Another old town with its historic remnants slowly vanishing is Sta. Rosa, a once agricultural settlement named by its Dominican originators after the blessed lady saint from Lima. The fairly new city is now known for its classy villages and big malls. From Binan, one could hardly notice the old houses that rest scattered in its major roads leading to the town center.
The church has been frequently repaired and renovated due to damage cause by both nature and man, but the core structure remains, the interior retained its aged personality. The spacious top space, its remarkable center dome, the magnificent retablo and the ornamented walls painted with holy imagery is comparable to that of San Agustin in Intramuros. A new bellfry, the old one, a pointed structure that had been in steady repair for decades, was finally replaced by a concrete construction using modern day materials. The bells were still the originals, the latest belfry is towering and impressive, it came out well. There were several markers commemorating the visits of the Peruvian Ambassadors, who had been offered monetary support to the town. The Peruvian government has donated a life-size image of Sta. Rosa de Lima.
Inside the church, there were still quite a few headstones that adorned the side walls, belonging to the important citizens of the old town. Most of these pioneering men and women had been given the honor of being buried within their beloved Iglesia, as proof of their significant contributions to their community. Within the environs of the church, which has always been the core of a Spanish town’s blueprint, are the propertied and cultured families with their splendid residences.
I was fortunate to meet a descendant of one of a well-known family, owner of one of the oldest casa in town, Sr. Philip Perla. He graciously accepted me to inspect and take pictures of his old home, the foundations, according to him is as old as the town of Sta. Rosa but the house were reconstructed several times [last time being in late 1800’s]. He said that his ancestors actually help construct the original church. The first Perla of Sta. Rosa, a talented Ilocano married to a gorgeous Portuguese lady, came with the Dominicans from Ilocos. This man was said to have painted the ceiling of the church during its creation, an estimable feat for a man whose known was that of a farmer. He’s remains and that of his immediate family is interned within the church’s compound.
The adobe walls of Sr. Philip’s ancestral house were broad, at first I thought that they were fortifications built for military function. The lumber used were resilient, they were thick and solid. As can be seen from the exterior, the house is almost in perfect form because the materials had stood the test of time. The roof was replaced with galvanized iron during the American years, it took away some of the charm of a time-honored ‘bahay na bato’, in a way it was unnatural but it was cheaper and it was a practical alternative during the its repair after the war. The basement was used as a stock room, it had these superb adobe foundations, there was nothing there but junk today, but it once was a shelter for their horses and equipments, they owned several calesas used to transport their merchandise.
Inside the house was a collection of Santos, life size icons that they still parade during the fiestas. My host told me that this tradition extends back to the first Perlas, where such icons were adored for desires of abundant harvest. The Sala was typical of an old traditional houses, it was well-ventilated and had a relaxed feel to it, even if your seated, you could see the church and the locality, it was built I believe with that purpose in mind. The veranda was spacious, fronting it was the garden. The roads were ample and the houses were far from each other.
They had an old piano that Sr.Philip claims to be more than a century old. Their past time then, according to him, was reading books, conversing in Castilian, tending their garden, grooming the horses and playing this wonderful instrument, specially during the times when there would be visitors – they were Filipino farmers, but I find it astounding that their customary way of living is so distant from what we have these days. During the 1950’s when he was still a young boy, he remembers, “playing in the streets while being supervised by their Abuelo’s resting on their rocking chair in the elevated veranda”. He adds, “iba na ang panahon ngayon, marami ng nagbago, kung ako tatanungin mo mas maganda ang mabuhay [mamuhay] noon”.
As the other old houses already gave way to contemporary development, its good to know that there are people like Sr. Philip that appreciates the past and understands its importance and why there is a need to conserve such monuments, asked if his children and grandchildren would keep the house the way it is, he said, “Sila na ang bahala doon, wala na naman ako magagawa kung wala na ako at gusto nilang magtayo ng magarang bahay”. I told him, nothing could be more beautiful than what they already have.