Parting glances, Church of St. Alphonsus

8 10 2014

In Singapore, the familiar becomes unfamiliar in the blink of an eye. The end of September brought with it more than a fair share of goodbyes to places some of us have grown attached to. One that was especially hard to say goodbye to was a place I have grown especially fond of through my interactions with it over a period of almost half a century, the Church of St. Alphonsus, which closed at the end of September for redevelopment.

A final prayer outside the locked gates of the closed church the morning after.

A final prayer outside the locked gates of the closed church the morning after.

In the case of St. Alphonsus, popularly known as Novena Church, it isn’t of course a complete goodbye. The building that housed the church, very recognisable through its distinctive triple-arc pediment – a landmark along Thomson Road, will not be torn down as it has been gazetted for conservation in 2011. It will however, be dominated by a much larger structure once the redevelopment is complete – that being a new and much larger church building that will come up in place of the site occupied by St. Clement’s Pastoral Centre and another very recognisable structure, the church’s bell tower.

A parting glance ...

A parting glance …

Better known perhaps for the devotional services it holds through the course of the day every Saturday that brings a crowd to the area – the Novena sessions that gives the church and the area (including an MRT station) their names, the church came into being on its current site in May 1950, when it was consecrated as the new Redemptorist chapel – the order having moved from a site down the road currently occupied by Thomson Medical Centre at which it started the Novena services after the war in 1945.

The chapel as it had originally looked in 1950 (Novena Church website).

The building as we know it today, took on its current form in the latter half of the 1950s. A bell tower and the Redemptorist Residence was added in 1956 and the pediment and a circular stained glass panel of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was added in 1959.

The circular stained glass panel seen through the closed gates of the church.

The circular stained glass panel seen through the closed gates of the church.

The bell tower.

The bell tower.

The weekly services is what gives the area its flavour, when huge crowds descend on the area every Saturday, crowds that will certainly be missed during the two-year redevelopment period when Novena services are held instead in the Church of Risen Christ in Toa Payoh. I remember it being particularly lively at the end of the 1960s and perhaps the early 1970s – when crowds thronged the sidewalks down the slope from the church where many food vendors would be found.

An aerial view showing the church with its new pediment and the Redemptorist Residence in 1959 (Novena Church website).

Also missed will be the burst of colour that the area sees once a year over the first weekend in September, when the church’s façade is very brightly decorated with a flowers for the annual Novena procession, although the scale of the decorations have become more modest in its latter years. The procession, the 61st of which was held in September, sees crowds in excess of 10,000 spilling into the open car park space that is arrange on two terraces – a space that will be largely altered due to the construction of an underground car park.

Decorations during the annual procession in 1987.

Decorations during the annual procession in 1987.

The church held its last services over the weekend of the 27th and 28th September and its grilled gates were closed following the last service. Besides hosting Novena services, the Church of the Risen Christ will also host weekday masses. Sunday masses will during the period of closure be held at St. Joseph’s Institution Junior in Essex Road. More information can be found at the Novena Church website.

Silent corridors at the Redemptorist Residence the morning after.

Silent corridors at the Redemptorist Residence the morning after.


Parting glances …

The morning after

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The Bell Tower

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The Church

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The Redemptorist Residence and St. Clement’s Pastoral Centre

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The last Novena

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The last procession and processions past

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The Mah Piu Poh intersection vendors

29 03 2013

It was in the semidarkness that accompanied the evenings, in days long forgotten that we would have heard a once familiar sound. It was of a chorus of youthful voices calling out “Mah Piu Poh“, in almost a musical fashion, heard above the grumble of engines and rattling dashboards of traffic slowing to a standstill. The voices were those of boys who looked no more than nine or ten, who risked life and limb for a handful of loose change in weaving their way through traffic to hawk the evening’s newspapers. Referred commonly to as “Mah Piu Poh“, the papers, the predecessor to today’s Shin Min Daily News (新明日报), were a popular read during the weekends, not so much for the gossip it carried, but for the day’s all-important news (especially so in the pre-internet days), that of the horse racing related 4 digit (4D) lottery results. Hence, the name “Mah Piu Poh” or “马票报” which in Cantonese translates to “Lottery Newspaper”, “Mah Piu ” (马票) being a horse-racing lottery, and “Poh” (报) meaning newspaper.

The Mah Piu Poh boy, once a feature of some road junctions and roundabouts. Where I most remember seeing them at was at Guillemard Circus.

The Mah Piu Poh boy, once a feature of some road junctions and roundabouts. One place I well remember seeing them at was at Guillemard Circus.

The boys would be seen at many of the busy intersections. One intersection I well remember seeing them at was at the rather lively Guillemard Circus in the light of the neon billboards that gave the roundabout a unique character. That would have been in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With a few newspapers in hand, the boys would attempt to sell them to the occupants of cars as they slowed through windows opened out of necessity (it was rare to have a car fitted with air conditioning in those days). While similar road junction vendors are still a fairly common sight in parts of Asia such as in India and in the Philippines, it was something that, by the time the late 1970s arrived, we were to see the last of on the increasing busy streets of a modernising Singapore in which there was little place for unregulated practices such as this.





A labyrinth of food and much more

15 10 2012

Besides Coloane Village, another place in Macau that I would surely find many happy moments exploring in is Taipa Village. In the shadow of the new at the not so far away Cotai Strip, and closer to Macau Peninsula, the village is on the island of the same name. In it is not only that meeting of east and west to discover, but also several well preserved colonial era buildings centered on the Avenida da Praia and also at Carmel Square. It is also a world where one can lose oneself, wandering the streets and finding little bits of not just the old world, but also some rather delectable treats – one famous one being the famed Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun, to indulge oneself in. Although not comprehensive, the following are seven things that one must do to discover that bit of old Macau in Taipa:

Taipa Village as seen off the reflection of a convex traffic mirror.

The new world of the Cotai Strip looms over old Taipa.

The streets of Taipa offer a fascinating insight into life in older Macau.

As the group of bloggers were to discover.


Old World Discoveries

Taipa is rich in the old world, including several well preserved buildings from the colonial era centered in the Praia area. On the heights above the Praia is a delightful little square with some excellent examples of public and religious architecture including Taipa Library and the Church of Our Lady of Carmel. Below this on the Avenida da Praia, there are also a row of five very pretty houses from the colonial period – beautifully preserved as the Taipa Houses-Museum. In each house, visitors are offered a look back in time into the colonial life with the first furnished much as it would have been during the colonial era, as well as Portuguese traditions, and into traditional industries.

(1) Carmel Square

Taipa Library at Carmel Square (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Church of Our Lady of Carmel, Carmel Square built in 1885 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


(2) Avenida da Praia and the Taipa Houses Museum

The Taipa Houses Museum, a row of 5 colonial heritage houses along the Avenida da Praia (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Ai Sakura at the Avenida da Praia.

Taipa Houses Museum.

The Taipa Houses Museum offers a peek into an old world.

A child’s toy at the Taipa Houses Museum.

Admission to Taipa-Houses Museum (Closed on Mondays):
MOP/HKD5 per adult
FREE for visitors under 12 yrs old and above 65 years old
FREE admission on every Tuesdays.


Food Glorious Food

Taipa is also well known for its food and snacks with a host of well established eating places that offer Cantonese, Macanese and Portuguese cuisine including the O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant. There are also several food discoveries to be made, and besides the famous Pork Chop Bun there is also the famous Taipa Food Street,Rua do Cunha, lined with confectioneries and snack shops to discover, and not to forget, another must try are the Birds Nest Egg Tarts from San Hou Lei a little eatery on the Rua do Regedor.

(3) Rua do Cunha (Taipa Food Street)

The writing on the wall of a confectionery at one end of the famous Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Almond cookies in the works at Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Valyn seen along the Food Street.

More Almond Cookies!

The Food Street offers lots of snacks to satisfy any craving!

Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


(4) San Hou Lei – Bird’s Nest Egg Tarts

Bird’s Nest Egg Tarts!


(5) O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant

Sardine at O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant.

And lots of meat!

(6) Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun


Object of desire … can’t leave Taipa without sinking one’s mouth into one of these! The famous Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun.

Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa.


Roaming the Streets

One thing that I would certainly do when I do return to Macau is to roam the streets of Taipa (as well as Coloane and the area around Senado Square) just to get lost and find what Macau is truly all about. On the evidence of that little bit of time when I did actually get lost as the group walked ahead while I waited for Chun See who had paid a visit to the gents was that there was a wonderful labyrinth of lanes and alleyways – each with a unique charm and certainly one to discover and to photograph.

(7) Getting lost

The streets of Taipa make it a wonderful place to roam around …

… and get lost in …

Street scene.

The streets offer lots of little discoveries.

There’s lots of colour ….

The streets also offer a peek into life in the old world ….

… through its labyrinth of alleyways.

Village street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shady tree lined road in Taipa Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Street sign.

Street scene.

Another street scene.

More street scenes …. (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Houses (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

More houses (leading up to Taipa Food Street) (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shuttered shop.

A sidewalk in Taipa.


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to discovering Taipa:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Taipa
Museums (including Taipa Houses-Museum
Taipa Food Street on Wikipedia
O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant on HK Magazine
San Hou Lei on Macau24.com
Tai Lei Loi Kei on metropolasia.com


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






Gold that certainly needs guarding

11 10 2012

It was right on the last day that we found it, coming away with bagfuls of what must surely have been a very precious commodity that we had two of our toughest ladies, Valyn and Yiwei, to stand guard over it.

Pure gold that required two of our toughest ladies to stand guard over! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The commodity has to be nothing short of pure gold – many come from near and wide, descending on a humble village away from the bustle of Macau’s bright lights and fluid streets just for it, or rather a taste of it. The golden item, is nothing less than the most sought after piece of pastry in the territory, a Lord Stow’s egg tart, smooth and creamy custard given a tinge of gold when baked in a pastry cup.

Gold in a pastry cup, Lord Stow’s Egg Tarts (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The egg tarts or pastéis de nata (pastel de nata, singular), is what certainly draws the crowds to the sleepy village, Coloane Village, which is as far away as one can get in the tiny 29 square kilometres that is Macau. The village takes its name from the island, the southernmost of two main islands beyond the Macau Peninsula – an island that is sometimes referred to as Macau’s countryside. It was for long a neglected part of the former Portuguese colony, becoming a hotbed of pirate activity until the problem was eventually dealt with by the Portuguese in 1910.

Coloane Village is a sleepy village that seems far removed from the bright lights of the nearby Cotai Strip (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The village, as is the bakery, is a curious place. Seemingly out of touch with the glitz and glamour of the integrated resorts sprouting up not so far away on the Cotai Strip – a piece of reclaimed land which has connected the Coloane Island to its northern counterpart, Taipa Island, it (and what is found in it), must be a wonderful example perhaps of how east and west has blended during the rule of the territory’s former masters.

Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Village – it is not just in the bakery, but in the entire village where east has blended well with the west (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At the heart of Coloane Village is a little piece of Portugal, the Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques). The square takes its name from the Portuguese governor Eduardo Marques who oversaw the victory over the pirates. This is in fact commemorated in the square in the form of a monument which stands at one end of it. It is at the opposite end however, that the attention of the visitor will be drawn to – the yellow of the baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is one that will certainly not be missed.

A monument in the Largo da Eduardo Marques to commemorate the defeat of the pirates in 1910 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Eduardo Marques Square is also known for its food outlets which apparently are a must-try (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The yellow baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at the other end of the square.

The yellow chapel, built in 1928, is definitely one that should not be missed. Besides containing some of the most sacred Catholic relics found in Asia (at one time it also housed relics of St. Francis Xavier – the missionary who is attributed bringing the faith to Asia), it does also contain a rather interesting religious painting. On the painting there is an image of a woman bearing the likeness of the Chiness Goddess of Mercy, Kun Iam or Kuan Yin, carrying a child, which is in very much a similar fashion as a very popular Catholic depiction of the Mother and Child. This surely is a wonderful example of how well east and west have blended here.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier was built in 1928 and once housed some relics of St. Francis Xavier, a missionary who is attributed with bringing the Catholic faith to Asia.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is where many important Catholic relics are found (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

An example of east and west meeting inside the chapel – a painting with the likeness of Kum Iam carrying a child shown in a popular pose used by Catholics to depict Mother and Child.

The peace and calm that is the sanctuary of the chapel (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The narrow lanes that took us through to the main square, the Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes, where gold was to be discovered, are equally captivating. Full of colour and interesting details, the streets are ones that I would, if I had another opportunity, like to spend perhaps a whole day exploring. There certainly is much more in the sleepy little village than the golden coloured pastries. Time I didn’t have, and with the egg tarts calling, it was to Lord Stow’s Bakery for our final stop at the village before we were to have lunch.

A colourful narrow lane in Coloane Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A village shop (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The area around Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is certainly worth exploring (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is also where the bus stop is (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another shop found in the narrow lanes of Coloane.

That Lord Stow’s is as curious as the village is, there is no doubt. The bakery, is the brainchild of an English pharmacist (yes you read right!), the late Andrew Stow (whose ex-wife serves a slightly sweeter version of the popular pastry at Margaret’s Café in downtown Macau). He started the little bakery in 1989, perfecting his recipe using his skills as a pharmacist, achieving phenomenal success very quickly – with the bakery itself becoming a tourist draw. Many tourists make it a point to head to the bakery to pack the tarts, which are sold for MOP/HKD8 per piece, MOP/HKD45 for a box of 6, or MOP/HKD90 for a box of 12, before heading home.

Gold production (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Curiosity aside, the bakery does make that egg tart that is certain to give one a ‘love at first bite’ experience and certainly with a taste that is no less than divine – well worth that pilgrimage to Coloane just to worship it. That together with the desire to explore the narrow lanes of the charming little part of Macau and the rest of the island (which does seem well worth exploring), will make it my first, and also last stop the next time I am in Macau.

An extremely happy customer (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Look how much this one bought! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

More expressions of happiness (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Worship (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to finding gold:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Coloane Village (MGTO site)
More on Coloane Island (MGTO site)
Lord Stow’s Bakery


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






Varying moods of a most beautiful place

2 08 2012

The varying moods of a place that in being left behind (at least for now) by the rest of Singapore, that in its imperfection holds a beauty we seem to have forgotten how to appreciate …





Colours on a Sunday evening

30 07 2012

The colours of the fading of day to night seen at a spot that I consider to be one of the more scenic places in Singapore and a place that I often find an escape in.





A Rose-Ringed Parakeet

20 05 2012

Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer:

A place where I capture my glimpses of the green beyond Singapore’s jungle of grey …

Originally posted on The Birds and the Bees:

A Rose-Ringed Parakeet spotted feeding in the foliage along Sungei Sembawang on the morning of 19 May 2012.

View original








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