Blast from the Past: Filipino Heritage Houses that Have Withstood the Test of Time
There are days when we just want to travel back in time; back to those moments which can only be reminisced through browsing some worn-out-woody-smelling pages of history books. There is something riveting and a bit therapeutic staring at old tattered photographs of people and places from the earlier centuries. You can’t help but imagine how simple and monotonous life must have been before. Sure, vaccination and proper sanitation weren’t a thing of the past but at least social media pettiness wasn’t also. It’s a good thing that the Philippines is a paragon of all that is historical and cultural. The harrowing hundreds of years that this humble archipelago endured in the hands of savage colonizers, have later bequeathed the land with some of the most astonishing and timeless architectural gems in history. The Philippines is now home to a plethora of Filipino heritage houses, each of which, has an enthralling and heroic story to tell.
What was once dubbed as the Paris of Asia, the Philippines is now a muddle of daunting skyscrapers, congested housing and shanty towns. Cobblestone streets where Katipuneros used to walk on were now cemented into never ending asphalt paving road projects of the local government. Some remaining Filipino heritage houses of prominent historical personalities or wealthy families have also adapted and are now mainly used as museums, hostels or restaurants. While it is true that modernization is an inevitable process for societal growth, there is no denying the hazards it imposes on the preservation of the rich heritage houses and historical sites in the country. Mayhap, the lack of financial support and laws from the government or mainly just pure ignorance of the people residing within the area but the grandeur that these Filipino heritage houses once exuded are gradually vanishing into thin air. Regardless, it is necessary to look back at these shabby and ramshackled houses to get a glimpse of our abundant history and to be reminded of our Filipino identity.
THE EVOLUTION OF FILIPINO HOUSES
Have you ever wondered how the Filipino house evolved through time? Long before the Spaniards set foot in our land and introduced the famous Bahay na Bato that we often see in old towns throughout the Philippines such as in Vigan, our resourceful ancestors had already thought of a way to shelter their families in Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) made of indigenous materials like Bamboo and Nipa that were widely harvested in our fertile lands. After 3 centuries of Spanish occupation, Filipinos are now mostly Catholics and are equipped with stone and masonry knowledge allowing them to construct houses made of massive cut stones or brick walls while the upper floor is made of hard wood; this architectural style is predominantly what we identify as the typical Filipino heritage house.
If 333 years of colonization seem more than enough for Filipinos to succumb to some identity crisis, Spaniards made sure to leave a parting gift by ceding the Philippines to Americans. It was this time when architectural advancements were introduced such as the sanitary use of bathroom and kitchen which are now placed inside the house known as the Tsalet. Filipino heritage houses have become an amalgamation of varying architectural influences extracted from its colorful history. Low-rise homes, Bungalow, made of concrete with galvanized iron roofs sprouted amongst the middle and upper class; some with yard, garden and car garage. To this day, residential developments in bustling urban areas are mostly townhouses or condominiums built using modern materials often in sustainable and contemporary styles. Filipino heritage houses are more than just structures erected to serve as shelters, their beaten and tarnished façade reveals every struggle and triumphs Filipinos have overcome throughout the years.
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TAKE A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: EXPLORING FILIPINO HERITAGE HOUSES
Who doesn’t love to reminisce about the good old days? Science says that nostalgia is good for you. Take a little breather and have a look at these Filipino heritage houses for the ultimate throwback.
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista in Quiapo, Manila
1914 | Spanish, Viennese Secession
In the midst of the religious and holy district of Quiapo, it is ironically feared for its notorious crowded streets infested with thieves and tricksters. This misleading marque opted tourists, even locals, to evade the place like plague neglecting the unexplored gems that the vicinity has yet to offer. One of the lesser known Filipino heritage houses that played a huge part during the revolution is this 500sqm, 2 storey Bahay na Bato situated in Quiapo, Manila. Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, also known as Tahanan ng mga Katipunero accounting to the dwellers strong ties with the Katipunan, was built in 1914 by architect Arcadio Arellano for philanthropist Dr. Ariston Bautista, a good friend of Jose Rizal, and his wife Petrona Nakpil.
Dr. Bautista shared their residence with Petrona’s brother, musician and Vice Supremo of the Katipunan Julio Nakpil, his wife Gregoria de Jesus, and their eight children. Gregoria, the famous Lakambini ng Katipunan, was also the widow of the father of the Philippine revolution, Andres Bonifacio. Although the exterior of the house appears to be a lost sheep in a pack of wolves, this shabby looking Filipino heritage house stands out from the rest of the concrete dwellings built in the area. The interior of Bahay Nakpil-Bautista is Spanish in style with a hint of Viennese Secession – an Austrian art movement that favors clean lines, symmetry, and geometry, rendered in hardwood. There even is a parking area for horse-drawn carriages or Zaguan and an area for designing jewelry known as Plateria. Every intricate details of the house, from the Machuca tiles, the wooden banisters and panels all the way to the antiques that were once used by the former residents were thoroughly preserved by the descendants of Nakpil.
Although struggling to maintain the sanctity and splendor of the place, Bobby Nakpil Santos-Viola hopes to rescue her ancestors’ home by adapting it to a mini-café where they can serve coffee and pandesal to locals and tourists.
Gala–Rodriguez Ancestral House in Sariaya, Quezon
1930 | Art Deco
Sariaya, Quezon is home to some of the most majestic looking Filipino heritage houses that all seem too monumental to be placed in a rural environment. Declared as a national heritage site by the National Historical Institute in 2008, Gala-Rodriguez Ancestral House owned by an Ilustrado couple Dr. Isidro Rodriguez and Dona Gregoria Gala is one of the few existing Art Deco architectural structures left in the country. This two-storey mansion with colossal stained glass windows and a fan-shaped front terrace was designed by Dr. Juan Nakpil in the early ’30s as requested by Don Rodriguez as a gift to his then ailing wife and seven children at the peak of the depression era.
Tragically before the completion of the family’s supposed dream house, Dona Gregoria succumbed to her lingering illness two days prior to them moving in. Because it was a labor of love and somehow a physical manifestation of his wife’s unfinished business, the head of the family cherished the place and decorated it with the most exquisite French provincial furnishings and tapestries almost as if the interior was an extension of the Buckingham palace. In 1942, however, this Filipino heritage house served as a residence for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Japanese occupation in Sariaya and the family was only allowed to occupy the ground floor and basement. The Art Deco movement was an artistic opposition from the preceding depression era; its extravagant and opulent statement was perfectly displayed by the Gala-Rodriguez Ancestral House. The loud and even kitschy colors, streamlined forms, heavy geometric shapes and sunburst motif were all present in this ancestral home.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House in Cebu
1675-1700 | Antique, Religious, Chinese
Home to one of the oldest houses and structures in the Philippines and the initial island where Spaniards land in 16th century, Cebu city has earned a reputation for antique collectors and history enthusiasts. Its very name is derived from the word sibu or trade, shortened form of sinibuyang hingpit or a place for trading. Lying beneath the world famous delectable lechon is one of the oldest houses in the country built sometime between 1675 and 1700. Yap-San Diego Ancestral House in Parian, Cebu City is said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China owned by the Chinese merchant Don Juan Yap and his wife, Doña Maria Florido. This Filipino heritage house is one of a kind due to its contrasting yet complementing architectural and interior styles with Spanish, Filipino and Chinese influences. The walls made of coral stones held together by egg whites, Molave and Balayong floors, and terracotta roof from mainland China, despite the traces of deterioration and its weather-beaten condition, are still impressively intact and sturdy.
This two-storey Filipino heritage house, and alongside a museum, is also a physical depiction of Cebuanos’ strong faith and devotion to Catholicism with all the life-sized religious statues and relics of saints and Jesus Christ displayed all around the house. This Filipino-Chinese dwelling in a God-centric style is now in the care of Val Sandiego and his wife Ofelia, great grandson of Don Juan and Dona Maria. Referred to as “Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy” by the locals, Yap-San Diego Ancestral House is an open exhibit of contemporary and ancient artworks, accommodating antique and Cebuano-made pieces of furniture and the notable 1800s boat used as a flower bed in the garden. Val, who still resides in the house together with his family, firmly stands to never sell the ancestral house regardless of how much the offer is; he vows to preserve it for more generations to have a glimpse of the district’s rich and picturesque history.
Vega Ancestral House in Misamis Oriental
18th century | Filipino
This humble abode in Misamis Oriental abode is perhaps the only one left of its kind. Made primarily of the Philippines’ strongest Molave tree, the architectural design of the Vega Ancestral House is common in the 18th and 19th century. What sets this Filipino heritage house apart from the other existing Bahay na Bato in the country is the unique sculpted wooden men,“Oti-ot” in Visayan language, on the four corners which appear to carry the weight of the second floor; it mimics the Greek titan Atlas carrying a huge globe on his shoulders.
This 200-year-old Filipino heritage house is owned by the late Maria Clara Vega Jimenez, mother of Letty Jimenez Magsano – Philippine Daily Inquirer Editor and the late Lourdes Jimenez Carvajal better known as Inday Badiday, a famous talk show host in 1980’s, is one of the numerous hidden gems of this region. Maria’s ancestor, Juan Vega, a young merchant in the 1800s from San Nicholas, Cebu settled in the small town of Balingasag – introducing Cebuano’s devotion to Sto. Nino to the twonsfolk. Residing in the area for good, Juan later on built this house primarily made of Molave and Balayong with walls in yellow woven Abaca known as “Uway” in Visayan. The Vega Ancestral house is classified under the earliest version of Bahay na Bato transitioning from the traditional Bahay Kubo; its uppermost portion using the classical Cogon for the roof. In present time, the first floor has adapted into a restaurant to cater to hungry locals with the income used for the maintenance of the house. Notable personalities like Emilio Aguinaldo and Sergio Osmeña had once visited the place.
Laperal White house in Baguio City
1923 | Victorian, American Colonial
Not your typical White House, this local Amityville situated in Baguio has frequented horror movies and paranormal shows for a long time. Before the spirit of a girl believed to had been murdered during World War II lurked the Laperal White House, a wealthy couple named Roberto and Victorina Laperal graced the eerie house in the 1930s. Back in the day, the mountainous region and cool weather of Baguio attracted affluent Filipinos to buy barren lands and build summer vacation homes in the city. One of the oldest clans in Baguio, the Laperal family, took advantage of this copious period to build their Victorian style Filipino heritage house.
Woefully, this rare American colonial style mansion promptly lost its grandeur when majority of the family were massacred during the war and was abandoned to deteriorate along the busy Leonard road. Its highly complex architectural details derived from European homes, identified this Filipino heritage house apart from the many vintage houses in Baguio city. Native Narra and Yakal wood, which were readily available in the region, were used on most part of the house giving a Filipino twist to its contradicting Victorian exterior. After acquiring ownership of the property in 2007, Chinese Filipino billionaire tycoon Lucio Tan opened the sinister looking gates of the Laperal White house to the unwilling and curious public in the form of a Bamboo museum; giving life to the spine-chilling yet bewitching old mansion.
Old places have soul. The Philippines is rich in heritage houses that say a lot about the history and culture of the country, preserving these structures is one way to remind Filipinos of their identity.
Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR), a Japanese design and build, is eager to help you discuss your interior design ideas. Conveniently located in the leading business district in Metro Manila, TGR’s headquarters is at 9110 La Campana St. cor. Trabajo St., Brgy. Olympia, Makati City, 1207.
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