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Visiting our Lady of Assumption and del Pilar’s turf (Bulacán, Bulacán)

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Every August, the town of Bulacán commemorates two very important events: the feast day of its patron, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción on the 15th (which is today!), and; the birth anniversary of the anti-friar Propagandista Movement, Marcelo H. del Pilar. Stark contrast: two events with contrasting ideologies commemorated on the same month.

A handsome ancestral house along Calle Real.

Monument of General Gregorio del Pilar. Not many Filipinos know that Goyo was a nephew of Marcelo H. del Pilar.

Cupang Bridge. Cupang was the small barrio where Marcelo del Pilar was born. It is now a part of Barrio Maysantol.

Walking along Calle Real towards the Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine.

When me and Yeyette visited the town of Bulacán a few weeks back (07/25/2011), we had Lola Bening in mind. It was to fulfill a promise that we will visit her grandfather’s shrine soon. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that the Marcelo H. del Pilar shrine is closed on Mondays (just like when we visited the Apolinario Mabini Shrine. Guess we’ll have to visit again.

In front of the Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine. Unfortunately, the shrine is closed.

The municipality of Bulacán —sharing the name of the Tagalog-speaking province where it is located— is one of the provincial towns that is very near Metro Manila. It can be reached, in fact, in just an hour from the City of Manila via the Municipality of Obando — but only if traffic is cooperative. When we went there, however, we rode a bus that passed through world-class North Luzón Expressway since we’re not accustomed to trips north of Manila (the Southerners that we are). We dropped off at Bigaá (now Balagtás) then rode a jeepney going straight to Bulacán.

According to sources, the town’s name was derived from the Tagalog word bulac which means “cotton” which apparently used to grow abundantly in the area. But Bulacán today does not cultivate cotton; farming, fishing, garments, and food processing are its major industries today. What I am still unsure of is whether this town was named after the province, or if the province was named after the town. But surely, Bulacán is one of the country’s oldest; it was founded by the Augustinian Order in 1572, just a year after the country was founded by the Spaniards. In fact, its church, Nuestra Señora De La Asunción, is the province’s oldest. But the stone structure and convent was built in 1762, the same year when the British invaded Manila. From there, the invaders went to as far as Bulacán and burned the church. Fray Gaspar Folgar had the church repaired in 1812. But it was damaged again by the deadly Corpus Christi earthquake of 1863. Another earthquake in 1869 tilted the belfry, but Fray Marcos Hernández renovated it in 1877. Restoration work was done by Fray Patricio Martín in 1885; it was completed by Fray Domingo de la Prieta in 1889.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Notice that the whole façade is standing on a plinth.

The upper part of the square pillars are designed with bricks in chevron pattern.

A slight renovation to strengthen the structure. The church is well taken cared of. Kudos!

The church's original flooring, exposed via an excavation, can be viewed on the right side of the church's main entrance.

The church's original floor, excavated but protected by glass.

The image of Our Lady of Assumption (Nuestra Señora de la Asunción).

My wife has become freakish for ancient bricks (the red-colored ones slightly covered by a modern finish).

Yeyette beside an old Santíssima Trinidad wooden cross at the church's garden.

Romanesque design of corbeled arches underneath the raking cornice. The upper part of the square pillar is designed

Bulaqueño goodies!

Afterwards, it’s lunchtime at Sizzling World!

People say that Sizzling World is quite popular here.

Some celebrities who have visited Sizzling World (this outlet and in other branches).

True, the food is good!

After lunch, we immediately resumed our walkathon.

The church's bell tower at the background.

Mag pan de sal muna tayo.

Casa Delgado

After our lunch and some pan de sal, we walked a few more streets to look for more ancestral houses. Thankfully, we chanced upon this beautiful architectural gem…

Yeyette inquiring about the unoccupied house from bystanders.

It was obvious from the outside that the house is already abandoned. But we had to make sure. Yeyette asked around for confirmation. The house actually was “semi-abandoned”. Nobody lives there anymore but it is still owned by one Jack Rodrigo who just lives a few paces from the house. After receiving directions, we set for his house.

He’s a gentleman who appears to be in his late 40s. Yeyette introduced ourselves and told him that we’re bahay na bató aficionados, and that we just want to take photos of the house’s interiors. The kind sir, however, prohibited us from going inside the house due to “paranormal” reasons.

In the past, Mr. Rodrigo said that he allowed his ancestral house to be photographed from within. Some movie companies have also rented it. In fact, scenes from the classic Pancho Magalona film Luis Látigo were shot inside that house. However, he started receiving reports that people who go inside the house to take pictures and film movies have noticed strange things happening to them. Bad luck and other unfortunate incidents followed them home. Some of them got sick. The more unfortunate ones were even possessed (assumedly by evil spirits).

It sent shivers up my wife’s spine; I took it all in stride. But when Mr. Rodrigo mentioned that he reported these strange occurences to the local priest, I have to admit that it got into me somehow. If the Church is involved, then this has got to be serious and not just mere “tacután” talk from people who are fans of urban legends and creepy stories. Mr. Rodrigo himself has not gone inside that house —the very house where he grew up— since his college years.

He said that the house had been blessed once or twice, but nothing happened. The hauntings continued, especially when the house is disturbed by tourists. I asked Mr. Rodrigo for the name of the house (Filipino houses usually bear the last name of the family who owns it). The name is Casa Delgado, the family on his mother’s side.

The name Delgado rang a bell. I asked him if it was the home of Francisco Delgado, and he confirmed it.

“Yes, it is the ancestral house of former Senator Francisco Delgado, my great grandfather. The house was built in 1886. Senator Delgado was also a cousin of former Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican,” informed Mr. Rodrigo.

Senator? Cousin? Something was wrong….

“I’m also related to another senator…”

“Yes, I think I know,” I butted in, remembering his surname. “Senator Francisco ‘Soc’ Rodrigo.” Wifey was impressed. She then proceeded to tell Mr. Rodrigo that I’m a historian. I should have corrected her: I’m no historian, just a history buff. I got no PhDs or MAs.

In the end, Mr. Rodrigo allowed us to go through the gate to take pictures of his great grandfather’s ancestral house.

An old carroza for the santos.

1886, the year when this house was built.

Since we were not allowed to go inside, I just took a photo of the interiors from the window beside the main entrance. My camera caught nothing eerie.

The grass around the house was very high, and snakes abound. The place is impassable without the proper tools to ward of the grass and the snakes.

Talk about creepy...

A stone post above Casa Delgado's ancient walls.

*******

On our way home, I kept on thinking about that conversation we had with Mr. Rodrigo. There was something amiss. Francisco Delgado? Senator?

I did some research online and in my library. And then it hit me.

The Delgado I had in mind was not Francisco Delgado, after all. It was José Mª Delgado. I got both persons all mixed-up in my mind. Francisco Delgado y Afán was a Resident Commissioner 2 to the 74th United States Congress during the American Occupation of the Philippines from 1935 to 1937. He was a Freemason. On the other hand, his cousin, José Mª Delgado, was a soldier of God: he was the first Filipino to be appointed ambassador to the Vatican. The Freemason senator is from Bulacán town; the Christian cousin is from Malolos.

Cousins with different ideologies: one Freemason, the other, Christian. Another stark contrast.

Is the late senator’s affiliation with Freemasonry the reason why his house remains uninviting and unsafe to mortals?

*******

The people we talked with were hospitable, and even invited us back for the town fiesta. To bad we couldn’t be there today. Anyways, happy fiesta, Bulacán!

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A quick stop in Tanauan (Tanauan, Batangas)

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Just one of many beautifully maintained Filipino houses (also known as the bahay na bató) found in Tanauan's población

Several months ago, Yeyette and I attended a birthday drinking session of a friend of hers in Tanauan, Batangas. And so I found it an opportunity to stroll around the oldest parts of the town, which is what I always do whenever I have the time to travel. It is because in the oldest parts of a Filipino town (the población, where the ubiquitous church, municipal hall, rustic town plaza, schoolhouse, and the old houses —the legendary bahay na bató— in the sector de mestizos are located) a Filipino can find and realize his identity as a nation, as a people.

Me, wifey, birthday boy Oliver (sporting a mohawk) and friends (09/26/2010).

Tanauan is one of those Batangueño towns/cities that are near Manila. It’s historical significance is mostly attributed to patriot Apolinario Mabini y Maranan and former President José Paciano Laurel y García, both of whom were natives of Tanauan.

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Former President José Paciano Laurel's ancestral house (with its unfriendly dog launching an attack).

Mabini monument.

Apolinario Mabini's monument located at the plaza fronting the city hall. Notice that in this monument, he is not paralyzed.

Wifey Yeyette posing outside the Mabini Shrine. We didn't make it on time (the shrine is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Also, this is the hometown of Telésforo Carrasco’s wife, Dorotea Nazareth. Carrasco was a Spaniard in Emilio Aguinaldo’s army who fought against the US WASP invaders. He was also in action during the catastrophic Battle of Tirad Pass (in his journal, he mentioned in detail how General Gregorio del Pilar was shot and killed — in a not-so-heroic manner).

In Philippine Literature, Tanauan was the hometown of one of Rizal’s characters in El Filibusterismo: Plácido Penitente. The name, in fact, is an oxymoronic technique that was utilized by the national hero. The name means “calm penitent” in Spanish, in a way depicting the turmoils of the said character’s status quo in the novel. The stereotype Batangueño, however, is not known to be calm. He is a raging warrior when provoked, as shown in many Tagalog films of old.

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Pine trees!

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Wifey with Tanaueño kids.

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City Hall.

City Hall.

Batangueño thrashers.

Batangueño thrashers!

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Governor Modesto Castillo Memorial Cultural Center. Still under construction when I took this photo last September. But already looking prim.

According to the Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de las Islas Filipinas (1851), the old town of Tanauan was originally established in 1581 along the banks of Taal Lake (then known onomatopoetically as Bonbón due to the sound whenever Taal Volcano explodes) together with the old town of Salá. The town as well as the church was then under the patronage of San Juan Bautista.

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Iglesia de San Juan Evangelista. The façade is a combination of Romanesque and High Renaissance architectural styles.

The ecclesiastical supervision of the city was accepted by the Augustinians on 5 May 1584, and Padre Antonio Roxas became the first parish priest (see my photo of the church’s historical marker below). During the final years of the 17th century, the town’s first church was completed. It was made ​​of wood and stood along the banks of the lake. In the year 1732, the stone church was built. But due to the catastrophic explosion of Taal Volcano in 1754, the communities of both Tanauan and Salá were totally destroyed. The surviving Tanaueños moved to a place called Bañadero which later on became one of Tanauan’s barrios (barangáy). Salá, on the other hand, moved to its current site: Barrio Salá which is also in present-day Tanauan (like Bañadero, Salá became a mere barrio as well). After the explosion, the church was rebuilt by Padre José Díaz in 1881.

It is interesting to note here that the aforementioned Spanish soldier, Carrasco, had an unfriendly encounter with Fr. Díaz. It is because Carrasco eloped with Dorotea. And as a consequence of this illicit love affair (unlike today, elopement was highly scandalous during the Spanish times), Fr. Díaz didn’t have nice words to say about the matter. He even accused Carrasco of kidnapping! Since then, an irate Carrasco nicknamed him Muy Reverendo Cura del Demonio Padre José Díaz! 😀

During World War II, the church was damaged again. It was rehabilitated by architect José Mª Zaragoza under the supervision of Monsignor Godofredo Mariño in 1948. The present features of the church (particularly the interior) was the result of a renovation made during the late 1960s that was spearheaded by Fr. Leonardo Villa. The façade remains as the only original part from the church’s Spanish-era architecture. Today, the church is now known as the Church of Saint John the Evangelist (San Juan Evangelista).

The old church's historical marker.

Mass was ongoing.

Mass was ongoing. It was a Sunday when we visited Tanauan.

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Instead of the usual retablo, the altar had stained glasses for a background. Cool.

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Heavily renovated interiors. Only the façade retained its original look.

The Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de las Islas Filipinas describes the parish church as made up of stone but whose roof was composed of bamboo materials (this was when Tanauan was transferred from its original site after the volcanic eruption). The church had a regular priest and is under the patronage of St. John the Baptist/Evangelist. There was an elementary school for boys and one for girls. The cemetery was outside the village, well situated and ventilated (this we didn’t visit anymore). The townsfolk were able to communicate well with those from nearby Lipâ and Santo Tomás due to well-built roads (it should be noted that the Philippines back then was densely forested).

The land was elevated and had good plains where crops were planted. Cultivated lands produced wheat, rice, corn, cacao, coffee, indigo, pepper, cotton, abaca, and various fruits and vegetables. In mountainous areas were bred many kinds of hardwood from which were obtained materials for both furniture and construction purposes (as well as honey and wax!). Tanauan also had good pastures where cattle, horses, and pigs were bred. There was also even a sesame-oil-extraction industry. Others made beautiful fabrics created out of abaca and cotton. Still others produced indigo which gave out a permanent dye.

At the time of the said book’s publication (1851), the town had less than 14,000 people. According to the latest census, there are more or less 150,000 people in Tanauan today.

Today, little of what was written above can be seen in Tanauan. I’m not even sure if it still produces the same crops that it used to produce during the Spanish times. No longer a town, Tanauan now prides itself as a city. But in the Philippines, when one mentions the word city, what comes to mind are images of skyscrapers, fancy restaurants, intimidating highways, heavy traffic, and busy necktied and stockinged office people going to and from each glass- and concrete-covered, neon-lighted structure. Tanauan is far from it (yet), even if it has two Jollibee outlets already. And that is why to my mind, I refuse to consider it as a city as much in the same way that I refuse to consider other old Filipino towns-turned-cities as newly established urban centers (such as Calambâ). Of course, this is all but romanticism from someone who thinks he was born in the wrong century. 😦

Ciudad de Tanauan, Batangas

So even if it morphs into a new Ciudad de Macati or Ciudad de Quezon, Tanauan will still be the same old Hispanic town that I came to know from the books that I’ve read about its romantic past…

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More Tanauan photos below!

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DSC09512DSC09513DSC09514DSC09515DSC09516Iglesia de San Juan Evangelista (09/26/2010)

TANAUAN, BATANGAS, a set on Flickr.

Bay, the lake’s padrino (Bay, La Laguna)

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Later Tagalog arrivals would sail up the Pásig to Laguna de Baí, on whose shores would rise their bailiwicks and colonies. Their capital was the town of Baí; and so all this lake country —and the lake itself— became known as Baí. —Nick Joaquín—

It’s not unusual for married couples to be on a huff with one another. Well, that’s what happened to me and Yeyette last month (11/06/2010) when we attended the birthday of a friend who lives in a residential area for military peeps in Ciudad de Taguig. You know, the usual tampuhan. And it’s funny because, although we’ve been together for more than a decade, and already with four kids, we still behave —and quarrel— as if we’re college sweethearts, haha! Not that I’m complaining. I even think it’s better that way. Perhaps it keeps us young. I don’t know. Sometimes, I do feel that we’re going over the edge. But at the end of the day, the crumples on our shirts are always ironed out (I’m trying to invent an idiomatic expression here; hope that one’s not yet patented).

Sayang, Myla, ¡hindí man lang acó nalasíng! =)

So how did I fix the mess?

We were both silent in the jeepney on our way home after the birthday party (say… that rhymes!). It was already early dawn (11/07/2010). To break the ice, I nonchalantly suggested to her that because it was still dark, perhaps we could stroll in Bay, La Laguna for a while so as not to disturb our four kids and their yaya who were still sleeping. And also for us to have a breath of fresh air (and I have not yet blogged about that town, LOL!). I honestly never expected her to say yes, although the traveler in me had wanted such a reply. I just wanted her to speak up. Silence is so awkward for lovers who have a misunderstanding.

Surprisingly, she answered: “¿Gaano ba calayo yon? (How far is it?)”. That was an indication that everything was getting OK, hehe!

Fortunately for us, the jeepney driver, who was driving all night long, lives in Santa Rosa, La Laguna. And he was raring to go home that dawn. That’s why we didn’t have to transfer from one jeep to another.

We reached Santa Rosa shortly after six in the morning. We took another jeep going to nearby Calambâ where we got off to a jeepney terminal situated in a crowded place which Calambeños call “Crossing”. We had to wait for our jeep (going to San Pablo, La Laguna) to be filled up with passengers before going to Bay. In a matter of minutes, we were already zooming through the highway surrounded by spectacular views of mountains and greenery.

Bay is the town right after Calambâ and Los Baños. It used to be the capital of the whole province of La Laguna. But the capitolio was later moved to Santa Cruz.

The jeepney driver dropped us right in front of the church. We were just a few minutes late for the 7 AM mass.

Iglesia de Bay

The church is dedicated to one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time: Saint Augustine of Hippo Regius (in present-day Algeria). He is, incidentally, the patron saint I chose when I reconverted to the Catholic faith a few years back. He, too, was a convert to Catholicism, having lived a hedonistic life in his youth. Well, it’s not that I had lived the same life he had experienced. But he was a sinner before he became a saint, not unlike most Catholic saints that we have who had lived chaste lives throughout most of their existence.

Iglesia de Bay, La Laguna

The first church was founded by Augustinian monks in 1571 led by Fr. Martín de Rada (an off-on-a-tangent trivia: my mom grew up in a street in Tondo named after this friar). It was made of nipa and bamboo in a place called Aplaya, a corrupted Tagalog version of the Spanish la playa meaning “beach”. This means that the first church made of wood used to be in front of Laguna de Bay. It became a full-fledged parish on 30 April 1578. Being the founders of the church and the Christianized town, it was only natural for the Augustinians to administer Bay. One hundred fifty-nine years later, it was transferred to the care of the Franciscans. The patron saint and the church’s name, however, remained Augustinian.

In 1804, the church was transferred to its present site in the the población or town proper. The new church was made of stone and was supervised by Fr. Gerónimo Hervas. The construction was finally completed after 60 years, but a strong earthquake in 1880 destroyed its roofing. In 1884, Fr. Jesús Lillo had it restored. The restoration work was finished by Fr. Celestino de los Huertos in 1889.

All these restorations and constructions were put to naught during World War II. Sadly, the church and its accompanying convent were completely wiped out. Eight years after the war, Fr. Alejandro Vermorel resurrected the Parish Church of Saint Augustine. He had the façade patterned after the architectural styles of the Early Renaissance period. It was simple in design, with a semicircular door and window openings. The church’s pediment is also adorned with a circular window in its tympanum.

The church’s interiors are very modest. Not surprising since the original church was destroyed by brimstone and fire due to man’s folly (i.e., war). Aside from a chapel dedicated to the Divine Mercy apparition, it has nothing stunning to offer, architecture wise. Even the retablo is not that “loud” with design if one is to compare it with other antique Philippine churches. But the faithful, particularly its senior womenfolk, are a sight to behold: many of them still wear veils on top of their crowns. That’s the way it really should be with female churchgoers regardless of age.

A view of the church's nave and altar from the entrance.

Bay's lady folk selling religious items by the church door.

The church's modest chapel dedicated to the famous Divine Mercy apparition.

Chapel of Saint Augustine. It is attached to the church outside.

A mass was being held that Sunday morning when we arrived (6:00 AM).

Inside the chapel of Saint Augustine, smoked by brightly colored candles.

Bay church's north transept. Notice the initials of the town's patron saint embedded at the top of each buttress.

Handsomely designed circular wood ceiling right above the altar.

The faithful of Bay. Me and Yeyette noticed that many female churchgoers here (mostly the elderly) are still wearing veils on top of their heads. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Bay Church's bell tower. I failed to climb this because one has to pass through the choirloft. In this church, there is a sign that strictly prohibits non-choir members to go up the choirloft. Aside from that, a mass was going on.

Población

The town proper, with its narrow roads and small stalls, somehow reminds me of Unisan. The only difference is that Bay is bustling with vehicular energy, not to mention noise. Its because its main thoroughfare serves as an entrepot between Los Baños, Victoria, Pila, and other lakeshore towns of La Laguna province.

Petness First (not the gym).

Yeyette enjoying "Monay Bae". "Bae" is another variant of the name "Bay". "Monay" is a local bread.

Bay's main road.

Municipal hall.

Yeyette with <em>Aling</em> Siony (Asunción Señadoza), owner of the most popular eatery in the <em>población</em>, very near the church.

Bahay na bató

We also noticed that there are a few Filipino houses, commonly known as bahay na bató, in Bay. If the town church was profaned by bombs, guns, and fire during the last war, obviously the rest of the town burned down with it. And of those very few old Filipino homes we found, only two stood out: The Marfori and Peláez ancestral homes. Unfortunately, we have not gathered much information about these two handsome houses. There’s not even a soul inside the Marfori house, this according to the people around it.

Casa Marfori. It is the oldest ancestral house in town, one of the few which survived the last war. For a time, it also served as a pharmacy, thus the words "Farmacia Marfori" painted on the façade that has already fainted trough the years.

The Marfori house's red-tiled roof is still intact — a rarity nowadays among antique Filipino homes.

Casa Peláez.

Casa Peláez from another angle.

A view of Casa Marfori's façade taken right in front of its neighbor, Casa Peláez.

Yeyette asking some residents about the two old houses' (Marfori and Peláez) history. They said that the deceased matriarch of the Peláez house was Spanish-speaking. But of course; it shows in the house itself.

Feeling history first hand — literally!

Wifey found some old bricks in the walls of Casa Marfori!

Another bahay na bató; (probably postwar), said to be owned by a former town mayor. This one stands on Bay's main highway.

Laguna de Bay

Our journey around Bay would not have been complete without a short stop to the lake —the largest in the Philippines— whose name was taken from the town itself.

It was the Spanish conquistadores led by Juan de Salcedo and some Augustinians who renamed this trilobate lake after the town of Bay (sometimes spelled as “Baé” or “Ba’i”). Renamed, because it has been called “Tadlác ng Ba’i” by its Tagalog-speaking settlers before the white men arrived. Or maybe “translated” is the better term instead of “renamed” because “laguna de Bay” and “tadlác ng Ba’i” have the same meaning, anyway.

Laguna de Bay, being trilobate, is composed of the west bay, east bay, and central bay. Isla de Talím, the largest of the lake’s nine islands and which is very visible to the town of Bay (from Barrio San Antonio), is right between the west and central bay.

But why did the Spaniards named the lake after Bay? Why not Laguna de Tabuco, or Laguna de Pinagsañgahán (Pagsanján), or some place else? It’s because Bay was then the largest settlement along the lake. It was large enough to attract Chinese merchants who were docked in Bahía de Manila. They sailed through the then crocodile-infested waters of Pásig River and the menacing Paso Diablo (or the “Devil’s Pass”, Laguna de Bay’s deepest part which is near Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà) just to trade with the Tagalog tribesmen of Bay. After the trade, these Chinese go back to Manila bay, bringing with them boatloads of forest products.

This trade between the Chinese in Manila Bay and the first folk of Bay, by the way, will also help explain why Tondoc (now the Manila district of Tondo) and Santa Ana de Sapa (now the Manileño district of Santa Ana) were major ports during that time. That trade was a vital factor as to why these two places were populous when the Spaniards led by Miguel López de Legazpi (Salcedo’s grandfather) arrived. Bay, in a way, had a hand in it. =) As a matter of fact, Bay, for a time, was even considered a part of the old Kingdom of Namayan whose capital was in Santa Ana de Sapa.

a lovely view of rice fields on our to the lake of Bay (commonly known as Laguna de Bay).

Barrio; San Antonio is a barangáy; right beside the lake of Bay.

A fishpond! The lake is near!

Laguna de Bay

She thinks that she will never see, a living thing as gigantic as this narra tree!

Isla de Talím in the distance. According to old Spanish records, this small island in the middle of Laguna de Bay was a very forested area teeming with deer, wild boar, doves, and even giant bats!

The same narra tree whose photo I took earlier. And we noticed that it's roughly five storeys high!

A handsome balete tree!

There's a lamb here in Bay!

Bantáy Laua (lake guardians) Headquarters.

Pulóng Bay; (Bay Islet) can be reached in a matter of minutes. It has a small hut used by fishermen as a resting place.

Yeyette with a bantáy laua officer (to man sitting on the table to her right), taking care of an illegal-fishing case involving the people beside them.

Say no to guns!

Grains of gold!

A river coursing towards the lake.

It was truly an enjoyable morning we had in Bay! We had a wonderful time searching for history, food tripping, and nature tripping. It was a wonderful and unforgettable trip. Sans the motor vehicles, For a “laywoman” like Yeyette, it was educational, as well. And most important of all, little did we know that our petty “lover’s quarrel” dissipated over time! We were like foreigners in another country. We were like kids, even, when we got near the lake and enjoyed its flora!

And because everything was OK between the two of us, we agreed to proceed to Victoria the soonest possible time!

Heck, no. Not the motel. I meant Victoria, La Laguna, the town north of Bay and Calauan. Cayó talagá… We hope to get there (again, Victoria, La Laguna) this month or in January.

Till next time, Filipino eReaders! =)

Wisdom of the ages: la Señora Doña Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos

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With the granddaughter of national hero Marcelo H. del Pilar, la Señora Doña Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos

“Anó ang nangyari sa buhay có? Namulubi lang ang familia co. Ualáng nangyari sa mañgá guinauá co…” thus said a dying and remorseful Marcelo H. del Pilar, as relived by his 92-year-old granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Del Pilar died for country and principles. But precious time that was supposed to be for his wife and two young daughters Sofía and Anita went with him to the grave. Despite of it all, Lola Bening was still proud of his Lolo Celo for his patriotism.

Last 5 September, I had the rare opportunity to “speak with history” when a cousin of my dad, Paul Évora III, happened to read the article that I wrote about del Pilar which coincided with the national hero’s 160th birth anniversary. He was the one who arranged my lunch meeting with Lola Bening. And since, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met Uncle Paul all my life (I found him only through this wonderful online creature called Facebook), little did I know that his partner, Corina Unson, is actually the youngest daughter of Lola Bening.

We were welcomed by Uncle Paul and his gracious better half at their homely enclave within the bustling party district of Malate. For me, it was a queer sight to see such a handsome bahay na bató in highly urbanized Manila, still standing proudly and mysteriously behind a youngish narra tree (the house sometimes spooks the wits out of unknowing passersby, Uncle Paul told me).

The Marasigan-del Pilar ancestral house. At the gate are Uncle Paul, Yeyette, and Auntie Corina.

Lola Bening, despite her old age (she was born on 4 April 1918), was still sharp of mind. Very sharp. Like her grandfather, she used to be a writer. In fact, her English translation of her grandfather’s Spanish letter to her Tía Josefa landed a spot in Dr. Celedonio G. Aguilar’s Readings In Philippine Literature (Rex Book Store, Ciudad de Quezon, 1994). Trained as a laywer, she wrote numerous articles but mostly about her favorite subject: Philippine History.

“When I was a student at the University (of Santo Tomás), I befriended the librarian there. Once, I asked her if I could gain access to the archives to read the works of my grandfather, “La Frailocracía Filipina” and “La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas“. I was hoping that I could translate them (from Spanish into English). When I was not allowed access, I spoke with the rector who explained to me that ‘the times have already changed’, that it is really not necessary to read them anymore.” I immediately understood the reason why she was denied access. I explained to her that due to the anti-Catholic content of the two essays, the Catholic university thought it best not to have them exposed to a new generation of Filipinos who no longer deserved a useless war between the religious and secular thought. But I assured her that translations are now available everywhere, including the internet.

If not for her blindness, I am quite certain that Lola Bening would still be writing.

Lola Bening also recounted how her family lost their fortune due to her grandfather’s costly eight-year self-exile in Barcelona, Spain. Whenever they could, the family sent del Pilar money to sustain himself as well as to keep his anti-clerical activities up and running. Although a devout Catholic, Lola Bening seemed not to be ashamed of her grandfather’s stance towards the friars because she believed that what del Pilar did was right and was for the benefit of the masses.

After del Pilar’s death, the family was somehow able to rise from the ashes of poverty due to the hero’s youngest daughter’s marriage to businessman Vicente Marasigan.

“On the day of my mother’s marriage, she was crying the whole time because she never wanted to marry my father,” said Lola Bening. The reason? “It was a planned marriage. And besides, my mother preferred to study than get married.” She then bade us to a sepia photo hanging on the sala wall to examine the countenance of her then young mother who was with her father. The photo was taken shortly before the marriage.

Portrait of Lola Bening's parents: Anita del Pilar and Vicente Marasigan.

“Take a good look. Notice the sadness in her face. She was crying before that picture was taken,” Lola Bening added.

The downcast countenance of Marcelo del Pilar's youngest daughter.

The wedding rings of Lola Bening's beloved parents, made of pure gold. They were married on 12 March 1912. The date is engraved in Anita's ring (the one with the name of Vicente engraved on it).

The couple's wedding rings with 13 gold coins or arras dating back to the Spanish times. The custom of giving 13 arras originated from Spain.

Fortunately for the rest of the family, Anita learned to love Vicente in the course of the marriage (Auntie Corina said that she and her siblings used to call them Lola Tâ and Lolo Tê respectively). The marriage produced nine children. As a testament of Anita’s background of grief, their first two children died. But as compensation —and quite ironically for the “Father of Philippine Masonry”— the Marasigan brood grew up to be god-fearing individuals. They were never influenced by their grandfather’s reputation as a high-ranking Mason. In fact, there were two religious among Vicente and Anita’s children: Ateneo de Manila University’s Fr. Vicente Marasigan, S.J., and; Sr. Mother Mary Aurora Marasigan of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (she globally headed the “Pink Sisters” a record four times). Lola Bening herself had her schooling in two Catholic institutions: the University of Santo Tomás (which was then in Intramuros) and Saint Paul University Manila. She eventually took up law, but was never able to practice it fully; she taught law and history at Saint Paul and also served time as a corporate lawyer. However, her husband, the late Justice Arturo B. Santos, took her place in the practice of law and served as judge of the Court of First Instance of Tarlac, Branch II.

Lola Bening proudly said that her father once owned a handsome house along Calle Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue in nearby Ermita) which eventually became the model of and setting for Nick Joaquín‘s Portrait Of An Artist As Filipino (even the Marasigan last name Nick adopted into that play’s main characters, but in no way do the fictional Marasigan players reflected the lives of the real ones, said Auntie Corina). They had another house near the Remedios Circle. It was there were Lola Bening spent her earlier years before transferring to their present home (built in 1929) in Calle Miguel Malvar (first known as Tennesse street; renamed Mindoro Street during the Japanese Occupation).

At the height of the controversial snap presidential polls of 1986, Lola Bening was one of the leaders of the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections. During that stint, she was interviewed by a then struggling correspondent who later on became an Emmy-Award-winning journalist: Jim Clancy of CNN International.

During our lunch meeting, I was actually expecting to learn more about del Pilar (the man, not the hero) that I have never read nor heard before. Quite embarassingly, I was told of the anecdote of “Ang Piso Ni Anita“, something quite famous in the academe but was totally unfamiliar to me. However, I learned more about Anita and her pains throughout her life. Throughout her childhood, she was yearning for fatherly love. Lola Bening said that as a child, her mother used to look at photos of her dad, contemplating on how he looked like in person, asking her elders more about how her father’s physical appearance beyond the photos.

As history had taught us, Anita and her Ate Sofía (whom Lola Bening took care of during her final years) never saw their father again when the latter left for Spain in late 1888. All for the love of country. They saw him one last time, though — inside a coffin on a cold December day in 1920 amidst cheers from Masons and government leaders at the Manila pier. Then many years later, just as when Anita had learned what love is with Vicente, the latter was dead set on offering his services to join the struggle against the 14th Imperial Japanese Army. All for the love of country. A dramatic confrontation ensued, as witnessed by Fr. Marasigan (Auntie Corina shared that —fortunately for Anita— Vicente’s love of family prevailed over him).

Anita’s death was perhaps as painful as her depressing moments in life. In 1955, she suffered a stroke and was in comatose for 40 days before Death finally took pity on her.

Anita’s life was a revelation. Something about her story made me love my wife and kids more and more, for they never had to endure the sufferings of a sorrowful wife and fatherless children.

Lola Bening continued sharing her thoughts not only about her grandfather and Philippine history (she even knows the controversial and delicate issue of “Le Fableux Doña Ysidra” but was careful not to mention any name), she was also up to date with current events. A few years ago, at the height of the much-publicized Subic rape case, she advised close friend Fr. James Reuter, S.J. to be cautious in the issue that was then confronting American Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith. And wisely so because the much-beloved Jesuit became spiritual adviser to the accused and their respective families. His task indeed should be more spiritual than mundane. Fr. Reuter thus avoided the controversial political aspects where he would have been up against a much powerful force: the radical feminist groups who were behind Smith’s “victim”.

“In the end, to settle the issue out of court, they (the US government) gave her (Nicole, Smith’s purported rape victim) a US visa which appeared to be what she wanted in the first place,” said Lola Bening, “because, strangely, her relatives got to the US ahead of her!”

She also asked us about what we thought of Noynoy. I wisely decided not to comment since it’s too early into his presidency to do so. But she was an anti-charlatan when it comes to opinion. She was, after all, basing her viewpoints on account of her age and experience throughout the decades. She wisely observed that our country, throughout its sad history, has been led too much by the elite (Auntie Corina kidded her on this comment, pointing out as if she’s in a glass house throwing stones!). She observed how our country’s natural resources have been exploited by outsiders, and how the WASPs have thrown their weight around our national leaders. Classic features of neocolonialism, I commented. To which she replied:

“Maybe it’s time that we recover our identity.”

Indeed it is time.

I would have asked her more about Intramuros and the Spanish language during her heyday. But out of courtesy, I didn’t — the family invited me mainly because of what I wrote about Marcelo H. del Pilar, so it was expected that I ask more about the propagandist. Hopefully, I’d be able to talk to her again to learn more about my beloved Walled City which she saw before the last war destroyed it.

Throughout the end of the visit, Lola Bening exhorted me and Yeyette to visit the 4,027-square-meter Marcelo H. Del Pilar Shrine in Bulacán, Bulacán, the land of which she donated to the government in 1983. She was beaming with pride on how she had helped build the shrine together with the government, and contributed to its many modifications for the sake of national posterity.

As we said our goodbyes while promising her that we will visit her dear grandfather’s shrine very soon, my mind was somehow drifting towards that lonely Barcelona room where a tubercular propagandist, more in pain from being away from his wife and daughters than from his ailment, was quietly weeping while writing letters to his loved ones. And as my mind drifted, I dreamily promised Lola Bening that “we will visit the Mabini Shrine very soon.”

The 92-year-old lady, still sharp of wits, corrected this absent-minded 31-year-old blogger of his unforgivable mistake:

“Del Pilar Shrine! Not Mabini, Pepe!”

Undoubtedly, Lola Bening’s grandfather would have been as alert as her if only he had reached his 90s. But such is the grand design of our history.

Uncle Paul, Auntie Corina, Lola Bening, Yeyette, and del Pilar's mascot.

A local yet global style

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The following article was written by a contertulio of mine (in Círculo Hispano-Filipino), the erudite scholar Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil.

He is a professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University and is also the director of the Cultural Heritage Program of the said school. Professor Ziálcita has written several articles and books, namely Notions Of Justice: A Study Of An Ilocos And A Bulacán Barangay, Nick Joaquín: a portrait of the existentialist as Filipino, and Philippine ancestral houses (1810-1930). He specializes in the encounter between indigenous culture and Spanish influence.

This article, A Local Yet Global Style, was first published in the book Endangered: Fil-Hispanic Architecture which is actually a compilation of selected papers which were presented at the 1st International Congress on Fil-Hispanic Architecture that was held in Manila (27-29 November 2002). The book was published by the Instituto Cervantes de Manila five years ago.

Remember that “architecture is another form of language” (Guillermo Gómez Rivera).

The author, Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil (third from right), with members of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino (from left to right): José Ramón Perdigón, Alberto Hernández Miño, Guillermo Gómez, Ziálcita, Atty. Cirilo Lubatón, and me.

A LOCAL YET GLOBAL STYLE
Fernando Ziálcita

During the 16th-19th centuries, new architectural styles using timber and stones emerged in Luzón, Visayas, and Northern Mindanáo. My interest centers on what I call the “Wood-and-Stone style” of urban dwellings. I have tried to show that it should be called “Filipino” rather than either “Spanish” or Antillean (Ziálcita 1980; 1997; 1997B). There is more public interest in these structures at present than there was previously. Still, a number of architects continue to deny that there is any Filipino architecture other than the bahay kubo (the farmer’s house-on-stilts). One who has built many mansions for the rich has commented that these houses and churches, shown in a traveling exhibit organized in 2000 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to draw attention to Filipino architectural heritage, were “colonial impositions”.

In this article, I would like to point out the following:

• It is important to distinguish between types of nationalist discourses.
• To appreciate the complexity of the Filipino’s architectural heritage, we need a dialectical rather than a reductionist discourse.
• When viewed properly, the Wood-and-Stone style is both a unique local product and a product with multiple international connections.

Assimilation versus Exclusion

Nationalism is a discourse that crystallized during the 1789 French Revolution. It proposes that members of a large extended group “imagine” themselves as a sovereign, political “community” that transcends ethnic, religious, and class divisions because of a shared history, heritage, and mission (Anderson 1983). Nationalism thus excludes outsiders even as it defines criteria for membership. But who are the members? And what is the heritage that unites them? I distinguish between two types of nationalism. The first I call “reductionist”; the second, “dialectical” nationalism.

Reductionist nationalism uses “race” as the criterion for membership and “indigenous culture” as the substance of the shared heritage. It assumes that race, an inherited set of biological characteristics, determines how you think and feel. If you do not look like the majority, or if you are not of the same “race” as them, then you cannot share their feelings. This nationalism also yearns for a mythical past that was supposedly more authentic because it was truly “indigenous” — that is, it had no foreign admixture. Its static perspective has no room for mutually transformative encounters between cultures. It thus ignores what 20th century anthropologists say, namely: 1) that no empirical data can support the notion that race shapes ability, 2) that racism fosters the persecution of minorities, and 3) that culture, being a set of symbols, values, and practices that is socially learned, is therefore permeable and changeable.

In contrast, dialectical nationalism believes that feelings transcend race. By joining a community and imbibing its ideals, you become loyal to it. Sympathy has nothing to do with looking like the majority. Dialectical nationalism can thus regard as local what was once imported: 1) if it has been assimilated to local symbols, values, and practices, or 2) if it has a positive contribution to the local. A dialectical view sees the world as consisting of forces that may oppose each other at particular points in time and space, but may also modify each other and fuse into one.

German nationalism of the late 19th century down to 1945 was reductionist. Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) extolled the Volksgeist and the need to build institutions that emanated from it. Every people (Volk) have their own ethos (Geist) which is manifest in its language, literature, and law. A people should think and act according to its Geist, for it is unnatural to ape foreign fashions (Ergang 1966: 100-1). Herder inspired nationalists all over the world, like our own Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes, to study popular songs, dances, architecture as manifestations of the folk’s lore. His “Volksgeist” anticipated the notion of “culture” that British anthropologists would popularize in its present form, starting in the last decade of the 19th century. However, according to Wolfgang Welsch (1995: 195), Herder’s notion has serious deficiencies. It ignores the fact that modern societies are multicultural. Moreover, its insistence on purity leads to political conflicts and wars. Carriers of a Volksgeist are supposed to experience “insensibility, coldness, blindness” and even “contempt and disgust” towards outsiders.

Meanwhile, during the late 19th century, another development took place. Since the Germans lived in many small states that were independent of each other, German nationalists argued for blood as the determinant of nationality. Anyone of German ancestry, regardless of residence, was German. This included even those who had migrated to other Eastern European countries centuries ago. In the 1930s, the Nazis equated Germanness with belonging to the “Aryan race”. Nazi policies were junked after their defeat; contemporary Germany is an open and tolerant society. But even today, migrants, who are born in and educated in Germany, face hurdles in applying for citizenship if their parents are non-Germans (Brubaker 1992: 75 ff.).

In contrast, French nationalism has generally been dialectical and assimilationist. Being French has more to do with sensibility than with genes or skin color. To be French is to embrace the ideals of the 1789 Revolution (Brubaker 1992: 35 ff.). Thus the French call their patrie a “Terre d’asile” — a land that shelters all migrants who believe in liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be French is also to appreciate the achievements of French civilization. French citizenship is thus open to Africans, Indians, Caribbeans, Indochinese, or anyone who participates in French culture.

Moreover, anything created on French soil that either contributes to France’s glory or carries the imprint of the French sensibility is French, even if the creator is a foreigner by birth. The 20th century Ecole de Paris, which invented modern painting and sculpture, was the creation of Frenchmen (Matisse, Braque, Leger), Spaniards (Gris, Picasso, Miró), Russians (Chagall), Germans (Hartung), Italians (Modigliani), Romanians (Brancusi), and others living and working in Paris. These non-Frenchmen are often classified as “French” by French authors. A work of art can be French yet cosmopolitan. French identity is thus not something determined once and for all by race and ethnicity. Writing on the diversity and conflicts between French regions, Braudel (1986: 94) says that “France” had to be “invented”. We can infer that, for it to remain flexible and open, it must be reinvented today.

Mexicanness is likewise a sensibility that is the product of tradition rather than biology. During the 20th century, following the 1910 revolution, which was both economic and spiritual, Mexicans came to appreciate the diversity of their traditions. While they affirmed their once-despised Amerindian tradition (Olmec, Zapotec, Aztec, and Maya), they also claimed that the Spanish tradition constituted an integral part of their culture. Likewise the Afro-American. The magic word was “mestizaje” or the fusion of cultures (Fuentes 1992). Thus “baroque” in Mexico is Mexican rather than Spanish.

How should we characterize the discourse of Filipino nationalism? Is it reductionist or dialectical? I believe it is in-between. On the one hand, textbooks and the press say that Filipino culture is diverse. It has “Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and American influences”. Our folk dance troupes showcase the diversity of the archipelago’s dance traditions in each performance. Nick Joaquín, in his novels and essays, has shown how to approach history as a process that assimilates the diverse influences, especially the Hispanic, upon the Filipino (1989). On the other hand, however, the educated casually talk of either a “Filipino race” or a “Malay race”. For instance, in preparation for the second millennium AD, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a daily series of short articles on its front-page on the achievements of the “Filipino race”. From anthropology’s perspective, the better term would have been “Filipino culture”, for values and world-views are acquired by anybody who commits himself to a group. But physical characteristics, such as skin and hair color, are inherited genetically. Moreover, “Filipino race” would exclude Negritos, Chinese, and Euroamericans who consider themselves Filipinos. Unfortunately, anthropology’s clarifications about “race” are ignored by the current discourse.

The permanent exhibit on the Filipino people at the National Museum has a wonderful English title, “History of the Filipino People”. But the Tagalog translation is an unacceptable “Kasaysayan ng Lahì” (History of the Race). Ignored likewise by many nationalists is anthropology’s concept of “culture” as a permeable, changeable set of symbols, values, and practices. I have heard many educated Filipinos characterize Filipino achievements in cookery, dances, and sculpture as “bastardized/mongrel/derivative/imitative”. They imagine that a culture has to be “pure” and free of outside influences in order for it to be respectable.

Renato Constantino exerted much influence on the nationalism of the 1970s to the present. While he does not idealize pre-Hispanic culture, he has nothing positive to say either about Hispanized Filipino culture. He characterizes both the masses and the elite during the Spanish period as suffering from a “relative ignorance” brought about by the colonizer’s values (Constantino 1978:52-54). Those reading him must therefore conclude that Spanish influence in any form is cause for embarrassment.

A preoccupation with race stumbles when confronted with figures like Fr. José Burgos. Born of a Spanish lieutenant and of a mestiza from Vigan, Burgos spearheaded the Filipino clergy’s demands for equal treatment with Peninsular priests (Villaroel 1971). His execution in 1871, together with Frs. Gómez and Zamora, shocked the public into discovering that they were being oppressed by peninsular interests. But the highly influential historian Teodoro Agoncillo wondered if Burgos, because of his ancestry, can be called “Filipino” (Nolasco n.d.:2). On the other hand, Marilou Díaz-Abaya, in her film on Rizal, depicted Burgos as a brown-skinned Indio. In effect, nationalism became skin-color.

I sympathize with the concerns of Filipino nationalists. The Philippines is indeed a society that continues to be colonized by outside forces. Moreover, it is highly stratified with widespread poverty. But, as I have shown (Ziálcita 2000), exploitation and stratification antedate the Spanish conquest. Our national honor is not diminished by admitting that the Spaniards did positive things like eliminating slave raiding for sacrifice. Also, there are two things to consider: 1) The Philippines is a multi-ethnic society. Many Filipinos, especially in the major cities, are descendants of foreign migrants, some of whom sacrificed much on behalf of the Philippines (Nolasco 1970-71:178 ff.). Surely, they are no less Filipino than the purely indigenous; 2) Our country has to assert its presence in the world forum, and attract more interest in its culture and its products. To respond to both, we need a nationalism that can deal with complexity and multiple connections.

Filipino Modern

The Philippine has diversified its exports by selling high-quality furniture and home accessories. Designers like Ched Berenguer-Topacio, Budji Láyug, Jeanne Goulborn, Kenneth Cobonpue, and others have projected contemporary Filipino design internationally. But what is “Filipino modern”? Why has it attracted rave reviews and orders? If we examine their best sellers carefully, we shall see that some combine the indigenous with imported traditions.

For instance, a fashionable chair pioneered in by Filipino designers combines an exposed metal frame with rattan weaves that form a seat and a backrest. Sometimes the metal frame evokes a boxy armchair; at other times a curvaceous lounging chair. Always, however, the textured rattan weaves give these chairs a relaxed tropical feel. Two traditions meet in these chairs: the indigenous, which skillfully manipulates rattan for basketry, and the Spanish, which makes wrought iron furniture and lamps. The Spanish baroque tradition also shows in the generous S-curves of some of these chairs. Or, consider another example: wall hangings and shades. Filipino wall hangings made of silk have a translucent quality that evokes the Japanese, which currently is the vogue. At the same time, they have playfully inserted pieces of bamboo and rattan, for added texture. Filipino modern reinterprets international styles using skills and preferences inherited from once-foreign but localized cultural traditions.

Together with Alice Reyes and Paulo Alcazaren, I worked on a book on the best of the contemporary Filipino house designs (Reyes 2000). The staff of the Singapore-based publishing firm that produced the book was enthused by the varied forms exhibited in contemporary Filipino architecture. While some villas had strong affinities with Italian-Spanish-Mexican houses, others had rooms that, because of their shell-paned panels, recalled Japanese interiors. Other villas, though modern, had a more indigenous feel because of their imaginative local materials. As a whole, regardless of their stylistic orientation, the various houses had a common denominator: interior spaces dialogued with the surrounding gardens.

A reductionist approach accepts only the “indigenous” as Filipino. This cripples the Filipino’s options in a competitive global market. In contrast, a dialectical approach appreciates the variety of both our contemporary designs and our 18th-early 20th-century urban houses, because it looks at history as a process.

Distinct yet many-sided

I have discussed the history of the Wood-and-Stone House (Bahay na bató at cahoy) in previous writings. Rather than repeat this, I would like to highlight particular points in order to show how the style is both local and global.

1. The indigenous style of architecture prevailing in the 16th century Luzón and Visayas was suited to a rural but not to an urban environment. The indigenous dwelling was essentially a frame construction where the heavy roofwork was supported not by the walls, which were either of timber planks or of bamboo sidings, but by many wooden pillars dug deeply into the ground. This type of structure thus merely swayed during an earthquake. The floor was elevated above the ground as protection against floods and insects. The steeply pitched roof made of thatch shook off the heavy downpour and allowed hot tropical air to circulate upwards.

But this style had a disadvantage when used in an urban environment where buildings press against each other. Its materials were flammable. The first Spanish Manila, whose cathedrals and dwellings were built of bamboo and thatch, was consumed by an accidental fire in 1583. This prompted a shift to construction in stone, using the deposits of volcanic tuff (locally called “adobe”) that were newly discovered in Macati along the Pásig River.

Similar shifts had occurred earlier among other Southeast Asian peoples. Bas-reliefs I have seen on the temples of Prambanan (9th century), in Central Java, depict houses-on-stilts. However, during the heyday of the Majapahit Empire in the 13th-14th centuries, the Central Javanese shifted to all-brick dwellings resting directly on brick platforms (Schoppert 1997: 32-34). This continues to be the norm today in that region which is Indonesia’s cultural heartland.

The famous bronze drums of Dong-son from Vietnam (5th century AD) likewise reveal longhouses-on-stilts with steeply pitched roofs, which are still common today among the upland peoples of Vietnam. But the Chinese, who incorporated what is now Northern Vietnam into their empire from the first century BC to the 10th century AD, brought in houses whose plastered brick walls stood on stone platforms a few meters above the ground (Bezacier 1955; Taylor 1983). These one-story, tile roofed dwellings of brick continue to be the norm both in rural villages and in the town centers of Vietnam.

I mention these shifts because many Filipinos reduce Filipino architecture to the house-on-stilts; they do not accept subsequent developments as relevant. Also, they reject Spanish-influenced architecture as an obstacle to an Asian identity. They believe the house-on-stilts to be more Southeast Asian, being more indigenous. The truth is that some of our neighbors long ago shifted to more durable houses, partly in response to urban environments with limited land.

2. Spanish architectural styles, which are many and varied, may have been suited to an urban environment, but not necessarily to a tropical, earthquake-racked environment. Spanish urban styles are the product of a long process reaching back to at least 1000 BC, to Celtiberian towns and urban settlements established by Phoenician and Greek colonists on Spain’s Mediterranean seaboard. With their thick walls of cut stone or brick, and their roof of tile, these dwellings protected against fire. Their rigidity posed no threat in a land where earthquakes were uncommon. Their relatively small windows gave better insulation against cold.

However, these advantages failed them in the Philippines. In 1630, the Augustinian Juan de Medina ([1630] 1903-1909: 242) remarked that Manila was cooler and healthier when the buildings were made of wood, rather than stone, for this allowed the wind to blow through.

3. In 1645, 1658, and 1677, severe earthquakes collapsed Manila’s tall stone dwellings. Following these earthquakes, two contrasting traditions —the Spanish and the indigenous— fused into a major synthesis. A wooden framework to carry the trusses and rafters of the roofwork extended all the way to the ground. Thick stone walls tended to be confined to the first floor, though brick walls were used in the second story for some partitions. Wooden curtain walls enveloped the second story. But these were opened up by an ensemble of three windows. On the exterior transom was an immovable opening (espejo) covered with shell panes. Between the windowsill and the floor sill was another window: the ventanilla, which was protected by a screen or either wooden balusters or a metal grille and by sliding wooden panels.

This Wood-and-Stone style was called arquitectura mestiza by the end of the 17th century, not because it was for mestizos, but because of its mixture of wood and stone (Alcina [1668] 1980). Mestizo, like the English word “mixed”, comes from the Latin word “mixtus”. The new style was one major response to Philippine conditions. However, it is not the only possible response.

Ilocos, particularly Vigan, developed a house, starting probably in the 1970s, that used brick on both stories (Ziálcita 1997A) but had no wooden framework (Manalo 2003). Most likely this was in response to the fire that struck the city in the late 18th century (King 2000). Despite the absence of a wooden framework, the Ilocano All-Brick-House-with-Pilasters has survived the earthquakes that have struck the coast over the past two centuries. During the 20th century, new technologies, such as the embedding metal frameworks in concrete, entered the Philippines. These have opened new possibilities for urban constructions.

When I speak of the Wood-and-Stone house as “Filipino”, I claim that it was a reasonable response at a point in time, given the knowledge and skills then available, to a particular set of environmental challenges that remain with us. Surely it is not the only possible Filipino style. I like the French and the Mexicans as well. I prefer to dwell on their positive contribution to our culture, rather on how indigenous their makers were.

4. Components of the Wood-and-Stone house connect it to other traditions in particular countries. This opens intercultural bridges that should help us when projecting our country.

The house on stilts was widespread among Austronesians (the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines; some upland peoples in Vietnam like the Jarai), Austroasiatics (Cambodians and most Vietnamese), and the Thais before the entry of Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and Western influences. The irony is that the Wood-and-Stone house of Hispanized Luzón and Visayas exhibits greater continuity with this millennial Southeast Asian tradition than do the one story stone dwellings of Lowland Vietnam, post-Chinese conquest, or of Central Java, post-Majapahit.

The Wood-and-Stone style likewise connects with the several versions of the longhouse that continue to be built in Borneo as houses-on-stilts. A Sundanese graduate of mine from West Java, Budi Gunawan, made a highly significant remark before a print of a 19th century Tagalog Wood-and-Stone house. “It looks like a Bornean longhouse,” he said. The house had a tile roof, it was horizontal in orientation with sliding shell windows, and had a cantilevered wooden second story over a stone first story. I thought he might have been referring to the pronounced horizontal orientation of the Wood-and-Stone house and its use of the second story as opposed to the preference by both Sundanese and Central Javanese for one-story stucco brick dwellings.

But a visit to the Dayak country in the Four Lakes District of Eastern Borneo clarified what he meant. During that visit, another Indonesian student, Martinus Nanang, and myself went to a longhouse that was still in use. The main entrance was on the long side: a log with notches led to a verandah with a series of wooden arches and fretwork. Here was the main door. The two-story house was on stilts with wooden boards for both stories. The roof was of wooden shingles. The house’s ambience was not Javanese. Save for the notched log, the house exterior evoked 19th-century Visayan plantation mansions.

A common feature of houses in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Western India is the screened wooden balcony. The Arabs call it mashrabiyya, also rowshan this three-meter-high balcony is supported by wooden consoles embedded into stone walls protruding 60 cm from the building. It has its own roof; its roof line is decorated with entablature. This balcony protects the occupants’ privacy while permitting the air to circulate through the adjoining room through grilles (Earls 1997A, Earls 1997B, Earls 1997C). The Arabs brought it to Spain where it acquired the ajimez, two windows that share a common column in-between.

The screened wooden balcony acquired a different configuration in the various localities that adopted it in the Hispanic World. According to the Spanish art historian Dorta (1973:403), the screened balcony’s evolution attained its final stage in the galería volada (jutting gallery) of the Filipino house of the Spanish period. It was neither open as in the Caribbean, not closed with lattices as in Lima. Instead, it was enclosed with shell-paned window panels.

The galería volada connects the Philippines not only with Spain and with Spanish America, but likewise with the Near East and India. This hanging gallery became commonplace in Manila by the last decade of the 17th century (Ziálcita and Tinio 1980: 8, 244 ff.). A topic for research should be the routes by which this gallery reached the Philippines. Was it only via Mexico? Or also via Indian merchants who came here during the Galleon Trade?

A particular house type that developed in Java during the Dutch period was the Rumah Gedong. This literally means the “office house”, perhaps because it was originally associated with offices. Unlike the conventional Javanese house, it has two stories: stone below, wood above. It recalls our Wood-and-Stone house except that the windows are different. As is the case throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the wooden shutters that protect the windows hang from the façade like wings. They open outwards. The window itself is a vertical opening that extends from lintel to the floor and has a protective wooden railing and balusters. It looks like a modified French window.

The Rumah Gedong is widespread in South Sumatran villages near Palembang. Is there any connection between them and our own Wood-and-Stone houses? I do not think the Rumah Gedong influenced the development of the Wood-and-Stone house in 17th-century Manila. Based on existing documents available, the phases in the emergence of the latter do not suggest influences coming from Java. Could it be that the Rumah Gedong may have been influenced by our Wood-and-Stone house? This deserves investigation.

I mention these similarities between our 17th-19th century house and the Rumah Gedong to underline once more that what may seem so “Spanish” and so alien to Southeast Asian converges in fact with parallel developments in the region. Outside Palembang, I did see bamboo-and-thatch houses-on-stilts scattered among the fields. But in towns and even the tiny village where I stayed, the preference was for solid materials which, in the South Sumatran case, meant using stone below and wood above, with a roof of flat tiles.

Finally, there is Chinese-Japanese influence. There were only a few Chinese in Tondo when the Spaniards came in 1570. Their numbers soared to 8,000 by 1600 because the Galleon Trade exchanged Chinese silks and porcelains for highly coveted Mexican silver coins (Scott 1977: 207). Among the Chinese who settled in Manila were artisans. The Galleon Trade also attracted the Japanese who came in, though in smaller numbers.

While Chinese migration has been continuous to the present time, Japanese migration ended in 1624 after the shogun limited foreign contacts (Hedinger 1977). However, after the opening of Japan to world trade in the 19th century, the Japanese began coming again as migrants. Among them were carpenters.

In some Wood-and-Stone houses, the roof’s corner eaves curl upwards. An example is the Constantino house in Balagtás (Bigaá), Bulacán. But the more substantive Chinese-Japanese contribution may be in the framework and the openings. Both Chinese and Japanese use a wooden framework to carry the roof. The Chinese combine this with non-load bearing brick walls (Knapp 1990: 37). The Japanese raise all-wood walls (Yoshida 1954). Moreover, both of them like to expose their beams and pillars, including twisted ones.

While this was also the case in indigenous Filipino tradition, this practice’s persistence in the Wood-and-Stone style may have been encouraged by Chinese-Japanese builders. The use of translucent material as windowpanes may have come in from these northerners that paste rice paper on window frames. In the Philippines, the flat shell of the cápiz, abundant in shallow waters, substituted for paper. Filipino wooden frames use a plain checkerboard pattern. A similar window pattern is universal in Japan, and in some areas in Southeastern China.

The Japanese signature is evident too in that Filipino window panels slide in a sill whereas in China, they push out. Because of these translucent panes, Filipino interiors have a parchment-like glow, which Japanese visitors say recall their own. During the late 19th century, the transforms in the interior partitions were opened with tracery, which permitted more light and air to circulate while providing decoration. These cutwork panels are found in Chinese and Japanese dwellings. Japanese called these ramma. They can feature either fine wooden latticework or a wooden panel with a variety of patterns (Yoshida 1954: 156).

In some Filipino houses, Chinese motifs, like the peony, are present. In others, like the Festejo house in Santa Lucía, Ilocos Sur, the interlocking diamond-shaped frames reveal a Japanese hand. In general, however, the motifs in these cutwork panels are inspired by the Filipino’s preferences, for instance lyres and flowers — poetry and romance. These cutwork panels, though with different motifs, are also found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Perhaps originally Chinese and Japanese, they create another bridge between us and our neighbors.

The Galleon Trade (1565-1815) was the first trade network to encompass three continents: Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Aside from Chinese goods, products from all over Asia were purchased in Manila with coined Mexican siliver. Traders from other Asian countries came here, bringing ideas as well. For the French economic historian, Pierre Chanau (1960: 18), the Philippines was where cultural currents originating in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and flowing in opposite directions met each other again, for the first time in world history. They also met currents from China and Southeast Asia. The Philippines is thus “the only true end-point of the world” (le seul vrai bout du monde).

The music scholar John Summers (1998: 208, 213) says that Manila’s musical life was truly cosmopolitan. In 1611, entries to a citywide poetry contest were in “Latin, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, Castilian, Mexican, Tagalog, and Visayan”. Non-Spanish dances and Tagalog-speaking residents formed part of the festivities. If I am correct, the story of the hanging gallery further illustrates how globalization became a reality in Manila. The gallery may have come in from two directions, from Mexico and from India and Arabia. Here it met the Austronesian preference for constructing dwellings on piles and the Chinese-Japanese tradition of woodworking, and merged with them.

Local Yet Global

Filipinos find themselves in an international environment where, on the one hand, they are expected to affirm an artistic style that is uniquely theirs. On the other hand, they are expected to show commonalities with their Asian neighbors. We should be careful of discourses on identity that imprison. A more dialectical, rather than a reductionist, approach can better show how the initially foreign can become localized. Imported Spanish traditions in stone construction had to be modified to suit the unstable Philippine floor. A dialectical approach can also disclose paradoxes. Though influenced by a non-Southeast Asian tradition, Filipino houses retain continuities with the Southeast Asian house-on-stilts that traditional Vietnamese and Central Javanese houses do not.

Finally, a dialectical approach is more open to surprises in the empirical data. The cantilevered wooden second story of the Filipino house connects in fact with traditions of both East and West. Because of the Galleon Trade, 17th-century Manila became a meeting place for different cultural currents. The Philippines developed a distinct local, urban style, from the 17th-early 20th centuries, that resonates globally. It continues to do so, as shown by its current success in furniture and furnishings.

The Alberto Mansion debacle

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Architecture is another form of language. -Guillermo Gómez Rivera-

The 400-year-old (some say 200) mansion of the Alberto Alonso clan (photo courtesy of JC Bernardo).

Last Monday, young hispanista JC Bernardo, a Biñense born and bred, alerted me about the start of the anticipated demolition of the fabled Casa de Alberto, the home where José Rizal’s mother, Doña Teodora Morales (Alberto) Alonso Realonda y Quintos, grew up. Upon getting JC’s message, I immediately felt sick in the stomach.

The first time I saw this house was in 5 September 2004, when I transferred my family to nearby San Pedro (Tunasán). It was a Sunday. My wife, hearing our San Pedrense neighbors about the bargain prices which Biñán’s famous public market offers to its buyers, had wanted to pay the town a visit. So after mass at the mysterious Santo Sepulcro, off we went to the town of puto biñán.

I had a different agenda, of course.

I had always wanted to visit places I’ve never been to before, especially those which have historical worth. It was a virtual thrill for an Antillean-house connoisseur like me. As the jeepney we were riding was passing through the town’s arterial road, I saw from afar the glaring and imposing red-tiled rooftop of the said mansion. Although I still didn’t know it back then, something within me told myself that it was the ancestral house of Rizal’s maternal relatives. And I was right off the bat when, after inquiring from some market vendors about the owners of the fantasy mansion, they confirmed my hunch. “It’s owned by the Albertos,” they said. “But they are already selling the house.”

Little did I know that this “sale” meant its impending doom six years later.

We weren’t able to get inside the house because the owner wasn’t there. But my family (Yeyette and I still had two kids back then) was able to get inside the poorly concretized patio* where the zaguán** was. My wife was thrilled to have touched the centuries-old adobe walls of the house. Too bad we didn’t have a camera back then.

The unbelievable thrill of having been to that “unrecognized” historic house (unrecognized, because the authorities concerned didn’t even bother to put up a historical marker) prompted me to write an email message to my contertulios in Círculo Hispano-Filipino:

Mon, September 6, 2004 11:57:35 PM

¡Un buen día a todos!

Ayer, después de la misa de mañana en la iglesia milagrosa de Santo Sepulcro (San Pedro, Laguna), traje mi familia (mi esposa Yeyette y nuestros niños Krystal y Momay) a Biñán que está al lado de San Pedro. Mi esposa quiso visitar el mercado de Biñán que es famoso del precio bajo de sus materias y comidas (carne, verduras, etc.). Biñán es también famoso de su “Puto Biñán,” aparte del hecho que José Rizal estudió allí durante su juventud.

Al llegar de Biñán, estuve decepcionado cuando averigüé que el lugar ha perdido su toque rural. La plaza delante de la iglesia de San Isidro Labrador (¿era la misma iglesia dónde Rizal solía ir durante su breve permanencia allí en el dicho lugar?) y el ayuntamiento fue atestada por vendedores y tiendecitas. El lugar era tan lleno de tráfico humano y vehicular, sin contar la contaminación del aire producida por triciclos ruidosos y numerosos.

El lugar me recuerda de Divisoria en Manila (pero oí que el Alcalde Joselito Atienza ha hecho maravillas para aquel lugar).

El único contraste absoluto sobre todo los horrores urbanos fue esta vieja casa grande con un techo de azulejos rojos delante del ayuntamiento.

Es tan enorme, tan antillano. Inmediatamente asumí que podría estar donde Rizal había vivido cuando él se quedó en Biñán. Pero no confiando en mi presentimiento, pedí a mi esposa a preguntar el dueño de la casa; ella lo hizo después de comprar nuestros comestibles y el “Puto Biñán.”

Lamentablemente, la casa no era más en buenas condiciones. La parte inferior de la casa ha sido convertida en varias tiendas, rodeado por vendedores. La parte superior me parece abandonada.

Mi esposa, que es la persona más amistosa entre dos de nosotros, se enteró de la gente cerca de la casa grande que fue poseída por el clan Alberto.

El nombre Alberto de repente “me suena de nombre” dentro de mi cabeza—¡recuerdo que el abuelo maternal de Rizal es un Alberto! Dije este hecho a Yeyette, que inmediatamente fue excitada (últimamente, ella se ha hecho interesada en la historia filipina, también). Ella dijo que quizás podríamos entrar. Estuve sorprendido. Pareció imposible; la casa grande me pareció abandonada, y no hay nadie a que podríamos dirigirnos para entrar, o confirmar si este fuera en efecto la casa grande de un pariente de Rizal.

Pero la confianza en la ingeniosidad de mi esposa (su lema es “what Jenny wants, Jenny gets—lo que Jenny quiere, Jenny se pone”), ¡éramos capaces de descubrir más!

Ella era capaz de localizar donde podríamos entrar, y hasta éramos capaces de dirigirnos al conserje de la casa. El anciano, que puede hablar un poco español, confirmó que sí, esta era la misma casa donde Rizal se había quedado cuando él estudió en Biñán bajo el Maestro Justiniano Cruz. Lamentablemente, él tenía órdenes del dueño de no permitir a turistas durante fines de semana, pero él nos invitó a volver en cualquier momento durante días de semana (esta información particular me dejó perplejo). Pero él nos permitió a visitar los alrededores el patio. Mi esposa, que llevaba Mómay, entrevistó el conserje. Tomé Krystal conmigo para vagar en el patio. El lugar entero es desvencijado. Alcé la mirada a las paredes inlavadas de la casa grande, y la luz deslumbrante triste de las ventanas me contempló. El zaguán está lleno de chatarra. Casi trajo lágrimas a mis ojos; una casa tan hermosa y muy filipina no debería haber sido ignorado como así. Solamente toqué sus paredes para tener una “sensación” de historia. Sin embargo, me alegré que mi hija todavía tenga una experiencia de primera mano de ver una herencia cultural, una herencia que se está desvaneciendo rápidamente…

Cuándo volvimos a la entrada de la casa grande, ¡me dijeron que la casa grande ha estado de pie allí durante más de cien años ya! Éramos capaces de echar una ojeada en una de sus ventanas principales, y vimos una escalera enorme que conduce hacia el caída. Encima es un espejo antiguo y probablemente algún mobiliarios antiguos.

Sí, efectivamente: ¡volveremos allí! Y el conserje nos dijo que él se alegraría de recorrernos dentro de la casa grande y nos indicará el dormitorio donde Rizal se había quedado.

Pero comencé a preguntarme: ¿por qué no está allí ningún fechador histórico (historical marker) atado a aquella casa grande si esto es realmente la casa dónde Rizal se había quedado? Enfrente de esa casa es una plaza donde un monumento en honor de Rizal está erigido. Seguramente, nuestros historiadores no habrían olvidado esta enorme casa que es tan llena de la historia.

En realidad no estoy familiar a Biñan y yo no estoy seguro y consciente si la escuela donde Rizal había estudiado ha sido conservada, ni sé donde está localizada.

Además, era el mediodía pasado, y era el tiempo para volvemos a casa. Estuve a punto de ir a la casa del Señor Gómez. ¿Sin embargo, a mi sorpresa, mi esposa insistió que localicemos la escuela (donde Rizal estudió)… estábamos ya en Biñán, y esto sería un buen viaje educativo para Krystal entonces, ¿cómo no?

José Mario Alas

Fast forward to today. After that first visit, I went back to that house several times. Arnaldo and I first visited the house together two years ago:

Inside the once glorious house where Rizal's mom grew up (03/28/2008).

We returned there late last year and eventually met the current owner, Gerardo “Gerry” Alberto, a distant relative of Rizal:

From left to right: Gerry Alberto, Arnaldo, and precious me. Gerry (also a native Spanish-speaker) is the son of the late Don Zoilo Alberto, the grandson of José Alberto, the brother of Rizal's mom (11/09/2009).

I even toured my family there early this year, during my son Jefe’s third birthday:

Jefe's third birthday (01/13/2010).

With the continuing existence of the Alberto Mansion at the heart of Biñán town, its cultural –as well as its people’s local– identity remains intact and secure. The Alberto Mansion is a classic example of an Antillean house, a bahay na bató. The bahay na bató is what gives Spanish Philippines its own individuality, thus differentiating her from her Latino sisters such as México, Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc. The bahay na bató, which is diminishing at a very alarming rate annually, gives us a sense of belongingness to our country no matter which part of the archipelago we go. Even if, for example, a Bicolano is stranded in Cebuano frontier, for as long as he sees a bahay na bató in another “tribal” turf, he is still at home. A Tagalog will still call Mindanáo as his domain inasmuch as these Antillean houses reign supreme in that island forever blessed by La Virgen del Pilar. I even dare say that Ilocanos can lay claim to “ancestral domain” to Sámar or Cebú or Batangas because their Vigan houses have countless relatives in those faraway areas. As the great nationalist and filipinista Guillermo Gómez Rivera put it, “architecture is another form of language”.

Aside from the Spanish language, the bahay na bató is what fuses the Filipino Identity. Furthermore, the bahay na bató physically gives form to a town’s Filipinoness. No amount of intricately designed Manny Villar or Henry Sy mansions can ever Filipinize their private subdivisions and villages as long as there are no Antillean houses within their suburbs.

In other countries, establishments of historical value –no matter how old they are– are almost regarded as sacred temples. But in this side of the world, we desecrate historical sites, whether they are houses or, worse, churches. The Alberto Mansion is no ordinary home — it is the house where the mother of our national hero lived!

In my helpless rage, I am tempted to declare that this country, particularly Biñán, is filled with mindless and heartless government officials. But as I write this, I discovered this on the net just a few moments ago…

Laguna town prevents demolition of Rizal mom’s home

The city government of Biñán in Laguna on Wednesday stopped the demolition of the 200-year-old ancestral home of the family of Teodora Alonso, mother of national hero Jose Rizal, and announced plans to acquire the property so as not to lose the city’s cultural heritage to a resort in Bataán.

The two-story house, with a floor-area of about 600 square meters, was built in the 1800s in the heart of the city opposite what is now the Biñán city hall.

The house, locally known as the Alberto Mansion, was owned by the family of José Alberto Alonso, the father of Teodora.

According to the local group United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, the current property owner Gerardo Alberto, had closed a deal to sell off the house to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, a heritage resort, in Bagac, Bataán.

It said about 20 percent of the house’s interior was already “demolished” as of this week.

“All the antique furniture were already taken out. The ceiling was also already taken off,” said Rosauro Sta. María, the group’s president and executive director, whose honorary chairman is also Biñán Mayor Marlyn Alonte-Naguíat.

Sta. María said the demolition was being carried out despite the non-issuance of a demolition permit by the city government to the property owner.

“We fully understand the plight of the Albertos—how costly it is to maintain such an old house and maybe that was why they were forced to sell it,” said Sta. María.

But Sta. María appealed to the Albertos not to take the valuable piece of heritage out of Biñán as losing it means losing the identity of the city.

“Understanding the present, means knowing the glorious past,” he said, adding that little is known about Biñán being a part of the history.

He said both Rizal’s parents, Franciso Mercado and Teodora, were natives of Biñán. The hero himself spent years in Biñán while he was in grade school.

“I asked our city engineering office to order a halt to the demolition. We have not issued them a permit for the demolition,” said Vice Mayor Arman Dimaguila in a phone interview.

He said the city council in a hearing on Thursday will discuss the mechanics of acquiring the house, which the city government could renovate to house a proposed Binan cultural affairs office.

The house was priced between P500,000 and P1 million.

“Our call is for the Albertos to heed the proposal of the city government of Biñan. If that won’t do, we are appealing to Jerry Acuzar, owner of the heritage resort, to instead donate the house to Biñán City and we will forever be indebted to him,” Sta María said.

Bryan Jason Borja, artistic director of the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, said they were organizing a cultural protest and were inviting artists and cultural workers to join their campaign against the demolition of the heritage home.

During one of my final visits to that place, Arnaldo and I were questioning Gerry Alberto’s decision to sell his forefather’s house, arguably one of the most historical sites in the country. But he told us that he’s financially helpless to support a house that someday might topple down on its own due to wear and tear. I asked him straightforward if he still wanted to save his house. He didn’t say “yes”. Rather, he said that he receives no compensation from the government.

“The government has no money!” he complained to us.

In the middle of our conversation, he suddenly handed me a printed document. It was an email conversation between a female relative of his and a noted historian. They were discussing the imminent sale of the house to Jerry Acuzar, back then a strange name to me. They were planning to have the whole Alberto Mansion dismantled and then reconstructed in his Bagac, Bataán resort. The place is called Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. It is a seaside resort where many prominent Antillean houses (including the Maxino house of Unisan, Quezon, my dad’s hometown) found all over the country are relocated.

Ivan Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society has been a staunch critic of Acuzar’s resort. In his popular travel blog, Ivan About Town, he wrote:

The main issue here is not simply the transfer but the fact that Acuzar is actively shopping for old houses, trying to woo the owners into selling their properties to him! How ironic that he mentions Scandanavia where “culture is preserved in structures.” If he was indeed to follow the example he cited, structures should remain where they are, preserved together with the environment they were built in!

This is a strong accusation. Arnaldo is actually a supporter of Acuzar’s project and had wanted to defend the controversial architect-cum-resort magnate from Ivan’s attacks. Arnaldo has good enough reason to do so. Indeed, why let old houses topple down and rot by themselves if their owners have already lost the heart (and the financial means) to maintain them? But in view of the abovementioned news article, it appears that the demolition of the Alberto Mansion was done rather deceitfully. Biñán native JC Bernardo confirmed this treachery just a few minutes ago (see screenshot below).

JC recounted that the demolition was done in the dark. The demolition started from within the house so as to avoid immediate public scrutiny! And before the local government was able to do some defensive action, the damage was already done: about 20% of the house was already desecrated!

These developments put Mr. Acuzar’s motives in question. Is his Bagac resort a haven for troubled ancestral houses? Or is Mr. Henares’ accusations true, that Acuzar is actually “shopping” for such houses, i.e., bribing beleaguered owners such as Gerry Alberto, into selling their homes that their ancestors had built and tried to preserve for future generations?

Too bad that document which Gerry gave me is still missing. It will prove to be a crucial piece to this criminal puzzle of destroying our nation’s historic jewels.

In the meantime, while there is still a standoff, I am calling all Biñenses and those Filipinos who still value our country’s patrimony to fight for Biñán’s identity!

*patios — are enclosed al fresco courtyards.
**zaguán — is where carromatas (horse-drawn carriages, the “private cars” during olden days) and floats of family icons (santos) are kept. It is made of stone. It is the equivalent of today’s garages.

Best filipino ancestral houses (Traveler On Foot)

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For today, I feature my online comrade Traveler On Foot’s choice photo collections of all the bahay na bató that he has visited in Luzón. Please click here to view these awesome Filipino houses.

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