The recollection was like a sepia photograph set in a steep but wide staircase of an old yet well-kept house. We stepped on a gracious caida surrounded by capiz windows to be welcomed by an old man clutching his ebony cane –this is my childhood memory set in a grandfather’s house in Concepcion, Tarlac.
The old house, by any standards was in the same league with those found in Quiapo, Malabon, San Fernando, Vigan, Pila, Taal, Sariaya, Malolos, San Miguel, Silay, Jaro, or Carcar. Well, that was a long time ago but my fascination for these antique structures has kept me probing on what’s behind the translucent capiz windows and wooden upper floors of what authorities in Filipino architecture call Bahay-na-Bato.
There are a handful of ancestral houses around country that are open to the public but some of them are now secluded by high walls away from public viewing. Rarely, we’ve been given special access to these private vintage homes but most of the time we were contented by admiring their stately facades from the street.
*Here are the best ancestral houses we visited:
I will be updating this list from time to time. Adding to the current list.
Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit
Although the historic Aguinaldo Mansion in Kawit, Cavite is far from its original wood and thatched-roof affair when the Declaration of Independence was held in one of its windows, the additions made such as the Declaration Window and the spired-tower in 1919 created a house that projects patriotism and authority.
Ilusorio Mansion, San Ildefonso
Infamously known as the Bahay na Pula, the Ilusorio Mansion stands grand and elegant along national highway in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. The house evokes the typical hacienda lifestyle of the 19th century sugar baron.
Victorian Cake House, San Miguel
Locally referred to as the “malaking bahay” or big house, the massive 1922 house of Don Catilino Sevilla in San Miguel de Mayumo Bulacan was built to impress a father-in-law. The third level housed has a spacious ballroom where the local elite would throw black tie parties during its heyday.
Luna House, Malabon
Built in the 1910s, the Luna House in flood-stricken Malabon maintains its beauty including the metal cutwork awnings and fancy grillwork in the ventanillas.
Natalio Enriquez House, Sariaya
This architectural gems in Sariaya, Quezon Province has an impressive twin-spired and brick roofing. Home to former Tayabas Governor Natalio Enriquez, it was designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Filipino Master Juan Luna.
Santos-Hizon House, San Fernando
A distinctly Victorian-style house, the Santos-Hizon House in San Fernando, Pampanga was built by the couple Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura at the turn-on-the-century. It was purchased by Maria Salome Hizon, a volunteer of the Red Cross during the Philippine Revolution.
Gala-Rodriguez Mansion, Sariaya
In the 1930s, the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements has arrived in the Philippines. In that same period, architect Juan Nakpil built the Dr. Isidro Rodriguez and Doña Gregoria Gala mansion in Sariaya, Quezon. Consistent with its Art Deco design, furnishings were custom-made befitting the house by furniture-maker Don Gonzalo Puyat.
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, Quiapo
The Bahay Nakpil-Bautista is one of the well-preserved houses in Quiapo. Designed by Arcadio Arellano for Dr. Ariston Bautista in 1914, the house motifs were inspired by the Vienesse Secession furniture given to its owners.
Apacible House, Taal
This Spanish period house was built by Maria Diokno in hilly Taal, Batangas. It was inherited by her granddaughter who married revolutionary hero Leon Apacible whose name stayed with the house. In 1938 the house was remodeled incorporating to the traditional bahay-na-bato a design that became prevalent during period –Art Deco.
Bautista Caryatid House, Malolos
A distinct house in the Kamistisuhan District of Malolos has been called the Bautista Caryatid House for its French Art Nouveau details. Built in the 1850s, it was home to the Baustista patriarch who served as secretaria de fomento of General Emilio Aguinaldo during the revolution.
Paciano House, Los Baños
A modest American bungalow, the house of Don Paciano Rizal was built in 1927 by Don Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of master painter Juan Luna.
Dizon-Hizon House, San Fernando
Currently owned by Archdiocese of Pampanga, the Archdiocesan Chancery was the former residence of Luis Wenceslao Dizon and Felisa Hizon. It was designed by architect Fernando H. Ocampo and was completed in the mid-1930s.
Casa Gorordo, Cebu
Located in Cebu’s parian district, the 1863 house served as home to Cebu’s first bishop Juan Gorordo. The bishop’s villa was restored in 1985 as Casa Gorordo under the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation. Architect Augusto Villalon revived the traditions of the bahay-na-bato of having a stone-walled ground floor, second floor living quarters and the clay-tiles patio running the length of the house beside the family quarters.
Agoncillo House, Taal
Built in 1896, it was in this all-white bahay-na-bato where first Filipino diplomat Felipe Agoncillo and sewer of the first Filipino flag Marcel Agoncillo resided. A restored relic of the revolutionary days in the heritage town of Taal, Batangas, the Agoncillo house has stunning furniture enclosed by wall to wall of first class narra and molave wood.
Bahay na Tisa, Carcar
Touted to be the first stone structure in Carcar, Cebu, this ancestral house dates back to the 1850s. The house went through restoration work in 1989 and was renamed as Bahay na Tisa –after the original brick-tile roofing –tisa.
Fule-Malvar Mansion, San Pablo
In 1915, Eusebia Fule and Potenciano Malvar built this elaborate mansion in San Pablo Laguna in Romantic-Classicism style. The Fule-Malvar Mansion hosted distinguished guests like Presidents Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña. It was acquired in 1988 by the Philippine American Life Insurance Company which undertook the restoration and refurbishment in 1990.
Pamintuan Mansion, Angeles
Located along the intersection of the old streets of Angeles, Pampanga is the historic Pamintuan Mansion. Constructed around 1890 by Mariano Pamintuan, the elaborate mansion became the official residence of General Emilio Aguinaldo during the waning years of the revolutionary government. It was in this house where General Antonio Luna drew up the plans for the defense of Pampanga against the Americans. In 1901, Arthur MacArthur and members of his company occupied the house. Today, the mansion houses Central Bank’s regional clearing office.
Syquia Mansion, Vigan
The Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Ilocos Sur was the ancestral house of Doña Alicia Syquia-Quirino wife of the 6th President of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino. The house became official residence of President Quirino and it is claimed to be the first Malacanang of the North. Antique furniture and opulent display of European decor is all around the house. Replicas of Juan Luna’s Spolarium and Pacto de Sangre as well as the extict Peuple et Rois (People and the Kings) hang on the walls painted by Luna’s assistant Respal.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, Cebu
The two-story Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House was built sometime between 1675 and 1700 in Cebu’s parian district. It belonged to the family of Doña Maria Yap who married Don Mariano Sandiego, a cabeza de barangay, in the late 1880s.
Legarda Mansion, Manila
The Legarda House in the San Miguel district of old Manila was one of the first Art Deco houses built in the city. Constructed in 1937 by Don Alejandro Legarda and Doña Filomena Roces vda de Legarda, the family matriarch has been famous for throwing lavish parties where sumptuous traditional family recipes were presented to their guess. Celebrating the tradition of great dining experience, the private abode of the Legardas was opened to the public as Cocina de Tita Moning.
Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
Don Eulalio Villavicencio was a ship captain who owned an imposing pre-1850 bahay-na-bato on the northern slope of Taal town. We know this today as Casa Villavicencio. As a lavish wedding present to his wife Gliceria, he built another house on the same street, a few meters away from his ancestral house –This is the 1871 Villavicencio Wedding Gift House.
Although the wedding gift house has the same architectural elements of houses built during that period, we find its look and feel to be more cheerful and feminine than the adjacent ancestral house.
Casa de Segunda
Still existing on Calle Rizal in Lipa is the Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House also known as Casa de Segunda.
This bahay-na-bato was built in the 1880’s. It was time when Lipa was envied by other towns in the country for its wealth. This unparalleled prosperity came to this Batangas town when coffee producing countries in Europe and the Americas were infested and Lipa became the world’s sole supplier of coffee bean.
Art Deco Luis Santos House
This art deco house in the Kamistisuhan District of Malolos belonged to Dr. Luis Santos. According to the book Filipino Style, this house traces the 1930s transition from the Art Nouveau to fanciful Art Deco. Interior features Amorsolo painting on the ceilings, sun-patterns on the floor, relief and paintings of nymphs on the transoms.