Macau

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Walking straight straight ahead amidst the busy people and streets of Senado Square area in Macau lies a breathtaking and impeccable “Ruins of St. Paul.”

People from different walks of life, busy merchants selling their own goods and products,  very friendly vendors that offers free taste of their fresh delicacies, simultaneous performances in Senado Square area that promotes Macau’s rich culture and traditions, and happy travellers taking photos at every beautiful and historical spots in the place.

It was actually my third time to visit Macau, but it was only my first time to visit the Ruins. And people are right that seeing that perfect architectural statue in personal will really melt your heart.  It’s indeed Majestic!

Since Macau became a colony of Portugal way back 1600 up to 1999, it’s not impossible that most of the beautiful atmosphere in the country that suggests Catholicism were all inherited from them.  I myself, as a born Catholic, was really amazed with those churches and statues.

Being with my family during this trip, We were able to enjoy our whole day visiting the city of Macau, and the most charming Ruins of St. Paul has become our point of interest besides shopping around to get some souvenirs and delicacies from the beautiful city.

We would take photos of the Ruins, climb up until reaching the great statue, and stay there as if we were not running out of time.

One thing that surprised me was while going up the stairs to reach the perfect statue.  I felt that It’s as if I’m going up to the stairs of heaven! It was terrifying since it’s quite high but upon reaching the top, I felt glorified!  Seeing the heavenly statue made me feel as if I already reached the top of the world and it was really heavenly.

A simple realization came to my mind that maybe, before reaching heaven’s door, a lot of challenges will come our way and it would also be very hard for us at first, but when we persevere to do good and follow all His will, it will be very easy for us  reaching the top as He will always be our guide.

As to keeping my faith, Seeing the beautiful city has made me more faithful to my religion.  I was not expecting to feel that way cause our only purpose in visitng the place was to go shopping and sight seeing since going to Macau was only part of our Hongkong trip.  We just took a ferry for an hour trip to Macau and as planned, we will just have a day tour at the city and will go take photos and grab some souvenirs.

We believed that we are really destined to be in the place for some reasons.  And it’s to realize that a lot of good and beautiful places around the globe still awaits all of us to visit them and know their culture and traditions, as well as their history.

Every place we go, every country we visit, every people we meet always leave a special mark in our hearts.

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I visited Macao during the cool month of December last year. Staying there for two days, I managed to visit all its historic monuments and properties that make up the UNESCO World Heritage inscription (together with some of its casinos :p).

Ruinas da Sao Paolo, a masterpiece of late Manueline architecture.
Ruinas da Sao Paolo, a masterpiece of late Manueline architecture in Asia.

For most heritage geeks, I share the assessment that Macao is largely a “misinterpreted gem”. At present, when people hear Macao, what immediately comes to their minds are big casinos and luxury hotels. The ruins of St. Paul church (Ruinas da Sao Paolo) only comes as an afterthought as its most iconic landmark – in fact, for most, this is the only place they think they’ll see in this territory. Beyond the picturesque Ruinas da Sao Paolo, not many visitors get to see the bigger picture that Macao offers as the best preserved Portuguese-era colonial trading town in East and Southeast Asia.

Largo do Senado, the main square of Macao. The white building at the far end of the square is the Loyal Senate Building. Again, there are skyscrapers poking here and there :(
Largo do Senado, the main square of Macao. The white building at the far end of the square is the Loyal Senate Building. Again, there are skyscrapers poking here and there.

Though Macao’s monuments are at some distance from each other (the Guia Hill Fortress being the farthest), I still found going around Macao to be a refreshing experience. Firstly, the monuments are truly representative of various cultural testaments and historical stages of the town’s development; thus, the values being represented by each monument hardly overlap one another. Secondly, the government has to be commended for doing a great (and colorful) job in preserving their enduring gems in good conditions.

Beautiful red windows in the in-house courtyard of Zheng Guanying's Mandarin Mansion.
Beautiful red windows in the in-house courtyard of Zheng Guanying’s Mandarin Mansion in the Lilau Square area – the first settlement of the Portuguese on Chinese soil.

Personally, I enjoyed visiting these places: Senate Square (Largo do Senado), Mandarin Mansion, Lilau Square, A Ma Temple, and the Protestant Cemetery compound. I also found my visit to the Santa Casa da Misericordia Museum (its entrance is on the right side of the building) memorable as it is one place where one can see religious artworks as a product of the blending of two cultures and their respective marks of craftsmanship. Here, one can see the porcelain images of Chinese-looking Jesus Christ, and other curios. Nevertheless, Macao’s blend of the East and the West is best seen through the various religious edifices it has. It is even interesting how one Buddhist temple sits side by side a Christian church (in ruins).

San Agustin Square and the Iberian-inspired wave patterned floor that is common to most cities in Portugal.
San Agustin Square and the Iberian-inspired wave-patterned floor that is common to most cities in Portugal.

Nevertheless, I also sensed a tourism versus conservation dilemma lingering around, too. I noticed that there seemed to be foreseeable threat that the sites will face in the next few years with their seemingly weak buffer zones and Macao’s lack of proper urban planning and traffic management. One of the biggest threats to most cultural sites across the world is urban pressure, and Macao is indeed rapidly modernizing. I have yet to see how their government is looking at the preservation of the aesthetic and visual integrity of the historic monuments and their immediate environs amidst modern, high-rise edifices and installations around them.

Sam Kai Vui Kun, a small Chinese merchants' temple that has been instrumental in shaping Macao's trajectories as a trading town.
Sam Kai Vui Kun, a small Chinese merchants’ temple that has been instrumental in shaping Macao’s trajectory as a powerful trading town.

By and large, the monuments of Macao are indeed interesting. As counterbalance, however, I felt that the monuments of Macao may not be the grandest there are to see on this side of the world – there are way better churches and plazas in the Philippines, for example. In fact, the colonial-era buildings surrounding Largo do Senado reminded me a lot of the buildings within Escolta in Manila. And I can just imagine how it would be like if Manila also takes the effort of reviving — and cleaning! — its architectural masterpieces.

Casa Jardin. The very obvious skyscraper behind it just ruins the aesthetic value of this place.
Casa Jardin. The very obvious skyscraper behind it just ruins the aesthetic value and visual integrity of this place.

More than anything, Macao is a site wherein its real importance and outstanding values lie on its impressive history as an Asian trading colonial-era town that cultivated the longest running encounter of the West and the East.

PS. Try their egg tarts!