When me, my wife Yeyette, and daughter Krystal visited Ternate last August 21, we passed by several Caviteño towns and cities. At the Antero Soriano Highway which coursed through Tanza, we noticed banners announcing that a week later, August 28, the town will celebrate the feast day of its blessed guardian, Saint Augustine. Me and my wife decided to attend the festivities.
A couple of days after our Tanza visit, I posted pictures of the event in Facebook. The photos (some are shown in this blogpost) showcase an array of handsome Philippine ancestral houses. I shared the album to a friend of mine who is a native of Tanza. Upon seeing the photos, she commented that she once read in a history book by the late historian Isagani Medina that Tanza was the only Caviteño town which sided with Spain during the tumultuous years of the Katipunan rebellion.
My first reaction upon reading her comment was that of concern. I have not read that book she was referring to, and I don’t mean to judge books that I haven’t even read yet. But based on her comments on my Facebook photos, I’m inclined to ask: was that book trying to point out that the reason for being of Tanza’s bahay na bató homes was the result of the town’s fealty to Spain during the tumult of the late 1890s? If so, then that information is misleading for I noticed that many ancestral houses in Tanza, although handsome and charming, appear not to have been built during the Spanish times. One perfect example is Casa Tahimic, one of Tanza’s oldest houses built in 1927 (see below).
But I hope that my hunch is just a hunch.
The fact is that Tanza was not the only town which sided with Spain. Many, if not all, local governments condemned the Katipunan for the single reason that their cause —no matter how honestly noble they thought it was— was nothing more but an infraction. To wit: the Katipunan was an underground movement perpetuated by conspirators who were mostly anti-friar. Local governments did not exactly put their cards in favor of this Tagalog underground movement. Rather, the movement was engineered, fueled, and powered by individual dissidents who had no powerful connection at all to each municipio/ayuntamiento around the Philippines, particularly the Tagalog region (there were a few exceptions, of course, such as the case of Emilio Aguinaldo: he was a gobernadorcillo when he joined Freemasonry and the Katipunan). That is why the Katipunan resorted to blackmail, destroying the reputation of many a rich individual who refused to support their secessionist cause.
Indeed, many factors should be taken into consideration when studying (and reassessing) the sad, sad case that is Philippine History.
Iglesia de la Santa Cruz de Malabón
Like most towns in the Philippines, Tanza was very much attached to the history of its town church. Perhaps unknown to many today, a parish is not just a church: it is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care of a parish priest. At the onset of Philippine History (or at the start of our nation’s founding on 24 June 1571), all towns started out as a parish. That is why at the heart of every old town or población, it is not unusual to find a church there, along with a plaza fronting it as well as several bahay na bató scattered around the area.
Researching about Tanza later on, I learned that this little town used to be a barrio of San Francisco de Malabón, now known as General Trías. In fact, during its barrio days, Tanza was known as Santa Cruz de Malabón. People called it sometimes as Malabón el Chico to differentiate it from Malabón el Grande that was the población of San Francisco de Malabón (el Grande).
Tanza became an organized community in 1752. In 1760, the friars built a big residence and granary in the area. The place was eventually called Estancia (a ranch or a place for vacation). It was only seven years later when Estancia became known as Santa Cruz de Malabón. It became a full-fledged parish on 29 August 1780, just a day short after Saint Augustine’s feast day. That is why he was taken as the town’s patron saint. Today, the people fondly calls him by a Filipinized nickname: Tata Usteng.
The term Malabón was derived from either the old Tagalog words “labong” (bamboo shoot) or “mayabong“. It was said that in the early days, bamboo shoots were abundant in the area (I assume that was also the case for Ciudad de Malabón in Metro Manila). The Spanish words santa cruz (holy cross) were attached to Malabón as a testament to the people’s devotion to the sacred image of the Santa Cruz, a wooden cross said to be miraculous. The image is now on display inside the town church.
It is quite sad when in 1914, the name Santa Cruz de Malabón was changed and shortened to just Tanza. According to popular belief, Tanza was a corruption/mispronunciation of the word santa. The culprit of this unnecessary name change was a congressman of the American-sponsored Philippine Assembly: Florentino Joya, a lawyer from the said town. How this guy disrespected his hometown’s history I just could not fathom.
Speaking of history, Santa Cruz de Malabón’s place in Philippine History was a major one: it was here where officials of the Revolutionary Government elected in the Tejeros Convention took their oaths of office. This took place inside the convent of the Santa Cruz de Malabón Church on 23 March 1897. This event served as the prototype of the first República Filipina that was disrespected by the US WASPs later on.
A curious scene during this oath taking was the participation of a priest, Fr. Cenón Villafranca, who was said to be still under the authority of the Vatican (I’m just not sure if he was a Spanish friar or a member of the native clergy). On that same date, Fr. Villafranca administered the oath of office to Aguinaldo and other officials (elected during the Tejeros Convention), calling on “God to witness the solemn moment”. He was later denounced by Aguinaldo’s rival, Andrés Bonifacio, for having joined the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan.
Casa Tahimic / Calle Real Restaurant
Along Calle Santa Cruz, where many ancestral homes can be found, there was this one house that grabbed our attention.
The house became doubly interesting when we noticed that it also serves as a restaurant. Whenever me and my wife visit old towns, we content ourselves to just taking photographs of ancestral houses. We seldom go inside for fear of disturbing the peace of its residents. But this house has a different allure and mystique to it. And since Yeyette is a food connoisseur, we both decided that this is one place that we should not miss.
So after taking pictures of other ancestral homes along that street and after attending mass at the church, we went back to Calle Real —the name of that house-turned-restaurant— for lunch. We were met by Mr. Michael Tahimic, brother of the owner of Calle Real (his sister, actually).
Due to the festivities, Mr. Tahimic told us that the restaurant was closed that day. Instead, he accepted us not as customers but as guests…
Because, yes, food was served inside the restaurant to celebrate the feast day of Tata Usteng!
Calle Real Restaurant is located on the ground floor of the eighty-four-year-old Tahimic ancestral house (where entresuelos are usually found). The restaurant started out in 1998. According to an article written by food expert Victoria Reyes-Ferrer for FOOD MAGAZINE (July 2003), Mildred (or Millie, Michael’s sister), and her husband Noel Lozada gave birth to this exotic-looking restaurant.
He designed and tested the menu; she dressed up the place. He takes charge of running the restaurant; she takes care of the ambiance… While Noel worked on the menu, Millie indulged in her love for interior decorating. She wanted an ambiance that suited the age and style of her ancestral home. Thus they filled the restaurant with antique and semi-antique collections from upstairs, they put on their collection of old records, hats, and old things.
The turn-of-the-century mood and ambiance of Calle Real complements the delectable Filipino dishes served here. At Calle Real, the clock seems to turn counterclockwise with every bite.
Reyes-Ferrer mentioned that the Lozada couple used antique stuff from the house’s second floor for their unique restaurant’s design on the ground floor. But not all were spirited away for business use. Just take a look at all the marvelous treasures found inside the house proper…
FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES would like to salute La Familia Tahimic for conserving their ancestral home. They did no harm to their ancestral home’s look even though they made use of its ground floor for business. And even the ambience of their business complements the Filipino feel not only of their house but also of their community. Because of extreme care rendered to their ancestral home, Casa Tahimic now serves as one of the bridges to our nation’s past in general and to Tanza’s history in particular. No doubt, . The love, care, and pride that they have manifested towards their very own bahay na bató, the true home of the Filipino family, should be emulated by those who still have that kind of house as their property.
Calle Real Restaurant is located at #8 Calle Santa Cruz, Población, Tanza, Cavite. To avail of their catering services (only ₱10,750 per head!), please contact them at (046)505-2836. Click here for their Facebook fanpage.
Please click here for more of our Tanza fiesta walkathon!