Author: James Z. Carpio
Naga’s European transformation started hundreds of years ago. The city was established in 1575 on order of Spanish Governor-General Francisco de Sande. Then named Ciudad de Nueva Cáceres, it was the third Spanish Royal City in the Spanish East Indies after Cebu and Manila.
Colonial European buildings dot the city from houses to bigger buildings. One example is the historical landmark which is the Universidad de Santa Isabel. A Royal Decree of Queen Isabella II of Spain dated 5 November 1867 granted to the Lord Don Fray Francisco Gainza, Bishop of Nueva Caceres, the creation of a school for girls which will be under the care of the Daughters of Charity.
We had a European guest this February. His impressions about the city was “just like a place in Europe.” He felt, as it were, just home.
He would go on regular walks around the city center. One time, he noticed and was fascinated with the Bell tower of the San Francisco Church. It is a historical treasure of European influence that will also appeal to Architecture enthusiasts.
When we visited the final resting place of our departed relatives at the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Catholic Cemetery he commented that it looks like a typical Barcelona cemetery in Spain.
When I was in Zurich at their city center my sister told me while we were on the Tram that I should look closely at their old buildings and compare it to the old house we used to live in when we were younger at Jacob Street. She elaborated that the design particularly with regard to the balcony and the porch are similar.
The Latin alphabet, or the Roman alphabet, is a writing system that is prominently displayed on street signs and other signage that will be easily read by Europeans especially the British and the Spaniards. American English is widely spoken here.
One morning, he came home and exclaimed that he saw small Italian vehicles plying the roads of Naga. I briefly explained to him that those are relatively new and were indeed of Italian technology. Jason B. Neola writes from his news article entitled Apé Taxicles: Modernizing transportation for common People… “The taxicle is a customized model of Apé (pronounced ah-peh), Italian for bumblebee to connote hard work which the makers of Apé vehicles want to portray. It is manufactured under license from Italy’s Piaggio which became popular in the automobile business in that country in 1948.” This was published on July 3, 2014 by Bicol Mail.
When we were passing along the Magsaysay District he was very excited to point out the places that he tried and liked for instance a diner and then a coffee shop at Avenue Square. We also treated him with an authentic Italian cuisine at a ristorante. He was impressed with the interiors and explained that it was actually the national colors of Italy.
When we went to the biggest mall in the city he had a field day doing the grocery. He found European food and even from his own country like the beer. He told me that this one is good, that one is not really costly back home, and that is the best. I was pushing the cart and he was happily putting into it the food and beverages that he preferred.
As far as I can remember, these were the items in his grocery list; wine, pasta, bread that is sugar free, cheese, jam and spread (strawberry and tuna), milk from New Zealand, and juice in carton boxes (grapes) and juice in cans (mango and pineapple).
The Filipino technology of our oven toaster impressed him amusingly. He said that the bread tasted delicious with just the right degree of crustiness. On the other hand, I liked their bread toaster wherein you toast two pieces of bread and is just specifically made to do just that. Here our oven toaster is multipurpose: you can cook ham and even heat a slice of pizza.
He enjoyed the Filipino cuisine particularly the seafood. Coming from a landlocked country in Europe seafood is quite expensive there. He can’t get enough of the squid. Whenever we took him to Filipino restaurants he would always sample the seafoods. And he commented that prices here are not as costly as the restaurants in Manila. He was pleased indeed.
Tropical fruits are by far his favorite snacks. He said they are the best tasting he had eaten so far and coming from a globetrotter it made me take pride in our fruits. The mangoes and bananas are his favorites.
I read a quote on social media that for a city to be truly urban its citizens must be able to get from point A to point B just by walking. I did a lot of walking when I was in Europe and I think the the maximum was at least ten kilometers. We had a car but it was parked far from our destination. But the free food after that long walk made up for it. Our guest opted to do a lot of walking here.
I was asked where is P. Burgos Street? He informed me that he read back in his country that one of the must-see places to go to in Naga is that street. So, while on a van we passed along P. Burgos Street which he later on could explore on his own.
Water is affordable here. Again he comes from a landlocked country with limited supply of water so one can enjoy the house water for showering and cleaning without thinking of the expenses. But of course, responsible usage is still practiced.
They arrived one rainy, cold, late February afternoon and left on a rainy, cold, late February morning. If you like a morning fog and cold climate, February is one of the months that you may want to travel to Naga City. According to Wikipedia, from November to February, the climate is cooler with temperatures ranging from 22 to 28 °C (72 to 82 °F).
There is a hotel at the city center where I always get a free city map of Naga. The brochure includes individual pages of the touristic destinations in and around the city. It also features nearby attractions like Caramoan. The Naga tourism department is keen on promoting the city to local and foreign tourists alike. So far, based from my experience the guests always take the map with them when they leave perhaps as a keepsake or souvenir of their sojourn of this welcoming city.
Bicolano hospitality again at its best. Mission accomplished. Visit us again soon!