Heritage of Cebu Monument (Cebu City, Cebu)

Heritage of Cebu Monument

The Heritage of Cebu Monument, a visually and contextually interesting tableau of concrete, bronze, brass and steel sculptures in the historic Parian District, shows scenes of significant and symbolic events in the history of Cebu back from the time of Rajah Humabon to the recent beatification of the Cebuano martyr, Pedro Calungsod.

Battle of Mactan

It was built on the site of the St. John the Baptist Church which was demolished in 1875 by the diocese of Cebu.  This work of art stands on a traffic circle, with narrow streets flanking the sides. Across the street is the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House.

Check out “Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

Galleon Trade

The late, multi-awarded Cebuano sculptor Eduardo Castrillo designed and conceptualized the monument and, with the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, together with donations from other private individuals and organizations, funded the construction of the monument.

Plaque

Construction began in July 1997 and, after three years, the monument was inaugurated on December 8, 2000.

Magellan’s Cross

The structures carved into the huge monolith are the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the St. John the Baptist Church, the Magellan’s Cross, and a Spanish Galleon while scenes depicted are the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his followers to Christianity, the local revolution against the Spanish rule, a procession of the Santo Niño, a Roman Catholic mass, and the April 21, 1521 Battle of Mactan between Lapu-Lapu and Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The persons depicted in the monument include the late president Sergio Osmena Sr. and St. Pedro Calungsod.

Spanish Galleon

Heritage of Cebu Monument: Sikatuna St., Plaza Parian, Cebu City, Cebu.

How to Get There: Jeepneys along Colon Street, with the signboard showing “SM” and “Pier,” pass by the monument. You may also take a taxicab as most drivers are familiar with the place. From Ayala Center or SM, it is a 15-20 min. taxi ride.

The Jesuit House (Cebu City, Cebu)

The author at The Jesuit House

The grand opening of One Central Hotel & Suites had just ended and, as we still had a little over an hour to make it to the Jesuit House (claimed to be the oldest dated house in the Philippines), Rona, Rhea and I took a taxi to quickly get there. However, the driver only spoke Cebuano, which none of us spoke, and, coupled with that, didn’t know the destination.  But, thanks to Waze, we were able to make our way there.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: One Central Hotel & Suites

The entrance to the Jesuit House (also called Museo de Parian sa Sugbo) was through the main gate of Ho Tong Hardware along Zulueta Street. A streamer, with the words “Welcome To The Jesuit House of 1730,” hangs on the hardware gate. Most people, including us, would probably  have just passed by the area, ignorant of the historical treasure inside as a towering fence, built to protect it from theft (it still is a warehouse for the present owner’s business),  hides the house from street view.

At the office, we paid the admission fee and waited, at the adjoining coffee shop, for museum curator Christian Joseph Bonpua who was to guide us through the museum. The knowledgeable and versatile Christian was well versed in the history of the Jesuits in relation to the Philippines (considering he was a graduate of the Dominican-run University of Sto. Tomas), sharing a lot of historical and current facts. 

Museum curator Christian Joseph Bonpua

He  presented a birds eye view of the history of the Jesuit house during the Spanish and American periods of history via a video presentation.  The Jesuit House is actually two houses connected by a bridge.

“Ano de 1730” plaque atop the entrance (photo: Ms. Rhea Vitto-Tabora)

During our guided tour, Christian pointed to a low relief plaque, bearing the date “Año 1730,” on the inside wall above the main house’s entrance door, an artifact in itself. However, the house’s history remains murky, even contentious.  Some historians argue over the exact year of the house’s construction, some saying that the date on the relief plaque was not 1730 but 1750, pointing out that the third number from the left resembled “5” more than “3.” One piece of evidence hints that the house was built even earlier.

Airconditioned ground floor gallery

In his book Pictorial Records and Traces of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines and Guam prior to 1768, published in 1936, Fr. William Repetti, S.J. (1884-1966), a seismologist (he was Chief of the Section of Seismology and Terrestrial Magnetism of the Manila Observatory, 1920 to 1936) and archivist of the Jesuits, noted the existence of this house, identifying this old structure as the “Jesuit House of 1730.”

It is also widely believed that a tower once stood beside the house. An old, badly damaged painting of the house showed that it was attached to what is believed to be a watchtower for spotting seafaring raiders. In his book, Fr. Repetti also included a reproduction of this old painting of the house. Today, pictures of Fr. Repetti’s visit as well as a framed drawing of that painting hangs on the Jesuit house wall.

However, recent restoration works proved that the house could even be older than 1730. A coin, found buried in one post of the original house, was dated to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).  Broken ceramics, also pointing to the Ming Dynasty, were also dug out.

Display of pottery shards

It gives the idea that the house may have gone through a number of transformations and that its first owner may  have been Chinese (the Chinese were among the early settlers in the area). In her book Life in Old Parian, memoirist Concepcion G. Briones happily noted that the house has now come full circle – somehow it is back to Old Parian hands (as the current owner is Filipino-Chinese).

Japanese porcelain shards

Chinese influence in the house construction can be seen in rafters that feature a design resembling a pagoda plus the intricate carvings on the trusses also show that Chinese artisans may have worked on it.  Sy believes the Jesuit house is even older than the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House because its second level, like the ground floor, is still made of cut coral stones, indicating it was built before a Spanish decree disallowed this practice.

Statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The decree, indicating that the second level of all houses should be made of wood, was made to prevent the loss of life after a number of houses using coral stone on both floors were destroyed and many lives were lost during a strong earthquake.

Check out “Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

The remarkably preserved house, sitting on around 2,000 sq. m. of land, served as the residence of the second highest official of the Jesuit society in the Philippines.  Other priests of the order or deacons going to or coming from other provinces for missions were also received here. Historians say that the Jesuits were indeed in possession of the house until 1768 when, following their suppression in Europe, they were expelled from the Philippines. The Jesuits are credited to have introduced masonry construction to the Philippines.

Old movie projector

In 1910, after having been built and occupied by the Jesuits, this huge stone-and-tile mansion bordered by two streets on a lot in old Panting, adjacent to Parian, was bought by Don Luis Alvarez y Diaz, the Alvarez family patriarch.  The Alvarez family, originally from Asturias (Spain), settled in Cebu via Lawis, Leyte.

Scaled model of a Chinese junk

Who Don Luis brought it from is still mystery but, based on a lead provided by Edwina Link-Harris (Don Luis’ granddaughter), it is surmised that it may have been from Don Cristobal Garcia, a Spaniard and a Tabacalera agent of the then municipality of Cebu who returned to Spain. At one point in time, Don Jose Alvarez leased the house to Gov. Sergio Osmeña who used it as a meeting place for Cebu’s elite. The Alvarez family are the current owners of Montebello Villa Hotel.

Diorama of the the old Parian area, showing the now non-existent Church of St. John the Baptist, the Jesuit House and other landmarks.

During World War II, the house was also used by the American forces.  In the 1960s, the house was leased to Peping “Jap” Rodriguez, an Alvarez kinsman, for use as a club. Within the decade it again changed hands, this time going to the Sy family. Jaime “Jimmy” Sy, the current owner, inherited the property from his father.  Jimmy, who operates Ho Tong Hardware, is married to the former Margie Vaño of the Old Guard, related to the Sanson-Velosos, the Coromina-Fortiches, and the Escaños.

Stairs to second floor

Dr. Michael Cullinane (associate director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies), an American historian on the Philippines, has a different version of the house’s history. Unearthing the earliest record on the house, he revealed that it once belonged to the pious Villa family of the Chinese mestizo principalia (local aristocracy). Around 1880, the Villas gave the house to the Jesuits on certain conditions, including one on the dedication of specific prayers for living and dead members of the family.

Azotea

Jimmy questioned this claim, saying that, even before 1880, the house was already in the possession of the Jesuits as indicated on the Jesuit seals, carved in two separate places in the house, which are definitely in the 18th-century style, as well as the legend “1730,” which is definitely in 18th-century calligraphy. Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ, a Jesuit art historian and professor based at the Ateneo de Manila, supports Jimmy on his contention as the Jesuit presence in Cebu was not reestablished until the erection of Our Lady Queen of China, Sacred Heart Parish in 1952, debunking the 1880 deed.

The two-storey house, along the defunct main entrance on narrow Binakayan Street, has cut coral stone walls with original molave (tugas) hardwood floors of alternating planks of dark and light shades, carved decorative corbels that support the ceiling, stout posts made from the trunks of trees, and a terracotta clay tile roof (a double row of tiles, with each row with a tile atop the other, facing down and cupped by a single tile facing up in the kulob-hayang pattern).

Antique sala set and television

The ground-level interior space (zaguan) has terracotta flooring.  It has 3 m. high ceilings and big door and window openings. Its second floor is connected, by a covered wooden walkway, to a smaller house.  The smaller house is the building we entered. A bipartite building, the smaller house’s lower storey is of coralline limestone while the upper portion is wood, typical of Fil-Hispano colonial houses.

Antique cash register

Antique typewriter, cameras and telephones

According to a 1989 essay written by Fr.  Javellana, the smaller house is believed to have served as an azotea or recreation area.  Another possible explanation, according to Sy, for why this structure was built separately but close to the main house and connected to it at the second level through a wooden bridge, is that it could have functioned as a kitchen situated outside of the house in case of fire.

Jukebox

This house annex, though still retaining its original wood reliefs, the corbels that support the ceiling, the huge, uncut tugas posts and big planks of tugas floorboards lined side by side, already has a galvanized iron roof and renovated modern walls. The presence of disjointed smaller corbels indicates that the ceiling was much higher today than when it was first built.

Tugas (molave) post and coralstone wall at second floor

The original wooden staircase leading up to the livable space on the second floor, described by Fr. Repetti as having a newel post and decorated with intricate carvings or motifs (similar to the monastery of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño), is also gone. It is said that, when they left, the Alvarez family brought the banister and post with them and used these in a house they had built in Bohol.

A towering concrete fence, resting on the original fence of coral stone (said to be older than the house), hides the house from street view. The original entrance to the property, through a narrow road called Binakayan near Colon, has been closed off to protect, on the gate’s lintel, the monograms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Though the Sys do not live in the house anymore, they turned the house into a semi-public museum in 2008, making it as a repository of antique furniture and other items (including a jukebox, old GE electric fan and an antique payphone) they’ve collected over the years, thus preserving it as a testament to Cebu’s rich cultural heritage.

Kitchen

In addition to the antiques collected by the Sy family, the museum also features a diorama showing the house during the Spanish era as well as the old furniture owned by the previous owners and items (Ming Dynasty coins, pottery shards, animal bones, etc.) that were unearthed at the location and displayed at the airconditioned ground floor gallery.

Cross at fence

Typical of its time, everything about the house was generous, almost grand and made to last generations. Even with the clutter of warehouse items, the innate importance of the Jesuit House was immediately apparent to us visitors.

Bas relief at the coralstone fence

The Jesuit House: Hotong Hardware, 26 Zulueta St., Brgy. Parian, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu. Tel: (032) 255 5408.  Admission: PhP50/pax (PhP15 for students). Open daily, 8 AM – 12 noon and 1 – 5 PM.  The museum is one of the stops of the annual Gabii sa Kabilin where locals and visitors alike can take a tour of the rich heritage of Cebu City.

How to Get There: The Jesuit House, across the Heritage of Cebu Monument built right on the old Parian plaza, is a few steps away from the obelisk that marks the start of Colon Street at its northern end. Taxi drivers may not be familiar with the Jesuit house so just say you want to go to the Parian Fire Station, which is 10-15 mins. away from Fuente Osmena.  From Ayala Center, take a 13C jeepney and drop off at the Heritage of Cebu Monument. From Colon, take the 01K jeepney and also drop off the monument. 

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House (Cebu City, Cebu)

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

After breakfast at One Central Hotel, we still had time to kill before the 1 PM grand opening of the hotel, so I, together with lady media colleagues Maria Rona Beltran, Rhea G. Vitto-Tabora and Javelyn J. Ramos, decided to do some museum sightseeing.  Outside the hotel, we hailed a jeepney that took us to the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, part of the Casa Gorordo Museum Complex.

Check out “Casa Gorordo Museum”

After paying the PhP50 admission fee to a lady receptionist clad in old Filipiniana dress and logging our names in the visitors’ logbook, we were toured around the house by a well-versed guide.

L-R: Ms. Maria Rona Beltran, Ms. Rhea G. Vitto-Tabora, Ms. Javelyn J. Ramos and the author

The Spanish-Colonial era Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, in Cebu City’s Parian District (founded in 1590 after the arrival of Chinese traders), is said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China.

Listening to our guide explaining the history of the house

Often referred to by the locals as the Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy (“House of Wood and Stones”), this ancestral house was built, sometime between 1675 and 1700, and is considered as one of the oldest existing residential structures in the country and a proof that the Parian district in Cebu City was a bustling barangay where houses are often designed with a second storey.

The house was originally owned by Don Juan Yap, a Chinese merchant, together with his wife, Doña Maria Florido.  They had three children, namely: Maria, Eleuterio and Consolacion.

Portrait of house owners Val and Ofelia Sandiego

In the 1880’s, their eldest daughter, Maria Florido Yap, married Don Mariano Avendano San Diego from Obando, Bulacan, who was, at that time, the Parian’s cabeza de barangay (district head). Since then, the structure had become a busy center of activity in Parian.

In 2008, the house was handed down to the aforementioned Val Mancao San Diego, Doña Maria’s 10th generation great great grandson, and his wife Ofelia Zozobrado-San Diego.

An art collector, one of Cebu’s famous choreographers and a heritage icon, Val believe that this ancestral house was part of Cebu’s history and heritage so he carefully restored his ancestor’s home and turned it into a private museum.

Fine china

And though there have been offers to buy the house from him, he still continues to ignore such proposals and vows never to sell this historical house in his lifetime, no matter what the offer is.

Religious statuary

Though Val and his family don’t live in this house, every so often, during weekends, they still come over to stay at the house. This ancestral house was been featured in the book Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia of noted Chinese cultural historian Ronald G. Knapp (2010, Tuttle Publishing)

An antique harp

This 2-storey house, its design combining Spanish and Chinese architectural influences, has a ground floor built with coral stone, glued with egg whites, and a second floor built with tugas (molave) and balayong wood. The curving roof was made of tisa (red terra cotta clay tiles) from China, each piece weighing 1 kilogram.

Four-poster beds

Outside is a beautiful garden (a boat from the 1800s is currently being used as a flower bed) and a still functional old well (its water is only used for the plants).

The beautiful garden

The ground floor was unpaved (since it was only used as a warehouse or kamalig) but, before we ascended the second floor’s creaking staircase, we had to wear shoe cover booties to protect the hardwood floor upstairs from scratches.

Stairway

The house was filled with well-crafted life-sized statues, religious icons and images of santos, especially of the Sto. Niño (including one sitting on a rocking chair) and angels, in every size and material imaginable (the family was known to be deeply religious).

Dining Area

There’s also an impressive array of new contemporary and ancient artworks; priceless, century-old antique pieces; a wooden harp; fine china and cutlery; antique décor; clay jars for storing water and Cebuano-made native period furniture made of balayong, tugas and narra.

Most the old items which were preserved here came from Carcar, Cebu. The front door has a knocker that came from a Chinese temple.

The bedroom had a four-poster bed and a wooden baby crib. Also at the second floor is a banggerahan with its rack for drinking glasses and cups. Having survived natural calamities and earthquakes, the house has retained over 90% of the original structure.

Yap Sandiego Ancestral House: 155-Lopez Jaena corner Mabini St., 6000 Parian District, Cebu City, Cebu. Open daily, 9 AM – 7 PM. Admission: PhP50 per person.  Tel: (032) 514-3002, 514-3003 or 253-5568. Facebook: www.facebook.com/Yap-Sandiego-Ancestral-House-214835631903226/

How to Get There: From Marina Mall, ride a multicab or jeepney that carries a ‘highway’ signage and tell the driver to drop you off at Maguikay. From there, ride any Mandaue jeepney (with a “Catedral” or “Colon” signage) that will take you to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral or Colon Street. Upon reaching these landmarks, The Yap-San Diego Ancestral House is just a walk away. At SM Cebu or near Radisson Blu Hotel, you can ride a jeep with 01K code. Go down at Shamrock and take a short walk to the right where you’ll find the Parian Plaza and its Heritage of Cebu Monument. The house is just a few steps away from it.

Check out “Heritage of Cebu Monument