29 Aug2007


We took a quick roadtrip last Sunday to Carcar, Cebu, a 40 kilometer and roughly 1 hour drive to the South of the City of Cebu. We went ostensibly for a bit of historical sightseeing, but really we just wanted to load up on the famous chicharon from Carcar… The original site of the town of Carcar was on the Cebu coastline and the settlement dates to pre-Colonial times. Frequently attacked by Muslim pirates, the town, orginally known as Sialo, was renamed Villadolid, but soon moved inland to get away from nasty pirate attacks by sea. The town was then renamed kabkad, after some ferns abundant in the area… then later, a Spanish priest decided to rename the place Carcar, after a town in Northern Spain.


What is interesting about the town are the few remaining homes that must date to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. They have an elaborate wood carvings or cutouts and are now painted in different colors and hues. They remind me a bit of Victorian excess, but what they really remind me off is a wedding cake from the 1980’s or earlier. Many are sadly in incredible disrepair, and it is unfortunate that we can’t preserve more of these types of structures due to the incredibly high cost and possibly minimal interest from the general public. The homes were interesting to see from the outside, as was the small church, but still sad in a way…


Many of the homes have a stone base or first floor and a wooden second floor, decorated with ornate wood cut outs.


A small church dating back hundreds of years…


… a pink schoolhouse dating back 102 years…


And a few other homes were all that remain of a proud town with beautiful homes at the turn of the 20th century, prosperity coming from being a major trading town at the crossroads of Southern Cebu…



  1. tulip says:

    It reminds me of my mom’s ancestral house but my uncle didnt bother to preserve it, rather he tore down the wooden structures as soon as he moved in. I sure miss the beautiful wooden floor and wall on the 2nd floor which the househelp shines everyday, it was grand. I never thought the walls are also buffed. My granny used to have yearly household maintenance/reconstruction.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 2:45 pm


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  3. Christine says:

    How beautiful!! This is next on my list when I go back to Cebu. It reminds me a lot of Silay in Negros Occidental which they call the Paris of Visayas. Thank you for the virtual tour and history lesson. BTW, did you have some chicharon while you were there?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 2:57 pm

  4. MariaPia says:

    Thank you for the pictures! I’ve always wanted to visit Carcar, since my husband’s family originally came from the town before settling in Cebu City. Unfortunately, their ancestral home has long been sold, and all I have to show my son and daughter, when we do go there, will be the homes and buildings pictured in your blog. Hopefully, these structures will still be standing when my children are old enough to travel, and more importantly, to appreciate their family’s past.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 3:15 pm

  5. annette says:

    Very nice, MM, and looking at those ancestral houses made us imagine how they lived back then. Whats with Carcar’s chicharon?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 4:21 pm

  6. Didi says:

    I love looking at these ancestral Spanish era type of houses. I don’t know why – but there something that tugs me and makes me admire the ‘old-yness’ of the structure and design. I always pause or drive slower when I pass by New Manila’s old houses along Broadway.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 4:27 pm

  7. CecileJ says:

    Aside from the beautiful architecture, what strikes me is the cleanliness of the surroundings. Not a speck of basura to be seen! The townspeople must be commended.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 4:41 pm

  8. joy says:

    this reminds me of our (sorta-it was my lola’s sister’s) ancestral home in tagbilaran..with a grand staircase outside leading to the second floor which was built mostly with wood.. the ceilings with antique light fixtures…sadly the costs are too much and the house has a termite problem :( my sister used to love playing on the white antique baby grand when we were smaller. flashback to jan this year, my cousin discovered the piano was already under termite attack. so sad.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 4:57 pm

  9. Mangaranon says:

    I know of a prominent Cebuana who “invested” her and some of her siblings’ inheritance in Carcar. It is a beautiful place but where’s the dough?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 5:01 pm

  10. Cumin says:

    Sakto ka, Carcar is one of Cebu’s most attractive towns. MM, did you look at Carcar’s rotunda — also very pretty in art deco style — or were you too enamoured with the chicharon? :-) Sayang, you could’ve driven a few kilometres further to the next town, Sibonga, whose church has a beautifully painted ceiling.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:00 pm

  11. nina says:

    The first picture was awesome!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:06 pm

  12. suzette says:

    i have seen the house in the first picture just recently, just can’t remember if it was in the inquirer or a magazine. the wood carvings look like an intricate lace/ crochet work. very nice!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:08 pm

  13. millet says:

    that first picture is of a public building, the dispensary, and it still functions as such. and yes, carcar chicharon can beat bagnet anytime. the carcar ampao sweetened puffed rice bars) is also a treat we always look forward to.

    MM, why not do posts on the yummy cebu delicacies like otap, rosquillos, and maja real (masa real)?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:45 pm

  14. Gina says:

    These photos are suddenly bringing me back to the years I spent in St. Catherine’s School, a school run by Belgian nuns until the mid-70’s, that until now sits adjacent to that white lace-like structure. In its heyday, St. Catherine’s School’s facade also had callado-like cut-outs gracing its windows, Spanish-style floor tiles, and wide-planked buffed-to-perfection wooden floors in the main building. The church, whose patron saint is St. Catherine, has a painted ceiling (although I do not know if that too is now in dire need of restoration). The historic town center is perched on a hill and has a circular layout, with the dispensary (where townsfolk with minor ailments and injuries sought treatment), church, convento, public school, municipio, and our school encircling a small, graceful plaza. The rotonda is the commercial heart of the town, ground-zero for seekers of artery-clogging lechon, chicharon with taba and laman, ampao, and bocarillo (candied young buko in pastel colors). Yes, MM, please do write about Cebu delicacies.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 10:00 pm

  15. Titanons says:

    That first picture really is a beauty!!! Doesn’t the Phil have an agency that sees to the preservation of historical buildings/houses? I remember reading about that controversy when the old Jai Alai bldg on Taft Ave was to be torn down (has it been?) and there was this group that was so against it. Was that a private sector group or a govt agency? Anyway, it’s really sad that the Phil govt doesn’t have restoration as a priority project. Hey, the Dept of Tourism should have this as their main agenda! The house with the stone foundations reminded me of the old houses in Bacolor, Pampanga (my hometown). Sadly, too, most of these old house have been ruined by Mt Pinatubo. Thanks for the nostalgia!!!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 10:59 pm

  16. Silly Lolo says:

    Superb post, MM! Once again, you have managed to touch many hearts. Thank you.

    The even sadder aspect of this whole thing is that the world is going to lose these beautiful sights because the world is losing the craftsmen who can repair them. The woodworkers are a dying breed and there are not many apprentices coming to replace them. Besides, nobody wants to take the time to craft beautiful things anymore. So enjoy these things while you can folks, just like life, it “ain’t forever”!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 11:39 pm

  17. Apicio says:

    What attract me most about these old houses are the beautiful hardwoods that they used, specially for flooring. Thick and broad planks of them cut down at a time and place when people traditionally followed age-old seasoning procedures. The alternating light and dark flooring of Casa Gorordo alone is worth the visit. I saw bannister balustrades in Silay made of purple tindalo in sizes that indicate they must have been felled from a first growth forest. The wide planks of narra of Casa Manila for which you can search all the remaining strands of Andaman and Madagascar and would not find a tree that could yield as beautifully figured pieces and in as impressive size.

    The hungry termites that cannot tackle these tough tropical lumber would definitely find the spruce soundboards of imported pianos godsent manna for light snacking.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 11:44 pm

  18. allen says:

    Beautiful! I can almost hear the Kalesas… Is there a way to “fix” the electrical lines, bury them underground perhaps? They ruin the view :(

    Aug 30, 2007 | 12:15 am

  19. Gina says:

    Apparently, a bill has been filed declaring Carcar a national cultural heritage zone. The URL below has a photo of the painted ceiling of the church I mentioned in an earlier post.


    According to this article, the Carcar Heritage Conservation Society has not had an easy time raising local-heritage awareness, but it has taken initial steps.

    MM, Carcar is also famous for its Takoy pomelos which usually ripen around the time of the town fiesta, November 25.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 1:31 am

  20. sister says:

    Did you get to the old lady who sold the flakey turnovers filled with carabao milk yemas? We used to drop by and buy them by the hundreds with Lola on our way to Sibonga, where there was a large farmers’ market on Mondays. Hopefully she gave the recipe to someone…

    Aug 30, 2007 | 8:12 am

  21. MRJP says:

    These old houses remind me of my great grandmother’s house in Nueva Ecija. I loved spending summer vacation there when I was a little kid.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 8:16 am

  22. Ann says:

    Sorry out of topic but the link to read the rest of your next entry is not working.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 11:05 am

  23. mila says:

    Carcar is also an archeological site, I remember attending a presentation on the diggings dating back to pre-spanish times by an American scholar working on the sites located nearby.

    Um, did you get any of the chicharon?

    Aug 30, 2007 | 2:40 pm

  24. wits and nuts says:

    I have been to Cebu several times but have never been to Carcar. Reminds me of ancestral houses in Bacolod :p

    Aug 30, 2007 | 2:56 pm

  25. tutubi says:

    i passed by carcar from cebu going to maoalboal in 2003 and was captivated by those old houses. heard the town now has a heritage conservation group that’s active much like Pila, Laguna

    i wanted to come back and explore the place in the future

    Aug 30, 2007 | 6:12 pm

  26. corrine says:

    I love old houses! Pilipinas Shell’s 2006 calendar featured old houses. If only the first photo was included. Yeah, hope these houses will be saved.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 7:26 pm

  27. vilma says:

    I am in the market to purchase such architectural wooden fittings for a house building project in Leyte or Cebu.Please email me any suggestions.Termite infections are no problem

    Aug 31, 2007 | 10:54 am

  28. skyemermaid says:

    a photo of the first house above, the dispensary, was also featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last week in the column of augusto villalon on environmentally-friendly houses. when i first saw your photo above, i thought your entry would be about villalon’s article. your photo and his photo are so alike, except yours is in color and his was full-frontal rather than angled like yours. i am rambling. villalon regrets the modern filipino’s fondness for building houses which are so inappropriate for our climate, instead of building structures similar to the ones you posted above.

    Aug 31, 2007 | 11:54 am

  29. dizzy says:

    skyemermaid: that seems like a very interesting article, i will look it up.

    ang ganda ng mga lumang bahay. although, at the same time, there is also something very eerie about them (especially the ones that have not been well preserved). but i guess i get that from watching too many horror films. =)

    Aug 31, 2007 | 8:58 pm

  30. ivan man dy says:


    Thanks for the sudden paradigm shift feature! Carcar is actually one of the most notable Cebuano towns (at par with Silay in Negros, Taal in Batangas and San Miguel in Bulacan) with the number of historic homes. Like Filipino food, Philippine heritage (from architecture to culture) is sadly always under represented and not capitalized for for its unique qualities. Sadder is the fact that we ourselves have not much appreciation with our cultural achievements. The houses of Carcar have a certain Visayan flair and the details remind me so much of the intricate pastillas paper cuttings from Bulacan. Carcar is on my list of to-visit towns in Cebu. Any Carcoanons out there planning capitalize on their town’s heritage? Would love to share some insights! ;o)

    Aug 31, 2007 | 8:58 pm

  31. sha says:

    god..i miss carcar..other those homes, did u get some ampaw

    Sep 1, 2007 | 8:17 am

  32. john says:

    Chicharon: my cousins are descended from old makers so they deliver by the sacks to us. It is best eaten when freshly cooked or hot and it tastes different and sort of chewy.

    Bocarillo: made from shaved, fresh young coconuts cooked in sugar syrup. The ones sold along the streets are horrible, too sweet and hard. At best, one can taste the soft coconut groves with each bite

    Ampao is an easy concept, just puffed rice but very labor intensive. Unless specially made for you, they are sold too bland and not enough peanuts.

    The fiesta is coming up, Nov. 25 and each house will once again be overflowing with food and curious strangers and passersby. Dead cooks and “cooking families” are revered and talked about. I’ve been to other towns in Cebu for fiesta and they do not match up. Carcaranon cooks were sought after in Mindanao with the Cebuano diaspora. Of course, like everything else, the current dishes do not match up with the old concoctions.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 2:27 am

  33. rey says:

    i have not been home to Carcar for more than 20 years now. the last time i went inside the old church was when we had requiem mass for my great grandfather.

    i miss st catherine school. i never was inside again after kindergarten. the well manicured garden and the lovely grotto. above all the strict discipline that the sisters taught us.

    the dispensary was where i had almost all my tooth extracted ( decayed from too much chocolates and sweets). i must say, having the procedure done all at the same time gave me even set of teeth right now. no need for those braces (and unnecessary expense hehehe)and if i remember it right behind the old dispensary is a swimming pool (i never saw it filled with water though).

    our old house in Dapdap, once a big structure fronting the municipal cemetery was torn down by a super typhoon in the mid 80’s. what was left is the concrete staircase. that house has made me what i am today- an animal lover. we had chicken free ranging and roosting in the chico trees surrounding the house, a carabao that my grandfather checks every now and then in the middle of the night seeing to it she is not harmed (by snakes)or worst stolen, pigs tied under the trees fattened up for the fiesta.

    my fondness for reptiles started when my great grandfather gave me a turtle to take care of. he taught me how to feed it. and everyday, i had to wash the turtle and the jar to which was his home for so many years. dogs were practically everywhere.

    looking at the photographs posted above and reading through the comments left by fellow caracaranons made me feel nostalgic. i miss the bocarillo, chicharon, takoy, chico, ampao. above all i miss my childhood days…

    i just hope that when i will have the chance to visit Carcar again, it remain as it is as i remembered it. i am carcaron by heart and by birth (i was born on the feast of christ the king and the fiesta of carcar) but i know i am complete stranger to my relatives there.

    Jan 22, 2008 | 12:38 pm

  34. jerome cabansag says:

    thanks for the inspiration—this is the sort of place every local tourists must see especially this summer vacation.

    Apr 19, 2008 | 10:43 pm

  35. Daniel Pancho says:

    I know Vigan, Ilocos Sur is very popular when it comes to awesome old colonial houses. Well because Pinoys have yet to discover Carcar, Cebu. I remember pigging out on chicharons and looking at the tukos in my grandma’s house having spent 3 years of my high school life in Cebu City (San Carlos – Boys High). When Manilenoes think of Cebu, they think about the city or the beaches of Mactan and Bohol. Some even think that the latter is a part of Cebu itself. Cebu has alot to offer, its time to explore.

    May 30, 2008 | 5:29 pm

  36. raffec says:

    WOW! carcar is one of a nice place in cebu, especially those ancestral houses that depict the historical backdrop of all houses.

    Oct 11, 2008 | 1:15 pm

  37. John & Chrisna says:

    Well, i can say Carcar is the nice place to stay… especially now its a city. I am sure you will miss the chicharon, ampaos and bucharillos…. The lechon is very delicious…. Not only the foods as people mention above the old houses are still exist…

    Nov 2, 2008 | 9:27 pm

  38. Roxy says:

    Car car is where my mom grew up and she told me about those old houses that they have,I never thought that it looks so beautiful,I’ve never been there,hope to visit when I am back in Pinas soon.

    Dec 5, 2008 | 11:23 am

  39. Mark says:

    It is really nice to see the beautiful houses of carcar. I hope that the government will do something to preserve these icons.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 3:49 am

  40. ESTELLA E. says:

    iam from cebu my brohers live there and i want to go back want to buy a house there if there is a good deal.

    Dec 31, 2008 | 10:15 am

  41. virginia alcorcon bloomfield says:

    i been away from carcar for almost 20 years cause i married to an american guy,theres no place like carcar,i remember our mother used to tell us story about our town,our great,great great,great grandfather was a cabisa de mayor during spanish time ,he was one of those people to help kill leon kilat,so our town saved by spanish bombardment,the house in the corner that goes to church ,i couldn’t remember what our mother say the original owner of the house.she said whoever visit the family the maid always wipe off there path.i never get a chance to inside in that house but tell the terrace behind the house was kind of unique to me.im not sure how its look as of today,we must preserved the past without the history,carcar couldn’nt be like today as we are proud of our heritage,no matter what how we explore from another places ,we always love carcar

    Jan 26, 2009 | 10:11 am

  42. jesma cujardo says:

    hmm…it so beautiful in here..
    i love living here..

    Jun 29, 2009 | 4:59 pm


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