Pari-an coded, decoded-A A +A
Thursday, December 22, 2011
IN THE old district of Pari-an in Cebu City hides what was once a Jesuit House.
Although I pass by this area every now and then, I didn’t know about the Jesuit House until I joined a walking tour of heritage sites in the district last Tuesday to launch a tourism-related project so high tech that you need to try it to understand what it’s about.
The Jesuit House, built in 1730, is hidden inside the Ho Tong Hardware on Zulueta Street. The hardware is a few meters away from the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home.
Pertinent details about the Jesuit House are found on a marker that bears what looks like hieroglyphics to those uninitiated to quick response (QR) codes. To decode the hieroglyphics, you scan it with your mobile phone or a tablet computer.
Mobile phones that seem to be as old as the Jesuit House in Pari-an in terms of features, such as the one used by my journalist friend Marites, do not work on QR codes. The phone has to have the QR reader application. (No, Tes, a mobile phone with a flashlight feature won’t do. But yes, you can train the flashlight on the marker at night to read, old-style, the text on it.)
The Jesuit House is just among the heritage sites in the Pari-an district that bear QR codes. Data tagging of selected tourism and heritage sites in Cebu is a groundbreaking project of Smart Communications and the Cebu-based website MyCebu.ph.
Information about the heritage site is in the marker with the QR code. You scan the QR code of, say, the Heritage of Cebu Monument in Pari-an, and, voila!, you have the details without need to google the site.
For now, the data tagging is limited to the heritage sites in the Pari-an district.
Last Tuesday, we had a walkthrough of the sites, all within 100 meters of each other—the Colon obelisk, the Jesuit House, the Yap-Sandiego Ancentral Home, Casa Gorordo and the San Juan Bautista Parish Church.
The San Juan Bautista Parish Church is right beside the Pari-an Fire Station. What was was once an opulent church, according to the research done by MyCebu.ph editor Marlen Limpag, has become a nondescript chapel that unless you live nearby, you wouldn’t know it’s there. I peeped into the chapel during the walkthrough and saw camels and the three magi resting and awaiting reconstruction for the Nativity tableau.
Marlen, a former Sun.Star journalist, has done excellent research on the heritage sites in the Pari-an district. She has her husband Max, an electronic data whiz, helping her put up the project.
When you scan the QR codes with your phone or tablet, do it with caution. Don’t tempt snatchers with your expensive gadgets. It’s best to do the walkthrough with company.
And if you’re at the Colon obelisk, watch out for the traffic. You don’t want to get run over by a jeepney as you scan the QR-coded marker. If you get run over, you’d be sure to see someone running away with your phone or tablet.
Among the five heritage sites that have been QR-coded, I find the Jesuit House, which has a basement museum, most interesting. It was like, eureka! You can’t see it from the street because it’s inside a warehouse of a hardware store. Zulueta Street is lined with huge bodegas. To find the Jesuit House, just look for the QR-coded marker of Ho Tong Hardware, whose sign you can find by looking up the building.
In Pari-an, you don’t hurry. You take your time to discover the past. You need time to decipher how QR scanning works. For one, you need Internet connection. No, Tes, you don’t need Internet connection to make the flashlight feature of your phone work.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 22, 2011.