|A landmark in Carcar City, found at the rotunda|
When it comes to traveling, my love for the charming oldies particularly the grand structures of historic churches has been one of my priorities. So during my latest trip to Cebu, I was adamant to include Carcar City in my itinerary.
Having seen a picture of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church a couple of years ago, I was enthralled. I knew in a heartbeat that I wanted to see this with my very own eyes. Well, that and to taste their famous Carcar chicharon (pork crackling) and ampaw or ampao (pop rice). Surely, I am not the only one who travels where food is a must-try.
|One of the beautiful old houses in Carcar City|
Known as the Heritage City of Cebu, Carcar is home to a number of colonial structures during the Spanish and American era. As I stepped down along the National Highway, instantly I felt like walking back in time sans the centuries-old baro't saya and barong tagalog (traditional Filipino clothes). Behold, right before my very eyes were beautiful stone houses - the ones that you see in Filipino epic films. The stone houses were holding the first floor of the residences as the second floor is completely made of strong dark wood with intricate embellishments.
|Carcar City Parish Convent|
Most of the second floor windows were made of capiz while the windows of the Parish Convent looked like it was made entirely of wood and is opened by sliding at both sides.
|Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church|
Moving forward, I could see the beautiful church but was somehow blocked by another statue in front. From afar, I thought it was Mother Mary but as I looked into my picture, it resembles Jesus Christ holding a globe and a scepter. The statue has a dome-shaped cover and surrounded by cherubims.
My heart beats a notch faster with every step I take as I approach the Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church. Akin to a first date, butterflies were all-over my stomach. I was practically giggling inside, that after two long years, I finally came face to face with this amazing structure that was built more than 100 years ago.
The church is said to be of Greek Orthodox inspiration with its bell towers resembling some European structures in the same style. Think of the colorful Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square or the world's tallest Orthodox Church - The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour also in Moscow and you have an idea how interesting the Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church is. In between the low-fenced gate fronting the church are 13 columns with seemingly concrete sculptures each representing Christs' Apostles including Judas Iscariot.
|Main door of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church|
The Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church may not be as grand as the other centuries-old churches found across the archipelago but it is definitely one of the most captivating with its simplicity.
|Numerous stalls selling the famous Carcar chicharon (pork crackling)|
Apart from wanting to get a glimpse of its historic past, just a few steps from the rotunda is a myriad of the wonderful delicacies Carcar City is most famous for - cholesterol loading chicharon (pork crackling) and ampao (sweetened rice crispies). Various stalls claiming to be the "original" chicharon maker in Carcar abound. Luis Original Special Crispy Chicharon, MATMAT The Original Carcar Chicharon and The Original Carcar BAR DIN Crispy Chicharon Since 1950s.
|One of the many stalls in Carcar City selling ampao another famous delicacy from this city|
A stone's throw away is the Carcar Public Market so we walked to check out what else was waiting for us. Alas! More of that crispy chicharon from MATMAT and few more stalls selling blocks of ampao in various sizes. As recommended by one of the museum's staff, we opted to taste MATMAT Chicharon.
|A mountain of pork crackling known as Chicharon, Carcar's must-buy delicacy|
A mountain of freshly cooked pork rind made my mouth water with glee. I have not seen so much pork crackling in one place in my entire life and despite the artery-clogging after-effects of over-eating may bring, I hurriedly ordered a few packs - chicharon with just the skin and that with the laman plus a few ampao.
Taking a few pictures made it more tempting so after a few clicks, I found myself munching a pack of that crispy, oh so crunchy Carcar chicharon. The pork rinds were well-seasoned and cooked to a perfect crackling brown chicharon. Before I knew it, my pack was almost emptied in just a few minutes.
I am happy I walked back in time in the streets of Carcar City - happy being culturally rich and came face to face with Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church. Despite the maddening heat during this walk, it was a memorable journey worth traveling to.
The above post is an edited excerpt from my article Walk Back in Time in the Streets of Carcar City published at Republic of 7107 Island Travel Magazine, Island Travel & Adventure Section under Issue 2 Volume 3 (September – December 2011).
Pie Rivera is a food columnist of Republic of 7107 Island Travel Magazine. For subscriptions to the magazine, you may email them at email@example.com.
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