A quick glance at the 1877 Don Jose Bautista House gives the first impression that it is not the usual bahay-na-bato. While the ground floor with its arched double door is typical of houses built during the colonial period, the second floor decoration isn’t. The main feature there is the famed female caryatids on the house’s street façade which was a rare feature found in colonial houses.
This ancestral house-turned museum is located in the Kamistisuhan District of Malolos, where a number of ancestral houses serve as reminders not just of the affluent lifestyle of the landed Filipino-Chinese families but also the struggles of Filipino patriots in achieving independence from foreign rule during the colonial period.
Built in 1855, the Jose Bautista House was reconstructed in the Neoclassical style in 1877. It played host to important Manila-based visitors including Dr. Jose Rizal.
A painting in the caida just above the grand staircase depicts the historical meeting in June of 1892 when Jose Rizal visited Malolos to present to Don Jose and two prominent Bulakenyos about his plan of organizing the La Liga Filipina. Rizal was arrested and was banished to Dapitan days after the meeting took place.
During the Malolos Republic, the house served as the office of the Secretaria de Fomento or Ministry of Interior Affairs. After Don Jose’s passing, the house has been used in different occasions as municipal hall, primary school, and Japanese barracks.
In the 1970s, well-known set designer, writer/historian, antique collector, and descendant of the Don Jose, Basilidez “Dez” Bautista restored his ancestor’s grand mansion.
The area that used to contain two bedrooms has been transformed into a lavishly decorated sala major where Dez fittingly displayed his collection of antiques and ornate furniture.
The locally sourced period furniture like the Carlos Trese set, mariposa sofa and matching butacas were not part of the original house but the formal arrangement of these colonial furnishings in main living room evoke the era when the dons ruled the town with aristocratic fervor.
Red walls and floral patterns highlight the elaborately-framed paintings on the walls and ceiling. One painting on the ceiling shows the goddess of harvest.
Artworks on the walls include works on paper and canvas by Fernando Amorsolo, Lorenzo Guerrero, and Felix Ressureccion-Hidalgo.
A replica of Hidalgo’s La Banca presides in the main living room. This controversial Hidalgo painting, possibly depicting a creek in Makati near the artist’s vacation house is now owned by antique collector Teyet Pascual.
To the left of the caida is the formal comedor with its long hardwood table and a pair of plateras. A wide walled-in verandah on one side of the comedor provides cross-ventilation.
Beyond the formal dining area is the informal comedor used for daily meals and beyond that is the cocina then the azotea.
At one side of the caida, to the back of the staircase is a small but opulently-decorated oratorio filled with century old santos that are placed on carrozas during religious procession.
This large collection of different religious statues is something expected from someone like Dez who has shared his knowledge and expertise in coffee table books he has co-authored like Cuaresma and Filipino Style.
Filled with great stories of the past and beautifully preserved, the Don Jose Bautista House of Malolos continues to link generations of Filipinos to their historical and cultural legacies. Future plans for the ancestral house include a revamped garden for wedding receptions and other social events.
For now, Dez continues to share his passion for culture and history through his Bulacan Heritage Tours. Aside from touring ancestral houses in Malolos and selected Bulacan towns, participants are treated to heirloom Bulacan recipes and period meals. For more information call Dez Bautista at 0915.989.73.33.