Tag Archives: gerry alberto

Soon to Rise: Alberto House of Biñan?

I saw a link (Facebook) earlier of plans to acquire land in Biñan to reconstruct the historic Alberto mansion.

This most likely would be a total reconstruction since most parts of the house has been transplanted in Bataan. If you haven’t been to Las Casas I suggest you see the Alberto house there. They recreated it in its original dimensions.

But what’s the use of reconstructing the Alberto mansion?

They should have thought of this when the owner was looking for help. Even when he decided to sell the house’s materials, they should have jumped into the chance of acquiring it. There was virtually no interest in this bahay-na-bata not until social media and national TV highlighted what Biñan was about to lose.

According to an Facebook post the city council passed an ordinance to acquire “parcel of land consisting of 1,197 square meters, more or less…located in Plaza Rizal, Brgy. Poblacion, City of Biñan” This would place the reconstruction within the vicinity of its original location. I am not sure if they’re considering the actual area where it once stood. All of these for sure costs more now for sure. Hopefully the city council gets a good deal.

Back in ’08 with me is Pepe Alas. This staircase (or parts of it) is now in Las Casa. A scene from the blockbuster Heneral Luna movie features it. Arnisson Ortega,author of “Neolibiralizing Spaces in the Philippines”, alleges that the site was leased to Starbucks. If only they considered “reusing” the house then, the establishment or any shop would have benefited from having leased a space that’s considered among the most historically important and oldest house in the country!

The Alberto house is arguably the most “historically” important extant bahay-na-bato in Laguna before its demolition. The Rizal’s in Calamba is a complete reconstruction publicly funded during Pres. Quirino’s time. According to the US Secretary of Interior Standards is the “process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location”.

For sentimental reasons I guess a reconstruction serves a purpose. But the way I see it, a waste of tax payers money. Instead of appropriating money to reconstruct the Alberto house why not spend it in rehabilitating existing bahay-na-bato in old Biñan? If owners don’t want it, then perhaps spending money in education and promoting the importance if these historical houses is just as good.

The Alberto house holds the record of being the most blogged about in this site. I simply fell in love with it the moment I first saw it. Along with fellow blogger Pepe Alas, I met the present owner twice—and the dead owners, once. True story, read it here!

I predict that bahay-na-batos would be extinct in half a century, with the exception of those being cared for and protected by local governments and loving descendants, most would be demolished and the land beneath it sold. An example of this is what’s happening now in Manila, in the old quarter of San Nicolas. Remember many of these houses stands in prime areas now. These are top of the line real estate we’re talking about here.

Filipinos don’t seem to have a sense of obligation to look after heritage. A visit to Bataan’s Las Casas’s resort proves this. I mean, who are these people giving up their ancestral houses? Selling them like scrap metal? There’s an old house there that was almost entirely procured from a junk shop!

A few years ago, I joined a group of Filipino expats in Chicago for a baptismal party. They rented a place just outside Chicago. We drove half an hour, maybe more, we had difficulties locating the house. Turns out that it was a beautifully restored century old log cabin located in a park. It brought to mind books I read about the old America. I can imagine the original owners living off the land.

My point is that they did all that for a humble log cabin house. In Binañ’s case, many didn’t even bat an eye for that poor centuries old house while it rotted and eventually taken down.

Is heritage conservation a priority only to affluent nations because they have money to spare?

I hope not because if this is the case, then ours, what’s left of it, would not be around much longer.


Not all is lost in Biñan…

I hopped on my bike and went around Biñan looking for old houses. They’re still there, some of them. Sadly, most are just shells of what they once were. I remember the first time I saw the ancestral houses of Biñan a decade ago. Even then, there were already obvious signs of deterioration and neglect. That they’re still standing today is testament to their durability and resiliency. They were all built to last. Provided with proper care, they’ll definitely outlast  us all. Like they did to their original builders and past owners.

Most of the old houses in Biñan, with the exemption of some, are either abandoned, forgotten or demolished. The local government is clueless with heritage conservation. They could do so much better but they seem to not care. Well, they’re not alone. Most LGU’s really don’t have long term plans in conserving and protecting these kind of houses. If it were not for the desire of the descendants to keep their pamana (heritage) – the town would have lost them all sooner.

If things don’t change, Biñan would lose these architectural wonders soon. The biggest casualty so far is the Alberto mansion. Not only was it the childhood home of Rizal’s mother but in it lived a family who was so influential that one of them became the first and only representative in the Spanish cortes. They’re also among the first Filipinos to speak English. In that house lie so many secrets we haven’t uncovered yet. And now its gone.

I’ve visited Alberto mansion several times in the past. I interviewed the owner twice. After the damaged caused by typhoon Ondoy, It was apparent that the place needed more than just a fresh coat of paint. It needs major restoration work. But no one’s willing to take the tab. Such projects are just not a priority in a town riddled with politics.

The house has to go.

The guy who inherited the house was honest admitting that he was not really doing financially well. I can feel his sincerity and his genuine love for the house. His stories about his Grandpa and his Papa provided me with a glimpse into the Alberto’s of the early 20th century. He understands his family’s history and what his house means to Biñan. But  he just doesn’t have the resources to fund repairing the house much more restore it.

So, one of the most historic house in Filipino historiography would have to go to the highest bidder. And don’t expect Biñan to do any bidding though.

Last news I heard was that Acuzar has bought the house (not the lot) and is in the process of relocating everything to his Bataan resort. I’m not sure if the local government has acquired a court order to stop it. Its private so I don’t think they can.

The last word was that the house has already been dismantled from the inside. The exterior is still intact. Playing too late the hero, the local government has constructed a nice pathway with red brick pillars around the mansion (funded by RCBC). Why they haven’t done that earlier? Your guess is as good as mine.

No one wants to be perceived to be doing nothing. So people go around trying to make the impression that they’re doing something good for everybody. But truth be told – they don’t give a rat’s ass.

Riding bike have its advantages. One of them is that you get to spend more time. Its easier to move around and its faster than just walking. I noticed that Biñan’s barrios have interesting names: Loma (hills), Platero (silversmith), Ganado (male cattle), Tubigan (water source), Zapote (marmalade tree), Soro-Soro (milk hedge, popular medicinal plant), Malamig (cold) and Bungahan (area for fruit bearing trees). Names can tell a lot about a place. The same can be said about human names.

An old friend once told me that the true measure of how rich and cultured an old town used to be can be gleaned upon its old houses. Because their homes are expressions of their faith, culture and their arts.

Some old Biñense families has defied the odds. Preserving their ancestral home’s old charm and appealing grandeur against the natural elements and the pressure of selling because of rising property values.

Maintaining ancestral houses is not an easy task as it requires patience, hard work and money (a lot of it). Since local governments rarely support such effort, I have nothing but admiration for these families.

My message to these proud Filipino families: Thank you.

I’m sure your ancestors would want you to keep these houses. By doing so you honor yourself, your ancestors and your historic town. Let the future generations of Biñense see the glory of their old town.

Mabuhay po!

Old Camarin (Bodega) around Binan are noted for being lofty and wide. Its interesting why we Filipinos refer to such storage houses as "bodegas" because I was told that the old Filipino meaning for it is a liquor storage.

This one is near the rotonda. These structures were constructed with solid adobe supported by deep and thick foundations. "camaronchones" or "camarines" in Spanish is Camalig in Tagalog.

Built to withstand the most powerful of earthquakes. Interesting is that Camarin means protection and shelterer in Native American Chamoro. These structures are built to house crops.

A WWII monument at the middle of the rotunda.

A beautiful "Bahay na Bato" with typical wide windows, over sized rooms and lofty ceilings. "Bawal Umihi Dito!" written in white paint to warn would be violators.

Houses around here have very striking similarities. Typically, most of these mansions have several "zaguan" where horse was once kept

Recently painted "bahay na bato". This one looks good.

Another look... this just looks lovely! A gem from Old Binan!

Another "reused" ancestral house. Congratulations! At a distance can be seen Iglesia de Sn Ysidro

I thought this one's had been abandoned. I was surprised that a caretaker lives inside to look after the house. He was not happy that I was taking pictures of the house. Sorry!

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