When I was a kid, I would give my playmate friends a tour of my parent’s house as if it were a museum. It was a house built in the 70s with dark wood varnished walls, crazy-cut marble and parquet flooring, heavy wall-to-wall curtain and customized upholstered furniture, and a main hallway that some of my friends call the ‘tunnel.’ The highlight of my ‘so-called tour’ is revealing a secret door that connects the servant quarter to the main hallway. The house was incredible for a kid.
I developed my fondness for old vintage and pre-loved objects when my parents sold the house. I became sentimental. Perhaps it is that same sentimentality why gentleman farmer and antique collector Vicente Roman ‘Mike’ Santos led an ambitious task of moving their 1917 ancestral house piece-by-piece from flood-stricken Navotas to a private subdivision high-up in the hills of Antipolo.
We first learned about the Don Roman Santos House from the book Tahanan, A House Reborn. The book tells stories about the house’s original dwellers, businessman Don Roman R. Santos and his family and the rich memories of the generations that lived in the house when it was still in Navotas.
And as the title suggest, the book documents the painstaking effort of uprooting and rebuilding the Santos ancestral house from Navotas to Antipolo.
The imposing Don Roman Santos House was built in 1917. It was the American Period. A time in our history when the fad in architecture was an eclectic mix of historic styles from tropical Baroque with stylized Art Nouveau elements to blending Neoclassical with Art Deco design. The Santos house has these elements.
The three-storied Santos ancestral house has parts of a traditional bahay-na-bato only made modern with the entrada principal that opens to the yard or solar instead to the main street. The main staircase leads to the caida where Mike signed our copy of the book next to a smiling portrait of his great grandfather, Don Roman Santos.
The furniture and furnishings in the sala mayor and comedor were a mix of recently acquired antiques and original heirloom pieces. There is a large bust of the patriarch commissioned by Guillermo Tolentino for the Don Roman Santos Building in Escolta, portraits by Fernando Amorsolo and a painting attributed to Juan Arceo, centuries-old Baliuag-style mesa altar and so many others that Mike fittingly displays to match the look and feel of living in the Santos house during the olden days.
According to Mike, the house is much grander now compared to when it was in Navotas. The house was decaying in Navotas so instead of demolishing the house and salvaging its parts to refit into a totally new house, the family decided to rebuild it somewhere.
However, he laments that with the transfer of the house, it lost its sense of becoming part of its original community. ‘The Don Roman Santos Ancestral House belongs to a neighborhood in Navotas, ‘says a sentimental Mike Santos.
- Heritage Month 2014