Category Archives: New Zealand

An afternoon in Devonport

tag: devonport new zealand, new zealand, nz, kiwi

Devonport, a historic seashore village, is one place you must not miss when you’re in Auckland. It is a charming neighborhood with plenty of elegant period architecture. Here we saw well preserved samples of  Victorian, Colonial and Georgian buildings. The conservation of these structures is testament to the locals historical awareness and vision for their town.

We reached Devonport via the ferry service. These ferries are in the best conditions, it have an open deck for viewing but we decided not to leave the warmnt of the cabin for it was airy and cold that afternoon. The entire trip across the Waitemata Harbor took less than 1o minutes, which left me wanting for more because there’s nothing like seeing the coastline and the communities around it from the sea. The sight of Auckland’s skyline from the ferry was something to behold. There’s something about sea travel that triggers some remarkably strange human emotion. Which reminds me that I’ve yet to go on a long sea travel one of these days.

There are paid tours that takes tourist around Devonport. Something that we would have taken if we planned to go to this place ahead of time. But we initially didn’t have the town on our list up until we were already in Auckland.

The entire village feels like a period movie set. There’s a barbershop that’s more than one hundred year old! The romantic cells inside my body was pumping seeing the town’s buildings that are mostly century old–all of them great architectural pieces. You don’t come across places like this very often. Good news is that what you see in Devonport are as authentic as its history. Folks around this place understands the value in sustaining the identity and character of their community. Tourism is a welcome business around here but I could feel that awareness of their heritage goes beyond profit. I really enjoyed walking around the village. Even if my pants and shoes got soaked in the rain that had seemingly appeared from nowhere, and coming down sideways at that.

We ended our brief tour of Devonport by making it all the way to the top of Mt. Victoria. We did so without minding thunder and lightning which I won’t recommend for anyone to try. The painted mushroom (air vents), all amanita muscaria, which tells me that either someone really like its appearance or someone must have been tripping in one, was a pleasant surprise upon reaching the top. Looking around it made sense that the British had built canons and fortifications (North Head) around the area. They could spot threats to Auckland from a good distance. From this vantage point you could spot a scenic view of Auckland, Hauraki Gulf and the Waitemata Harbor –what a way to end the day!


A hop on bus tour in Auckland

tag: new zealand, kiwi, auckland, nz

When I was a boy I have this image of New Zealand as a place where you find the greenest farms and the healthiest cows. I think I saw that in a popular TV ad back then. Peter Jackson‘s LOTR and his Hobbit series changed that mental image a few years ago. But this recent trip changed everything. Funny thing is that while the plane I was on was taxying on Auckland’s airport I saw these planes with LOTR characters painted all over its fuselage! So, I guess I am in middle earth.

It takes around 10 hours to reach Auckland from Singapore. The trip allows you to appreciate the vastness of Australia. For several hours all you see is depopulated land. It’s unbelievable — and we have experts telling us that this world couldn’t accommodate us all (but then again I think most of that is barren land). Think about this, New Zealand, which is about the same size as the UK and Japan, has a population of less than 5 million, while Singapore, a small island nation (you could fit two Singapore in the island of Romblon) has roughly the same population!

As usual, I tried to see as much of what’s left of the old city as I could. We tried the bus tour that goes around downtown Auckland. I would have preferred to walk but the rain, wind and the nipping coldness of the New Zealand winter impeded these itchy feet. The bus tour brought me to interesting places that are important to the history of the island country. It turns out to be a good ride after all.

The first stop was the Ferry Building, built a century ago in the Edwardian baroque style (like the building of St. Joseph’s Institution and Victoria Memorial Hall in Singapore). It is one of the most elaborately English designed building I’ve ever seen. Heading to the Bastion Point Lookout (a good spot to view the Hauraki Gulf) I noticed these narra looking trees lined up in the boulevard. I was later told that they are Pohutukawa trees, also known as the Kiwi Christmas tree. It has these spiny looking flowers that makes the trees look like Christmas trees.

The tour also passed by the Parnell suburb, the oldest in Auckland (established in 1841). They have these charming commercial stores housed in what appears to be really old small shops. I heard that Bill Clinton’s loves to shop around this area (for what? I don’t know). A historied church in the area, the Anglican church, was established in 1888 (it replaced the old St. Mary church, which was made of wood). Sir Edmund Hillary, the legendary New Zealander adventurer, famous for being the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest was interned in this church.

Unfortunately, the Rose garden of Parnell in winter doesn’t really have roses but just bushes and leaves at this time of the year. This tourist attraction is worth seeing when the flowers are in full bloom.

There was rain the whole time we were traveling around Auckland. I noticed that nobody minds it at all. Even children are walking around with their thick jackets and umbrellas. There was very little sun that would shine every now and then, but not enough to dry the wet grounds that we walked on.

From all indications Auckland has retained a substantial number of their picturesque heritage buildings. These old buildings compliments well the modern buildings and attraction (like the Auckland tower). Queen street is the main commercial point of Auckland. Around it are the Streets High and O’Connell where you could see heritage buildings reused for modern commercial use.

The iconic Civic Theater is a must see for heritage lovers. The building was featured in Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. The story is that experienced some trouble during its early years, low attendance and eventually going bankrupt. In the mid 1900’s there was a proposition to have it demolished which fortunately was not pursued. It was restored in the 90’s and is now one of the most beautiful building in town. It is the “most elaborate Atmospheric Theater in the world” and is a personal favorite among the old building I’ve seen in the city.

Heritage buildings around Auckland are mostly restored to fit modern use. It does not have the surface of old (like our unpainted churches made of adobe stones) but the overall visual aspect remains loyal to the era when they were built.

One has to wonder where this awareness to conserve heritage comes from — is it the prosperity that allows people to pursue the conservation of their heritage? or is this awareness, a result of how were taught about our history as a people, in our homes and in educational institutions? I envy such countries for we Filipinos have more to conserve but we elect not to — in the process, depriving the future generation of tangible memories of those great generations that went before us.

Auckland’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

tag: new zealand, st patrick’s cathedral auckland, auckland, central auckland

The mission land where Auckland’s Catholic church stands was awarded to a French bishop (who became Auckland’s first bishop) Jean-Baptiste François Pompallier to create “a dwelling house, a college, recreation ground for youth, and burial ground, for the use of the Roman Catholic public”.

Pompallier would establish the first territorial area (when a Diocese has not yet been established) for Catholics in New Zealand. Most of the Catholics within the area were Irish which explains why the church was dedicated in honor of their homeland’s patron saint.

Plans to establish a stone church was made around 1848. Stone foundations were laid in the 1880’s. Additions to the church were consequently made afterwards. The church’s organ (still working to this day) came from London. This church however was demolished in 1907 to pave way for expansion. The reconstruction was completed the following year. This is the church that we see today.

In the middle of the church, just right in front of the altar is a glass tile where one could see a portion of the 1884 church. A memento honoring the first church built in the islands.

The church (officially, ‘ The Cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph)is located in the central district of Auckland. It’s near where we stayed. It’s a charming white gothic church with conspicuous similarities with the late 1800’s churches in Singapore and Malaya. It’s a splitting image of Singapore’s Lourdes church in Ophir Road.

The presbytery (or bahay pari as we call it) was built in 1888 and is an attractive and functional addition to the church complex. The vines that clings to the brick walls are said to be more than a 100 year old (maybe more).

Another interesting part of the church is this shallow marble well right on the side of the altar. The wooden beams accentuates the attractively designed church loft. There’s something that distinguishes Catholic churches planned by English educated architects. You just know when you see one. There’s a lot extant English built church in Singapore and Malaysia that’s worth seeing.

I’ve always been interested in the lives of pioneering Catholic missionaries. I’ve researched some of the Spanish friar missions in the past and this changed the way I see them. Some of the most transformational development in our ancestors way of life was brought by these forgotten, often maligned, men of clothe.

Inside the cathedral, one’s literally standing where the seeds of Catholicism took root in the island. Pomapallier, a French Marist, who pursued to create a Catholic community in Auckland, retired back in his country after three decades of spiritual work in New Zealand. He was buried in France where only his family knew him (having spent all his productive years in the pacific islands). New Zealanders would make pilgrims to Lyon and see his neglected grave. So, sometime in the 1930’s a movement started an effort to get the French Bishop back in New Zealand.

An article in a local New Zealand site dedicated to the memory of  the French Bishop have this beautiful anecdote about his relationship with his beloved Maori people he converted:

He was particularly revered by the Māori people of Hokianga and elsewhere. He had brought Catholicism to them, was sympathetic to their concerns and had an enlightened attitude towards Māori culture. Children were given the name Pomaparia, and his first mission field Hokianga became known as Te Kohanga o te Hāhi Katorika ki Aotearoa, the Cradle of the Faith in Aotearoa. The following dialogue with a kaumatua (elder) illustrates the bishop’s attitude:“If you have love (aroha) for us you will send us a priest”……Kaumatua
“I don’t know about your love(aroha) for me, but I know about my love for you, because I left my country, my land and my family for you”……..Bishop Pompallier.

In 2002, the Bishop’s intricate coffin made by Maori wood artisans was placed under the altar in St Mary’s Church in Motuti.



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