At the center of Carcar in Southern Cebu is a beautiful rotunda which was probably built in the 1920s by the mayor at that time, Mariano Mercado. Two figures are perched on top of the gazebo which is said to signify the United States guiding the Philippines. There are also sculptures around the rotunda representing people from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the three major island groups in the country.
This rotunda has served its purposes well ever since. It has been helpful for travelers especially those riding in buses. Some of them may alight here or continue further south to Dalaguete or go westward to Barili. Regardless of their next destination, it signals them that they are finally at Carcar, one of the oldest crossroads in the province of Cebu.
Aside from the rotunda, there are also other heritage structures in Carcar. One of these is the St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Church, an 18th century church that has Greek Orthodox architectural undertones. It magnificently stands at the center of Carcar’s plaza.
What used to be the The Carcar Dispensary built in 1929 is now the Carcar City Museum. The exquisite woodwork, the balcony, the floor tiles and other interior details in this two-storey building whisper of a glorious era that has gone too soon. At the back of the dispensary is Carcar’s old public swimming pool.
There are three monuments that can be found at the plaza: Jose Rizal’s, Don Mariano Mercado’s and Leon Kilat’s (Gen. Pantaelon Villegas). The fierce Leon Kilat was sent by the Manila Katipuneros to further intensify the revolution in this part of Cebu. He was unable to do what he came for because he was assassinated in Carcar at young age of 25.
Walking down the plaza, one would immediately notice two old houses along the national highway. These are the Silva House and the Mercado Mansion. Further down Santa Catalina Street, are the Don Florencion Noel House (Ang Dakong Balay) and Sarmiento-Osmeña House (Balay na Tisa). These ancestral houses were recognized as Heritage Houses by the National Historical Insitute last September 4, 2009. Among the four, only the Balay na Tisa can be visited without prior notice. Inside this well-preserved house are various family heirlooms and antiques.
Food Trip and Shoe Bargains
Carcar is also known for its sweet delicacies such as the ampao (rice crispies) and the bucarillo(sweetened coconut strips). These are usually sold by local vendors to buses who temporarily stop by the rotunda. But if you have enough time for a cholesterol-laden adventure, then visit the public market where the lechon (roasted pig) are curiously displayed on the market stalls. Find Bebie’s Lechon which is said to be among the finest lechon-makers in the area.
There are also various backyard chicharon (deep fried pork rinds) factories near the market. This cottage industry recently courted controversy when a lawmaker wanted to put a warning label stating that the chicharon packs are health risks. The initiative was panned and never saw the light of day. From the looks of it, Carcar’s crispy chicharon will be here for good.
Finally, Carcar is also famous for its locally crafted footwear. Quality pairs of espadrilles, sandals and leather shoes can be bought at the Carcar Shoe Expo for a considerable discount. The shoe complex is located at Barangay Valladolid and is just one trike away from the public market.
Indeed, Carcar’s tourism potential is a shoo-in already, with its various period buildings and food adventures. It also has a huge room for improvement in terms of infrastructure development. As an example, the local government might want to consider relocating the narrow national road that plies through the city proper where some of its heritage houses are located.
But with its reinstated cityhood, Carcar now has a bigger budget to accomplish projects like that and so much more. It is clearly on its way to become more than just an old crossroad in the province of Cebu. Here is then a city that is both proud of its rich past and at the same eager to embrace the many challenges of the future.
How to get there
Carcar is 1.5-2 hours away via any south-bound bus at the Cebu City South Bus Terminal, along N.Bacalso Avenue.