LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Following several years of dilapidation and eventual repair, the Casa Real (Royal House), once the province’s seat of power, is now fully restored.
On Monday, June 21, The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) turned over the rehabilitated the nearly 200-year-old building to the provincial government of Pangasinan.
Dr. Rene Escalante, chairperson of the NHCP, along with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, graced the said turnover and unveiling of its marker.
Royal beginnings and the bloody revolution
The Casa Real, located in Barangay Poblacion, Lingayen town, was built during the 1840s during the Spanish Era, as the seat of provincial power.
The alcalde mayor, now known as the provincial governor, once held office there. The building was also his official residence.
For several decades, this has been the status quo, until the Philippine revolution reached its flames in the province in 1898.
Melchor Orpilla, local historian and translator, cited details from a book ‘Sipiy Awaray Gelew Diad Pilipinas’ (Revolucion Filipina), written by Felipe Quintos, a high-ranking officer in the Katipunan hailing from Lingayen town and an eyewitness to the local revolt. He later wrote two volumes of said book – one in Pangasinan, and one in Spanish.
Orpilla cited Quintos’ accounts on June 29, 1898, Katipuneros who were stationed in Baay (now a Lingayen barangay) crossed the river and attacked the Casa Real from behind.
This, however, was foiled as Voluntarios Movilizados Ilocanos (Mobile Ilocano Volunteer Corps), lined up and shot the charging Katipuneros. They were backed by Spanish troops who garrisoned in the building.
Quintos was unable to tally the fatalities on both sides.
As the Katipuneros retreated, Sargento de Brigada (Brigade Sergeant) Rafael Hidalgo ordered the dead be buried behind the Casa Real.
Relocation and degradation
Years after the revolution, and with the turnover of the colonial rule to the Americans, the Casa Real would lose its imposing authority as the seat of power in the province.
Citing excessive maintenance costs, the officials decided to build another, better capitol complex.
On December 1918, the new capitol building was finished — the same building housing being held by the provincial governor now.
The 1930’s, the Casa Real was then used as an elementary school, then the seat of the Court of First Instance.
As it survived the ravages brought about by the World War II, It was then later used in housing different government offices, even the Sangguniang Bayan of Lingayen town.
But despite the Casa Real surviving numerous disasters, on 2008, Typhoon Cosme tore its roof off. It was abandoned since then — dilapidated, disgusting, and even became the haven of illegal settlers in town.
On March 13, 2002, the NHCP, through a Board Resolution, declared the Casa Real a National Historical Landmark.
On 2012, then Pangasinan Governor Amado T. Espino Jr and then Second District Congressman Leopoldo Bataoil, now Lingayen town mayor, worked for its restoration.
In a joint project by the Pangasinan Provincial Government, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) pooled the funding for the restoration project.
The first phase was funded PHP 5million, PHP30 million for the second phase, and PHP 50million for the third phase of the project. The provincial government funded the first phase, while the DPWH funded the second phase.
However, during the shift to the third phase, the chief operating officer for TIEZA was replaced, causing the delay of the project.
In an interview last 2017, Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs officer Maria Luisa Elduayan said the project is “dependent on the TIEZA grant for the third phase of the restoration”.
The inauguration took longer than expected, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But with the building restoration complete, the provincial government sets its sights on to new heights for the Casa Real.
In his speech during the inauguration, Governor Amado I. Espino III said the Casa Real will become a museum — a repository of artifacts and other materials related to the history and culture of Pangasinan.
Espino admitted this will be a challenge, as artifacts could cause thousands, if not millions of pesos to retrieve.
Espino said the Casa Real will not yet be opened to the public, as final adjustments in manpower and deployment are currently underway.