For centuries, the Parian District of Cebu was home to the crème de la crème and founding families of the Queen City. Clustered in this historic district were the stoned-wall ground floor, wood-paneled second floor and tiled-roof ancestral houses. Sadly, only a few of these antique structures survive to this day or at least have been restored with their original configurations intact. One of them is the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House.
Restoring ancestral houses to showcase Parian’s heritage is being well attended by those with extreme passion for heritage preservation like Val San Diego, whose battle cry let us all restore the glorious past of Parian! Committed to his vow, Val restored his ancestor’s 300 hundred year old ancestral house and converted it into a lifestyle museum to showcase his teeming collection of antiques.
We entered the quaint antique house through a low entrance along Mabini Street directly to the dimly lit silong. Initially, we thought of the place to be an antique shop selling their overflowing collection of chairs and furniture until we were met by Ray, the resident museum tour guide.
Ray traced the original owners of the 18th century house to Don Juan Yap, a Chinese merchant and Doña Maria Florido. In the 1880’s, their eldest daughter married Don Mariano San Diego of Obando, Bulacan. The house served as boarding house before it was handed over to choreographer and heritage advocate Val San Diego.
The antique pieces that made it into the house seem to have been chosen for their sense of romance including an ornately carved church pew from Dalaguete, reserved only for the use of the town’s principalia and a collection of native hats hanging on a bastonera evocative of those genteel times when Don Mariano San Diego would hang his tasseled ebony cane and salakot studded with beaten sliver after attending his affairs as Parian’s cabeza de barangay.
We were asked by Ray to wear shoe socks before climbing up the wooden stairs but we preferred to explore the second floor barefoot to feel the coolness and comfort of walking on the smooth old balayong floor.
The caida has a beautiful life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin flanked by a couple of angels. The tableau is surrounded by lagang or handmade flowers painstakingly carved from a certain type pearly white shell.
We first explored the left wing of the main living quarter where the comedor intended for daily use and the adjacent silid with an over-scale four-post Ah-tay bed are located. A slatted banggera or dish rack which many would imagine is located in the kitchen was traditionally installed on a dining room window. A six-seater dining set completes this room.
The whole right wing is occupied by the sala and beyond it is another comedor used only for special occassions. The entire length of the sala has wide windows opening to the main street below. In the olden days, chairs were placed beside the window to allow residents to watch the street scenes especially religious processions.
The glorious amount of sunlight in this spacious room provides illumination to the wall mural depicting the tiled-roof houses of the Old Parian as well as to the display of vintage bottles, antique porcelain, old santos and artworks that made us salivate to have them displayed in our own home.
Looking up to the ceiling as we glide our way on the slippery old balayong floor to the next room, we wondered how the hard wood molave frame managed to hold the original tisa bricks, which we were told weighs about a kilo per brick. The second comedor has a dining table with a set of carnival glass.
It was common in the olden days to have two dining tables, one for daily use (and subject to wear and tear) and another (a more elaborate one) for special occassions. Beyond the comedor is the tea room which we imagined used for afternoon merienda. Three antique urnas each with santos watchover the round table and set of Bohol chairs and the sillon or birthing chair in one corner.
From the tea room, we had a calming view of the jardin below with its Saint Francis statue and a couple of wooden bicycles.
Before leaving the house museum, we expressed our admiration to Val Sandiego for his effort in creatively putting together the artworks, old furniture and antique pieces to recreate the lifestyle of his ancestors and for generously showcasing his collection for more people to see, smell, touch, and learn from.