Visiting Casa de Segunda in Lipa

Why was it called Casa de Segunda?

Ma’am. Lilet, the designated family tour guide said, “well, it is the house she built with her husband (Manuel)”.

Why not Casa de Manuel  or Casa de Luz or Katigbak y Luz?

Probably thinking I was nuts to be asking such things, she ignored my last question. She proceeded to the kusina and told me, “I bet you could not lift that dining table!”. I told her I’ll give it a try. I’m almost 6 foot and I feel strong at my 200 lbs wrestling frame!

But I couldn’t even push the table! I’ll probably break my back trying. Ma’am Lilet was laughing the whole time!

Mrs. Lilet Malabanan Katigbak is a most excellent host. She’s got a great sense of history and humor. What started out as a tour ended up in an interview. She was very candid, answering even the more controversial questions I had.

Casa de Segunda

NHI marker

This side was not the original entrance. The opposite road was what the previous residents used.

Ma'am Lilet showing her grandma's bed. Notice the arinola .

Usually they charge for groups but she probably took pity on me. At the time, there were no other visitors. I told them as long as they’ll allow me to go around the house and take pictures, I’m a happy man, but Mrs. Malabanan insisted that she show me around. She did the tour for free! She strikes me as a very caring and intelligent lady. Her looking after the house  is a great labor of love for her Lola Segunda. We have to thank their families. In a time when descendants sell their ancestral houses because of soaring property prices — the Katigbak’s are a rarity. Not all are like them.

Dona Segunda, Lola Unday to them, suffered a stroke and died in 1943. Their Lolo Uwel died a year earlier. But before these wonderful couple left this world, they had 9 equally talented and successful children. Since they were from the era of cultured Filipinos of the old cerrado catolico kind – they propagated like they were in the time of the Old Testament! The old Lipa family has got to be one if not the biggest.  Mortality rate of women who die from pregnancy was quite high then. Many men married several times during their lifetime because of this.

The view here must have been awesome then.

Well maintained lower floor of the house with many ready reading materials for visitors.

"Those trees are over a hundred years old... Lola planted that one" - Mrs. Lilet Katigbak Malabanan

Where Manuel and Pepe played chess

The question I had earlier about why the house was christened “Casa de Segunda” was because I was curious to know if it had something to do with Segunda’s youthful romance with Rizal. Since historians (including some families and politicians) venerate anyone, everything and anything related with Rizal they often over-attribute.

But it appears that it was not the case for Casa de Segunda. I was wrong about my presumption. “She raised all her children here, even her grandchildren; she was here all her life”, Ma’am Lilet said. “That’s why its only fitting that it bear her name, she died here also”. There were new houses built around the vicinity of the Casa but they were constructed respecting the space of the old house.

Lipa, the city government, must now do its job. Give financial assistance to the house museum and stop taxing them for crying out loud!

They’re doing you a great favor here.

The local government keeps on promoting the house as a tourist site, sending busloads of public school students without paying for any fees and yet they could not even give the house owners a tax break.

Another suggestion to Lipa’s local government is for them to help maintain the other four  old houses that survived WWII (one of which is the Luz ancestral house). Lipa during the war took some of the heaviest bombing from the American forces because the Japs headquartered themselves in the palatial homes of the Lipeños. It is said that fumes coming from Lipa can be seen from hundreds of kilometers. Organizing a historic trail complete with markers and information pamphlets is a nice way to promote the history of Lipa. It can even generate jobs.

Plus Plus Families

I’ll probably write a separate article about the families of Lipa. I acquired information about the family trees of some of the old families and its really fascinating. It appears that having a huge family was not only common but expected in old Lipa. There were several well known men that married more than once (after their spouses had died). It could be attributed to the fact that they’re rich farmers but as records show the richest period in Lipa (the coffee boom) didn’t even last a decade.

Having a big family before was common because children are good indicator of wealth and well being. The families in the old times became so big that first cousin marriages were common and accepted. The Filipino world has changed. Life’s getting tough and there seem to be no end in sight for our economic woes. This is why history is fascinating – you could make comparison and see where we made mistakes.

Rizal in Lipa

An interesting discovery was a school called Instituto Rizal. This institute where Claro M. Recto and many renowned Lipeños learned the rudiments of school was founded in 1896! The dates don’t add up.

Rizal died December that same year. This simply means that it was named after him even while he was still alive! It’s like naming the old Manila airport after Ninoy while he was still giving interviews in Boston. Don Gregorio Katigbak (whose mother is related to Recto’s mother) founded the institute. Claro Mayo Recto studied there from 1900-01.

Rizal of course was known among the prominent Lipeños during his time. A popular story about him in Lipa was when he visited it in 1890’s. He met Manuel Luz, the husband of Segunda, his first love. He was consolidating support and was said to have been soliciting funds from the Lipeños. Manuel and Rizal played chess on what is now Casa de Segunda (the chess table is still there). Rizal lost and rumor has it that he did so intentionally. But I don’t think that’s the case because the Luz’s are known to be geniuses. The history of this family is as fascinating as the town itself. Hopefully one day a local could come up with a history book about the great Lipeño families.

Now, back to Casa de Segunda.

A beautiful article sums up my thoughts about this wonderful bahay na bato:

Built in the 1880’s…a typical “bahay na bato”, is Spanish in architecture, yet essentially a tropical house. The dramatic arrangements of space, use of masonry and sense of grandeur and solidity are practical response to environment and charming record of history.

The family intended to make it a vacation house for the Luz-Katigbak families but after it was restored people started coming. Then NHI made it a heritage house complete with a marker. They opened it to the public believing that Filipinos could something not only about their families but the history of Lipa.

The largest house in Lipa was that of Dona Catalina Solis. It was said to had been donated to the Catholic church after her death.

After the war there were only five houses that survived in Lipa. The Japanese took a liking to the Antillean houses of Lipa that they occupied them all. The owners had to leave their beautiful houses. When the Americans bombed Lipa to flush out the Japanese, the Philippine Spanish villa burned for days.

Pictures of existing old houses (filhispanic and American era) in Lipa:

A Square House

Post war

For sale!

A former stable before

Fading glory

Tinted in colors

Still looking elegant

One of the originals that survived the war

Fallen into tough times

Wonderfully restored

For school tours of Casa de Segunda please contact Ma’am Lilet Katigbak Malabanan @ 043 784 1952 or at her mobile 0918 941 5410.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed here are mine and does not reflect that of the owners.

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9 responses to “Visiting Casa de Segunda in Lipa

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