Yap San Diego Ancestral House

Cebu Yap-Sandiego House

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego cabeza de barangay

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego capiya

Cebu Yap-Sandiego bastonero

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego Caida

Cebu Yap-Sandiego laggang

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego Comedor

Cebu Yap-Sandiego bangera

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego sala windows

Cebu Yap-Sandiego antiques

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego comedor major

Cebu Yap-Sandiego birthing chair

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.

Cebu Yap-Sandiego House Parian

Cebu Yap-Sandiego garden

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.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hi! I’m a student in Cebu. I would like to know how would i be able to contact the administrator of the Yap-San Diego Ancestral house. Our class would be having a tour and we do hope to include the Yap-San Diego Ancestral house to the places we will be visiting. We wish to get a glimpse of how well- to- do people from the Spanish era live.

  2. I was in Cebu last quarter of last year for an assignment but wasn’t able to enter the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House. Thanks to your post, it’s like I was able to go into the house and explore its richness. I agree with Sidney — we need more houseowners who are, aside from the wherewithal to preserve such a house, are conscious of preserving a piece of our heritage.

    • Well said lagalog.

  3. Wow ! We need more people like him in the Philippines!
    Great house ! Nice owner !

    • Hi Sidney! good to hear from you again.

  4. Hi TOF, Mr. San Diego is a fortunate man to have all those beautiful antiques from his family past! Better yet, to be generous enough to share his ancestral origins with all who want to see it by making it into a museum.
    Nowadays, living in a house with so many antiques would give me a headache and feeling that I was living in a museum, but ohh if only to be able to pick and choose just a couple of these items to place in your home for a piece of living history… Everything does look so romantic…

    • I agree queeniebee. We love antiques for our home but we don’t want to live in a house that feels like a museum.

      I believe that the antique pieces in the Yap-San Diego House were recent acqusitions. The owner wanted to recreate the lifestyle of his ancestors. However, not all serious collectors would allow the people to touch their collection since it might get damaged hence losing its value. But Mr. San Diego sees it differently and i think has a higher purpose in collecting antiques. He wants the people to learn from them. Cool.


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