The Old Town of Santa Rosa

The old pueblo of Sta. Rosa today.

The old pueblo of Sta. Rosa today

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.

Casa de TantioncoCasa de Tantionco

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.

Sta Rosa de Lima

Sta Rosa de Lima

Inside the Perla residence I was immediately greeted by a weathered statuette of a little girl holding a basket, said to be that of an aborigine, gathering fruits in the forest. These beautiful statuettes once adorned the attractive gardens of each home, they were elegant pieces and was said to have been a symbol of wealth and influence.

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.

The house of the Perlas

The house of the Perla's with one of Sr. Philip's granddaughter acting as Guardia Civil!

Ruins along Zavalla

Ruins along Zavalla

Colonel Basilio Gonzales house

Colonel Basilio Gonzales' house


11 responses to “The Old Town of Santa Rosa

  • Anonymous

    My lola Metring was a Zavalla. She was very cultured and a patron of the arts. She set up traditions in Oas, Albay like the May Flores de Mayo, the Christmas Zagalas and Dances, the Lenten observations and processions. I look at Sta Rosa as my abuela’s home. And proud it is part of me and gentleness and culture. High Standards of Humanity…

  • horacio

    parehas kayong mali,lalo ka na john…ang tunay na atin ay ang mga ninunong naka-bahag, wala ka sanang makikita na bahay na yari sa bato kung di dahil sa mga kastila.ano ang tunay na atin? di ba nag bahay kubo? anong mentalidad na kolonyal ang sinasabi mo? alin? ang pag susuot mo ng damit na gawa ng banyaga? ang pag-gamit mo ng mga gamit ng banyaga?

  • nold

    D – You’re right, people like John are victims of historical instructions based on fanatical nationalism, they were educated that a true Filipino must rid himself with all things colonial. We had this educational method for so long that it has shaped a generation estranged by its own past, recollection of Spanish literature and culture in our islands is being unFilipino when in fact it was being Filipino. The amusing part is that we proclaim landmark Baroque Churches’, the Intramuros, the Hispanized “lutong bahay”,our appearance, our names, the Christian faith, the Fiesta etc etc as Filipino, you see in the end we’ll all comeback to where we began.

    Tutubi – Thanks for dropping by, if you visit the San Pedro locale go to the poblacion where the church is, you’ll a discover a Cross that has been with the town for centuries, its miraculous powers was once renowned, even Rizal cited it in his Noli, I don’t know why it is not being promoted by the local government and the Church. Then you should visit the Sampaguita plantations, it made the town prosperous in the late 1800’s up to the American years, sadly, the trade was neglected, much of the Sampaguita being prepared here as garlands is from neighbouring Cavite.

  • tutubi

    this is a nice post on sta rosa’s losing heritage…i intend to visit the old town center one of these days probably after san pedro in a few weeks

  • D

    My two cents.

    There’s too much misplaced nationalism in John’s answer. Anyway, so what are we to do with our Caucasian heritage? We sure can’t just trash our 400 years under Spanish rule and 50 years of American occupation which have been ingrained in our memory. If I recognize my Caucasian-colonial heritage, does that make me a lesser Filipino?

  • John Greg Adolfo

    Patas lamang marahil na bigyan din ng importansya ang mas nauna nating cultura nold. Ang problema natin ngayon ay ang maganda sa atin paningin ay ang hindi atin.

    Masaganang bagong taon!

    • nold

      Thanks John. I agree, we wouldn’t want to entirely expunge the memory of our indigineous ancestors. There’s much that we could learn from the way they lived their lives.

  • nold

    hi John – I think your missing the point, I’m not obsessed nor do I have preference for Contemporary Spanish culture – they’re as alien to me as your brand of Tagalog. However, our Hispano Filipino origins is something I believe in because regardless of our desires to rid ourselves of the transformation we underwent, it can not be undone, there’s no returning back to our pristine state, not unless your willing to join the prehispanic natives, some are still in the mountains by the way, so you could certainly reestablish that bond – but I’m certain that you would find them strange because they represent what you were before you ever became Filipino.

  • John Greg Adolfo

    Kapatid, binasa ko ang mangilanngilan na mga sinulat mo dito sa iyong blog, at hindi ko maalis na mapuna ang iyong pagiging maka-banyaga, lalo na ang mga naisulat mo patungkol sa mga naiwang likha nga mga Kastila.

    Wala naman marahil na masama na sila’y pagaralan, pero hindi ba nararapat na ibigin natin ang tunay na atin? ang mga bagay na nilikha ng ating mga ninuno at hindi ng kung sinumang banyaga, nararapat lamang na ang pagiisip natin ay umayon sa tunay nating pagkatao, ang paglaya natin ay makakamit lamang kung tayo’y tuluyan ng lalaya sa gapos ng mentalidad na kolonyal.

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