Update on Cebu’s old Jesuit House

Great news I received from a friend just today about the old Jesuit house that I visited last June! It officially opened its doors as a museum, though I could be getting ahead of myself here, getting too excited, I would want to see this with my own eyes.

I felt at that time of my visit that the Jesuit house was headed to the slaughterhouse! Looking at what was around the house (industrial and scrap materials) I thought that it was lost but just like what I mentioned in my post last June, “the Chinese Filipino family that now owns place, are known to accommodate request from interested parties … the fact that they haven’t touch the old house says something about them, they’re obviously aware of its significance to history. Add to these are their effort to protect the relieves by enclosing them with iron grills, protecting them from vandals… keeping the old convento intact even if they can do away without it”.

So if what I heard this afternoon is true, let me thank this Cebuano Family in advance!

Hope the place is open this weekend. Below is the web article of the awesome Ateneo website about the Jesuit House, the site features  major Hispanic heritage sites in the Visayan region.

The website project is aptly called Panublion (Pamana in Tagala).

Jesuit House of 1730

The Jesuit House of 1730 is for the adventuresome. Even in Cebu, few know of the existence of this house located between Zulueta and Binakayan Sts. Permission is needed to see the house presently owned by the Sy family, owners of HoTong hardware. Though not open to the public, with advanced notice the house can be visited. But visitors be warned that it is now a warehouse, and will require some walking over cables, reinforcing bars and other construction material. The house can be dusty and the air stale.

The house was once the residence of the Jesuit superior in Cebu. To coordinate work in their Visayan missions, the first Jesuit mission superior, Antonio Sedeño opened a residence in Cebu in 1595. The site of the 16th century residence is uncertain. This residence which is still standing is believed to have been built in 1730. A relief plaque inside the residence bears this date. The Jesuits were in possession of this house until 1768 when they were expelled from the Philippines. Upon their expulsion, Jesuit properties were put on public auction. A Spanish family, the Alvarez, acquired the house. The house passed through various owners until the Sy family acquired the residence. At one time, the residence became an exclusive club for Cebu’s elite.

Early in this century, the existence of the house was first documented by Fr. William Repetti, S.J., seismologist and archivist of the Jesuits. He noted its existence in a book he published in 1936. In the book, a reproduction of an old painting of the house indicated that a tower stood beside it, probably built as a watchtower for seafaring raiders.

Heritage Features: The whole compound is surrounded by a wall made of cut coral. The wall is divided by short piers on which are relieves bearing the monogram IHS, meaning Jesus. The original gate to the residence is along the side road named Binakayan. The gate’s lintel is decorated with monograms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. These bas relieves in soft coral have unfortunately eroded because of wind and rain and also because vehicles have scarped the wall along the very narrow Binakayan road. To protect the monograms on the gate, the Sy family has installed a metal gate and a roof over the gate. To see the monograms on the lintel permission is needed as the steel gate is locked.

Entrance to the compound is through a new opening at Zulueta. Inside the compound are two structures. The structure closest to Zulueta bears traces of renovation. It is a bipartite building, the lower story of coral and the upper of wood. The stairway leading to the first house is of 20th-century vintage. The roof of the house is supported by stout unhewn tree trunks decorated with corbels.

This house is connected by a bridge to a second house. Like the convento of Santo Niño the second house is all of cut coral. Stout unhewn timbers support a heavy tile roof. The roof line curves outward in the same manner as Chinese style roofs. Iron grilles bar the windows of the second story. The house is no longer divided as it may have looked in the 18th century. Divisions into rooms are of 20th century vintage. The main door of the house is permanently locked and the decorative banister and newel post of the stairway is gone. Oral tradition has it that the Alvarez family brought the banister and newel post to a new house they were building in Bohol. Both banister and post were similar in design to those found in the convento of Santo Niño.

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3 responses to “Update on Cebu’s old Jesuit House

  • alex umacob

    Rare information for everyone!!!!

  • alex umacob

    May I know the exct location of Fr Sedeno’s residence for his fellow Jesuits which he huilt in 1595? Could this be in the modern day Plaza Independencia? Was that residence the forerunner of the Colegio de San Ildefonso which is today the San Carlos University?
    We are lucky that the Sy family has presrved this monumental priceless piece of architecture in Cebu. I visited the place very recently and the owners (the Sy family) has not only kept it as it as but did great research to its glorious past. Mr Sy is one of the very few I met in Cebu has a passion for preservatin and history!!! AMDG

  • Bill Bartmann

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..

    -Bill-Bartmann

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