Friday, October 15, 2010

Galeon Andalucia in Cebu

It came and its gone... and may never come this way again in the next few years. So am happy I went to see it. Have you?! Well, sorry if you didn’t. You might have just missed a chance of a lifetime – and that is the look and feel of the ship that brought Magellan into these islands, which led to our dear country being named Philippines. But there are so many stories on the web from those like me who went to see it. So you’ll never really have a dearth of info about it. Then again, aren’t you envious you did not step into the galleon? Are you not?! Hehe!

Its not that big! Most RORO vessels that ply around the islands would even be bigger. Only the tall masts and sails make the Andalucia look like it was humungous. In fact, I initially thought, “wouldn’t those very tall masts and sails make this boat so top heavy as to easily topple or roll on its side?” Apparently not, since it was able to reach our shores, from Spain no less. Plus, ROROs are made of steel while Magellan’s ‘galeon’ therefore this Galeon Andalucia too was/is just made of wood. And just imagine, those types of wooden boats without engines were able to circumnavigate this planet, while most of those ROROs we have around would probably not fare the feat or wouldn’t just dare.

I caught up with the Galeon Andalucia in Cebu though I was in QC when it docked in Manila. Just had no time to see it there, PLUS I was sure there’d have been too many visitors for comfort. Ah, in Cebu there were thousands too, but I chanced upon it on a midmorning where there were not so many folks lining up (yet). Ah eh.. when I say ‘not so many’, I mean just an orderly stream of hundreds of folks, not thousands yet as I heard it becomes so in the afternoons hehe. In my case, just a troop of boy scouts, other school kids and some families were there to line up for Andalucia at Pier 1 behind the old customs building now called Malacanang Sa Sugbo.

How is it? At first nothing special really, if you just come-by to look at it from afar. Looks like one of the galleons you see at Hong Kong’s Disneyland or some other theme park. More of a fictional structure even if you are already looking at it, live. But you eventually come to your senses and realize this is one special craft as we don’t commonly see anything like it these days. Its real and it is there floating on the waters of our recent millennium! Wooden ship and all, hard to think there is still such a ship that can travel from Spain to Asia and back! Even the ropes are, or looks like real. And real Spaniards for a crew, of course!

How was the visit? Nothing special too hehe. Everything was too orderly fast! There was no room to ogle at anything the way I would consider time ‘enough’ or ‘just right’. Parts of the ship were cordoned off to form a circular route where visitors should pass so that there is a one-way traffic from entrance to exit. So, no backtracking. It allowed some photo-ops here and there, but the sheer number of people doing the same made it a bit of a crazy, if not hopeless idea. Still, I was able to see many of the things that got me curious. Oh hey, I even got to talk to at least four of them crews – they speak very good English and of course Spanish. And I liked many of the things they told me.

Valverde furniture. Yep, Valverde, no less. Am a bit familiar with that name having seen or heard about it in magazines and TV shows. I remembered it’s a world-class furniture outfit from Spain, and ridiculously expensive. All those fine furniture that resembled a living room for royalty (like me hehe)) at the rear portion of the ship was cordoned off with velvet ropes. So I asked one of the crews why so. He said the set-up was just for display purposes to showcase one of the finest products of their province. So I said “oh okay, but don’t anyone of you really sit there during your cruise. With a mischievous smile, he said “sometimes”!

Sails were made in Ilocos. Wow! Either I could not give my full attention due to the crowd or I was thinking about something else or I was distracted by another thing, thus, I was not able to get a full grasp of this topic. The crew was telling me about parts of the ship and when he mentioned about the sails, yes cloth, he said something like they were made in Ilocos. I was not clear if he meant the sails of this recent ship where I was in or the galleons of yesteryears actually plying the Manila-Acapulco trade route. Anyway, I just thought, wow, that makes that cloth really world-class. Whatever, ever is it made of? Tobacco? Hehehe, but I did feel some pride there. And I thought the materials used for sails would be some hi-tech, straight from the laboratory Kevlar whatever like those used for parachutes or gliders. I wonder where in Ilocos would that be. Hmm, something new to read about.

Bohol. Ack! What has the little island got to do with the Galeon Andalucia?! Well, I casually asked where they were would be their next port of call after Cebu. The crew’s eyes seem to have flickered with excitement when he exclaimed Bohol. And without me asking, he continued to say “4-days R&R”! Joking, I said “you don’t seem excited” and he continued his high-pitched tale like a child saying “we are all excited, some are going to go around the island, some will be diving, we will have fun at the beach. I will surely visit the Tarsiers”! So I sid “I am sure you will have a fantastic R&R in Bohol. Ah, we had to step aside since he got excited asking me questions about Bohol. I happily obliged. Sample question: “How little are those monkeys?”. Then I replied with “smaller than your fist, and you can put them in your pocket. His eyes widened and I said “you can make your eyes even wider, but the Tarsier’s will always be bigger! I think I shared more than he could finish in 4 days around Bohol hehe. He was obviously happy, and I felt good. We even talked about Leyte, Limasawa, Homonhon, and many other things! Felt like I was the Tourism Secretary of this country, at least for a few moments hehe.

Oh well, I liked this rare chance hopping aboard the Galeon Andalucia!

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