It was, again, another long All Saints Day break in Manila and we decided to vacation in Macau, the second time for me and Grace (we went there via fast ferry from Hong Kong) and the first visit for my children Jandy and Cheska as well as my in-laws. We all left Manila on the 12:30 PM Philippine Airlines flight at NAIA II Terminal. The trip took all of 2.5 hours and our plane landed in Macau International Airport by 3 PM. Here, we were picked up by our travel agent and brought to The Venetian Macau. Our hotel, owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is very much representative of the city’s gaming industry, being the biggest of Macau’s 33 casinos, 16 of them operated by Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) of legendary gambling taipan Stanley Ho.
However, we didn’t visit the picturesque city of Macau for the gaming as the city’s history and culture is a blend of East (first settled, probably in the early 14th century, by Chinese fishermen from Fujian province) and West (the Portuguese established Europe’s first settlement and trade outpost on the Chinese coast here in 1557). Though now part of the People’s Republic of China, it still retains a Western flavor due to over 400 years of Portuguese rule. Portuguese influence is still seen in the architecture (churches, fortresses, government buildings, etc), Roman Catholicism (there is still a sizable Roman Catholic community of about 25,000), the Eurasian Macanese (descendants from the original 1,000 Portuguese families) and in the names of shops and streets (still in Portuguese but with Chinese translations). Chinese influence is seen in the people (its half million population is 95% Chinese), religion (most are devout Buddhists and Taoists) and temples (combines both the Buddhist and Taoist beliefs).