Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Heritage House (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Heritage House

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

The 2-storey residence of former Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia, it was built from 1953-1954 on the former residence of the Jorolan family. As Garcia spent most of the year in Manila, the Tagbilaran house was just a vacation house.

NHI Plaque

Years after Garcia’s death, the house was rented to the Provincial Government of Bohol for use as a provincial museum. The collection consists of preserved local flora and fauna, small replicas of the century-old churches, as well as artifacts sourced from different parts of the province.

The ground floor. On the left is the piano donated by the Japanese Embassy

On September 4, 2009, it was declared as a heritage house by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. On November 25, 2011, the management of the museum was transferred, from President Carlos P. Garcia Foundation, Inc. (PCPGFI), to the Bohol provincial government. The Bohol Provincial Museum collection is now located in the Bohol Branch of the National Museum of the Philippines, in the Provincial Capitol Complex.

The president’s work desk

Locals refer to it as the White House largely because of the dominant color of the house paint. On display are the president’s memorabilia such as photographs, medals and certificates, suits, and books.

Pres. Garcia’s suit

The president’s chess set

Portrait of Pres. Garcia and wife Leonila

Also on display are the opulent the wardrobe of the Mrs. Garcia and their only daughter, paintings, and furniture belonging to the Garcia family including the former president’s bed and work desk, the chess set which Garcia played with professor friends every night and the Yamaha grand piano given by the Embassy of Japan.

President Carlos P. Garcia Heritage House: F. Rocha cor. A. Holtanosa Sts., Tagbilaran CityBohol. While admission is free, a donation box is set up by the entrance.

How to Get There:  The house is just a few blocks away from the Bohol Provincial Capitol and the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Worker.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

The Ancestral Houses of Sitio Ubos (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

Tagbilaran City has a number of heritage houses that can be found in Sitio Ubos (Lower Town), the oldest district of the city. During this period, old rich Chinese families built their houses in this formerly major port town in the city to establish their wealth. In 1916, there were only four families living there – the Oppus-Borjas, the Rochas, the Manigques and the Butalids. Through the positioning of their houses, the Rochas almost wholly owned the place, showing their great economic clout. We visited three of these, all located in close proximity to each other.

Fortich-Rocha House

The first house we visited was Fortich-Rocha House, the home of Don Fernando Gorraiz Rocha. Formerly a renowned schoolteacher (known as Maestro Andoy) in the Spanish school for boys and also a former governor of Bohol in the early 20th century, Don Fernando lived here with his wife, Dona Catalina Fortich, a local lady of Spanish extraction. The house, probably built before the 1850’s, was made with wooden boards and had a nipa roof.

The ground floor of this house once served as a bazaar.  However, the house was made popular by the baking skills of the Las Hermanas Rochas, the unmarried sisters of Don Fernando, who once produced the best pastries in town – hojaldres, broas, kinatloan and the plebeian fare called dugmok (toasted left-over bread).

Antonio Rocha House

The most distinct and impressive house in Sitio Ubos today is probably the house of the mestizo sangley Don Antonio Rocha, once the escribiente (clerk) of the Tagbilaran parish.   It has a tile roof and stone skirting at the ground floor. On the back wall is inscribed the date 1831, most likely the year when this house was built. In the 1970’s, the owners rented out some of the rooms to students in Tagbilaran.

Later on, the owner sold it to a Manila-based antique collector who shelled out some earnest money so as to gain foothold in the house, after which he began methodically stripping the house of valuable antiques, including the frame of an Antonio Rocha painting.  He then sold it to the present Swiss owner.

On the opposite side of the road is the impressive Beldia House, built in 1858 by Don Esteban Butalid, a gobernadorcillo and businessman. Don Manuel Timoteo Hidalgo, the brother-in-law of Jose Rizal (married to sister Saturnina), stayed in the house for four months (in January 1889 and then again in December of the same year) during his exile to Bohol.  It is also possible that Jose Rizal himself may have visited the house when he supposedly toured Bohol in 1894. During the Spanish regime, the house served as a provisional municipio before a new one, long since disappeared, was built high on the cliff above Sitio Ubos. In 1971, Judge Antonio Beldia bought the house from the Butalid-Calceta-Gallares family corporation.

The Beldia House

The Beldia House, with its elegant floating volada atop massive masonry walls, has a lot in common with its neighbor, the equally outstanding and exceptional Antonio Rocha House.  Both have curving gambrel roofs of clay tiles with its bent-down ridges.  Unique in the province, it gives the houses a distinct Chinese feel. Likewise, both houses have massive ground floor walls made with coral stone.

Hidden in one of the side walls (which used to be the main façade), fronting a now vanished road, is the original main entrance, now serving as window to the former office of the late Judge Beldia. Its elaborate Neo-Classic facade, unique in Boholano domestic architecture, is flanked by two pilasters with particularly attractive Composite capitals (a whimsical interpretation of the Corinthian model) hewn from coral stone.  Its three-centered arch is topped by an architrave of Classic proportions.

Originally having a U-shaped floor plan, the house’s internal courtyard has now been roofed over and now serves as the main entrance. The upper floor has since undergone considerable alterations.  There are new jalousie windows and the old wooden panels were largely replaced by contemporary materials.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Balili Heritage House (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Balili Heritage House

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

Our first stop in our Tagbilaran City tour was the majestic, two-storey Balili House, built sometime in 1934 by the then bachelor Mr. Eladio Balili, a history teacher of  Bohol National High School and businessman  (dried fish, lumber, furniture, transport and construction),  who later married Ms. Pancrasia “Caring” Castro.

The grand concrete stairway leading up to the porch

Barely visible from the street, its main facade is crowned by a wide overhanging gable roof with roof eaves adorned with Art Nouveau carvings.

The park-like garden

We passed through a park-like garden before climbing a sweeping grand concrete stairway leading to the artistically designed, second floor porch with its rounded corners, rough-hewn wooden posts, topped by semicircular arches with embroidery-like carvings on the fringes.

Arch. Gloria Balili-Katz (right) briefing members of media

The delicate calado wood carvings (in harp design), lattice screens, and barandillas (framed by carved wooden harps and friezes) underneath the windows add grace and playfulness to the house. The two sets of sliding capiz windows, with air vents above it, flank the porch on both sides.

February 18, 1957 (Eladio’s 58th birthday) picture of the Balili Family. Gloria is at the center

Elegant wooden canopies, with tooth-like fringes, protect the windows. The house has a square floor plan, unusual for Bohol houses.

The dining area

Upon entry, we were all welcomed by architect Gloria Balili-Katz, the youngest (of seven children) of Eladio and Pancrasia who gave us a tour of the well-preserved, incredibly beautiful mansion. According to her, the house served as a venue of grand social functions of Tagbilaran which were attended by prominent political and social personalities from both the local and national level.

Photo of Roxas-Quirino meeting on March 9, 1946

One such grand gathering was the March 9, 1946 meeting of then Pres. Manuel A. Roxas with senator (and later president) Elpidio R. Quirino, former governor Perfecto Balili (the brother of Eladio) and other important local political personalities. In March of 1942, during World War II, the Balili Mansion was requisitioned for use by high ranking Japanese military officers.

In the 1950s, after building a new larger house on the huge compound, Eladio finally moved out. The descendants of Eladio also preferred to build their own homes on the large family compound. The house was rented out but its last tenants moved out in 1998. For various reasons (accessibility, water supply, fear of ghosts, etc.), it was vacant for more than a decade.

Office desk with the agila chair (which Roxas sat on) behind it

Today, this well-maintained, virtually unchanged “sleeping beauty” has reawakened after it was converted into The Oasis lodging house (PhP450/pax for a fan-cooled room and PhP750/pax for an airconitioned room).  Meals are available upon request.

Antique wall-mounted clock

Inside are wooden walls (above which are calado woodwork) and ceiling, old photographs (including the photo of the Roxas-Quirino meeting) and floor of wide hardwood planks. Antique furnishings include the wooden chair (where Roxas sat on) with an agila (eagle) at its crest, an office desk, a butaka (a chair with long arm rests) and an old clock.

The sliding capiz windows with ventanillas below it

Balili Heritage House: 6 J. Borja St., Tagbilaran City. Tel: (038) 411-2511.  Mobile number: (0918) 299-1865. Website: www.oasislodgeHeritagehouse.com.

How to Get There: the house is located near the old Holy Spirit School, in front of Mang Inasal.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

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