Sensual Sevilla

Sevilla holds so much history and presents an interesting amalgamation of cultures. Its main attractions—the Catedral de Sevilla, the Alcazar, and the General Archive of the Indies—are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the Plaza de España at the Parque de Maria Luisa is an example of Renaissance Revival in Spanish architecture (not to mention doubling as the palace of Naboo in the Star Wars prequels).

The Cathedral and the Alcazar are interesting examples of how Christianity built upon structures that were Moorish/Muslim in origin. Legend has it that the builders of the Cathedral said, “Let us build a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad.” And they probably were.

Sevilla’s Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. There is so much detail in the structure’s exteriors and interiors, as it has about 80 chapels inside. On one part of the cathedral lies what were supposedly are the remains of Christopher Columbus, contained in a sepulchre that is as Gothic as Gothic could be. The main highlight of the Cathedral would definitely be La Giralda, the bell tower, which provides majestic views of Barrio Santa Cruz. One has to go up 34 ramps to the viewing deck, but it is well worth it.

There are, however, two things that I count as my personal highlights during my visit to Sevilla. The first is seeing the exhibit, España y la Aventura de la Mar del Sur, which included a section on Manila—labeled as the gateway between two worlds in the 1600s. It was quite a humbling experience to see artifacts that are significant in the history of the Philippines, including a sketch of the first Spanish settlement in the country by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and a map of Manila and Manila Bay in the 1700s. There were also weapons from the tribes in Luzon on display, as well as a Spanish-Tagalog-Bisaya-Bicolano dictionary. It is both triumph and tragedy to realize that such artifacts do exist, but no institution in the Philippines holds such treasures.

The other highlight would be discovering Barrio Santa Cruz simply by throwing away the maps. I started at Avenida de la Constitucion, making my way to narrow, winding streets lined with white and yellow buildings. This was when I finally realized that Sevilla was earthy, sensual, passionate, and even fatalistic.

Exploring Barrio Santa Cruz and Triana in 9-degree weather makes one think that this city is more alive under the heat of the Spanish sun. The yellow and white buildings seemed to be built for the heat.

A visit at the Museo del Baile Flamenco allows one to experience the dance with all the senses. Meanwhile, a visit to the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla is also a reminder of how fatal passions and entertainment could be. All the while, images of Christ and the Virgin Mary mark every other building, as if the city was enveloped in fervent and feverish faith.

I think this earthiness is the heart of Sevilla, and it took a while to uncover it. I would love to see the city again, perhaps one summer, one day.

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