Tag Archives: Rizal Binan

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.


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.


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