June 20, 2005
No, it's not something that's tasty at all.
In Filipino parlance, 'Lutong Macao' means something thats fishy or rigged. However, I'd like to think more of it than just that.
Macao (or Macau) is a charming anachronism. It's a jazzed-up piece of 16th-century Iberian Europe plopped right smack in the middle of Southern China and overlooking one of the most modern cities in the world, Hong Kong.
I have been to the place twice before but this, my third visit, just validated the reasons on why I love the place so much and never get tired of returning back.
No, Im not a serious gambler. I go there primarily to soak in the architecture.
Like Rome, Macao is a city of seven hills. And like Manila, Macao (at first glance) is a Latino chop suey with Iberian (specifically Portuguese) inspired buildings to match her Chinese roots. Think old Binondo with pastel colored buildings.
But the difference ends in how each city value their architectural legacies. While Manila is slowly – and sadly- erasing whatever remains of her Hispanic past, Macao has pragmatically embraced her dual Sino-Portuguese legacy and is now reaping in from the fruits of heritage conservation.
A walk down Macao's time-worn cobbles reveals something why travellers ( like this fanatic!) make the effort to hop in the ferry from H.K. and spend some time in this former Portuguese enclave. Well, of course there are the casinos – and theyre getting bigger and brasher by the way – but side-by-side the Las Vegas glitz is the largest collection of Portuguese colonial architecture to be found anywhere in China.
Pastel colored churches such as Sao Domingo (pictured) recall the days when Catholic missionaries from afar where moving heaven and earth to convert the biggest market in the world. Well, the friars did not suceed but at least they left behind a string of charming baroque churches along the coast of China. And the Macanese, ever steadfast in keeping their identities intact ; restores these structures, turns a part of it into a museum all to the delight of history freaks like this blogger!
Heritage conservation is the byword in Macao these days. Historic architecture, be it a colonial building, a Chinese temple, plazas, theaters and even obscure little shrines (no kidding!) are all being spruced up and given a new lease of life in sync with our 21st century needs.
These unique architectural ensemble has now caught UNESCO's attention and the organization is now eyeing a select group of buildings to be included to into the prestigious World Heritage List. Macao is living example that historic buildings are not just for antique salvaging but can be an asset to the community at the same time be economically-viable in the 21st century (well of course its hard to compete with a 20-storey condominium).
When will the mayor of ManiLA (or owners of historic properties in the city) ever realize this?