no matter how boring history was in high school (and even in college), something about it will always draw me in. truth be told, i’m not big on the hard facts like memorizing years and names and the wars that transpired in between. what i am most interested about is the culture of the nameless and faceless people living during that world; what their lives were like; the daily battles they had to conquer.
when i think about history in that aspect, my mind can’t even begin to grasp the complexity of it all — the values, the unwritten rules, the everyday interaction within and among themselves. i can only imagine what their lives must have been like. i can only assume. museums don’t offer the kind of information i am seeking. but i can’t complain. i’m glad museums exist in the first place. it’s there where time, quite literally, stands still.
the first time i learned about the then-unknown yap-sandiego ancestral house was when it was featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer a couple of years ago. i remember being surprised that as a local and proud cebuano, i had to learn about a gemstone in cebu from an author who doesn’t even live here.
so finally, today, ram and i found ourselves in the streets of Parian, looking for that old house you just can’t miss. not when it’s right around the block. and especially not when it’s the only house in the neighborhood that seems to be lost in time.
155-Lopez Jaena corner Mabini Street
considering that the museum fee was only 50 pesos, we were the only guests there. i guess it’s not really as famous as casa gorordo but if korean nationals found their way there (i skimmed the guest book), why can’t we?
anyhow, i’m not gonna give you geeky facts, except that the house was built sometime between 1675 and 1700 (a very important geeky fact). and that it was originally owned by a chinese merchant, Don Juan Yap, and his wife, Doña Maria Florido. i’m also not going to lengthen the geekiness by telling you that it was during the 1880’s that the couple’s eldest daughter, Maria Florido Yap, married a native from Bulacan named Don Mariano San Diego who then became Parian’s cabeza de baranggay, proving that indeed, it pays to keep museum leaflets handy just in case verbatim information is needed.
the house is old. something you must have already deduced. but when i say old, i mean old old. like really really. it has the same foundation as the basilica. coral stones glued together with egg white. very eco. although i wonder how many eggs they had to crack just to get the whole thing done. hens were probably going crazy with the pressure to lay the most number of eggs at the least amount of time. just as i wonder how many leche flans were made out of the total number of eggs used.
stupid thoughts aside, today i learned the status symbol of chairs. there are chairs for the rich, just as there are chairs for the poor. now, the dining chairs of the rich looked like the photo below. it’s not really all that classy, i know, but once upon a time, class looked exactly like that, with all the fine china and candelabra and what-not (just don’t mind the floor).
on the other side of the spectrum, here we have the poor people’s chairs (below), which looked like something i saw in my family’s ancestral house in bohol. something that made me go, “oh, so we were poor then… just as we are still poor now.” but that’s what the chairs and the dining table looked like, where poor people didn’t get much of an elbow space compared to their more affluent counterpart.
to get to the second floor of the house, protective rubber slippers or cloth shoe covers were needed to prevent unnecessary scratching of the wooden floor. ram looked silly wearing what looked like huge mickey mouse shoe covers but he was very cooperative. so not his usual self.
the very first thing that greeted us upon the stair landing was a huge statue of the Blessed Mother flanked by her angels, a typical scene i notice in old houses. the tour guide was quick to point out that the flowers surrounding the statues were made of fish scales. fish scales arranged to form different flowers painted with different colors. considering that the fish scales were big enough to be manipulated into such, i assumed the fishes who owned those scales must have been as big as sharks. or an abnormally huge tuna fish, at least. but it was a genius idea. again, very eco. and to think that it lasted this long!
filipinos, as history repeatedly points out, were religious to a fault. religious items were de rigueur then when it came to interior decorations — all made from expensive materials. nothing but the best for these rich people, i guess. take, for instance, the mother of pearl floral creations encased in wooden frames. seriously, i thought they were brooches or head pieces slash jewelry or something but it turned out that they were ordinary decorations to artistically frame printed photos of saints. but frankly, i don’t see much framing about it, though. not when the beautifully intricate mother of pearls were grabbing all the attention and the tiny photo of the saints took a backseat from all the, uh, mother of pearl glory. once again, in my head, materialism pervaded religion.
oh, and do notice that the wooden saint (or is it a version of Mother Mary?) is chinese. that’s because the chinese arrived long before spaniards did so they already had their own culture going on. they just, well, incorporated christianity into it.
(i’m not gonna lie. the image of sto. niño above in the far left gives me the creeps. i don’t even wanna stare at it. it looks quietly menacing. and angry.)
if having too many religious items in the living area sent off weird vibes, you can just imagine how those vibes intensified when we walked inside the bedroom. it felt like they were all watching us. every movement we did was well accounted for. even the number of times we blinked. it was kind of creepy and scary at the same time. but the guide said he sleeps there sometimes with the owner of the museum. maybe it’s something you get used to. but it’s definitely not something i would be willing to find out.
one last trivia: this chair we’re sitting on? this ain’t no love chair. suitors who came to visit were asked to sit on the extreme side of the chair (say, the left. your left, from where you’re facing.) the girl would be sitting on the other extreme side. polar opposites. and who sits on the middle? the girl’s parents, of course. very romantic.
all things considered, i’m so glad i wasn’t born during such time. i don’t think i can handle the way things were done. most especially how the laundry was done. mainly because of the planggana. an ultra-heavy round basin made of solid hard wood — which a woman had to carry either on her head or on her hips as she uncomfortably sashays her way into the nearest river with all the poise and grace she can muster. hard labor, man. and the manual washing of clothes haven’t even begun yet!
hard wood. hard work. hard life.
the basin in question is the one at the bottom, by the way.