Tag Archives: lorenzo 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.

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They were there, watching…

Still on the Alberto mansion…

The last time I saw casa alberto was with my friend a few days after the super typhoon ondoy. We heard that it was in pretty bad shape so we decided to pay a visit. When we got there the house was still soaking wet. The whole house smelled like old laundry. In one room, films of fungus started to grow from a pile of documents and furniture.

This marked the end of one of the most historic house in the country. Gerry, the owner, laments that “there’s no money to fix it”. He sold the house to Acuzar of Bataan later on, convinced that the millionaire’s resort project would give the house a new lease in life – in Bagac.

The mad antiquarian in us made us scavenge around the house. Looking for old documents, books and photos we could salvage. We found some interesting ones but decided not to take any.

I felt that someone was there with us, a presence. I don’t know if my friend had the same feeling.

When we were about to leave the room, my friend saw two old passports. The passport of the current owners father, Zoilo and aunt, Pilar. I told him to put those back in the box but before he did, I took a quick look.

We took a photo together with the owner and after a brief conversation about the house we left.

What a strange feeling it was to leave a house knowing you’ll never see again. Only callous people with no love for history allows such transgression against our national heritage without any remorse.

Somethings very, very wrong with us Filipinos.

As we walked away from the house, Pepe and I hardly spoke. He was on a hurry to go back to his family and I was dog tired. So we both walked in a hurried phase towards the national highway which was less than a kilometer away.

I don’t know what happened but I just suddenly stopped walking and started to look at a crowded narrow street on my left. I heard no voice but it felt like I was being led. My mind was telling me to cross – so I did. Pepe followed. I continued walking straight not knowing where I was headed. I was following something I can’t explain (which by the way, is so me).

After walking for about 2-3 minutes we then saw the old Catholic cemetery of Biñan. We both did not know that it was there. At this point I thought to myself why I was led here but there must be something there to see.

Curious, we decided to enter. At this time, sunlight was no longer visible – so, it was not the most comfortable situation. Cemeteries are not among my favorite places to be in especially during night time!

I told Pepe that I’ll check on the old camposanto which appears to date back from the Spanish era. It’s just a few yards away from that small iron gate we entered. My friend then started walking around reading inscriptions on some of the lapidas.

After I was done taking pictures (which were all bad because it’s almost night) Pepe frantically called me to join him.

Turns out that he just found the final resting place of those two people that once traveled with those passports we found inside Casa Alberto.

I couldn’t believe what we just found – was I led by these two people’s spirit to their graves?

One thing I’m sure is that along with the shivers that ran up to my spine, I felt their love for their home that very moment. It was like they wanted us to be there so they could thank us–personally.


The Alberto of Biñan and the Vigan Wife

The collapsing centuries old bahay na bato in Biñan reminded me of the curious case of Lorenzo Alberto of Biñan who married into a prominent family up north but settled back in his home province – with another woman.

Lorenzo was an educated mestizo that reached the pinnacle of political power of his time – representing his country in the Spanish cortes. Along with Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, easily, the greatest and most important Biñenses that ever lived.

(After Lorenzo’s group, there will be no other Filipino that will follow. Even after vigorous calls for reforms and native representation. The Cadiz constitution that allowed colonies to be represented in the Spanish cortes was short lived.)

It is said that Lorenzo Alberto of Biñan married a Vigueña, Paula Florentino, who was then12 years his junior. The controversy has nothing to do with the girl’s age (this was quite common back in the day) but with how related these people are with each other.

The Florentino ancestral house in Vigan. It houses the Vigan tourism center and a restaurant. Right in front is the Spanish Iloco poetess Leona Florentino monument. She’s the mother of Isabelo de los Reyes and relative of Paula.

According to Rizal, his mom, along with Jose Alberto came from the marriage of Joaquinina Brigida de Quinto and Lorenzo Alberto. The siblings, according to local historians, later claimed legitimacy by stating that the Vigueña, the legal wife, Paula Florentina, was their lawful mother.

Question is that if they all came from the Alberto-Quinto marriage, whatever happened to this Florentino girl? are there any Alberto’s in Vigan?

Some more strange family tales…

The former personal secretary of Gerardo Alberto, an Ilocana told me that the version told to her was that all sibling were from the same mother except Teodora. She adds that this is the reason why Teodora had always been treated like an outsider. Of all the Alberto siblings she was the only one that was born and baptized in Manila.

Another interesting account comes from the Philippine Star columnist Barbara Gonzalez, herself a Rizal descendant. According to her, Jose (Teodora’s brother) had fathered a child with his niece, Saturnina Rizal and that Soledad Rizal was the fruit of this incestuous affair. This was the reason why Jose’s wife, Teodora Formoso, developed animosity towards Teodora — and also the reason why Saturnina was known to be the prettiest of all Rizal sisters.

Talk about a story that TV dramas would run all night!

Biñan is where Rizal’s roots are – both parents are Biñense. And Biñan having quite a big group of rich chino cristiano families that married into each others families gave the national hero probably more relatives here than any historian could imagine.

The relocation to Calamba was spearheaded by Lorenzo Alberto. Who according to historians peacefully retired in his farm with Brijida.

Contrary to historical accounts, Rizal never stayed in the Alberto house. The Rizal’s had nothing but bitter memory of it. Teodora was convicted for attempted murder and was sent to prison because of an incident that happened in this house (Spain doesn’t have anything to do with her conviction as is often claimed in popular history text).

The plaintiff was no less than her sister-in-law.

The story is that Jose Alberto found out that Teodora Formoso (his wife) was having an affair. Back from a trip, he had her immediately locked in one of the rooms. Jose then requested Teodora (the sister) to feed her while on locked down.

Jose and Teodora was later punished by civil authority. The latter was charged with attempting to poison the wife wife. Not clear is how long Jose was imprisoned and what was the case against him.

If only that collapsing house could squeal the secrets it witnessed before it falls down on its own.


Calls to Save Casa Alberto of Biñan…Too Late the Hero

It’s a little too late. Casa Alberto has already been gutted from the inside. I’m not surprised that it collapsed. The house that caved in was just the exterior shell. The owner who sold the house, piece by piece, must be welcoming this development.

The heir of the house has expressed willingness to have the house rented out to government in the past. The guy claims that he also sought the assistance of the local government before he entertained the idea of selling it. He got none — of course. He must’ve grown tired waiting for help and just went ahead with his other option.

Inside Casa Alberto. Contemplating its future. Observing the people going about their business in the local mercado and the old municipio. Are they even aware of this house’s role in building this town?

Casa Alberto’s foundations has been uprooted, along with its floors, beams and other structural components. These were moved to a Bataan resort. It’s strange to think that there’s actually two Casa Alberto today, one in Biñan, the other in Bataan — are we even trying to save the real house here?

I feel it’s meaningless to save it now that it lies in shambles. Even if by some miraculous hand an order to save it comes – how in the world are we going to restore it back to its original? Buy back the pieces that was sold to Acuzar in Bataan?

If money was issue then, just imagine how much we’ll have to raise today to bring the house back.

Biñan’s local government failed to realize the potential of conserving this house. They have decades to figure it out and make their proposals. There’s the question of monetary compensation that was never reached or even substantially discussed between the private owner and the LGU.

Heritage conservation can be very expensive for local governments. Again, not all descendants would be willing to just give their ancestral houses for conservation and educational use, the question is how much are we willing to pay?

There’s also the lack of heritage management planning and promotion. With all the Antillean houses in Biñan and its history, how come no one ever came up with an effective program to promote this historic town’s heritage?

If Biñense’s are aware of Casa Alberto’s historical value, they would all rise and disallow plans to have it taken down. They’ll definitely hold someone accountable. And there’s nothing more frightening to politicians than losing elections – but with the exception of some local heritage groups, clamor to save this house has been relatively quiet.

One thing I know, and this needs no promoting: Biñan’s notoriety for being a political hotspot during local elections.

And, of course, Puto Viñang – baka naman pati ‘eto mawala na din d’yan? ‘wag naman.

Casa Alberto holds the record of having the most artictle in this site. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. How I wish that its still there but that’s not going to happen. In a  way it’s there but it’s not. That’s just the skin, the body has long been taken away. It’s just a matter of time before it completely collapse. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing these beautiful houses go.


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