In a recent visit to the Alberto house in Biñan. I was awed by its beauty but at the same time regret its present condition. This classic stone house displays the prominence and style of the family that has occupied it for more than 200 years. You could feel by observing the house that the occupants are no ordinary Filipinos, add to this is its ideal location, right at the heart of Biñan, on its left is the municipio and Iglesia, in front is the rotonda and plaza.
With its solid built, utilizing the most durable construction materials, the Alberto’s bought the best their finances could afford during those days. Its no wonder that this house has stood the test of time. However, Its unfortunate that no matter how strong a house is built it would eventually, if not well preserve succumb to deterioration. This house has seen its better days. Below is a brief history of the owner of this wonderful ‘bahay na bato’
Jose Alberto an uncle of Rizal, had been educated in British India, spending eleven years in a Calcutta missionary school. This was the result of an acquaintance which his father had made with an English naval officer who visited the Philippines about 1820, the author of “An Englishman’s Visit to the Philippines.” Lorenzo Alberto, the grandfather, himself spoke English and had English associations.
The great Binan bridge had been built under Lorenzo Alberto’s supervision, and for services to the Spanish nation during the expedition to Cochin-China-probably liberal contributions of money-he had been granted the title of Knight of the Order of Isabel the Catholic, but by the time this recognition reached him he had died, and the patent was made out to his son.
An episode well known in the village-its chief event, if one might judge from the conversation of the inhabitants-was a visit which a governor of Hongkong had made there when he was a guest in the home of Alberto. Many were the tales told of this distinguished Englishman, who was Sir John Bowring, the notable polyglot and translator into English of poetry in practically every one of the dialects of Europe. His achievements along this line had put him second or third among the linguists of the century. He was also interested in history, and mentioned in his Binan visit that the Hakluyt Society, of which he was a Director, was then preparing to publish an exceedingly interesting account of the early Philippines that did more justice to its inhabitants than the regular Spanish historians. Here Rizal first heard of Morga, the historian, whose book he in after years made accessible to his countrymen. A desire to know other languages than his own also possessed him and he was eager to rival the achievements of Sir John Bowring.
In his book entitled “A Visit to the Philippine Islands,” which was translated into Spanish by Mr. Jose del Pan, a liberal editor of Manila, Sir John Bowring gives the following account of his visit to Rizal’s uncle:
“We reached Binan before sunset …. First we passed between files of youths, then of maidens; and through a triumphal arch we reached the handsome dwelling of a rich mestizo, whom we found decorated with a Spanish order, which had been granted to his father before him. He spoke English, having been educated at Calcutta, and his house-a very large one-gave abundant evidence that he had not studied in vain the arts of domestic civilization. The furniture, the beds, the table, the cookery, were all in good taste, and the obvious sincerity of the kind reception added to its agreeableness. Great crowds were gathered together in the square which fronts the house of Don Jose Alberto.”
I consider my visit to this beautiful bahay na bato – a pilgrimage of sorts. I only can imagine how beautiful the town was during its hey days. So close to us here in the south metro yet unknown to many. In almost all areas of the town I found reminders of its inspiring past. Such lovely old houses, I don’t mind spending the whole afternoon feasting my eyes on these gems.
I consider myself fortunate that in my time I’ve visited this historic place. I noticed that not too many people are aware of its role in our political evolution – I’ve actually spoke with several Biñense, most were disinterested – worst they don’t know its history. Binan should promote and educate its people on what it was once so they can be proud of the history and culture of the historic town.