus Severiana

The 621 m. (2,037 ft.) long and 118 m. (387 ft.) wide Hippodrome of Domitian or Stadium, which could accommodate 150,000 spectators, was built between AD 81 and 96.  Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, immediately adjacent to the Flavian palace of Severus, it is the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire.

House of Livia

House of Augustus

Temple Antoninus

The Hippodrome has the appearance of a Roman Circus (its name means “circus” in Greek) but is too small to accommodate chariots. Hippodromes, originally areas for exercising horses, were later used, in Rome, to describe elongated rectangular gardens or as a Greek stadium that is a venue for foot races. The tower is part of a medieval fortification

Circus Maximus

During the Severan period, it was used for sporting events and, while it is certain that it was most likely originally built as Domitian’s private stadium-shaped garden, its exact purpose is disputed.

Basilica of Maxentius

Temple of Venus and Rome

Antiquarium Forense

The nearby, small Palatine Museum exhibits Roman statuary (most coming from the Hippodrome) and artifacts dating from before the official foundation of Rome.

Palatine Museum

Claudian Aqueduct

On the eastern side of the Hippodrome is a large exedra decorated with sculptures and fountains commanding views of the garden below.

Farnese Gardens

Aviaries of the Farnese Gardens

Palatine Hill: Piazza di Santa Maria Nova, Rome. Admission: €12 (including admission to the Colosseum and Roman Forum). Tickets to the House of Augustus and House of Livia need to be booked separately and in advance.

How to Get There: Located close to the Colosseum and Roman Forum, the area around Palatine is walking distance from the Circus Maximus and Piazza Venezia. Well-served by public transport, lots of buses, such as the 75 and 87, stop near the Colosseum and it is also a short walk from the Colosseo (Line B) metro station. If going to Palatine by bus or taxi, keep in mind that the Via dei Fori Imperiali (the road connecting Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum), is mainly closed to traffic on Saturdays and Sundays.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse Museum (Burgos, Ilocos Norte)

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

After touring Bacarra Church, Melissa, Almira, Albert, Jandy and I again boarded our bus or the 33-km./40 min. drive to the century-old (first lit on March 30, 1892) Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, the most accessible of all the lighthouses in the island of Luzon and the highest elevated (the tower of the Cape Melville Lighthouse is the tallest at 90 ft/27 m.), still original and active Spanish era lighthouse in the country.

NHI Plaque

NHI Plaque

Last April 6, 2004, on our way to Bauang (La Union) from Pagudpud, my family and I dropped by to visit the lighthouse but wasn’t able to go in as it was then being rehabilitated. A few months after our visit, on August 13, 2004, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse was declared a National Historical Landmark and, on June 20, 2005, was also declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure. Recently, the lighthouse was used as the backdrop for the romantic scenes of Coco Martin and Julia Montes in ABS CBN’s  2012 teleserye “Walang Hanggan.”

View of Cape Bojeador and the West Philippine Sea

View of Cape Bojeador and the West Philippine Sea

In Brgy. Paayas in Burgos, a sign on the right side of the Maharlika Highway indicates the winding and narrow, two-lane concrete road that leads to the base of the lighthouse. From the base, we boarded two tricycles (PhP50/each way) that took us to the small parking lot where  there are stalls selling ice candy, canned soda, some finger foods and souvenirs (including a wooden craft replica of the lighthouse with a pen stand).

The courtyard

The courtyard with cistern in the middle

Service building

Service building

Upon arrival, we climbed a flight of concrete stairs to the perimeter wall.  Here, we had a good view of the rough and rocky Cape Bojeador coastline and the whitecaps of the West Philippine Sea. We then proceeded to the courtyard where the service buildings and the cistern are located.

T-shaped stairway

T-shaped stairway

The main pavilion

The main pavilion

An elegant T-shaped stairway then lead us up the verandah of the main pavilion, with its 3 apartments, 2 offices, capiz and louvered window panes and decorative iron grilles, where a hallway took us to the foot of the covered stairs that that lead to the entrance of the  20 m. (66-ft.) high octagonal stone tower.

Albert, Almira, Melissa an Jandy at the veranda of main pavilion

Albert, Almira, Melissa an Jandy at the veranda of main pavilion

This was as far as we could go as no visitors were allowed to go up, via a steep spiral metal staircase (not recommended or senior citizens), to the lantern room (now a modern electric lamp powered by solar panels) on top. Only a certain number of people are allowed in the tower at a time and access to the viewing gallery (surrounded with decorative iron grille work) depends on the outside wind condition.  As it was Holy Week, it was closed to visitors.

The lighthouse tower

The lighthouse tower

One place we had access to was the small, newly restored Cape Bojeador Lighthouse Museum.  Housed in the pavilion at the foot of the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, the rooms lining the hallway used to be shut but, since its inauguration last November 21, 2015, it is now open to the public. At the time of our visit, the rooms were sparsely decorated with low wooden furniture, including four-poster beds by the windows.

The author at one of the apartments

The author at one of the apartments

One room was filled with items that were once used to run the lighthouse (the original kerosene lamp, batteries, a part of the original first order Fresnel lens, etc.), perhaps the most striking in the area, plus samples of original brick work and old photos.

The lighthouse museum

The lighthouse museum

Original kerosene lamp

Original kerosene lamp

We also dropped by the Paru de Kabo Bojeador, the new tourist center which has stalls selling souvenirs and a safe resting area on what had previously been a construction road. The pavilion has also been transformed into lodging for people seeking basic accommodation (except for shared cooking facilities and water from the cistern, no other amenities are provided).

Original brick work

Original brick work

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse: Vigia de Nagpartian Hill, Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Admission: PhP40 for adults and PhP30 for children aged 7-12 years old.

Seegrotte (Hinterbrühl, Austria)

Seegrotte

Seegrotte

We were now on our final day of our Europe Tour and, prior to our evening departure from Vienna for Manila, Grace’s cousins Popong and Freddie organized one final morning tour, this time to Seegrotte, one of the most spectacular natural monuments in the world today.  After breakfast at the hotel, we again met up with Popong and Freddie at the hotel lobby and again boarded the same hired van we used for touring yesterday.

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Seegrotte, in southern Lower Austria, near Hinterbrühl, is a 26 km. (40-min.) drive, via the A23, from Vienna.  It is an underground cave system with a large grotto located under a former gypsum mine. From 1848 to 1912, red and grey gypsum, used by farmers as fertilizer, was mined in the mountain inside the Wagner Kogels by G. Plankenbichler. However, in 1912, an underground blasting operation in the mine went awry, opening a water pocket and causing 20 million liters of water to gush forth from behind the rock and flood the lower level galleries and adits of the mine, creating the largest subterranean (60 m. below ground) lake in Europe but causing the mine’s closure.

Listening to our guide

Listening to our guide

As a consequence, the mine remained closed for years until the 1930s when an international team of cave explorers rediscovered the unique natural spectacle and, with great enthusiasm, they opened this curiosity to the general public as a show mine in 1932.

Miners represented at work at the pause chamber of miners

Miners represented at work at the pause chamber of miners

However, during World War II, Seegrotte was requisitioned by the German military due to the fact that the subterranean site offered the best protection against bombing raids in Nazi Germany‘s “second Ruhr.” It was permanently pumped dry and inside the far flung tunnels, Heinkel Werke built an underground aircraft factory and employed over 2,000 World War II prisoners-of-war and concentration camp prisoners (1,800 forced laborers and 300 skilled workers) to produce the airframes (a total of 198 were produced) of the Heinkel He 162 Salamander, one of the first jetfighters of the world and a secret weapon of the German Luftwaffe. At the end of the war, the German armed forces destroyed the pumps that prevented the mine from filling with water.

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers

After the war, a major clean-up was undertaken and Seegrotte was reopened, in the spring of 1949, as a tourist attraction of the first order. Since its reopening more than 10 million visitors from around the world have visited this former mine, 250 000 of them just last year alone. The complex also served as a location for some of the scenes from the 1993 Disney movie “The Three Musketeers,” and some of the set dressing is still in place (prison walls, and a boat in the underground lake).

The author beside the spooky gilded boat of the Three Musketeers

The author beside the spooky gilded boat of the Three Musketeers

Prison set for The Three Musketeers

Prison set for The Three Musketeers

Upon arrival and payment of admission at Seegrotte, we waited outside the entrance for the previous tour group to finish and return before entering. Above the gateway is a sign with the words “Gluck auf,” the old German miner’s greeting literally translated as “Luck up” or “Luck open.” We were forewarned that it is very cold inside (a constant 9° C, the temperature in summer and winter alike) and, as we didn’t bring a shawl, stole or jacket, we rented a blanket for €0.50. The 35-min. tour took us to 5 lighted caves depicting various activities within the mine as well as the underground lake.

The narrow tunneling adit

Popong making his way through the narrow tunneling adit

The narrow tunneling adit we passed through (anyone over 6′ would have to stoop), single file, was about 400 to 450 m. long and took us 15 mins. to traverse, a compelling recognition of the dismal workday environment of the miners as, in the past, 80 miners brought 2-3 wagons of gypsum daily to the surface through this adit.

Horse stable

Horse stable

Down the hole, we first stopped at a pause chamber, with miners represented at work, and then the former gypsum mine’s own horse stable. The horses, which pulled the heavy wagons loaded with gypsum to the surface as well as turned the horse mill, stayed up to 20 years inside the mine without going up, going blind in the process.

The 85-step stairway leading to the Blue Lake

The 85-step stairway leading to the Blue Lake

Next stop, down an easily negotiated (there’s no wheelchair access though) 85-step stairway, is the very picturesque Blue Lake whose water surface area is about 300 sq. m.  A part of the bigger lake is located 14 m. below this small lake. It is about 1.2-3 m. deep and its water temperature is about 8° C.  The eerily lovely lake’s still, lifeless (without oxygen, there is no aquatic life at all) but very clear waters glow deep blue under artificial lights.  Nearby is the spooky gilded boat and the set for D’Artagnan’s prison.

The Blue Lake

The Blue Lake

The lake is fed by 7 underground springs but has no natural drainage. The water depth is maintained constant at around 1.2 m. by pumping out 50-60 thousand liters of water daily every night.

Boat ride along the Blue Lake

Boat ride along the Blue Lake

Here, we were to make a short (10-min.) and nondescript, electric motor-powered boat ride. Manny, Popong, Grace, Cheska and Kyle boarded ahead of me and Freddie and we had to wait for their return before boarding. The boat ride  took us through cave openings that look so beautiful, especially when reflected on the crystal clear water.

Shrine to St. Barbara

Shrine to St. Barbara

After our boat ride, we again went up the stairs and proceeded to the Chapel of St. Barbara, built 25 m, below the surface by the miners in 1864 for their dead and injured comrades and consecrated to their patron, St. Barbara. Again, the two letters G + A stand for the miner greeting “Gluck auf” (“Good luck”). Every four years, the St. Barbara Celebration takes place at the Chapel of St. Barbara on the first Sunday in December.  On that day, a senior chaplain celebrates Mass in honor of the miners. At one time, the Cardinal of Vienna attended, accompanied by the Vienna Boys Choir.

A display of a scaled model and few original airplane parts of the Heinkel He 162

A display of a scaled model and few original airplane parts of the Heinkel He 162 Salamander

Mining equipment exhibit

Mining equipment exhibit

Final stops are a display of a scaled model and few original airplane parts of the Heinkel He 162 and a museum exhibiting mine lamps and former mining tools (miner’s lamps, etc.) which were used in the past gypsum mine. This was supposed to be the end of the tour, but we still had time to explore, on our own and up a flight of stairs, to the Festsaal, the ballroom of the Berwerkes where feasts were celebrated.

Door leading to the Festsaal

Door leading to the Festsaal

The Festsaal

The Festsaal

If you have half a day to spare, Seegrotte is an interesting place to visit if you are around Vienna. It is not typical cave, so if you are looking for rock formation or typical dripstones such as stalactites and stalagmites, you will be disappointed. It is simply a huge underground space with an interesting history and an underground lake as its main attraction.

L-R- Freddie, Manny, Jandy, Kyle, Cheska, Grace and the author at the Festsaal

L-R: Freddie, Manny, Jandy, Kyle, Cheska, Grace and the author.  In the background is the fireplace of the Festsaal

During our visit, it was the perfect getaway from the heat of the Viennese summer. The tour is not recommended for people who have difficulty walking or are claustrophobic. Wear sensible footwear as the mine floor can be slippery. Beside the entrance is the nice Romerquelle cafe offering cakes, doughnuts and apple strudel. The toilets/WC are PAY only and situated about 50 m. from the attraction.

Romerquelle Cafe

Romerquelle Cafe

Seegrotte: Grutschgasse 2a, 2371 Hinterbrühl, Austria.  Tel: +43 2236 26364. Website: www.seegrotte.at.  E-mail: office@seegrotte.at. Admission: adults (€10), children (from 4 to 14 years, €7), Family Card (2 adults + 2 children, €27).

How to Get There: Seegrotte is a train and a bus journey away from Vienna. Take the S-Bahn S2 train (running every 15-20 mins.) from Meilding to Modling then, from outside the station, take Bus no. 364 or 365 (25-min. drive) and get down at Seegrotte stop. From there, it is 2-3 walk. The return bus stop is 200 m. towards Modling station.

Mauthausen Memorial (Mauthausen, Austria)

Mauthausen Memorial

Mauthausen Memorial

Come morning, after breakfast at our hotel, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I were met by my wife’s cousins Popong and Freddie at the hotel lobby.  Once assembled, we boarded the rented van driven by Freddie that would take us on our 88.7-km.  journey to Mauthausen Memorial, site of the first concentration camp established by the Nazis in in Upper Austria after their annexation of country in March 1938 and one of the last remaining concentration camps from World War II in Europe.

Mauthausen

The idyllic Mauthausen countryside today

On our way out, we also picked up Vicky, another of Grace’s cousins, and her husband Isko who were to join us on our trip. Our journey took us a little over an hour, with a short stopover for snacks and a toilet break.  Upon arrival, Freddie parked the van at a big parking area just outside the complex. Upon alighting, we first walked to the new, raw gray concrete visitor’s center, just outside the site’s walls.

The modern Visitors Center

The modern Visitors Center

Designed by architects Herwig MayerChristoph Schwarz, and Karl Peyrer-Heimstätt, the center was inaugurated in 2003.  It  covers an area of 2,845 sq. m. (30,620 sq. ft.). and has a book shop, information desk, workshop, toilets and a cinema. There is also a cafe but it has different opening hours depending on the time of year.

Inside the Visitors Center

Vicky, Freddie, Grace, Manny and Popong inside the Visitors Center

The camp, situated on a 265 m. (869 ft.) rise of above Mauthausen town (2014 population: 4,913),  on the Gusen River that flows into the Danube River, presently has a serene setting that belies its sordid past as, during World War II, Mauthausen was a labor camp designed to kill its inmates. The main camp of Mauthausen consisted of 32 barracks surrounded by an electrified barbed wire, high stone walls and watch towers.

Barracks and guard watchtower

Barracks and guard watchtower

From its beginnings, in August 8, 1938 (when prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were sent to Mauthausen to begin the camp construction), to its liberation by the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army on May 3, 1945, the concentration camp, one of the largest labor camp complexes in the Third Reich, worked people to death mining granite to build the granite fortress-prison of the main camp, pave the streets of Vienna and build Adolf Hitler‘s grandiose architectural projects. About 190,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Mauthausen.

Czechoslovakia Monument

Czechoslovakia Monument

They included non-Germanic people groups (Jews, Slavs, Soviet prisoners, Czech and Polish intelligentsia, Roma, gypsies, etc.) who didn’t fit the Nazi ideal of racial superiority, perceived social threats (homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.), and political dissenters (Social Democrats, Communists, anarchists, etc.). Mauthausen’s most famous inmate was Simon Wiesenthal who created the Simon Wiesenthal Center after the war to locate fugitive Nazi war criminals.

Poland Monument

Poland Monument

Inmates here were literally worked to death at the rock quarry (known as the “Wiener Graben”) and their daily diet was only half the calories necessary for subsistence.  Certain groups were simply summarily executed (including via a gas chamber) by the Nazi regime.

Soviet Union Monument

Soviet Union Monument

Over 100,000 people died. In 1949, it was declared a national memorial site and, on May 3, 1975, 30 years after the camp’s liberation, Bruno Kreisky, the Chancellor of Austria officially opened the Mauthausen Museum . The Mauthausen site remains largely intact, but much of what constituted the sub-camps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by residential areas built after the war. Today, Mauthausen Memorial stands as a reminder of the darkest days of Austria’s history.

Mongol Gate

Mongol Gate

We entered the camp via the main entrance that former prisoners referred to as the Mongol (or Mongolian) Gate. The two identical guard watchtowers towers above the gate give the appearance of Chinese architecture. As there was a ready supply of granite, there was extensive use of this stone, making Mauthausen as the most ornate concentration camp during the war. The camp’s stone construction also made the camp look the same as when it was built in 1938.

Courtyard of SS Garage

Courtyard of SS Garage

There was once a metal eagle and swastika above the gate but it was removed when the camp was liberated in 1945. The stairs on the right lead down to the S.S. Garagenhof (garage yard) which was used  for S.S. celebrations and as an assembly area for inmates during delousing actions. Overlooking the garage is the balcony where camp commandant S.S. Col. Franz Ziereis would give speeches to his S.S. guards and inmates.

Roll Call Square

Roll Call Square

Once inside the camp, we stood on a wide open courtyard called “Roll Call Square” located in front of the hospital and gas chamber. Each day, there were 3 roll calls held in this courtyard (reduced to 2 after 1943) and inmates were assembled to hear speeches and instructions from Ziereis. The prisoner’s working day started at 4.45 AM in the summer and 5.15 AM in the winter. The day ended at 7 PM.  A number of memorials to the victims of Mauthausen are located in the roll call area.

Sarkophag Memorial

Sarkophag Memorial

Straight ahead is the “Klagemauer” (“Wailing Wall”). When prisoners first arrived here, they had to pass an initiation ritual which included passing hours and, sometimes days, standing facing “The Wailing Wall” while chained to iron rings set in the wall.

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

They were also interrogated and brutally beaten.  Today, the “Wailing Wall” and the wall on the left now have numerous personal memorial tablets placed there by families of the victims and a wide range of countries. There’s also a memorial to Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Mauthausen Memorial on June 24, 1988.

John Paul II Visit Memorial

John Paul II Visit Memorial

Behind the granite wall, on the right, is the quarantine camp while the building on the left, with 2 chimneys, is the hospital which contained a gas chamber in the basement. In the former kitchen is a Catholic church. The majority of the prisoners sent to Mauthausen were Catholics.

Catholic chapel

Catholic chapel

To the left of the Mongol Gate are some of the remaining wooden prisoner barracks that have been restored using the same materials used during the camp construction. These barracks were overcrowded and the sanitary conditions deplorable.

Barrack interior

Barrack interior

Each barrack had two bedrooms and two living rooms located on the left and right sides of the entrance. The prisoners were not allowed to spend much time in the living room, being forced to stay in the bedrooms, with two or three in the same bed. In front of the entrance, in the middle of the barrack, was the bathroom.

Barracks bathroom

Barracks bathroom

At the ground floor of the old infirmary is a very well explained (they also have an English translation) museum, opened in May 2013, covering the history of Mauthausen, from its inception in 1938 to the liberation of the camp on May 3, 1945.

Exhibits (8)

Museum exhibits

Museum exhibits

On display are samples of letters, clothes (the prisoners were forced to wear colored triangles in order to identify the category to which they belong – Gypsy, gay, Jewish, political prisoners, etc.) and other artifacts seen inside the camp.  This kept us occupied for quite a long time.

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Next, we went down the basement where we followed the scene of the crime and the murder of prisoners. The gas chamber, refrigeration room, dissection room and crematorium complex, the very disturbing sections of the camp, are definitely not for the squeamish or for children.

Disinfection Room

Disinfection Room

The gas chamber, completed and used by the spring of 1942, could murder 120 people at one time and it is estimated that around 10,200 prisoners were gassed in this room. However, its construction was inefficient and the prisoners often died of suffocation rather than the gas. The Judas Opening, a hole in the door of the gas chamber, allowed the curious or, better said, the sadists, to see what is happening inside the chamber.

Crematorium

Crematorium

The dissection room was were, after a person was gassed, they were taken to have their gold fillings removed. The box on the right was for the collection of the fillings.  After their fillings were removed, their bodies were stored in the refrigeration room before being taken to the crematorium.

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

The dissection room was also used for cruel medical experiments and for taking organs from living people. The organs were bottled and stored on shelves.  The crematorium ovens was the final procedure in the murder process of tens of thousands of inmates of Mauthausen.

Crematorium Memorial Room

Crematorium Memorial Room

Then there is the Room of Names which displays and lists the etched names of 81,000 known victims (the names are also available to view via the internet) onto various horizontally placed black glass plates.  We then left the building and walk a short distance before returning to an older part of the museum.

Room of Names

Room of Names

On a green field at the entrance in the concentration camp, between the main camp and the quarry steps, is the Memorial Garden, originally the site of the S.S. administrative barracks.

Hungary Monument

Hungary Monument

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

In 1949, the site was turned into a memorial garden with the first memorial being donated by France. Today, there are now 22 monuments and more than 30 inscribed plaques, donated by numerous nations subjugated by Germany during the World War II, to remember their prisoners from Mauthausen.

Bulgaria Monument

Bulgaria Monument

Monument to Women

Monument to Women

Also inside the camp are many graves of different nationalities. Barracks 21–24 and Camp II, formerly used as quarantine camps after 1944, now house remains of the inmates from the “American cemeteries” which were transferred here in 1961.

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Just past the Memorial Garden Prisoners is the “Todesstiege” (“Stairs of Death”), were Jewish inmates were forced to run up the 186 steps carrying huge packs with 25 kgs. of blocks of granite on their backs from  the Wiener Graben. The weight was gradually increased and, as the prisoners tired, they would fall backwards striking other prisoners, some of them being killed by the blocks that fell, and causing a domino effect, with the S.S. guards placing bets on who would fall.

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

For their sick entertainment, the sadistic S.S. guards would frequently take those that survived that fate to the top of the quarry and often forced them to jump or push them, over the narrow ledge of the quarry, to their deaths in a procedure called the “parachute jump,” cynically referring to them as “Fallschirmspringer” (“parachutists”). Today, the ledge is now overgrown with trees and bushes but, from an observation point, we can see the valley below.

Stairs of Death

Stairs of Death

Our visit to this concentration camp was educational, making us see the awful conditions the inmates were forced to live when the world was at war, and also left us speechless as we understood the pain people here experienced at this place.  It was like taking a trip back into time that, even though it is horrific, it is still part of history, a history that, for the sake of the world’s future, none should ever forget or pretend that it doesn’t exist. The Mauthausen Memorial truly deserves a visit, not just for the camp itself, but for the memory of all the people who lost their lives here.

L-R - Isko, Manny, PPopong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

L-R:- Isko, Manny, Popong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

Mauthausen Memorial: Erinnerungsstraße 1, 4310 Mauthausen, Austria. Tel: +43 7238 22690. Fax: +43 7238 2269 40. Admission: 2 EUR. Open daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (March 1 – July 10); Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (July 11 – October 31) and Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 3:45 PM (November 1 – February 28).  Audio guides, in a variety of languages, are available for 3€. There are a number of guided tours available but it is a case of checking the website or phoning the visitor’s centre. During winter, some parts of the camp aren’t accessible for safety reasons (ice). Website: www.mauthausen-memorial.at.

Roman Ruins (Vienna, Austria)

Directly at the entryway to the palace complex of the Hofburg, in the middle of Vienna, on the Michaelerplatz,  is a small excavation site ringed by gorgeous architecture. The cobblestoned Michaelerplatz  “square” (it’s actually circular), bounded by the Spanish Riding School and St. Michael’s Church, is a major pick-up point for tours by fiaker  (horse-drawn carriages).

The Roman Ruins

Uncovered by archaeologists between 1989 and 1991, here, traces of the structural remains, from different epochs, of a Roman legionary outpost (canabae legionis), the settlement outside the Roman legionary fortress Vindobona, have been found. In this settlement lived the families (i.e. concubines and children) of the legionaries. There were also some inns, shops and brothels. The settlement was probably destroyed between 168 and 180 by Marcomanni.

The 1st century crossroads of two main streets, the “Amber street” from the Aquae region (today Baden south from Vienna) and the street along the limes, have also been found. The final form for public presentation was done by the Austrian architect Hans Hollein.

Roman RuinsMichaelerplatz, Vienna, Austria. Admission: free.