Bonifacio Trial Museum (Maragondon, Cavite)

This two-storey bahay-na-bato (stone house) was the site where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were court martialed by a military court presided by Gen. Mariano Noriel from May 5 to 6, 1897. The court  found the two accused guilty of treason and recommended execution.

Bonifacio Trial Museum

Built by Teodorico Reyes in 1889, this house was formerly known as the Roderico Reyes House (which was the name of the former owner). The house now belongs to Mr. Jose Angeles.  In 1999, it was fully restored and declared as a National Heritage Site. Today, this stone, brick and wood ancestral house has been converted into a museum called the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio or Bonifacio Trial Museum. It was formally inaugurated on November 28, 2014.

The house has capiz sliding windows, ventanillas and calado woodwork on the eaves

The museum has five galleries.  Gallery 1 (Maypagasa) provides a short background on Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan; Gallery 2 (Pagsalubong) focuses on the conflict between the two Katipunan factions in Cavite, the Magdalo and Magdiwang; Gallery 3 (Pagdakip) narrates the events leading to Bonifacio’s arrest; Gallery 4 (Ang Paglilitis) re-enacts the Bonifacio brothers’ court martial through a light and sound presentation; and Gallery 5 (Kadakilaan) recounts the anguish of Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus, in learning of her husband’s death.

National Historical Institute (NHI) Plaque

The museum also has an audio-visual corner offering a brief documentary about the trial and death of Andres Bonifacio and an e-learning room for online lessons on the history of the Philippines. The shrine is administered and managed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (formerly the National Historical Institute).

Philippine Historical Committee (PHC) Plaque

Bonifacio Trial Museum: Col. Crisostomo Riel St., Brgy. Poblacion 1-A, Maragondon, Cavite. Mobile number: (0917) 553-7375 (Mr. Melanio Guevarra – museum curator). E-mail: bonifaciotrialmuseum@gmail.com. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 AM – 5 PM. Admission is free.

The Ancestral Houses of Camalig (Albay)

Gonzales Ancestral House

Gonzales Ancestral House

After lunch at Rayben’s Place Restobar & Grill, we decided to burn some calories by doing a walking tour of some of Camalig’s Spanish and American-era ancestral houses.  All were within walking distance from the municipal hall.

Camalig Municipal Hall

Camalig Municipal Hall

Most of these bahay na bato (stone houses) typically have persiana (sliding wooden louver storm windows); ventanillas (openings with wooden balusters called barandillas) below the windows; and bandejado (decorative panels).

Capiz shell sliding windows (Melba Moyo House)

Capiz shell sliding windows (Melba Moyo House)

Media agua (awning), supported by wooden or ornate iron braces, wraps around over windows which use concha (checkerboard capiz shell panels) for its espejo (wrap around transom).

Persiana louvers (Gonzales Ancestral House)

Persiana louvers (Gonzales Ancestral House)

Eave calado and persiana louvers (Don Sixto Nuyda House)

Eave calado and persiana louvers (Don Sixto Nuyda House)

Their interiors have high ceilings; calado (wooden fretwork) on the upper walls; antique furniture and wide wooden floor planks.

Don Sixto Nuyda House - interior

Don Sixto Nuyda House – interior

The Nolasco House, built in the early 19th century, was owned by Diego Nolasco, a former town mayor.  The house was once used as the town’s temporary municipal hall.  Ruins of the old house, believed to be the municipal hall and judicial building, can be seen at the rear of the existing structure.

Nolasco Ancestral House

Nolasco Ancestral House

The Jaime Moyo Ancestral House, originally owned by Heron Moyo (brother of Teodoro Moyo whose descendants own the Melba Moyo House), is presently owned by Heron’s son, Jaime.  During World War II, it was once occupied by Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita.

Jaime Moyo House

Jaime Moyo House

The Gonzales Ancestral House, presently owned by Ms. Ninibeth Gonzales, was built in 1920 and is one of the best-preserved ancestral houses in the town.  Its media agua is supported by ornate iron braces.

Ventanilla with barandillas (Gonzales Ancestral House))

Ventanilla with barandillas (Gonzales Ancestral House))

Ornate iron braces (Gonzales Ancestral House)

Ornate iron braces (Gonzales Ancestral House)

The Anson Ancestral House was originally owned by Toribia Iglesia Moya, sister of former capitan municipal (1877-1878) Doroteo Iglesia Moya and mother of Anacleto Moya Solano, last capitan municipal (1897-1900) and first presidente municipal (1901-1902) during the American era.

Anson's Ancestral House

Anson Ancestral House

It was later bought by the Ansons and transferred to the Valencianos in 1920 and returned to the Ansons in 1980.  It is distinguished by its outdoor main staircase leading to the living room and azotea.  During the Spanish era, it was used as quarters for the guardia civil.

Stairrway leading to living room

Outdoor stairway leading to living room (Anson Ancestral House)

The Melba Moyo House, built in 1932, was first owned by Barbara Nieves Moyo who late bequeathed it to her son Teodoro Moyo.  After Teodoro’s death, the house was manage by his wife Melba Grageda Moyo.  During World War II, high-ranking Japanese officials lived here.

Melba Moyo House

Melba Moyo House

One house we did get to enter, with the permission of the owner, was the Don Sixto Nuyda House, built in Geometric style of architecture in the 19th century by the previously mentioned capitan municipal Doroteo Iglesia Moya.

Don Sixto Nuyda House

Don Sixto Nuyda House

The Nuydas are affiliated with the Moyas through nephew Marcos Obligacion who took a Nuyda wife. Justino Napay Nuyda, a Bicolano zarzuela (a lyric-dramatic entertainment genre of Spanish origin) writer and the first Albay Second District congressman (1935-1941), once resided here.

Diamond-patterned concha windows (Don Sixto Nuyda House)

Diamond-patterned concha windows (Don Sixto Nuyda House)

We entered the house  via a uniquely designed stone porch that corresponds to the gillian of traditional Filipino pile houses.  Inside is an exemplary showcase of diamond-patterned concha.  It was damaged during the 2006 typhoon Reming which left 66 people dead in Albay.  The ground floor has been boarded up.

Don Sixto Nuyda House - Interior

Don Sixto Nuyda House – Interior

Mayor’s Office: Municipal Hall, Poblacion, Camalig, 4502, Albay. Tel.: (052) 484-1965

Municipal Tourism, Culture and Arts Office: Camalig Tourism  and Pasalubong Center, Brgy. 2, Camalig, Albay.  Mobile number: (0927) 621-3315.  E-mail: camalig_tourism@yahoo.com.

Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO): Albay Tourism Bldg., Albay Astrodome Complex, Capt. F. Aquende Drive, 4500 Legaspi City, Albay.  Tel: (052) 481-0250 and (052) 742-0242. E-mail: albaytourism@yahoo.com and albaytourism@gmail.com.

House Museum of Alexandre Chavchavadze (Georgia)

After lunch at Pheasant’s Tears in Sighnaghi, Buddy, Pancho, Melissa, Riva, our guide Sopho and I continued on the final leg of our 3-day, GNTA-sponsored Georgian Countryside Tour, a 50-km./40-min. drive to the village of Tsinandali in the Kakheti region (79 kms. east of Tbilisi).

The house-museum (photo - Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The House Museum of Alexandre Chavchavadse (photo:- Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The village, lying in the Alazani River valley, was inherited by the 19th century aristocratic poet (considered to be the founder of Georgian romantic poetry), writer, military leader, diplomat, public figure and inventor Alexandre Chavchavadze (1786-1846), one of the most important figures of his time, from his father, Prince Garsevan  Chavchavadze.

Alexandre Chavchavadze (photo - www.tsinandali.com)

Alexandre Chavchavadze (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Alexandre refurbished the estate, constructed a new Italianate palace and, in 1835, built a decorative garden, a tranquil refuge in the shadow of the dramatic neighboring Caucasian Mountains. Here, he frequently entertained his foreign guests with music, wit and, most especially, the fine vintage wine made at his estate winery (marani), Georgia’s oldest and largest.

The park (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The park (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

Familiar with European ways, Alexandre combined European and centuries-long Georgian winemaking traditions when he built the winery in 1846.  He died  in a bizarre accident in Tbilisi when his cloak got caught in the wheel of his carriage and he was thrown out, hitting his head on the ground.

Another view of the garden

Another view of the garden

Alexandre’s vineyard is still cultivated to this day and the highly regarded dry white Tsinandali is still produced here. Visitors can see a bottle of Saperavi wine from 1839, the first harvest at Tsinandali, plus a unique collection of 16,500 bottles of other sorts of wines from many countries.

The author waiting outside the manor's iron gate (photo - Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The author waiting outside the manor’s iron gate (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

On February 8, 1886, after David Chavchavadze’s (Alexandre’s son) death, the Chavchavadze family estate and park were acquired by the Estate Department of the Russian Empire and passed to the property of Tsar Alexander III and the Imperial family due to the failure to pay the debt to the Russian Public Bank.

Photo of Chavchavadze's descedants (photo - www.tsinandali.com)

Photo of Chavchavadze’s descedants (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

David had to mortgage the house to raise 14,000 silver rubles as ransom for the 23 women and children (including his wife and children) as well as servants of the household kidnapped on  September 1854 by the charismatic Muslim leader Imam Shamyl and his Lezgin tribesmen from the Dagestan mountains.

Melissa at the stairway (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

Melissa at the stairway (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

In 1887, the Tsinandali garden was renovated and, in 1917, was passed to the state. On August 1, 1947, the estate was organized into a museum and, in 2008, underwent renovation works when its rooms were restored with 19th century furnishings.

The White Salon (photo - www.tsinandali.com)

The White Salon (photo – www.tsinandali.com)

The 18-hectare house-museum, now leased to the Silk Road Group, a Georgia-based company, often hosts various exhibitions of works of various prominent Georgian and foreign artists such as Salvador Dali, Elene Akhvlediani, Levan Mekhuzla, Dimitri and Sandro Eristavi, Sergo Kobuladze and Karlo Kacharava. Each season, new exhibits make museum even more attractive, turning it into an important cultural site.

Dining Room (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Dining Room (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

The perfect mixture of Georgian and European architectural cultures, this relatively small and unpretentious, 2-storey manor house, made with local sandstone, symbolizes the values Aleksandre Chavchavadze wanted to establish in Georgia. The exterior facade features unusually fine stonework and a veranda that incorporates Eastern ornamental woodwork and decorative elements that wraps around two sides of the house.

Crockery (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Crockery at the dining table (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

The rectangular house is situated in the midst of a beautiful and serene 18-hectare park. Its unique and interesting layout features a mixture of natural and decorated gardens. The first landowner in Georgia to employ European landscape designers, Alexandre had the park was renovated in 1887 by the famous landscape designer Arnold Ragel.

Bedroom (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Bedroom (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

The park, a harmonious synthesis of wilderness and decorative landscapes, incorporates a number of existing oak, lime and maple trees (now 400 to 500 years old) and consists of orchards, walks and paths lined with vines, flowerbeds, and traditional Georgian rose bushes. On August 20, 1987, the Georgian government placed Tsinandali park on the list of the National Monuments of Landscape Architecture.

The Library (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

The Library (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

We arrived at the estate just before closing time, parking along a driveway flanked by superb sentinels of cypress trees.  From the imposing iron entrance gate, we walked toward the house, anxious to get away from the biting cold.  Upon entering, we were met by our English-speaking Georgian guide who directed us, up the grand stairway, to the second floor where we were to explore nine rooms of the house that show what the good life in Kakheti must have been like in the 19th century. The exhibits, exclusively devoted to Alexandre’s memorabilia and that of his family, were captioned in Russian and Georgian only.

Nina's French piano (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Nina’s French piano (photo: www.tsinandali.com)

Our guide showed us objects that represent both the poet’s life and creative work –  his epistolary and iconography archive; editions on various subjects in French, German, English, Polish and Armenian languages; manuscripts; works of photographer Ermakov; samples of painting and lithography; household objects; crockery (Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Georgian, Russian) and musical instruments.

L-R: Melissa, Sopho, our Georgian guide and Consul Cunanan (photo - Ms. Riva Galvestan)

L-R: Melissa, Sopho, our Georgian guide and Consul Cunanan (photo – Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The museum still had some of its original Georgian, Russian and French  furniture, including the French piano (the first recorded piano in Georgia) with a folding keyboard, bought from Europe and given by Alexander Griboedov to his wife Nina (Alexandre’s daughter). There were also interesting paintings and photos of people and events associated with the house, including the Lezgin raid. There’s also a reproduction of the Winterhalter portrait of Chavchavadze’s wife Salome. Photography wasn’t allowed inside.

The hallway leading to the wine cellar (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

The hallway leading to the wine cellar (photo: Ms. Riva Galvestan)

There is a souvenir shop on the ground floor of the museum where one can find arts and crafts from the Kakheti region. Copies of Nino Chavchavadze’s handkerchief and of artifacts from archaeological excavations in Georgia are among the items for sale.   Before leaving, we had coffee at the museum’s café.

The wine cellar

The wine cellar

Tsinandali Museum: 2217 M-42, Tsinandali, Telavi District. Tel: (+995, 350) 3 37 17. Mobile number(+995 5 99) 71 41 22.  E-mail: maia_kokocha@yahoo.com. Website: www.tsinandali.com.  Open Mondays to Thursdays, 10 AM – 6 PM, Fridays to Sundays, 10 AM – 7 PM. During the winter months, the museum closes at 5 PM.

Souvenir shop

Souvenir shop

Admission: standard (5 GEL, includes entrance to the garden, museum and vineyard as well as a guide to the museum exhibits), standard + tasting of one sort of Georgian wine (7 GEL), standard + tasting of various Georgian wines (20 GEL), visiting only park (2 GEL), schoolchildren (3 GEL) and university/college students (4 GEL). Entrance is free on May 18 (International Museum Day). Admission is also free for “Museum Honored Guests,” ICOM & UNESCO, children under school age and socially deprived, and refugees. 

Georgia National Tourism Administration: 4, Sanapiro St, 0105, Tbilisi, Georgia. Tel: +995 32 43 69 99. E-mail: info@gnta.ge. Website: www.georgia.travel; www.gnta.ge.

Qatar Airways has daily flights from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark, Pampanga) to Tbilisi (Republic of Georgia) with stopovers at Hamad International Airport (Doha, Qatar, 15 hrs.) and Heydar Aliyev International Airport (Baku, Azerbaijan, 1 hr.). Website: www.qatarairways.com.

The Chinese Compound (Pasay City)

From My Mother’s Garden, we began the afternoon leg of our AAP-sponsored Pasay Media Familiarization Tour, proceeding, along F.B. Harrison St., to a compound where, upon entering its red main gate, I was instantly transported to another place and time smack in the middle of urban chaos, which makes for an interesting contrast.

The Chinese Compound

The Chinese Compound

Set amidst lush greenery is an interesting enclave of 15 post-World War II, medium-sized and nearly identical 2-storey houses.  All these houses, designed to facilitate air flow before the introduction of air-conditioning, have high ceilings, large windows and a second floor balcony.  Its floors are laden with Machuca tiles.

The boutiue hotel

The boutiue hotel

Formerly a residential abode for the Chinese owner’s large family (it is called the Chinese Compound), this tree-lined compound simply awed me with its old-world charm and serenity.  Some of these 1950s houses are just regular homes of people not connected to the artistic world  but several of the homes now house several interesting establishments such as the art gallery of Albert Avellana (Avellana Art Gallery), the atelier of top fashion designer Jesus “Jojie” Lloren and the furniture showroom (Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery- A11) of interior designer Eric Paras which occupies 2 houses.

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery

Five of the houses are also being turned into a boutique hotel, an example of adaptive reuse.  It will have a swimming pool and a restaurant.  We all toured each of these establishments (save for the boutique hotel which was still being constructed) which made the compound an artistic hotbed ever since it was occupied by creative souls. All are filled with art, classic French crockery, rustic table settings and furniture and decor that channel everything from Art Deco to mid century to a more industrial style. The space is reputed to be a source for well-known interior designers all over the country.

An A 11 furniture showroom

An A 11 furniture showroom

The Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery, opened last January 2013, houses, in a home setting, many of Eric’s designer furniture plus some  items he brought in from elsewhere.  They include a double-tiered, mid-century side tables; metal-based furniture pieces such as an iron bed frame with a wood-framed screen upholstered in toile de jouy fabric; a mid-century ambassador’s chair finished in black; an antique writing desk refinished in a dark hue; table tops and shelving units with thick slabs of exotic wood; a 4-panel screen, hung with small artwork, made with old doors; low console table, for Eric’s line of lighting, made from an enormous wood column; a metal framed lamp, topped by a marble cylindrical shade, with geometric patterns; a marble wash basin filled with decorative woven rattan balls; a pair of side tables, topped with polished white marble, with hollowed wood bases etched with designs in a random pattern; a cylindrical center table base wrapped with metal strips in a loose weave pattern; and Eric’s collection of colorful ceramic accessories.

Another A 11 showroom

Another A 11 showroom

The Avellana Art Gallery, opened in 1997, specializes in eye-catching Filipino art. Its genteel old space was turned by Albert into a retro-modern gallery for the functional art.  The two floors are full of art, with the top floor being used for moving exhibitions, a perfect venue for new and more established artists.  At the entrance lobby is the sculpture “Love From Above” by Pidge Reyes.

Avellana Art Gallery

Avellana Art Gallery

Love from Above by Pidge Reyes

Love from Above by Pidge Reyes

At the atelier of Jojie Lloren, we were welcomed by the mild-mannered and pleasant designer himself.  We all listened to him at his spacious living room, sitting at contemporary chairs around an old round table. His atelier looks a bit French Art Nouveau, the compact space of his workshop made stylish and beautified, in the bayanihan spirit, by his close friends.

Listening to Jojie Lloren at his atelier

Listening to Jojie Lloren at his atelier

There were furniture pieces (couch, ceramic garden stools, etc.) from Eric Paras’ A11, a louver screen from Albert Avellana, a bird cage from designer James Reyes, and a chandelier from lighting designer Ricky David; all these things close to Jojie’s heart.  Jojie also added period pieces he bought from thrift shops along Evangelista St. in Makati. His display of Filipino religious includes antique Marian medallions ((that spell out his name) and modern Marian prints by Virgilio Aviado.  There are also paintings, including one from Popo San Pascual.

Reception area with a chandelier from Ricky David, couch from Eric Paras and louver screen from Albert Avellana

Reception area with a chandelier from Ricky David, couch from Eric Paras and louver screen from Albert Avellana

Despite the heavy Pasay traffic and braving the pollution and the gritty stretch of urban decay on that day, the sudden change of atmosphere, once inside this place of calm, was truly worth the extra effort.

Religious art collection of Jojie

Religious art collection of Jojie

Avellana Art Gallery: Unit A-19, 2680 F.B.Harrison St., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 833-8357. E-mail: avellana_gallery@yahoo.com.  Open Mondays to Saturdays, 10 AM to 7 PM.

Atelier of Jojie Lloren: Unit A-17 2680 F.B Harrison St., 1300 Pasay City.  Tel: (632) 556-4725, (632) 641-9347 and (632) 401-1194. Fax: (632) 896-7199. E-mail: lyorenne@hotmail.com.

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery: Unit A-11, 2680 F.B. Harrison St., 1300 Pasay City.  Tel: (632) 832-9972.  Mobile number: (0917) 837-0115. E-mail: a_eleven05@yahoo.com.  

Automobile Association Philippines (AAP): 28 EDSA, Greenhills, San Juan City.  Tel: (632) 655-5889.  Fax: (632) 655-1878.  E-mail: info@aap.org.ph. Website: www.aap.org.ph.

AAP Travel: G/F, Sea Tower Bldg., 2332 Roxas Blvd. cor. Arnaiz Ave., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 551-0025.  Fax: (632) 551-0014. E-mail: info@aaptravel.com.  Website:www.aaptravel.com.ph.

The Gaston Mansion (Manapla, Negros Occidental)

Jandy and I arrived at the Manapla Municipal Hall by 10:30 AM.  Here, we met up with town councilor Marcos “Mark” L. Escalante, my nephew and son of town mayor Lourdes Socorro “Uding” L. Escalante, my first cousin, who was at the U.S. at that time. Mark drove us to Hacienda Rosalia, home of the Gaston Mansion and the Chapel of the Cartwheels, two of Manapla’s tourist attractions.

The Gaston Mansion

The Gaston Mansion

The mansion's lush garden

The mansion’s lush garden

We first stopped over at the Gaston Mansion.  Its resident and current owner, the secular priest Msgr. Guillermo “Gigi” Gaston, wasn’t around, being at Bacolod at the time of our visit, but the caretaker allowed us to look around the living and dining areas of the mansion.  Incidentally, the mansion was featured in Peque Galalga’s 1982 multi-awarded film Oro Plata Mata, where it was referred to as Hacienda Lorenzo.

The ground floor

The ground floor

Stairway to second floor

Stairway to second floor

This stately and elegant, 2-storey mansion, the  ancestral home of Jose Gaston, one of the sons of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, and his wife Consuelo Ascona, was built in the 1930s.  They had 8 children.  It is set in lush, verdant and gorgeous garden of flowers, shrubs, trees, potted palms and herbs. Within the grounds are a now-disused swimming pool (used as hiding place during World War II), a Victorian fountain, a pond and a time-worn shoe house (which was used before as a playground).

Dining Area

Dining Area

Chess table

Chess table

Its second floor dining room, opening into a breezy azotea overlooking the garden, had a wooden floor, a high ceiling and large windows.  What truly amazed me was its antique, 24-seater wooden table.  All around it are cabinets filled with crystal stemware, antique silverware and fine china.  Buffet lunches, served by servants of the Gaston family, are also offered for paying guests.

China cabinet

China cabinet

Antique telephone

Antique telephone

Gaston Mansion: Hacienda Rosalia, Manapla, Negros Occidental.

How to Get There: Manapla is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) northeast of Bacolod City.

The Ruins (Talisay City, Negros Occidental)

The highlight of our Silay Heritage Tour was our visit to The Ruins in nearby Talisay City.  Here, a wacky, English and Tagalog-speaking tour guide narrated to visitors the fascinating tale of The Ruins, injecting humor along the way.

The Ruins - the Taj Mahal of Negros

The Ruins – the Taj Mahal of Negros

The Ruins is what remains of the grand, 2-storey mansion that Negrense sugar baron, Don Mariano “Anoy” Ledesma Lacson (1865-1948) built in the middle of his 440-hectare sugar cane plantation in the early 1920s, following the death of his first wife, Maria Braga, a Portuguese from Macau who died in an accident while pregnant with their 11th child. Don Mariano is the youngest of the 8 children of Lucio Lacson and Clara Ledesma from Molo, Iloilo.

Our tour guide explaining the history of The Ruins

Our tour guide explaining the history of The Ruins

He later remarried, this time to Concepcion Diaz from Talisay, adding 3 more children to his existing brood of 10 (which included Rafael Lacson, the former governor of Negros Occidental). It became the residence of Don Mariano and his unmarried children. After drawing lots, Don Manuel’s sugar plantation was divided among the 10 children by his first wife Maria and  the mansion went to Mercedes Lacson who married Manuel Javellana from Jaro District in Iloilo.

The interior of The Ruins

The interior of The Ruins

Later, the land was again divided into equal parts among the couple’s 12 children and the 3.6 hectares that included the mansion was given to Ramon Javellana. Raymund Javellana, one of Ramon’s children, thought of restoring the mansion and converting it to a tourist spot but the mansion remained abandoned for 67 years until they started to develop it on May 2007.  On January 2008, it was officially opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The main entrance

The main entrance

The 903 sq. m., 10-room (8 rooms for their children, a master’s bedroom and a family room) mansion, of Italianate architecture, has twin Neo-Romanesque columns with the first letters of the names of Don Manuel and Dona Maria engraved onto the mansion’s posts.  They actually looked like Es that face each other.

The mansion grounds

Cheska, Marve, Kyle and Grace at the mansion grounds

Facing the main door, the boys’ and girls’ bedrooms, at the ground and second floors respectively, were all located on the left side. The master’s bedroom and the family room were both located upstairs and facing west, on the left and right, respectively. A small arched window, between the kitchen and the dining area, facilitated the movement of food, minimizing the servants going in and out of the kitchen.

The "M" moldings

The “M” moldings

The picturesque mansion, one of the top 12 fascinating ruins in the world and the Taj Mahal of Negros, has many interesting tales to tell.  Its top edges also feature a shell-inspired decor which, in New England, indicates that the homeowner is a ship captain. At the glassed-in sunroom with bay windows, Don Mariano would be often seen sitting as he viewed ships that come and go along the coastal waters of Talisay. Maria Braga’s father was also a ship captain.  Again, in keeping with the marine theme, the mansion’s second story also features a belvedere, between the master’s and family room  and also facing the west, where the family would gather to watch the sunset.

The restaurant dining area

The restaurant dining area

Felipe, one of Don Manuel’s sons, supervised the continuous concrete mixing and pouring, done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This ensured that the concrete was very compact and that no air got in, resulting in the high-quality strength of the structure.  The concrete mixture also incorporated egg whites which, to this day, visitors can still see the gloss or shine on the mansion’s walls because of it.

The remains of the stairs

The remains of the stairs

In 1942, during the Japanese occupation in the early part of World War II, the mansion was reduced to its skeletal frame when USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) guerillas set the mansion ablaze, with the consent of Don Manuel, so it would not be used as headquarters by the Japanese forces.

Detail of column capital

Detail of column capital

The mansion’s roof, ceiling and the 2-inch thick, meter wide and approximately 20.5 m. long, jointless wooden floors, extending from the main entrance up to the end of the dining area, were all burned during the non-stop, 3-day fire but the foundations remained standing, thanks to its oversized steel bar reinforcement and the meticulous way of pouring the A-grade mixture.  The original Spanish machuca floor tiles, the hardest and most expensive during that time, also survived.

Detail of arch

Detail of arch

The original, 4-tiered fountain outside the mansion was, in its heyday, surrounded by a beautiful lily garden maintained by a Japanese gardener who, following the burning of the mansion, mysteriously disappeared.   Today, its landscaped garden draws various inspirations – from formal English to Japanese-inspired gardens.

The original 4-tier fountain

The original 4-tier fountain

Viewed just outside the mansion, with a tree on top, is the chimney (simborio) of the muscovado sugar mill (where the juice of the sugarcane is extracted) of the family’s sugar farm. From the mill, the extracted sugarcane juice is then transferred to large vats, heated and then cooled to produce the sugar crystals.

Exterior detail

Exterior detail

Inside The Ruins is a semi-fine dining restaurant (offering Mediterranean cuisine), a mini-bar and a souvenir shop while around it are modern additions – an 18-hole mini golf course, a snack bar and newly built toilets that still use the mansion’s original septic tank.

Belvedere detail

Belvedere detail

Aside from tours and dining, The Ruins are also be used for special events such as weddings, family reunions, pre-nuptial pictorials, etc.  There are also a stall selling Erv’s sugar cane juice, camping and picnic grounds, bath houses and a pavilion. Also within the grounds is a 3 m. high obelisk,the Landmark Award of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineering (PICE). Too bad, we left at 5 PM.  According to our guide, you will see the building glow from the sunset around 5:30 PM.

The simborio

The simborio

The Ruins: Open daily, 8:30 AM to 8 PM. Tel: (034) 476 4334. Admission: PhP60 (adults), PhP40 (students) and PhP30 (children).

 

 

Bulusan: Eco-Tourism Haven (Sorsogon)

After our interview of AGAP-Bulusan, Inc. president Philip G. Bartilet at Lake Bulusan, Philip accompanied Bernard and I to the Bulusan municipal hall where we made a courtesy call on, and had lunch, with Mayor Michael G. Guysayko.  Like Philip, first term Mayor Guysayko is supportive of the environment conservation projects of AGAP-Bulusan, the rehabilitation of denuded forests and sustainable eco-tourism in the BVNP.

L-R: the author, Mayor Guysayko and Bernard

After lunch, Philip again accompanied us as we toured Bulusan town’s tourist attractions.  Our first stop was the town’s Church of St. James the Greater in Brgy. Central.  Located on a site called Punta Diamante (named after its diamond-shaped wall formation), it is dubbed the “Intramuros of Bulusan.”  Its walls were made of stacked up volcanic stones.

Punta Diamante

The church wasn’t old (erected around 1760, its Baroque facade was totally renovated in 1970) but the parish compound is enclosed by ramparts of the triangular, Spanish-era muralla (“stone fort”). Around the walls are burial niches and niches for santos (“saints“) while at one end is the equestrian statue of St. James the Greater and a wooden cross, above which is the statue of a standing Jesus Christ, with arms outstretched, on a pedestal.

A baluarte de piedra at Punta Diamante beside burial niches

Four baluartes de piedra (stone watchtowers”) can still be traced from the remaining walls near the shores of Brgys. Central, Dapdap and Mabuhay.  The church’s 4-storey bell tower (locally called kampanaryo), the largest of the 4 watchtowers, was believed to have been built in 1631 after the town was made an independent from Casiguran in 1630.  With 8 sides, the tower’s walls taper upwards in alternating piers. The ill-conceived 4th storey, housing the bells, is a totally inappropriate modern addition.

The church bell tower

From the town proper, we motored, 1 km. out of the town, along the Bulusan-Barcelona Rd., to the white sand Dancalan Beach in Brgy. Dancalan.  A popular swimming spot, the relatively shallow Dancalan Beach is lined with beach resorts and kiosks beneath the coconut trees that provide shade for picnickers.

The white sand Dancalan Beach

We also passed by the Dr. Jose Reyes Ancestral House and, from the vantage point of a bridge, the Bulusan River.  The 12 km. river, formed by the merging of the Dulipay and Malinang Rivers, and the Malugoy-lugoy Rivers, is a potential nature trekking area.  From here, we proceeded on our way to Lake Bulusan where Bernard and I were to do some leisurely kayaking.

The Bulusan River

Home of Another Aguinaldo (Kawit, Cavite)

After my visit to the Aguinaldo Shrine, Jandy and I returned to our car and retraced our way back to Brgy. Binakayan, also within Kawit, this time in search of the home of where Baldomero Aguinaldo (February 26, 1869-February 14, 1915), Emilio Aguinaldo’s first cousin, lived as an adult. Baldomero was also a lieutenant-general during the revolution (he figured in the battles of Binakayan, Dalahican, Noveleta, Zapote, Salitran and Alapan), Emilio’s right-hand man and a member of the latter’s cabinet (Auditor General, Director of Finance, Secretary of the Treasury, Auditor of War and Secretary of War and Public Works).  He also helped draft and signed the Constitution of Biak-na-Bato. During the Philippine-American War, he returned to the battlefield as commanding general of the Southern Luzon provinces.   

Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine

Built with narra and molave wood in 1906 and now painted in pastel blue and white, this typical 2-storey country home of a gentleman farmer was turned over by his grandson, former Prime Minister Cesar E.A. Virata (who also happens to be the father of my U.P. classmate Steven) to the Philippine government in 1982. This shrine has a museum on the ground floor with a diorama of the Battle of Binakayan.  On the second floor are antique furniture such as a turn-of-the-century upright piano.  Opposite the house is the former kamalig(storage shed for produce), now a museum showcasing Cavite’s role in the revolution.  On the walls are photographs and drawings of Cavite’s military heroes.

Behind the house, in a quiet corner, is the family plot where Baldomero, his wife (Petrona Fauni Reyes-Aguinaldo), their 2 children (Leonor and Aureliano) and their spouses (Dr. Enrique T. Virata and Liwanag Virata) are all buried.  The shrine is now administered and managed by the National Historical Institute (NHI) which installed a historical marker here on June 12, 1983.

NHI Historical Marker
Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine: Brgy. Binakayan, Kawit, Cavite.  Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 AM to 4 PM.  Admission is free.  Lectures and guiding service can be arranged.

The Ancestral Houses of Pila (Laguna)

Pila Municipal Hall

Past the town of Victoria, we soon reached the Pila town proper (87 kms. from Manila) and its plaza lined with shady, giant talisay trees.  Surrounding it are quaint early 20th century, American-era ancestral houses and, finding them interesting, decided to make a long stopover here to explore the town further.  I parked my Toyota Revo at the Municipal Hall, a heritage building built in 1931 and faithfully restored by Mayor Edgardo Ramos.

Town Plaza

Pila is cited as one of the few intact examples of Spanish colonial town planning where the center of the town was the plaza complex surrounded by the church, tribunal, school and large ancestral houses of the town’s leading citizens.  On May 17, 2000, as a consequence of these efforts, Pila was declared as a National Historic Landmark (a status also enjoyed by Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, Silay City in Negros Occidental and Taal in Batangas) by the National Historical Institute (NHI) .

Pila’s ancestral homes

Unlike nearby Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan towns which were reduced to rubble by American bombing, Pila survived the ravages of World War II because American bombers failed to spot it.  Because of this great piece of luck, Pila still boasts of 36 19th century and turn-of-the-century structures, 28 of them ancestral homes.  Mostly located in Brgy. Sta. Clara, many of these ancestral homes, a good number of which belong to the Agra, Alava, Dimaculangan, Relova and Rivera families, have withstood the test of time and are still well-preserved, with fresh coats of paint with pastel and cream colors.  These home owners take great pride in town’s old world charm and their rich and varied heritage.  Once parked, Jandy and I strolled along the town’s plaza and its quiet streets, enjoying up close or from afar, the experience of seeing these stately structures that reflect a rich and varied architectural history.

Jose Agra Ancestral House

This lakeshore town, founded by Franciscan missionaries in 1580, has been given the moniker Lupang Pinagpala (“The Blessed Land”) and there are a number of reasons for this. In 1610, in recognition of the noble Pileños refined manners and genteel customs, this town steeped in history and culture was conferred the special status of La Noble Villa de Pila (“The Noble Town of Pila”), one of only five towns in the country accorded this honor by Spain (the others being Cebu, Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Libon in Albay and Oton in Iloilo). The town also survived the ravages of World War II because American bombers, on a bombing run to flush out Japanese soldiers, failed to spot it.  Nearby Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan towns were not so lucky, both being reduced to rubble.

Relova Ancestral House

In December 1993, the Pila Historical Society Foundation was established to preserve and maintain these remnants of a gentler way of life.  The foundation raised funds and, with the cooperation of the late Mayor Querubin Relova and the Sangguniang Bayan, undertook the huge task of demolishing and relocating new structures that detracted from the beauty, purpose and historical relevance of the original town plan.  Pila is cited as one of the few intact examples of Spanish colonial town planning where the center of the town was the plaza complex surrounded by the church, tribunal, school and large ancestral houses of the town’s leading citizens.

Rudolfo Relova Ancestral House

Many houses built during the Commonwealth Period reflect a shift in architectural styles, evolving from the massive bahay na bato (stone house) to the charming American chalet-style houses with touches of Spanish design elements, decorative Art Deco or Art Nouveau treatments.  Using more Philippine hardwoods and cement, all provide comfort, a respite from the tropical heat and a general feeling of airiness with their high ceilings; tall and wide capiz or paned-glass windows that allow the breeze to come in and woodcarvings on the ventanillas that allow for good cross ventilation. The living and dining rooms, on the second floor, are accessed by stairs that figure prominently in the facade.  The ground floors of many houses facing the plaza, formerly used as storage areas, now house cafeterias and shops.

Pila Historical Society Foundation: tel: (049) 559-0382 (Ms. Cora Relova).

Home of "The Other Rizal" (Los Banos, Laguna)

The Paciano Rizal Shrine

My next stop in my Laguna (Calamba City to Sta. Cruz) joy ride with my son Jandy was the charming resort town of Los Banos.  The town is famous for its hot medicinal sulfur springs that flow from the foot of Mt. Makiling and its present name is derived from the Spanish word for “The Baths.” These thermal springs were discovered in 1590 by Franciscan martyr St. Peter Baptist (San Pedro Bautista).   Today, most of the sulfur springs are piped into the pools and baths of the many hot spring resorts that line the National Highway.  This is the Los Banos that most people know and not many people know this town’s association with “the other Rizal.”

The old Los Banos Municipal Hall

To find out, I parked my Toyota Revo at the old municipal hall (a new one is being built along the National Highway).  Beside the town’s fire station is the inconspicuous retirement home of Paciano Mercado Rizal, Jose Rizal‘s elder (and only) brother who was also a revolutionary general (he led the defense of Laguna) and Emilio Aguinaldo‘s first Minister of Finance.  Though not as popular as the Jose Rizal Shrine in Calamba, this shrine, jutting out to Laguna de Bay, was built atop a hot spring in 1927 by Andres Luna de San Pedro (son of master painter Juan Luna) when Paciano’s original nipa hut was destroyed in a typhoon in 1926.

The back of the house

Rizal lived here, as a gentleman-farmer, with 2 helpers (with occasional visits from his grandsons, from daughter Emiliana, Franz and Edmundo), until his death from tuberculosis on April 30, 1930.  First buried in Manila North Cemetery, his remains were later transferred here, with full military honors, in 1985.  A historical marker was installed here on April 13, 1983 and the house was declared as a National Historical Shrine by the National Historical Institute on July 31, 1992.

Laguna de Bay

This modest American-style, one-bedroom bungalow was turned into a Japanese garrison during World War II, resulting in the loss of much of Paciano’s personal effects. Still around are some photos of his grandchildren, binoculars he used during the revolution, a pair of his shoes and a Quiroga bed.  Rizal’s spinster sisters Josefa and Trinidad are also buried in the sprawling garden which has a bronze statue of Paciano Rizal, on a pedestal, in his general’s uniform.  The shrine has a view of Talim Island. At the back of the house is the Paciano Rizal Park.