Saturday, February 16, 2008

Discovering Cavite 01: Cavite City

Another accidental find? Probably so! I was just wont on riding that new Metrostar Ferry from the MOA to Cavite City and here I am slowly discovering an interesting province!

I have to use numerics in my article titles (Discovering Cavite 01, 02, 03 etc) for I have decided I will definitely return to see and experience more! Here is my story…

How did I know about this place?
Well, most everyone residing in Metro Manila would know or have heard Cavite (the province) which is just a suburb of the metropolis anyway! So I am one of those who think this way! Of course I have been many times to parts of this province but really just to do specific affairs and not necessarily to learn more about it. How is that? A birthday party of a friend who lives in one of the Cavite towns, a Caylabne or Tagaytay excursion, a tour of Corregidor, a “tripping” c/o a realty company to visit their “new village”, and so on. All those visits were not meant to understand, discern more or admire the beauty about places in Cavite.

Therefore, you can say that I got curious about this province because of the Metrostar Ferry that has lately started operations beside the SM Mall of Asia Complex! Yep, that’s true! When I took the bay tour sometime ago, I saw that their ferries had schedules to Cavite City. And I said… Cavite City… what could be in there?! A free weekend, and there I was setting out to start finding little big things about Cavite!

Going there
Oh I went in style of course! I took the 45-minute ride on the Metrostar Ferry that cruises along Manila Bay from MOA to Cavite City! A very good and comfortable conveyance I must admit. No traffic! Air conditioned with TV up front. You can even go out to the back portion (after the comfort rooms) where there are seats too for the smokers and those who like to catch air – not really fresh since that would be mostly “smoky air” from the boat’s engine exhaust! By the way, this boat is smaller than the one that’s used for their manila bay cruise where there is a second level. But it’s safe, clean and comfortable just the same.

The boat arrives on its own wharf at the very back of the Cavite City Hall. You walk along that narrow path between the city hall and justice building out unto the main street where you can take a jeep or tricycle ride.

The “little discoveries”
Foremost is the fact that Manila Bay waters does not really stink – at least off and far away from the shores! Manila Bay is actually too big a bay. That, I only realized during this trip to Cavite City. Pardon the ignorance but in my mind, a bay was just as big as Muelle Bay in PG or the Caylbane Bay. On my return from this trip, I got curious what a “bay” really is especially the famous and infamous Manila Bay. So I went online to check it out! I like this definition of a BAY – “…an indentation of a shoreline larger than a cove but smaller than a gulf”… and my first reaction was… “ha? ano daw?!” Anyways, learned that Manila Bay is actually 19 kilometres at the opening area and expands to almost 50 kms inside with its shores touching the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, NCR and Cavite! Whew!

Oh, so now I think Caylabne is a cove not a bay! And yep, Maqueda Bay is also quite expansive! And so would be Subic. Is Laguna a bay? I think it’s a big lake. Then again… lake whatever, there will be shoreline indentations so there/it must be a bay hehe! Now back to my Cavite trip!

The Manila bay, where my boat traveled that is, is dirty! Not that it is like the murky Pasig River! One can still swim in the middle of Manila Bay (for whatever purpose hehe) but if I see a lot of trash (mostly plastic bags, snack wrappers and plastic cups) while my boat cruises in the middle of that big body of water, then to me it is dirty! Thanks to all of us who live in the metropolis for throwing our trash just about anywhere! They end up floating in this bay.

Back inside the boat there were a few interesting things like I did not want to go and look at the cockpit as it seemed uninteresting (meaning all gadgets are modern) and quite cramped that I might be disturbing the pilot or get in his way hehe! I saw the purser being busy just after departure counting and tallying the tickets he collected versus us passengers on board. He records these in a logbook. Now this was a bit interesting! The tickets come in three colors – white ticket means “regular passenger” paying the regular/normal fare of P75; yellow ticket means “student” paying a discounted rate of just P60; pink tickets mean “elderlies” paying also a discounted rate of P60. Oh, and by the way, at the boat station, there are wall markings in red such that if your kids don’t exceed that height they ride free. Am not sure if that will apply to midgets ahhh hehehe! Now don’t be afraid and don’t be shy, if you need to ask just about anything of this trip or boat, go and ask the crews as I did. They will happily and willingly answer your queries. Remember they are probably too bored at this “another uneventful ride of their lives” so their talking to you is probably very much welcomed.

A lot of big big boats (ships) anchor very far from the shores of the Manila Bay and you can see them as mere shadows or hazes or dots. I learned from one of our crews that those ships have to do so because they’re so big they can’t easily come to shore. And many of us thought the “superferries” are already huge! I silently surmised at having been reminded that the meaning of “deep” depends on whose point of view it is! The other side of the coin is true, that means “shallow” to those ships might not be so to the little motorized bancas cruising by the bay!

Motorized banca? Yes, there are not so many but you do see some as your boat is still kilometers towards Cavite City. Where do those little bancas go? That’s my next discovery!

There are a lot of bamboo structures in the middle of the bay far from land. They’re like fences to square or rectangular areas in the middle of the sea. Some have little huts on top of them (just good for two people sitting inside), some have none. Had to interview the engine-man of my boat for me to know what those structures are. They’re called “baklad”! Yes, a new addition to my vocabulary! A baklad is a fish-catching structure in the middle of the sea where wide nets are lowered to the bottom of the waters (or towards that part anyway) then suddenly raised up to above sea level hoping fish and other seafood will be caught in it. Fishermen of course own and maintain them. They sell their catch to middlemen who bring those to our public markets. So when do they lower or raise the baklad to catch fish? The answer is a very specific: “as they deem fit” hehe! Fisherfolks purportedly know when to submerge those wide nets and when to raise them – and I learned it’s usually at night! They follow unwritten norms of their trade that are influenced by things like the moon, the tide, the sea current and of course the weather! This “aquatic learning” for my lowly mind is followed by an “airborne realization”!

While we all know that birds can fly great distances, this trip enhanced what that means to my mind. A lot of white birds are hovering or perching on the bamboo structures of many a baklad. They’re there to do their own fish catching! They prey on fish that are already in or just about to be trapped in any baklad contraption. Looking at them birds (hundreds of them) and looking at the nearest shore from where we were in this big body of water, I could only marvel at how great these creatures are with their wings. The area is kilometers away from anywhere land! Oh, still c/o the engineman of my boat, these birds are white (and sometimes grey) and are called seagulls. They come here to feed for they know its easy and convenient – they’re in the middle of the sea where fish usually are but they have something to rest or perch-on when tired (the baklad). Am sure the baklad owners don’t mind, otherwise, they’d be erecting scarecrows or signs that say “off limits to birds” hehe!

With me on this trip were mostly “local tourists”. There was a group of about 9 people who seemed to be working for the same company and were on their way to a colleague’s place in Cavite. There were couples, there was a barkada of old ladies and there was this young “taglish-speaking” chinoi family with two little tykes and a yaya obviously also just touring the place. The little girl of about 5 years old asked the Dad what those white birds were. The father who was reading the day’s Inquirer (daily paper), without even looking, readily answered “I’m not sure… maybe geese”. And the little dear said “oh okay, geese but not sure”. And her little brother of about 3 years old who can barely talk volunteered “chicken”. And I silently laughed! But as I did so, the yaya said “they are called sea-birds, we have a lot in the province”. And I almost stood up to applaud!

Still about airborne things, as your boat negotiate the 45-minute cruise; don’t just look for the birds. Look further up where you are sure to see a glimpse or two of the steel birds. Yep, the airplanes! This part of Manila Bay is near the path of the Manila International Airport’s “Runway 06/24” so you see a lot of landings and takeoffs from those commercial aircraft. They may even become nice back-drops or adornments to your sky as you compose that picture or two of the baklad! See?! I discovered many things here! On the way to Cavite, that part of the sky would usually be to your left (port side or lanar board – if you want the technical airline or nautical terms!). Now, as your boat approaches land, do lookout to starboard. You will catch views of Philippine Navy planes landing or taking to the skies! Philippine Navy? Oh yes, and that would take us to some of my discoveries on land – in Cavite City!

As the boat approached land, to my right I saw grey-colored boats and ships that would normally be indicators of military craft. So I asked the engineman, and indeed those were navy vessels. I saw a docked boat with its back clearly showing its name – BRP Bacolod City. Next to it was a smaller craft named Rajah Humabon. Next were two or three yet smaller crafts whose names my aged eyes and my lowly point-and-shoot lenses could not anymore discern! They were all docked at some kind of a pier, just meters away from big silo-looking tanks like you would see at Pandacan, Batangas or Paranas! “Sangley Point yan sir” was the volunteered information of the engineman. And so I said, “ahh okay”! Just a little beyond them boats were frequent landings and take offs of military aircraft – some looking aged but still flying just the same! Thus I just imagined that the runway of Sangley is nearby to this port or docking station.

Then Mr. Engineman (now almost becoming my eager tour guide) told me to also look to the left as we approached land. Though mostly “camouflaged” by houses on stilts, that side actually was/is the historic Fort San Felipe. I said in my mind “gosh, this is also a history town that I should roam”. Anyway, at this point I was already resolved to learn and see more about this place in a planned and organized manner. But I had to move on and see/experience/encounter whatever there was on my unplanned path!

Wow! The boat docks at its very own wharf where the pontoon is connected to an all-bamboo platform with a resting area (with benches and tables). All made of bamboo. PLUS, the rest area is actually still far from their main “boat station” and it is connected by a rather exciting walk on a “bamboo-path” about 50 meters or so to main land! And that “main land” is not yet really “land”. The boat station stands on a “house-on-stilts” style of a structure but everything below it (foundation, posts) are made of concrete. And you walk past this “building” to another narrow walk (still by the waters of Manila Bay), this time on a shorter concrete walkway that finally ushers you to mainland!

Hello Cavite City!
As mentioned above, you arrive at the back of the city hall and the justice building where the Metrostar Ferry’s boat station sits. Then you walk out a narrow pathway unto the street fronting both buildings where rides are readily available (jeeps or tricycles). I was surprised that this near a place to the metropolis, there are no cabs that regularly ply their streets! But I silently said my thanks – if only to realize that there could have been more pollution in this place if there were cabs. Amen!

Roaming Cavite City
I am very certain that I roamed “incompletely”! What with coming to this place without even knowing what to see or where to go! I only wanted to ride the Metrostar Ferry to Cavite, remember?! And that was at this point already halfway fulfilled – since the other half would be my return boat trip home. But I was already there… it was just almost high noon and the next boat to MOA will only depart at 1:30PM to be followed by the last trip at 4:30PM. So what now?! Thus, I did my own walking… just followed where my feet (ok my mind) would see fit!

Fronting the city hall of Cavite City, across the street (Judge Ibanez?), is a park normal in size to just about every park you see fronting the seat of government in just about every other town in this country. So I naturally walked into it if only to find anything worth remembering. Aha! The park has a good photo-op view of the city hall building and the hall of justice. There are flowers and park benches and some attempt to greeneries. During my visit (and it was noontime) there were a scattering of people mostly lovers and the homeless lazing around in this park. Just across the justice building is a covered basketball court where there was some kind of an activity or party of a local philanthropic club. Was that Rotary Club? Probably! They were having lunch with food being passed around in Styrofoam packs. Looking to the right from the city hall there are two nice-looking single level buildings that must be restaurants (am not sure, but they look like so).

I walked in the middle of the park going to its other end, away from the city hall. Somewhere to the right, I saw some kind of a historical marker that said “ANG PAG-AAKLAS SA KABITE NG 1872”. I was not sure at that moment on what’s the direct translation of “pag-aaklas” but I understood what it meant. It was probably a strike, a revolt or some kind of a public protest that enraged the Spaniards during that time when they were the ruling colonizers of this country. Was this the “Cavite Mutiny”? I was not sure. But checking out the web, Wikipeadia seems to be an affirmation. The marker tells that in this city on January 20, 1872, some 200 of our forebears did the “pag-aaklas” in protest of their being asked to pay taxes (buwis) and being subjected to forced labor (sapilitang paglilingkod) – which became the cause of the arrest, litigation and consequently the execution of our GomBurZa heroes (Filipino priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora) at Luneta in February of the same year. As this marker sits amidst the cool shades of big trees, there were people lazing around with even a paraplegic (or was he a stroke victim?) who was contentedly resting with his back on this marker that I had second thoughts of taking a shot. But they did realize what I wanted and without saying anything and just smiling at me, almost all of them moved away from the marker. My goodness the history that I am re-learning by roaming around! Golly! Now, I AM proud that I keep roaming around.

Across this marker at the other side of the park is a monument of the national hero Jose Rizal. Went there and took a shot. I did wonder and wandered around this monument for any historical linkages as to why such a monument of Jose Rizal would be in the city’s plaza. Having seen none, then I just assumed that this monument is erected in this place just like in any other town or city in the country. He is OUR national hero anyway.

Moved onwards to the eastern end of this park and stumbled upon a non-functioning water fountain with some peculiar contraptions in it. I wondered but could not imagine what kind of aquatic play and display would that fountain be capable of when working. I just know it must be or must have been grand – what with all those lights and the circular stage-like structure, etc..! Anyway…

That water fountain is actually the eastern end of the park and is on the side of the street (P. Gomez?). Across the street is the provincial headquarters of Philippine National Red Cross and some other single level government buildings or so. I wonder why those people inside the red-cross office seemed to be “tambays”. I could be wrong you know. Further to the left and across the corner with Plaza Soledad (street) is a prominent Social Welfare offices that had signs that it was supposed to be a place for the elderly. Not sure if it was a home for the aged or just an assistance office since I did not enter anymore. I just know it is for the elderly and the prominent signage is DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

At this point, I could sense that the busier part of the city seemed to be in my rightward direction, so I walked towards that area. Oh, so all along I have been wandering around what they call the Samonte Park (honoring one of its past governors – Ramon Quijano Samonte). There is a marker/monument erected on a rotund if only to ceremoniously announce what this place is – if you are coming from the city center that is. Plus there is even a little “island” in the middle of the street with a replica of a house to complete this monument. I wonder what that house represents? Maybe the first provincial capitol? Since Samonte was the first commonwealth governor of the province (after being mayor of the city)? Ah, I have to return to this place if only to know more!

Then I walked onwards approaching the city with the dear governor Samonte behind me and watching my back hehe. Not many steps on, I came upon an interesting balustered part of the street where it kisses a murky body of water that am not sure if it was a lake or part of the sea. Squinting my eyes on the midday sun, I could see that houses were built on the water with no connection to land (except probably by boat). Surely those houses must be of fishermen and their families. And there was a white doggie dog that was playfully romping on a bamboo platform of one of those houses! I wonder if that dog ever already fell to the waters hehe! The view to my right and across the street was a big building that I read to be the Canacao Campus of Recoletos De Cavite – which I learned is now part of San Sebastian College. And I also learned that this campus houses the school’s high school department together with elementary and pre-school departments. Then the college department must be somewhere in this city for sure!

Still on my side of the street just above the murky waters and just about across the gate of Recoletos is some kind of a boardwalk big enough for strollers to hang around during the afternoon.

A few more steps onwards as I walked in opposite direction of the one-way traffic flow, there was another monument. And like the Samonte monument at the other end of this strip of road, it also stands on a park-like construction as rotund or delta on the street. First thing I noticed was that this monument is surrounded by a lot of Philippine flags. I thought this must be some kind of special so I walked towards it. On the side as I approached it, I could see the markings that this was erected by popular demand and inaugurated 12 September 1906. Inching my way to the front of this monument I realized this is a memorial/monument for the thirteen martyrs of Cavite. Yes, the “trece martires” which even is actually a name of one of the towns in this province. Circling this edifice I learned that the thirteen martyrs were executed at Plaza De Armas in 12 September 1896. Questions rolled in my mind… Is this a tomb marker? Is this Plaza De Armas? Well I hoped not as it’s too tiny for a plaza (it’s just a triangular island surrounded by three streets)! The inscriptions do say…
“A LA MEMORIA DE LOS XIII CIUDADANOS …(names are enumerated) …FUSILADOS EN LA PLAZA DE ARMAS DE CAVITE”. So there I was again re-learning something that I think I have come across on my fourth grade.

Curious, at the first opportunity I checked out the web and here I go:
Wiki says they were executed by musketry on 11SEP1896 – but the monument says 12SEP! Ah, whichever is correct anyway, it’s just a day difference. Maybe the Wiki writer wass talking on US time (delayed by about a day hehe). Actually on the latter part of that wiki article it assumes that the execution was on the 12th ”…indictment for treason before a military court which found them guilty on September 11 after a four-hour trial. At 12:45 p.m. the following day, the thirteen patriots were brought out of their cells and taken to the Plaza de Armas, outside Fort San Felipe, and executed by musketry” They were executed for having cooperated with the KKK or Katipunan against the colonizers (Spain). Very good story and history about the 13 martyrs. Okay, and so I learned that the monument’s location is the same exact place where they were gunned and the same place where their remains were finally laid to eternal rest – after exhumations from their original graves that is. Oh, and because of this curiosity, I went on to learn from wiki that the capital of the province is named Trece Martires because of this incident and that the 13 barangays of that city are all named after each of the martyrs. Galing di ba?! Lastly and by the way… these 13 martyrs were prominent people at that time. They were not just mere street activists like you recently see during rallies on metro manila’s thoroughfares!

Hey, just out of curiosity, before I walked on towards the busier area of the city, I chanced upon a kilometer marker a few inches in front of a sari-sari store across the monument, and it declared that the place is KM34 C0! Does that mean this very place is just 34 kilometers from Luneta? I doubt! Probably the 34 means 34 kilometers from the capital’s center (Trece Martires). Then again, baka naman it’s really from Luneta since those kilometer markers are supposed to be made by the national government with Jose Rizal’s monument in Luneta as Kilometer Zero!

Okay, walking onwards along P. Burgos St. I saw a scattering of old houses reminiscent of our past but I had second thoughts at taking pictures of them because they were and still are live residences where the occupants might pounce at me as to why I was taking pictures of their homes hehe! But this was a nice long walk. The street I was walking on seemed to be a commercial area with left and right stalls of pirated DVDs, pawnshops, hardwares, cellphone repair shops, etc etc…

Then I arrived at a big church that seemed to be in the process of being made into something bigger. That must have been a catholic church since there were a lot of people going in and out of that church. But the construction’s clutter made me lose interest in going up to it and trying to find what good views I might see there. Promised myself that next time I will enter that church to make a cursory at its big insides and of course to also pray!

Then I saw that they have a fairly new public market that is about 50 meters from the road I was in (P. Burgos). This is where the tricycles (both motorized and pedal driven) are a multitude! My stomach was starting to act up as it was noontime, so I moved on walking the length of this seemingly endless street until I stumbled upon a Jollibee! This branch is not particularly something I would cherish to remember. Well yes, as everywhere I go in this country, when starving and not within view of delectable local fare, I always hop in to a Jollibee store and have my C1 and K1 both with regular coke! I did just that here. But why did this store seem uninteresting to me? It’s just a rectangular block like you would see in office cafeterias or hospitals. There are old and young beggars right at the doorstep. The guard and some off-duty crews do their log-in / log-out and boisterous bantering at a table right beside the lone entry door where they also unbelievably positioned the party-needs booth to what is now a rowdy-crowdy entrance door. The comfort room stench is the worst in all Jollibee stores that I have entered so far. Needless to say, I did not dream of staying any further than finishing my food. Ahhh!

Walked a bit more onwards until I finally realized that the commercial establishments were getting sparse though I could still see beauty parlors, banks, ladies doing their laundry in font of the house and even a tandem of old ladies selling halo-halo! Stopped here and asked how I might be able to go to Kawit. I was told by one of the old ladies to cross the street and hop on one of those “mini-buses” going to Zapote. And so I did, but that’s my topic in my next article.

Let’s fast forward…

Back from Kawit and anxious to catch the 4:30PM last trip to MOA, I arrived on another “mini-bus” and got off the same area in Cavite City where I left earlier in the day. The bus driver told me to catch a jeep heading for Canacao and so I did. I was the last remaining passenger on this jeep ride and when it passed by the DSWD building, I asked the driver if his route makes an inverted U turn since my destination was just across the park to our left – the city hall. The old man said yes and a bit hesitated on his brakes. Then he said that had I told him earlier on, he could have already turned left at the park so I’d arrive sooner and he won’t have to negotiate the inverted U. Then again we were already deep into that street so he proceeded and I did not mind as it was just about 3:45PM. And lo and behold, good thing that we did this street since I saw and learned that the Fort San Felipe is located in this area. The jeep turned left right in front of the fort’s gate and I caught a pic or two of that gate. Then I told myself… more research and come back here to check-out Fort San Felipe!

On completing the inverted U route from the other end of the park, I was let off by manong jeep driver at the city hall but I had to walk back a few meters since I saw a little edifice that said Porta Vaga Chapel. Not sure yet, but I seem to remember that either Porta Vaga as a place or that chapel itself has a place in this country’s history. Went to take a shot of the chapel and proceeded back to the boat station. At least I now know where Porta Vaga is!

Homeward bound!
Oh Metrostar Ferry’s boat station seems rather quiet in the afternoons and that is complemented by the stillness of the little plaza just behind the city hall. You guessed it… thus, lovers usually hang around in this place by day’s end. Their views: the silent waters amidst sunset, the Sangley Point across the waters and a good view of Roxas Boulevard buildings shimmering under the setting sun far across the Manila Bay!

Boat ride back was uneventful except that I witnessed the seagulls following the wake of our boat! Yep yep, they mightily did so. And occasionally them birds would dive to the water and emerge back to flight with fish in their beaks. Quite a view! Mr. Engineman was back as my tour guide and he told me that the boat stirs the waters where fish are swimming and that distraction gives the seagulls an opportunity to dive in and get them. The gulls really did follow our boat for a time and I saw many of them succeeded in catching fish!

Nothing else was interesting on the return trip. I observed though that the young FilChi family and some of the groups and individuals who were my co-passengers going to Cavite were also again my co-passengers going back to MOA! Tourists all of us hehe! But here's a video I made if only to remind me to get back and roam more of Cavite!

Finally, here is the footprint of this sojourn!

View Larger Map

Cavite, I shall return… promise!


  1. I enjoyed reading your experience in this post! Hope you'll experience Cagayan de Oro City as well. :D

  2. hi CDOkay, I always like CDO, was just there some fullmoons ago and alas I caught the 5-hour a day brownouts :D

    I hope all is fine now there. will post my stories soonest.

    nice site btw, keep it on! have already bookmarked it hehe. one wish: hope the manong taxi drivers can already step into the modern world and realize that the kontrata system is not anymore a norm in this country. sayang kay mga bag-o ra ba mga taxi ninyo diha!

  3. Hi Pinoy Traveler! Thanks for visiting our site! => Haha... the 5-hour a day brownout is one memorable experience for us here. Experienced laughter and frustration all at the same time in our office.

    About CDO's condition now, the city's doing fine naman, no 5-hr brownouts anymore, but recently we had this 2hour per day

    Taxis today are now said to be in strict meters! But it wont be applicable if you're heading to the airport. Hahahah!! Yeah, my hopes too for the taxis to step up na from the kontrata system. I think this would be the only city with nice new taxis on "pakyaw mode".