Governor Natalio Enriquez Ancestral House This eye-catching and brick-roofed Sariaya landmark near the church, is an Art Deco style house designed by European schooled architect Andres Luna de San Pedro, the son of artist Juan Luna. It was built in 1931 by erstwhile Tayabas Provincial Governor Natalio Enriquez (1941 – 1945) and his wife Susana Gala. A venue for fabulous social gatherings in pre war Sariaya, it hosted the grand reception during the 1938 wedding of their daughter Alicia to Manuel Gala where Philippine Commonwealth First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon served as principal sponsor. It was declared by the National Historical Institute as a Heritage House on May 14, 2008.
Sariaya’s richest and prominent citizens left behind grand houses for us to celebrate and be proud of. Most were built during the height of its economic progress brought by the copra business. The descendants that preserved the grand old houses must be congratulated for not surrendering to greed. Its architectural and historic importance has drawn many tourist, students and admirers – which is not a surprise at all since you wouldn’t see houses like the ones you’ll find here anywhere else.
Historical markers were recently installed on the houses of the prominent families. I don’t know much about the families of Sariaya but I’m sure their stories is as interesting and valuable as the house they left behind. I’m fascinated at how most of the old structures are preserved. I walked away from the town center, heading towards the bay and saw several bahay na bato that are still stable and occupied. These level of awareness is getting rarer and rarer that I fear one day I’ll wake up being surrounded only by houses made of steel, glasses and plastic.
The best and the brightest builders and planners were employed by the propertied families of Sariaya. Nakpil designed the tisa roofed Rodriguez house while Luna San Pedro, son of Juan Luna, designed Governor Enriquez’s majestic abode. These two are giants in the Filipino architectural world. The presence of their work here gives us an idea of the level of sophistication and elegance of old Sariaya.
The town hall of Sariaya is an Art Deco, perhaps the only one of its kind. Art Deco is one of the most influential design movements of the 20th Century.
The municipio looked strange, colorful and familiar. It could very well be the only town hall built following the Art Deco style. I’m not really a fan of this particular design but it’s imperative that we retain them for structures and buildings represent the different strata of our history.
Just imagine how life was way back in those days when the town held dances, fiestas and celebrations in the town center (fronting the municipio) – they even had this dance ball called “comprasas” during Valentine’s Day. It’s their version of match making. It’s a fascinating event that even men from as far as Manila would go to Sariaya’s Rizal park, putting on their best dance steps. The competition must’ve been really tough. After all, future sweethearts is at stake!
The church of Sariaya is of elegant baroque style. Recently it has gone through major restoration. The original was said to have been built close to the shore but was later moved because of frequent pirate attacks. A strategy that was also employed in the Visayan Catholic communities as response to the slave raiders. A popular devotion in this beautiful white church is the Sto. Cristo, a replica of the crucifix in Burgos, Spain. Sto. Cristo de Burgos is the centerpiece of the church and rightly so – for it help shaped the religious culture of this most beautiful and wonderful town of Sariaya.
Don Catalino Rodriguez Ancestral House The third NHI-declared Heritage House in Sariaya, it was renovated sometime in the year 1922 and owned by Don Catalino Rodriguez, Sariaya’s town Presidente (Mayor during the American occupation period) from 1908-1909. This fenceless, almost block long residence with its main entrance facing south along Calle Daliz is likewise bounded by Calle Rizal on the west and Quezon Avenue (formerly Calle Talavera) on the east. Among its features are colorful stained glass windows, a big veranda facing east, a straight grand flight of wooden stairs, a beautiful high ceiling with intricately-designed lattices, a spacious grand living room, European and American fixtures in the bathroom and the kitchen and beautiful wall paintings.
Julianito Rodriguez House This brick-roofed, thick-walled, pink-colored, three storey house once owned by Mr. Julianito Rodriguez and his wife Rosie Gala is a comprehensive renovation of a circa 1920s residence of erstwhile Tayabas Provincial Governor Maximo Rodriguez that burned in 1944. He and wife Martinita Gala were the principal sponsors of Manuel Luis Quezon and wife Aurora Aragon during their wedding in Hong Kong, and their house was where President Quezon used to stay whenever he visited Sariaya in the old days.
Enriquez – Gala House This big house is owned by Atty. Librado Enriquez and his wife Josefina Gala which was built to replace a much older residence that burned in the Japanese-started great fire of 1944. Among its features are an arched roofed – entrance topped by a curved veranda, a silo-like outside wall with small windows where a curving flight of stairs inside leads to the second floor of the house as well as three cathedral-type arched side doors with Corinthian style column embellishments that open to the garden topped by another veranda upstairs held by the curving crowns of ionic columns.
One of the historical landmarks of the town is the St. Francis of Assisi Church, which was built in 1748 (Find out more about this in the narratives of the historical marker photo). The highway slices thru the town proper and the church is not easy to miss on the left side. There are times of the day though that traffic is rerouted in front of the church. When you are facing Lucena-bound, you may be directed to take a side road to the right. In that case, find your way back to the highway after a few corners and you may enter the churchyard’s gate when you are facing Manila-bound. The church houses the Sto. Cristo de Burgos image which is more popular than the acknowledged patron saint St. Francis of Assisi, as the former was believed to be miraculous and visited by pilgrims from far away places. If you are the kind who do not believe in miracles, then try the native delicacies peddled near the gate at unbelievably low prices. The church’s historical marker states that the earthquakes and floods of 1743 destroyed the church and caused the transfer to the present site. However, an article by Bambi L. Harper (Sense & Sensibility, Phil Daily Inquirer 08/13/02) quoting a letter from Eric Dedace (of Sariaya Quadri-Centennial Fdtn) narrates that “…folk legend handed over for more than 259 years now had it that after the 1743 earthquake, the pillaging Moros (native Muslimscame and once again burned the church and the town and the people fled to Mount Banahaw’s slopes. Returning… the survivors found the Cristo de Burgos still intact amid the charred ruins, which they regarded as a miracle… it was wrapped in white cloth and carried by able-bodied men northwards to higher ground. After resting for a while, the men folk tried to lift the icon to resume their journey but it became too heavy to carry so the people took it as a sign that the new church should be built at that very spot and so Sariaya came to being amidst another ‘miracle’ which they say continues to this day. The prior part of the same letter mentions about the lake in Mt. Banahaw that collapsed due to the earthquake, causing the flood and the destruction of the church and the town. These accounts could be consolidated if we would say that after the earthquake with accompanying flood, pirates attacked and burned the church (which survived the earthquake and flood, otherwise there is nothing to burn). This prompted the townsfolk to build a new church at the present site, in effect transferring the town. Hence, the former location is now called Lumangbayan (Oldtown).
Remnants of a Spanish speaking populace
Viva Sr. Sto. Cristo
Simple yet elegant.
Even the simplest, is an affirmation of a sophisticated taste and lifestyle.
An old structure, now a school.
In the midst of modern progress-the old struggles to coexist with the new.
An old house converted into a gospel house.
A typical bahay na bato model that could be found around the islands.
* Photo captions for the first five photo by Eric J Dedace of SFCF
** All photos by Arnaldo