Early morning on to our third day in Macau finds us walking through narrow alleys of an old neighborhood in San Antonio, Macau. Climbing zigzagging stairs, sleeping alley cats and neighborhood shrines to find us gasping a little for breath and realizing we’re already in level of the higher floors of the residential buildings in front of us. I thought this urban landscape of windows, air conditioners and stained walls felt a lot like the Old Manila. But a few more flight of stairs led us to Macau’s largest and oldest park, the Camoes Garden.
The Chinese elders have a very active community in this beautifully landscaped garden. They are the majority in the crowd here busy with group gatherings, chess games, exercise and Tai Chi. I found it typical for most Chinese cities to have parks like these where people can get into some physical activities or exercises. There are fixed outdoor exercise equipments painted in bright colors for anyone’s perusal. That may be a reason I seldom see obese Chinese people. Workouts for them are free.
Need a good foot massage? I was amused at this pebbled pathway at the garden. Joao asked us to try walking on it with our bare feet and I was just excited to try. And oh it was a painful walk as smooth the small stones pierces through the sole of the feet. But as I continued walking, it surprisingly felt good despite the slight pain. It really felt like getting a good foot massage unless I stepped on a larger rock that sends nerve alarms up to my spine.
We continued our walk through the park until we reached these interesting stacks of stones with a pathway underneath. Knowing Chinese people, I thought they placed them together but it seems to have been moved by nature’s hands. Nearby is a bust of the fellow, whose name is where the garden took its name from, Luis de Camoes.
Luis is a famous poet exiled to Macau 400 years ago. He lived for two years in Macau, while flying pigeons, gallivanting in the garden and at the same time writing his epic work “Os Lusíadas (Soul of Portugal).” The people of Macau were endeared to his presence that when he died, the garden was named after him and became his memorial.
Just south of Camoes Garden is another interesting site which is the Old Protestant Cemetery, one of the 25 Historical Sites in Macau under UNESCO. It seemed petty to include this small somber area of land and gravesite to be a historical monument. But this site paints the diverse profile of people living in Macau. There was a time when Protestants weren’t allowed to bury their dead on Catholic soil so they decided to bury their dead past the walls of their border. First it was on Chinese land but the Chinese found that it desecrates their land. Finding no other place they settled on a neutral ground which is the border between two grounds.
By 1821, the East India Company bought the land and it was opened to all foreigners including the Portuguese, giving legal rights for Protestants to be buried there. By 1858, the cemetery was closed hence getting its name, the “Old” Protestant Cemetery. For an old grave site, the tombstones don’t look as old. Some have intricate designs and other with very personal messages. One thing I noticed though is those buried here died young. From the youngest 18 years of age to the oldest age of 40. Makes me think how their lifespan got so short during those years.
Don’t miss Backpack Photography’s Explore Lake Sebu Photo Tour. A Journey into the T’boli culture and Lake Sebu’s natural wonders. Join us on August 21-23, 2010. Check Backpackphotography.net for full details and registration.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.