Saturday, July 26, 2014

Philippines: Cebu's Historic District and Cecilia's Suggestions To Make It Better

Cebu's Historic District is located downtown.There one can still see Spanish Colonial and Post-colonial structures -- Fort San Pedro, Plaza Independencia, Santo Nino Basilica, Cathedral, Carbon Market, 1730 Jesuit House, Yap-Sandiego House, Casa Gorordo Museum, Museo Sugbo which used to be the old jail, and many other structures.

It is an area that has witnessed a lot of history from the time Ferdinand Magellan and his crew landed on its shores. The prosperous American era introduced new buildings and inland growth, away from the old historic landmarks. World War II brought destruction and led the way to the blighting of the historic district. After the war, the old families who had lived in the Parian district, as the historic district was known, moved inland and built modern residences. Many of the buildings in the Old District were turned into warehouses and cheap lodgings.

Someone said, it's a kind of blessing that the City of Cebu did not have a real boom because otherwise,the old structures would have been torn down for high rises and new development.  Miraculously, the old area of Cebu remains, waiting to be uncovered, waiting for a renaissance.

There have been City Officials who have expressed interest in developing the Historic District of Cebu, including Alvin Garcia and the current Mayor, Mike Rama. Recently, a friend, Jaime Sy, owner of Cebu's 1730 Jesuit House informed me that he's been appointed a member of Cebu's Tourism Commission. He asked me what I thought needed to be done to make Cebu City a tourist area.

Following is my email to Jaime Sy:

Congratulations on your new post. I and other lovers of Cebu's Historic district have discussed many times what we think would make Parian a better tourist destination.  As you know, despite its neglect, it has been a tourist spot by virtue of the old historic sites in the area (Fort San Pedro, Santa Nino, Cathedral, your 1730 Jesuit House, Yap-Sandiego House, Casa Gorordo, etc.)

1. First and foremost, the area must be SAFE. Tourists and others must be able to walk around day or night without fear of pickpockets or muggers. We need more police and other security presence, more lights, more visible stations where tourists can ask for assistance (security, emergency, tourist info). 

2. Second, the area must be CLEAN. Streets, creeks, alleys must be clean. I know that our current mayor has been working on this, but we need to do more.  I have just returned from Palawan with its strict No Litter Laws - Puerto Princesa is impeccable. Our Parian should be the same.  The no littering laws should be enforced, but likewise, there should be trash barrels and public bathrooms available so people can use them. Our creeks filled with debris are particularly disturbing to look at.

3. More on Public Bathrooms - I have been to other countries where they hire old women or disabled people to mind and keep clean their public bathrooms. While they charge a bit for the use of those bathrooms, the facilities are CLEAN and safe. 

4. More on trash barrels - How can we get angry at people who litter if they don't have trash barrels to throw garbage into?  We need garbage cans, and I am sure they can be installed so they are not stolen.  And if stolen, we should impose stiff penalties/punishment so people will not repeat such an offense. I have seen trash containers made of rubber - Mandaluyong I think - made from recycled materials and no doubt inexpensive but durable.

4. We need a Tourism Office that provides information and assistance to tourists. This should look nice, be staffed by knowledgeable people, have literature ready, have people who can help tourists in emergency situations (for medical or other emergencies). In some places in the world, these tourist places offer internet, phone services, coffee/snacks, small souvenir items like postcards, even info about housing and transportation. Even a small tourist office in the Parian would help. A good location would be right beside the new Shepherd's Heart Cafe near the Heritage Monument, which is near three museums.

5. Have a Beautification Program in the historic district so there are plants and flowers and houses/buildings are neat and painted.  Perhaps there can be an incentive for people to clean and paint their homes/buildings - a tax break perhaps? But plants along the sidewalks and streets would improve the ambiance of the place.

6.  Staff in the  museums, vendors, could be encouraged to wear simple Filipiniana clothing.

7. Tone down the traffic because those jeepneys are dangerous, noisy, and cause pollution that are already damaging old buildings.

8. Encourage walking tours or tours on tartanillas. I just heard of a bicycle tour in Manila's Intramurous. 

9. Encourage businesses like cafes, souvenir shops, bed and breakfast places to open in the historic district - perhaps offer tax incentives again --- but I feel that once the place is SAFE and CLEAN, and tourists come, the cafes, shops, and lodgings will also appear.

10. We need PARKING.

11. Make sure our sidewalks and roads do not have cracks etc. so tourists can walk around without risk of falling down - when they are looking around, they cannot look down at the ground!

If I have more thoughts, I will share them with you Jimmy.  You know I love Cebu's Historic district as you do. 

Good luck to you and the others, and I am pleased to hear that there is such a Tourism Commission working to make Cebu more appealing to the millions of tourists that already visit it. Improvements could encourage even more tourists, which in turn generates more money to the city and people at large.
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Tags: Cebu City, Philippines, travel, tourists, tourism, Sugbo, historic, downtown, Filipino, Spanish Colonial

This is all for now,

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