Let me weigh in on some of the facts and lies about the shocking event that awoke Biñan one morning. The demolition of the Alberto Mansion: the ancestral house of Rizal’s mother and the many illustrious Biñense town leaders that came from this brilliant family.
The past is so different from our time, changing fortunes and tribulations alter the course of our modern lives. The present situation of the lone heir of the Alberto mansion, Gerry Alberto, has made it difficult to maintain the fast deteriorating state of the massive house. This prompted him to seek the assistance of the local government, who unsurprisingly had no plan, no answer. The usual excuse was “there are no funds”. There seem to be this concept that priority projects are those that will make them look good, and this old feeble residence, if restored with local tax money, won’t give them that publicity mileage. But I’m sure they’re interested now, because ever since the demolition crew started, news spread like wild fire (thanks to an Inquirer journalist), groups are rallying to stop the demolition. Of course, no local government would want to be seen disinterested in their town heritage – so let’s welcome the champions of heritage ladies and gents!
I’m all for conservation but I draw the line at what is realistic and what is not. After Ondoy, we visited the house and was stunned by the effect the super typhoon had, the ceilings was ready to fall; the beautiful portraits of the Albertos were all damaged beyond repair. The whole place smells awful possibly because of mold as some materials are still soaked in water. The roof, made of tisa, was really a safety concern, since water has infiltrated the structure that hold it, it is possible that it would collapse.
Of course, these are visual observation of someone that had no training in structural safety but in this situation you expect the local government to inspect the safety of a house that shares its history but this is not something that normally happen in our country. This heritage houses are never a priority, owners are left to help themselves. I asked Gerry Alberto why he hasn’t asked for the local government to shoulder the expense of the repair, apparently, he did and was given the usual answer, “no funds”. I became upset about what followed next. He then told us that he plans to move the house to Bataan!
He showed us an email where Ambeth Ocampo and Arch. Laya are copied (he later printed this and handed it to us) The discussion was about the Acuzar project. He then said, “wala na din pondo pampaayos”, citing the difficulty of repairing, much more restoring the house after the hit it took from the storm. This was upsetting for me, I felt terribly helpless, but there are certain realities we have to deal with. The lack of vision of the local government and Gerry’s failure to secure funding (how hard did he try to get it? We’ll never know) sealed the faith of the house to a certain doom.
The disinterested local governments were just waiting for it to fall. They don’t promote its history nor do they have plans to make it relevant to the town and its people, if you’re new to Biñan, you wouldn’t even know what that enormous house, now covered with political tarpaulin is. They’re too busy fighting over politics instead of coming up with plan that would save the house. Now that the owner decided to save it by moving the entire house to Bataan, they want to be heroes and save it.
Why then wait for the owner to knock it down when he sought for your assistance years ago?
On the other hand, in fairness to Acuzar and his company, they never went shopping for the Alberto house (but I’ve heard that they did in many occasions, like in the case of the Maxino). If there was ever a negotiation, it took place after the two were acquainted with the help of third party people. Probably in Gerry’s mind, the deal was the only way for him to save his ancestors house and to make money out of it. During our conversation, he told us how much the house meant to him, I believe that this was something he never wanted. Confronted with the situation and the choices available, he made the difficult decision now seen as a traitorous act.
We were surprised that he even listened to what we have to say. I’m not sure if he is even aware of what blogs are but still he welcomed us and showed us around. It was not the first time we visited but I appreciated his gesture. We tried to convince him to try reach out again for help but being from a proud pioneering Biñense family going back generations, begging for financial relief for his ancestor’s house was probably hard for him to do. Going around we uncovered a pile of stuff in one room, we saw countless old books in Spanish previously owned by his father, we asked him if we could have it, in exchange we promise to keep them well, he kindly declined the proposal. A friend, who met the older Alberto, Dn. Zoilo, described him as being a gentleman from “the old days”. They dined inside the house sometime in the 70’s id I recall the story correct. Both speaking in pure Spanish, my friend listened to the older Alberto discuss the history of his family and their connection to local politics during the 1800’s. Don Zoilo died in the early 2000’s. If he was still around, I wonder if things would be different.
Now that the local government is showing interest in shelling out money, we definitely have to take advantage of this sudden curiosity. Whether they truly care for the house or not, let them spend the money and have the house restored! Take it back from Acuzar and start restoring the house. Biñan’s plan of moving the house somewhere in Biñan and making it a museum must also be blocked. It should stay where it is. The best thing that should happen here is for the local government to buy the land and the house all together. Keep it for Biñan!
View photos here