Update on the Alberto House of Binan

I just got the shock of my life today.

Mr. Gerardo “Gerry” Alberto, descendant of Jose Alberto and current owner of the Alberto house (Alberto mansion) said he is bringing it down. Citing maintenance cost and  its continued deterioration.

If its any consolation, he’s currently negotiating a deal with Acuzar of San Jose Builders to rebuild the house in Bataan. He was introduced to Acuzar by Laya (and an NHI officer). Laya is considered by many as the country’s  “culture champ” for his efforts in heritage conservation, from paintings to “bahay na bato”. When he was head of Intramuros Administration, he rehabilitated the plazas, build the replica houses and restored much of Intramuros fortification. He’s now a private citizen and is still active in heritage conservation, I find this truly admirable and inspiring.

But if you’ll ask heritage conservationist, it would be a unanimous vote that restoration should be made in the place where the house was built because their historical significance belongs to the area.

Mr. Alberto was a gracious host, he even toured us around and shared very interesting stories about his family. The question whether to keep the house or demolish it boils down to economics, and he was very honest about his present financial situation and its challenges, being the only person now that runs the place. He made clear that deterioration has made it unsafe and useless, in his word “wala na din akong choice”. He told us that he would want to keep it, but “there’s is no money” and the government according to him, “wala naman maasahan”. the local government I felt should step up to the plate and put a viable program to restore the house that it largely ignored even after the town prospered after WWII (These cabrones even covered the house with their massive campaign tarpaulins!) Binan’s government has wholly deserted its heritage houses and sites, from Rizal’s first school to the old casa’s like the Yapchinchay, now the Albertos, what a damn shame to live in a  town run by such ignorant officials!

I’m not expecting heritage programs like the one in Taal for Binan, being realistic – these official’s can’t even manage traffic and crime, how much more conserving its heritage but for them not to push forward a restoration scheme for the Alberto house that sits right in front of their municipio blows my mind.

This is a sad development, imagine the house was built in 1611, and very few Binan folks knows about its history – its pending destruction breaks my heart. but I guess you have to accept that some things are beyond our control. Bidding our host adios (and our last ‘adios’ to Binan’s grandest house) we witnessed a very beautiful rainbow. “Esperanza!” exclaimed by my pal, but is there hope?

We now leave its fate to faith.

Below is English Gov. Bowring’s description of the house and the town during the historic visit in Binan (Chap. IV “La Laguna & Tayabas, pages 41-43):

I’ll be posting the picture I took after I’m done editing them.


17 responses to “Update on the Alberto House of Binan

  • rai

    it is very sad… he’s just making money out of these great ancestral houses.. i’ve met him for sometime, i worked for him & i know how greedy is he.. w/o thinking the safety of consumers.. just to earn money he’s using this houses.. so sad about what is happening, yes he has great ideas but intentions? i doubt.. hope the goverment will see what happening..

  • chief

    binan government doesn’t have the money to preserve or acquire the alberto house because all of binan’s money go to corruption. binan is second to santa rosa in terms of income but in spite of that our local government owes money amounting to billions of pesos. where did all our money go? ask our local officials. instead of building a new munispyo amounting to 100s of millions of pesos, our municipal government should have bought the house and turned it into a museum.

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  • De AnDA

    @ Dr. Rosario – we would have to consider a wider range of perspectives and ideas. Unfortunately, we’re running out of time. If the local and national had come up with solutions for many of the major issues facing the house and its owner, we won’t be dealing with this mess.We should learn from this and ensure that what remains of the heritage structures of Binan is cared for and protected. Looking at what’s left of Binan’s heritage, there’s little left to save 😦

  • dr. rosauro a. sta.maria,jr.

    I wish to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and concern on the Alberto House issue.

    The fund raising is a bright idea and we (UACCD) have even discussed this in one of our board meetings. The problem is whether Mr. Gerry Alberto would agree. He is just so bent on selling the house to Mr. Acuzar. I do not know why but i hope he could see the what Mr. Zialcita had to say on Bagac.:

    Fernando N. Zialcita
    Cultural Heritage Studies Program
    Ateneo de Manila University
    June 5, 2010

    I got to meet Jerry Acuzar several years ago after he had bought the Enriquez Mansion on Hidalgo Street and had made it clear that he would transfer it to Bagac. Seeing that he was firm about transferring it, I tried to convince him to at least come out with a building that would be low-rise and would enhance the street. Like why not a health center specializing in popular medicine? This is Quiapo after all. As an added attraction there could be a Nazareno Museum with a chapel carrying His replica.

    Together with Ed Nuque, expert on heritage tourism, and Joy Mananghaya, heritage architect, we went several times to see him to ask if he could at least commission a market study on money-making uses – other than another generic tower like his President’s Tower on Timog — for the vacant lot. We became friends. It turned out he loved my book on Philippine Ancestral Houses and had been wanting to meet me. On another occasion I brought with me Teresita Obusan who works closely with us at Bahay Nakpil, lives there, and actively tries to build an awareness of culture and history among our Quiapo neighbours.

    Jerry invited me twice to Bagac. The first time I went with Ed, Joy and her husband Ral who is an urban planner. The second time I went with Tess Obusan. I was delighted that he was doing something to save endangered houses but was shocked by the following:

    1) The houses are on an estate by the sea. No less than one of his assistants — in an unguarded moment – told me that within the recent past, the sea did enter inland past the estate and reached the parish church!
    2) The proportions of some of the houses were all wrong. The upper story came down too closely over the keystones of the ground floor windows. In one, just a few centimetres separated the keystones from the upper story
    3) In one house, the azotea – in all its roofless expanse – opened at the front part of the house, close to the main door. Azoteas are not porches. They are located behind near the kitchen. They are service areas.
    4) There is a bad habit of rusticating the walls of the ground story. That is, the adobe is left exposed and is even roughly hewn to emphasize the texture. I was shown photos of the transferred Enriquez House where this was done. Even the columns of the arcade in front of the ground floor main door were reconfigured as piles of unplastered adobe blocks. Absolutely wrong! 1) In traditional 19th century Manila houses, the adobe and the brick were covered with lime and given a blank finish so that there would be a contrast between the empty expanse of the ground floor walls and the intricacy of the carvings and texture of the upper story. 2) Also, adobe is a porous stone that retains water. Acuzar is perpetuating and reinforcing a dangerous tendency to leave adobe unplastered with lime.

    I think the issue of transferring heritage houses to Bagac has to be nuanced. In some cases, it may be the only alternative. In other cases, however, preservation and development could take place in situ. But he has to rise above the pull of material interests. He bought not only the Enriquez house, but also its lot!

    Back to Quiapo. In the end Acuzar did raise another monstrous generic tower. I launched a letter of appeal to City Hall and circulated the letters. Hearing of this, Jerry called me up. I told him why I was opposing the tower. 1) I asked if he could at least replicate the former look of the Enriquez Mansion on the first two stories. 2) I also asked, for the sake of Manuel L. Quezon University, his alma mater, if he could commission a traffic plan for the street.

    Well, the first two ground stories form an arcade over the sidewalk. But there was no serious intent to copy closely the original look. The cornice juts out exaggeratedly in a very clumsy way. The arcade pillars of reinforced concrete now have grey, adobe garments whereas originally they were round, lime-covered, white Tuscan columns. And the arcade now serves as parking for the cars of the residents rather than as a walk-through for pedestrians.

    No alternative traffic plan has been provided by him for a street that has five (5) jeepney terminals and that is always clogged at almost all hours.

  • filipineses09

    Appalling! Disheartening! Sad: mere words that cannot quite describe how we feel about this news. Thanks again from sharing it pronto, Arnaldo.

    But this spectre of loss is but the latest in a string of disappearing, deteriorating (made to rut) and mangled cultural heritage sites, buildings, objects, isn’t it? As Jimmy Laya (architect, he isn’t as far as I recall) and a host of others impassioned with conservation, preservation and restoration (as my husband was, dying disheartened but accepting none of these mattered in the master scheme of things anyway) would agree, culture and history register nowhere in the minds of legislators. A hurricane of problems–most of thier own making–keeps flinging them to turn attention elsewhere.

    This your blog, Arnaldo, where we can talk and share our hopes of nourishing our pride for our culture, is an island visible from an ocean where we float with our dreams. At least we see it, see a shore line where one day we might beach our raft. Let’s call it, “Esperanza!”

    We must then give flesh to our hopes. I agree with Isabel on starting an internet campaign. There’s a site for petitions called Care2 to gather signatures and donations wordlwide. A few of the campaigns in it have been successful.

    Someone to craft a petition to preserve the Alberto house ‘where is’?

  • De AnDA

    @ Isabel – That’s a good idea. So far we have many organized heritage conservation groups but I have not seen such a campaign. This should be centralized and national.

    Also, I’ve corrected this post as I mention Arch. Laya as the person negotiating with Gerry, it was Acuzar of San Jose Builder that is working the deal to transfer the house.

  • Isabel Medina

    If the young people just put together an Internet campaign to ask Filipinos all over the Philippines and the world to give one peso or one dollar each to save that house, then millions of dollars would be collected, more than enough to save hundreds of historic buildings.

    In Chile the Hogar de Cristo and many other charities have a deal with the owners of supermarket chains. When you pay for your groceries and you are supposed to get back, say, $592.50 and you give the cashier $953 pesos, she’ll say, “Do you want to donate 50 centavos to Hogar de Cristo?” This way, 100’s of thousands of shoppers donate the equivalent of millions of pesos without pain.

    Hogar de Cristo is a non-profit that runs shelters for homeless people and provides basic housing for the poor.

    Warm regards,

  • Maylene Balagtas

    For inquiries of that said “pagtatanghal”….Contact UACCD at telephone numbers: 511-60-52 or 0917-8472-476

  • Maylene Balagtas

    Magkakaroon po ng isang pagtatanghal ang mga kabataan ng Biñan para sa Albertos house sa darating na June 09,2010 sa Biñan Plaza ang pag tatanghal na ito ay upang maisalba ang Albertos House….

  • Dr. Mandaro

    Sad to see binan crumble down because of its politics precisely on curruption. i hoped the alberto’s just took over its politics around 1900’s like what they have doing for the past centuries making the town progressive

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  • De AnDA

    The email he showed us only goes to show that he is really working on at lease getting the house moved by Mr. Laya. If the local government of Binan took interest in restoring it I’m certain that Mr. Alberto would’ve cooperated. This man is very civil minded, he even helped raise fund to rebuild the Sn. Isidro church back in the 1990’s. The problem is that we have leaders that lacks vision. Puro na lang pulitika at reklamo na walang pera ang kaban ng gobyerno but you wonder why they’ll kill each other just to control the politics of Binan, mas kilala pa Binan ngayon sa away pulitika kaysa sa yaman ng historya nito!

  • Pepe

    I asked Sr. Alberto if he’s willing to receive funds from the government just to save his almost four-century-old mansion. His answer: “waláng pera ang gobierno.” =(

  • Levi

    Oh man.. this is very sad.. and very unfortunate. I’m very surprised how none of the Konsehales or any local Government body of the town would want to step up and come up with something to protect and preserve one of Binan’s legacy.

    Local tourism would’ve boomed if the local Government have come up with some organized tour of some sort, at the same time tattooing the importance of these structures.

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