boac, marinduque, boac heritage, boac ancestral
After walking around the church of Boac, I decided to drop by the Capitol of Marinduque in Boac. I was told that the province had plotted all the ancestral houses in town. The Capitol building, severely damaged during WWII, had been restored after the war by funds coming from America. It’s a great example of American architecture that brings to mind the neoclassical buildings in Manila.
I met up with Efren Penafiel and some of the tourism staff of the province. They were all accommodating and their office, located at the rear of the old capitol building, is modern and clean. They even provided me with free Wi-Fi access. I came to look for the mapping records of all the old houses of Boac. To my disappointment, there was none available—good thing was that teacher and student volunteers, from some years ago, made a project documenting the ancestral houses. While it’s lacking in information, the effort is praiseworthy. There’s nothing more satisfying for a heritage advocate than seeing the children take interest in safeguarding our heritage.
I have seen photo blogs feature the town. I observed a slight difference in how houses were planned and constructed. While they’re considered bahay-na-bato, their location, being an island detached from mainland Luzon, influenced their character and form. Like an animal restrained in an island that naturally evolve to their environment. Just look at the roof shed on top of the sliding windows, supported with wooden sticks. This architectural element is uniquely from the island. Same with their brand of Tagalog. It sounds so different but familiar. Some say that Tagalog here is Old Tagalog. The mayor of Mogpog believes that it is. The center of the old town appears as it was 100 years ago. This is what I appreciate the most about Boac. The people did the work in conserving their heritage. It tells us how proud they are of their past. The Spanish carcel (now a National Museum branch), the plaza and the old presidencia (municipio) all standing opposite a modern basketball court. I had second thoughts going home the next day because I craved to savor the Boac’s old charm more. The concentration of ancestral houses in this town is fascinating. Boac is an anomaly, the old houses are not only preserved but are still occupied by families, shops and business establishments. In some cases, the silong are rented out to business while the families that owns the house lives upstairs.
Is it their simple way of life? Their isolation, being an island? Or the attitude of the locals towards their ancestral homes? One day, I have to go back and find the answers to these questions.
But there are houses that are in bad shape. Like the case of one of the most historic house in Boac. The NHI marker tags it as Maharlikang Tahanan ni Kapitan Piroco, regrettably it appears to had been abandoned and left to rot. All the people I asked what the house was told me that it was once a school and it was, helping shaped some of the earlier natives of the town. But before this, it was the house of the wealthy community leader. Respected enough that he sat down with an American governor and officers for the benefit of his beloved hometown. Why the house has been neglected, I don’t know. But something must be done to salvage this house. It’s an outstanding bahay-na-bato, the biggest, the grandest and the only one with a generous yard in town. In the capitol, I saw volunteer heritage workers (students from local schools) record the condition of the house. It’s terribly exposed to the elements, portions of its roofing had caved in, with noticeable damage (possibly from the recent typhoon) from years of inattention.
There are markers around town dedicated to individuals (based on NHI’s record for Boac). Like the one for Pilar Hidalgo Lim, wife of war hero and West Point grad Gen. Vicente Lim. She became a president of Centro Escolar and had served presidents in various positions. Another marker is for Salvador del Mundo, a prominent chemist. I could not locate these markers—I should see these and the houses where they were placed next time!
The entire town is a fantastic throwback. And I dream of returning to spend more time and maybe even volunteer mapping the heritage houses. We have to record, not only the current state of the houses, but their history. One of the coolest thing about Boac is that there’s no rush to develop and modernize. They live at their own phase—and I like it.
Below are some of the houses I saw along the way….