Sulyap Gallery Cafe

Sulyap Gallery and Cafe

CHANGING ADDRESS. Search for the image of Bayanihan in the Internet and be surprised how a group of able-bodied men carry an entire house on their backs and shoulders. In the olden days, all that’s needed to change address, the entire house included are neighbors and friends.

Is this concept of bayanihan applies the same to the practice of uprooting ancestral houses including its furniture from their historic locations and native communities? Assuming arguendo that this practice violates our heritage preservation law, let’s look at the museum artifacts and the transplanted bahay-na-bato in the compound of Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant and weigh in on the subject of heritage preservation versus the removal and rebuilding of old structures and the collecting of antiques and cultural artifacts.

Sulyap Casa Alitagtag

Sulyap Resto

TRANSPLANTING HERITAGE. Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant was borne out from the passion of its owner in collecting Philippine antique furniture and deteriorating ancestral houses. In a vast private compound in San Pablo City, he opened his ‘collection’ to the public so that new generations can experience sitting on antique furniture while dining in an ancestral bahay-na-bato just like how it were in the past.

This practice of acquiring antiques, transplanting ancestral houses and clustering them in a venue where the public is encouraged to interact with objects from the past is in a way providing a sanctuary that preserves our cultural patrimony and architectural heritage away from the bonfires of progress.

Sulyap Casa Obando

Sulyap Obando house

HACIENDA HOUSE. Casa de Obando must have been a bahay-na-bato that once stood in the middle of a vast plantation that has now turned into a residential subdivision in Bulacan. It has details of a house meant for tropical conditions. It is  surrounded by capiz sliding windows that can be opened wide for ventilation and to see full vistas. Screened with balusters are small shuttered windows below the capiz windows called ventanillas. Extended eaves and media aguas above the windows shields the interior against the rain.

Guests to Sulyap Cafe can rent out the entire Casa de Obando to experience what is like living in a hacienda house in the olden days.


Sulyap Caida

CASA DE CABAY. The 1907 house from the town of Cabay in Quezon Province has stone walls on the ground floor and an all-wood second floor. The wide windows are embellished with stained glass and wood tracery patterns.

Period furniture completes the old world setting of Casa de Cabay where guests are served with comfort food that makes us nostalgic for those weekend lunches in grandma’s home.

Sulyap Museum

Sulyap Gallery Museum

THAT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM. Also within the Sulyap Gallery Cafe compound is a private museum that houses a massive collection of Philippine antiques. The museum is open for public viewing. The museum artifacts ranging from farm implements to household furniture are spilled in different rooms at no particular theme or classification.

Ultimately, this private collection of antiques and artifacts is an interpretation of the famous line from Indiana Jones: ‘that belongs in a museum!’

EPILOGUE.  While I strongly disagree with the removal of heritage structures from their historic locations and native communities like how a beach resort in Bataan has done it, I admire those individuals who spent time and resources to preserve, restore and made tremendous effort in providing shelter and care to tangible pieces of our heritage.

In this day and age when the past is sometimes forgotten, putting up museum that gives us a Sulyap -a glimpse to our past is in essence a demonstration of bayanihan for the sake of heritage preservation.

-Heritage Month | Penticost Sunday 2015

Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante studio

The earth is revolving and all things broken will always transform into something good.

This statement is from a text message sent to me by artist Ral Arrogante after exchanging personal stories about life and relationships one afternoon in his studio.

Ral Arrogante bangka

Ral Arrogante works

When pieces of junk shop-finds like copper wires, aluminum sheets, parts of broken gadgets get into the hands of Ral, they are transformed into works of art whose images and themes have become the artist’s trademark in the local art world.

Fashioned from aluminum sheets and copper wires are miniature Badjao houses on stilts, house boats, food carts on wheels, dragonflies and beetles.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante scrap copper

These imaginative creations that were put together from non-traditional medium for sculpture are just some of Ral’s favorites subjects and of those who admire his meticulous works.

Like his favorite medium, Ral took different corporate jobs after college that have no relation to his art before becoming a full-time artist at age 42. Today he is a respected artist who leads the Society of Philippine Sculptors and an active leader of the Art Association of the Philippines.

Ral Arrogante Don Quixote

Ral Arrogante Chinese junk rig

Ral’s workshop is located in three rooms of a multi-level parking space where he stores his junk shop finds side-by-side with his coveted creations. In one room, Ral showed us a Chinese junk with delicate sails made of copper sheets and a food cart on wheels made of recycled aluminum sheet used for printing broadsheets.

Ral thoughtfully works on copper and brass to fit his art because they don’t rust.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante fish

While the paint brush is for a painter, the chisel is for a wood sculptor, pliers, hammers, and scissors that come in different sizes and purpose are Ral’s main tools. In all his works, he uses his hands in twisting and bending copper and aluminum sheets, stitching pieces tight together using copper wires.

Attached in every artwork is a thin copper sheet where he assigns a number stamp to track his works and engraves his signature.

Ral Arrogante artworks

Ral started doing art as a kid. He created his first assemblage out of discarded objects he finds at home.

In another text message he said: I see myself in Joaquin, wanting to play with things that adults may not necessarily understand. Thanks again. -Ral

-Eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday | Eastertide 2015

Rovi Salegumba

Aside from aesthetic purposes, it is believe that art in whatever form whether through music or literature has healing powers.  In the words of Pablo Picasso, Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Throwback 2012. It is a terrible time for me and my son. Our hearts are broken when I requested a painting from artist Rovi Jesher Salegumba.

Rovi did not turn us down. In two months, he invited us to his studio to see the painting he made for us. From a narrow alley in Cubao, Rovi’s unfinished pieces can be seen from the street. He set his tropical-inspired studio above the garage.

Rovi revealed that his surreal human and animal forms were inspired by the creatures from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. He uses impasto technique to achieve a three-dimensional rendering into his works.

That afternoon in Rovi’s studio, the artist showed us how to play a traditional Cambodian instrument called the Tro that he got from his travels. Rovi also played a violin.The vibrating melody from the string instruments compliments the look and feel of his art and studio -serene and uplifting.

Before leaving, Rovi sent us a signed copy of the Alamat ng Duhat written by Segundo Matias Jr. Rovi did the illustration for this Palanca award-winning children’s book.

The painting that Rovi created for us depicts the mythical bird known as the Ibong Adarna. According to legends, the songs from this magical bird cures all ills.

The Ibong Adarna painting has an exclusive place in our home and every time I look at it, it reminds me that our sadness has been healed and happiness in our hearts has been restored -the healing power of art.

Published in: on February 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Garapata Exhibit at the Collective

Garapata Exhibit at the Collective

Every living creature on the face of the earth deserves to be immortalized in art. For the creator of the Garapata Man, the blood-sucking crawler is no exception. This round, multi-legged, puffy-eyed character has become an urban icon.

We were first introduced to the Garapata Man and its creator at the Escolta Saturday Market. When we asked the artist why he chose the garapata as the subject for his art, he directs us to the social reality of Filipinos that like the garapata – ‘kahit saang sulok ng mundo may Pinoy na makikita.’

Garapata Exhibit at the Collective 2013

Garapata Exhibit 2013

We took part in the opening of the Garapata Exhibit at The Collective last Saturday. For this exhibit, the gallery has been transformed into a hive where the crawlers were all over walls and are scattered in random corners as functional stools and wooden pieces of art.

Spectators watched a video showing how the wooden pieces were individually carved.

Garapata Exhibit Collective


During our walks around the city, we’ve seen the garapata icon on bus seats, streetlamps, food carts, and sometimes in unexpected spaces. But while the garapata continues to become part of the urban streetscape, it is gradually evolving into something functional. For now, sling bags, t-shirts, coloring books, necklace pendants or keychain, and wooden stools are available.

There is something to look forward to on what the creator of the garapata will think of next.

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Furniture and Furnishings in Filipino Ancestral Houses

Furniture and furnishing in an Ancestral House

Entering a well-preserved Filipino Ancestral House is like boarding a time machine. Our generation is fortunate because heirs of these remaining antique houses have made tremendous effort in preserving and opening up their ancestor’s dwellings for us to experience the past and learn from it.

So when traveling back in time through ancestral houses, avoid getting lost by knowing about the things to see in a fully furnished bahay-na-bato.

Bautista House

Rooms in Ancestral houses

Rooms in a typical 19th century ancestral house consists of a caida, the sala mayor, comedor, oratorio, cuartos, cocina, and azotea. These rooms are located on the second floor living quarters.  Some houses have mezzanines or entresuelo that have function rooms like the despacho and a couple of guest rooms. The ground floor with the zaguan that looks like a dungeon serves as parking space for the family carriage and carrozas, and storage for farming supplies and sacks of produce. It also houses the stable or cuadra for the horses.

The following is a list of common furniture and furnishings found in each room of a bahay-na-bato.  Those who want to recreate the look and feel of an ancestral house in their own home may also find this checklist helpful:


1. Caida (Receiving room): A hat and cane rack or bastonero, a grandfather’s clock, framed portraits of the landlord and his lady, a round marble topped center table, an escritorio or desk, and ceramic Chinese stands with potted plants.

The Villavicencio Wedding Gift House in historic Taal has these furniture in the first three steps landing of the staircase called descanso and in their caida.

Sala mayor

2. Sala Mayor (Main living room):  A large crystal chandelier, a marble topped center table, smaller than the one in the caida, oval or rectangular side tables or consolas, small tables or mesitas, a mariposa sofa or divan, a set of caned chairs, lounging chairs like the sillas frailuna and perezosa and butacas, rocking chairs or kolumpyo, Vienna bentwood chairs, a pair of high chairs by the window, a piano and a harp, landscape paintings and Venetian mirrors, porcelain vases and bronze statues on pedestals, and a gramophone, which gives the set a modern feel the equivalent of a LED TV in the living room today.

Grouped in the crowded sala major of the Jose Bautista House in the Kamistisuhan District of Malolos are furniture in different styles.

Bahay nakpil-bautista dining room

3. Comedor (Dining room): Mesa or a very long rectangular table for 10 to 36 sitters with matching dining chairs, a toothpick holder and the epergne cast in silver as table centerpiece, an unusually tall glass fronted display cabinet with for porcelain plates and glassware called the vajillera, display cabinets for silverware called the aparador de platera, a serving table or trinchante, one or two overhead cloth fan called the punkah, wooden divider or persiana where the operator of the punkah hides, and a gong.

The original owners of 1914 Bahay-Nakpil Bautista in Quiapo built a ‘house’ to match the Viennese Secession dining set furniture given to them as a gift.


4. Oratorio (Prayer room): Life-size saint’s statues, kneelers, a mesa altar, a carved altar to enshrine the saint’s statues of wood or ivory, statuettes or a diorama of a biblical scene incased in a virina, a crucifix with ivory corpus and silver trimmings, relicarios in silver filigree with relics of saint, silver candelabras, prayer books in silver frame or casing.

House museums like Casa Gorordo in the Parian District of Cebu and Casa Manila in Intramuros have formal altars in their oratorio.


5. Cuarto (Bedroom): a four poster cama, a massive aparador with mirrored doors surmounted by a crown of fretted work, a chest of drawers or a low two-door cabinet called the comoda decorated with bone inlay, a baul, a ropero for dirty clothes, a lavadera or a freestanding wash basin, a pillow rack or almario, a dresser with mirror called the painadora or a full length mirror with two adjustable side mirrors called the tremor.

See how the descendants of Segunda Katigbak arranged their matriach’s cuarto in Casa de Segunda in Lipa.


6. Cocina (Kitchen): A slatted wooden cupboard or paminggalan, a nivera or ice-chest, a kitchen table with matching plain backless benches or bankos, over-sized clay pots and metal kawas, pans and chocolatera in beaten copper, different baskets, a coal powered flat iron called the prensa, and cookie mold made of wood.

The Casa Villavicencio in Taal maintained their cocina just like how it looks a century ago, complete with a bulbous pugon, palayoks, garapons, etc.


7. Azotea (Service kitchen): Wicker chairs, several tapayan or clay water jars, a cast iron bathtub, and potted plants.

Bahay na Tisa in Carcar, Cebu has charming azotea that is perfect for al fresco dining.


8. Zaguan: Gallinera or bench with a built-in chicken coop underneath or a much longer bench with backrest, resembling a church pew called the capiya

There is a calesa parked in the zaguan of the Leon Apacible House in Taal.


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