The Heritage Street in Carcar is lined with well-preserved colonial houses but we can only view them from the roadside and imagine what‘s beyond those firmly-shut wooden door and translucent capiz windows. But there is one ancestral house that took us by surprise. Like an onion, Bahay na Tisa, slowly revealed its different layers and open itself to us as we went to see what’s inside an 1859 ancestral house.
Touted as the oldest stone residential structure in Carcar, the current structure was restored bit by bit by interior designer Manny Castro after it was designated for demolition in 1989. When it was open to the public, the house was given a name after the original brick-tile roofing locally called tisa.
We entered the house through the back stairs directly to the service patio or the azotea. Originally intended as an area for slaughtering fowl, laundry, bathing, and other watery activities, the azotea was converted into a quaint garden with potted plants and a butaca or lounging chair.
The azotea is connected to the cocina. A nostalgic ambience is recreated by the slatted banggera to match the slatted floor of the cocina as well as the beautiful Baliuag-style pamingganan, a beautiful kitchen cabinet with slats for doors and sides and embelished with bone inlay.
We emerged from the cocina into a warm and inviting comedor that features a mandatory long dining table and rustic benches. There are antique ivory santos encased in glass capsule that provide impressive accents to the side tables situated at the corners.
Beyond the long table is a smaller round table with a five-piece solohiya chairs and behind it is a imposing vajilera crowned by an elaborately carved woodwork. This particular display cabinet was for showing off a collection of fine crystals when they were not set on the dining table.
From the comedor we entered the adjacent bedroom that contained four-poster beds. One particular bed was populary known as the Ah-Tay bed. This four-poster bed was a status symbols during the colonial era.
The elite wanted their beds carved with embellishments. This bedroom furniture was named after a Chinese artisan who often incorporate baroque leaves and flowers, calabasa feet, art nouveau swirls and Prince of Wales feathers into his creations.
We left the bedroom and walked on the alternating dark balayong and light molave flooring of the second floor living quarters. Then we entered the sala via a narrow double door draped with heavy lace curtains.
The sala features a gamut of interesting artifacts including a mariposa sofa or so named after the flowing butterfly-shaped back adapted from the Victorian sofa. At the back of the mariposa sofa are religious stautes in ivory and different family artifacts on a large mesa altar. An Art Nouveau frame by the wall containing a portrait of a family matriarch is flanked by heirloom portraits protected by convex glass.
We found several Luis Ac-ac sculpture around the house including a set depicting a rural family with their carabao which we actually saw Mang Luis were creating in his workshop during one of our visits in Paete.
Looking up, we noticed the stamped tin celing recreated in the sala. We thought of to be made up of tiles pressed from tin and painted off-white to give the appearance of molded plaster which was a common in English manors.
From the sala, we entered the adjacent room. The focal point in this room is the Art Nouveau picture frame. Furniture makers in the 1930’s would whittle Art Nouveau frames to match chairs, bed frame or cabinet. These frames are characterized by native flora like the sampaguitas, ilang-ilang blossoms and anahaw palms, scrolls, ink quills and female outline with flowing hair.
Before leaving, we were told that the owner of the house is coming over from Manila to attend the town fiesta. He is expected to bring with him some friends perhaps to allow them to experience the same surprises revealed to us at Bahay na Tisa.