Be it ever so humble (or grand) … (Part V)

Published September 13, 2021, 5:12 AM

by Jaime Laya

Wala Lang

… there’s no place like [an ancestral] home.


Just as sugar built palaces in Negros, Pampanga, and elsewhere, Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, and Northern Mindanao can thank copra for theirs. I haven’t been inside any Sariaya, Pagsanjan, or San Juan (Batangas) homes, but photos of vanished and extant Sariaya homes are frequently posted on Facebook. Many were designed by Ar. Andres Luna de San Pedro and built in the 1920s and 1930s.

San Pablo City was devasted by World War II, including the block-long Escudero town house. A 1915 house built by the Fule-Malvar family survived and had been adaptively reused as an office building when I saw it. The impressive white façade remained but the grand rooms were already filled with office tables and filing cabinets.

WHAT OLD HOUSES SAY OF THE PAST – Casa Consuelo at Villa Escudero (Tiaong, Quezon), formerly in Pampanga (photos from Google Images)

In the next town of Tiaong, Quezon is the Escudero plantation, much of which is now the Villa Escudero Resort. The pre-war hacienda home is a vision in pink at the end of a long driveway, lined on one side by a lotus pond a la Monet’s Giverny. Inside is reputedly the Philippines’ largest single-slab marble top table, won by an ancestor on a bet. All over, including the upstairs central hallway and bedrooms, are furniture, santos, and other treasures that any museum director would kill for. The more recently built homes of the late matriarch Dona Charing and of her son Conrado “Ado” Escudero are similarly filled with incredible antiques, including what I covet most, a large relieve of Nstra. Sra. De la Paz y Buenviaje, surrounded by galleons.

A Pampanga home of the prominent Gomez family was dismantled, reassembled, and enlarged as Villa Escudero’s Casa Consuelo house-museum, also painted in pink. Horseshoe stairs lead up to a balcony and rooms fully furnished with spare antiques brought out from storage. Dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are laid out around a glass roofed inner court. On the ground floor are exhibit rooms with small items—fans, jewelry, rosaries.


In Cebu’s commercial Parian district are three heritage homes open to the public: Casa Gorordo, an 1850 home run as a museum by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.; the still family-owned Yap-Sandiego house; and the house that was an 18th century or earlier Jesuit residence that is within a hardware bodega as described in an earlier article.

WHAT OLD HOUSES SAY OF THE PAST – Ground floor of the Yap-Sandiego House in Parian, Cebu City. (photos from Google Images)

Casa Gorordo was owned by four generations of the Gorordo family, among whom is the first Filipino Bishop of Cebu, H.E. Juan Gorordo. The house is a long rectangle with sala facing the street at one short end. Other rooms follow in succession—the caida and stairs, dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen and toilet at the far end.  Alongside is a tile-floored azotea cool with plants and vines. Art and other exhibits are mounted on the ground floor.

Family tradition dates the Yap-Sandiego house to the 1600s and with the nearby Jesuit house could be older than Majayjay’s Ordoveza house. The home is of stone and wood and has its original Chinese-style tile roof. The owners’ collection of furniture, santos, furnishings, paintings, etc. furnishes both ground and second floors. Refreshments are served in a charming garden.

Still lived in by the family is a super large house near the Cebu capitol that takes one back 70 years. All—as in all—its furniture is narra and by Nuguid, the top post-war Manla furniture maker. It’s so large that from the entrance lobby I thought no one was home even as the celebration I was attending was already in full swing up on the roof deck.

A Virtual History Trail

One can visualize more clearly the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War—from top honchos’ eyes, that is—through surviving heritage homes. I’m not aware of any surviving foot soldiers’ homes.

The Katipunan was organized by Andres Bonifacio in 1892 and was gearing up for the uprising to begin when in August 1896 its existence was revealed by Honoria, sister of Katipunero Teodoro Patiño. She lived in an orphanage, the Asilo de Mandaloya (built 1716) and spilled the beans to the Mother Superior Teresa de Jesus who then took her to Tondo’s Padre Mariano Gil. I haven’t been to the place that is now part of Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong City but I understand that parts of the Asilo still exist.

With exposure, the revolution burst into flame with the Cry of Balintawak (or Pugad Lawin if you like—we rename everything) and with bloody battles in San Juan and San Mateo, both of which Bonifacio lost, and battles in Cavite that the revolucionarios there won. Internal fractures within the Katipunan are beyond the subject of this article on heritage homes and without going into the whys and wherefores, Andres Bonifacio was found guilty of treason in April 1897 in a trial held at Maragondon’s Roderico Reyes house.

The Reyes descendants had moved away and a caretaker took Ar. Cristina Turalba and me around when we visited in the late 1980s. It was all dark, gloomy, and empty, except what I remember were a dining table and a four-poster bed. Ar. Tina and I both remarked on the desolate and oppressive atmosphere (imagination running full speed there). Our guide pointed out the sala where the trial was held and to the tiny comun at the end of a short bridge from the azotea where the bleeding brothers Andres and Procopio were shoved in.

The struggle against Spain continued under Aguinaldo and negotiations led to a truce formalized in the Pact of Biak-na-Bató signed in December 1897. Pedro Paterno facilitated discussions.

The Paterno home was one of Manila’s grandest, occupying most of the Quiapo block bounded by the present Carriedo, Sales, P. Paterno, and Palermo Gomez Streets.  Photographs show the sala known as “Salón de Diez Puertas.” It had 10 double doors and could have been a Parisian Second Empire drawing room. The pair of doors on the short ends of the room opened to voladas that overlooked Sales and P. Gomez Streets.

The neighborhood was destroyed during World War II but much of the contents had been inherited by Pedro’s three unmarried half-siblings who lived in a big house on Aviles (now J.P. Laurel) Street in front of Malacañang. It was large with a few rooms.  Sala, dining room, and kitchen were on the ground floor and upstairs was a wide corridor hung with ancestral portraits, plus three spacious bedrooms, one for each sibling. The house is gone and its contents scattered. Some paintings, including the beautiful Luna Serenade and portraits of Pedro Paterno, are in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas collection. A large mariposa sofa from that house happens to be on auction this Saturday at Leon Gallery.

(to be continued)

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