Fontainebleau in Cebu

Cebu City, the Philippines

March 5, 2011

Other than my bedroom, I didn’t have a literal comfort zone – a feel-good place that I’d repeatedly go back to. My fellow transcendental traveler, Ki, knew such a place where he felt “in the zone.” He took to his solitary journeys there like a fish to water.

Ki and his favorite McDonald’s in Fuente Osmeña Circle

For Ki, that place was Fuente Osmeña Circle, an old fountain rotunda in uptown Cebu. Coming from an early flight, he’d plop down on a comfy seat at McDonald’s fronting the circle. After devouring his Filipino breakfast, he’d do…nothing. He may read the papers or snap some photos, but generally, he’d just chill – be perfectly comfortable being alone with his thoughts. No real time tweet or Facebook status could hijack his solitude. Instead, he’d while the time away people-watching. At this hour, the rotunda was abuzz with joggers, old men doing tai chi, and commuters, while McDonald’s was doing brisk business with breakfast diners, the unwitting subjects of his scrutiny.

Ki and his favorite McDonald’s
“Morning Verse” – A Cebuana reads her Bible after having McDo breakfast (photography and text by Ki)

I tagged along on this trip, curious about this part of Cebu. There was neither a Parisian al fresco cafe nor an Italian piazza. Just a fastfood joint, for crying out loud! The rotunda had an old charm to it, but the fountain itself did not spout water that morning. I wondered aloud what allure this roundabout had.

Ki drew a blank.

Perhaps the idea of a rejuvenating fountain and the circle’s old world vibe were his take on la dolce vita. It was not so much squandering time as savoring life with the leisure and spontaneity that harked back to an older era. This particular morning, I was like Marcello joining him in his fountain to enjoy the moment. Fuente Osmeña was certainly no Trevi, but it was considered the heart of Cebu.

The fountain was built to mark the establishment of the city’s waterworks and the advent of modernization in 1912. It was named after the Grand Old Man of Cebu who was the country’s fourth president. Despite its place in the city’s history, Fuente Osmeña was a forgotten icon of Cebu.

Fuente Osmeña
Cebu Provincial Capitol

The tree-lined Osmeña Boulevard, a heart-to-heart artery, connected the heart of the city to the heart of the province – the immaculately white Cebu Provincial Capitol ensconced regally at the end of the boulevard. Its white dome brought to mind a miniature U.S. Capitol. How magnificent the view of the capitol could have been from the fountain if there were no buildings flanking the boulevard.

It was still early; street vendors were sweeping and setting up shop on the boulevard’s sidewalk. Curiously, only one was stacking used books and magazines on the pavement. Her spot was just outside the newly-spruced up Rizal Memorial Library and Museum (mental note: must visit next time). No wonder, she matched her merchandise with the location.

Book Vendor outside Rizal Memorial Library and Museum
Rizal Memorial Library and Museum in Cebu City
At the Legendary Larsian

For a taste of Cebu, the legendary Larsian, a tented bunch of barbecue stalls in the middle of the street, was within the vicinity. It was strictly no-frills dining here: Slabs of meat hung on hooks for our picking, after which they were cooked while smoke smothered our entire being. Then we ate the barbecue with our hands wrapped in plastic, like a culinary condom! The meat was juicy, but the place was smoky as hell. It got me smelling as if a fire-breathing dragon had belched on me, the stink stubbornly sticking to my clothes and backpack for days.

For sweets, Shamrock, a famous delicacy shop, was just around the corner. I bought a delicacy my mom had asked me to bring home. I had never heard of it before, but it was love at first bite – masareal, a bar of finely ground peanuts and sugar syrup that was quite addictive. It was choc-nut without the choc. A box of Mana Acion’s masareal put the dolce to my vita! I may not have gotten a comfort zone in Fuente Osmeña, but I had found my comfort food there.

Mouthwatering Masareal from Mandaue

20 thoughts on “Fontainebleau in Cebu

  1. Ki sounds like another interesting person, like you! Well, he’s your friend after all. Marcello and La Dolce Vita seem to be your favourite items. This is the third time I have seen you mentioning them. But there is something about fountains that is soothing and calming. Whenever I pass by a fountain or sit somewhere near it, I cannot see anything else. The water rising, the droplets and the beauty of the water is something that always manages to hold my attention.

    BTW, the name “Shamrock” is the name of a plant which is a three-leafed clover. It is the symbol of Ireland. Does the sweet shop have an Irish connection? So many connections and associations we can make from names. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Joy always,

    P. S: Blogger is down and we’ve lost the content of 24 hours. Glad that you escaped the Friday the 13th effect of blogger going kaput 🙂

    1. Ki is actually my polar opposite, but that makes him interesting cuz I’m really boring. I mean, really.

      Have I alluded to La Dolce Vita before? I think it was YOU! I remember asking you about Marcello. But yeah I love the film, especially that Trevi scene. And so it wells up from my subconscious! 🙂

      Got it right, Sus. Shamrock is an Irish icon. One of the founding owners (it was established before WW2!) was an Irishman, hence the name. How keen of you, Sus, to notice such things. You’re my kind of friend!

      Yeah I heard Blogger was acting up yesterday. Good thing I’m on WordPress. Sometimes we get downtime too (they say “site maintenance” but I think that’s a euphemism) but not as long and widespread as what happened in Blogger. I’d go ballistic if that happened to TTT!

      Happiness forever,
      AJ 😀

  2. Drool on all the food photos! I get what your friend means by hanging out in a place that’s seemingly simple and unassuming. I had one of the best dates ever eating an Egg McMuffin in a Marikina Park, maybe for him or you sometimes solitude takes on this voyeuristic pleasure in being part of the scene yet separate from it.

    Arrrgh… excuse me while i try to substitute my desire for masareal with food that’s available here. 🙂

    1. “Voyeuristic pleasure” – you drew the words outta my mouth, Pandelicious!

      Oh, if you think choc-nut is a little piece of heaven (like I do), then you’d love masareal too! They’re like cousins. 🙂

  3. I really appreciate that you wrote about places in Cebu. While reading this post, my lost memory revived: the fountain, Cebu Provincial Capitol, Larsian, the library and a female librarian… Now, the sweets, masareal, completely caught my heart. I’m desperate to taste it!! So happy to be able to READ this sweet post, thank you! ;P
    And say “Hi!!” to your fellow transcendental traveler for me, plz. 🙂

    1. Nice to know you actually visited this part of Cebu, Karry. I thought it wasn’t so touristy. But why didn’t anyone let you try masareal?! I think it’s Cebu’s best delicacy.

      I’m impressed – you actually READ the post! Now that IS sweet! 🙂

    1. Hey Gay! Be careful what you wish for cuz you just might get it. And if you get it then you might not know what to do wit’ it. Plagiarizing Eminem here. 🙂

  4. Happy Blogoversary, AJ! It has been great knowing places I have never been to, via The Transcendental Tourist. And talking about the pictures on your blog, I spend at least a couple of seconds on each picture to make sure I don’t miss something interesting. I scroll up after commenting and go through the pictures once again 😛 Way to go Transcendental Tourist! 🙂 Congratultions…….and may you keep writing like this always:)

    1. Nehha, you make me feel squishy! Now I’m pressured to take better composed photos. 😀

      I’ve taken you to Southeast Asia and Japan so far. Fingers crossed, it’ll be Europe and Africa soon.

  5. It’s always fun reading your post AJ. I like the way you infuse humor in your informative post, you’re such a gifted writer. Happy blogversary and hopefully we will be reading about Africa and Europe soon 🙂

    1. It’s a long shot for now – Europe and Africa – but a tourist can dream, can’t he? 🙂 Oh, and it’s comforting to know you glean both information and humor from my ramblings.

  6. im glad i made that topic in netblogged coz i was able to bumped on you .. i like your blog .. I had my first Larsian just last month on my Cebu Trip and when i got out from there I smelled like a bar-b-q .. lol .. and the masareal i didnt let it just pass .. i love it!

    1. Nice to meet you too, Johx! Natawa naman ako sa yo – you smelled like a bar-b-q. So true in Larsian though, kaya I don’t think I’d ever go back. Haha!

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