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Macau and its relevance to Philippine history

21 June 2019

The St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery (left) where Rizal's friend is buried. 

By George Manalansan

Filipino migrant workers based in Hong Kong, led by cultural group, Lakbay Dangal, went on a one-day historical trip to Macau on Jun 7, a statutory holiday.

The group took the trip to unwind, but also to know more about the ancient city transformed by Portugal into a commercial outpost between the east and west in mid-16th century, but is now known as the Las Vegas of Asia for its many casinos that now drive its economy.

Despite the heat, the group managed to pack in several historical sites during their day-long visit, including the ruins of St Paul’s Church which was built in the 17th century, but was wrecked by an earthquake that left only its façade standing. The site is included in the list of Unesco world heritage sites.

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Along the way they took in samples of traditional food like meat jerkies and almond cookies offered by various shops that dot the paved streets leading to the ruins.

They also visited the famous paved streets of Largo de Senado (Senado Square), seat of the old Macanese government, and on which an old church also stands. The square used to be a popular meeting place between Portuguese and Chinese residents of the city. Today, most of the old buildings on the square have been preserved, and house commercial establishments.

The group's trip also took them to Museo de Macau, which was built in 1617- 1626 as a fortress, but was later used as a residence of governors and as military barracks. It was turned into a museum in 1998.

Some  of the Lakbay Dangal travellers stop over at the Largo de Senado.

Another site they visited was the St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery ( Cemeterio de S. Miguel Arcanjo) where Dr. Jose Rizal’ s Portuguese friend, Dr. Lorenzo P. Marquez ( Dr. Lourenco Pereira Marques) is buried.

Lakbay Dangal members know from their research that Dr Marques lived in Hong Kong at the same time as Dr. Rizal, and during their time together, helped the Philippine national hero boost his clientele. At that time Dr Marques was a physician in Victoria Prison, which was just a stone’s throw from Rednaxela Terrace where Rizal lived during his stay in Hong Kong in 1891-1892.

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The group that conducts free guided tours of the places where Rizal lived and practiced as an optometrist in Hong Kong, timed their visit ahead of the 121st anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence on Jun 12 and Rizal’s 150th birthday on Jun19.

At the cemetery, the group was so awed at seeing the little-known grave of a close friend of Rizal that one of them said she got goose bumps.

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Macau remains a blend of old-world charm from its colonial past, and of glittering, modern-day buildings that house casinos and ritzy shops. It has so many attractions that a day’s visit will not be enough to take in all its attractions.

With proper planning and good budgeting, $500 should be enough for a day tour, food and snacks included.

Rowena Arandia, who was with the group, said she considers Macau as her second home, as she frequently goes there, sometimes staying overnight with friends. She enjoys the convenience of having free shuttle buses that take visitors to the casinos on Macau’s three islands.

Her friend Imee Payoyo, a first timer in Macau, had a fun time playing slot machines, but was quick to say one must have discipline to make sure she does not gamble too much. She said she was happy enough capping her losses at $100.

Going there has become easier on the budget with the opening of the HK-Macau-Zhuhai bridge late last year. One can get to Macau by taking the air bus – A11 from North Point and Central, A41 from Shatin, and all others that go past the airport, and stop at the border checkpoint. After clearing Hong Kong immigration, one can take the cross-border buses at just $65 each way, $70 for the night buses.

The trip from Central to Macau will take an hour and a half each way, providing there are no huge crowds at the border crossing.

Another option is to take the Tung Chung- bound MTR. Get off at Sunny Bay station, and take Bus B5 to the border. From Tung Chung, take Bus B6.

Finally, one can still take the faster but pricier sea crossing by taking a jetfoil from the HK-Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan. The ferry ride costs at least $300 round-trip,

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