By: Paolo M. Bustamante
Ever since I was a kid, I have always noticed the unique qualities of the house in the middle of our compound. It is old and a bit broken down, however, it holds a very distinct quality it its design and architecture. It is as if, it's beauty belonged to an older time. The house seemed like it is a treasure chest of long-forgotten stories -- it is a piece of history cemented in the present.
It never occurred to me to ever look into that house. I have been featuring tons of houses and historical sites around Manila, but I neglected the one that was just right under my nose. I don't understand why, though. Maybe it's because it has always been there. I even recall my sister, cousins, and I always playing there every afternoon. We've spent our significant childhood years there and I always thought that, "Hey, since it has always been there, maybe it will always stay there!" It was like a permanent fixture in my life -- and just like all fixers, it often gets overlooked.
The house caught my attention when, strangers started demolishing it and taking pieces of he roof apart. I felt a strong weight in my chest each time they take a fragment of the house apart. It is like taking my childhood memories apart.
Just like all old houses, ours has a story. Long ago, my grandmother purchased a house that later went to the care of my uncle and his family after she died. Their side of the family used to be pretty wealthy and glamorous during the time -- hence, the distinct design of the house. I remember my dad telling us stories about Susan Roces and the late Fernando Poe Jr. visiting and dining in that house because they were close friends of our late relatives before. People in our neighbourhood used to say that it was one of the most beautiful houses along Del Monte Avenue during it's time. Now, it is just an echo of what it used to be, and it is being demolished by my aunt to give way to a bigger and better house.
As a logical human being, I can see the practicality in the way my aunt thinks. As a heritage conservationist, I do not approve of this act. However as a person who has spent the significant and formative years of his life there, I am a bit heartbroken with the reality that our ancestral house is being demolished.
In detail, the house and it's owner/s, bear pretty fascinating stories. My Lola Dorothea (also know as "Tayang") was the most noted one for owning this house.
During the Second World War, during the liberation of Manila, my great grandmother who owned a high lot along Del Monte Avenue, was killed. My grandfather, then, worked at the old San Juan de Hospicio Hospital in Intramuros. My grandmother then, got married to him. She requested my lolo to allow only one of her siblings to move in with her in our present-day lot along Del Monte Avenue. With the approval of my lolo, Lola Tayang (the sister of my grandmother), moved in with them to our lot. They built a house with two bedrooms with wooden floors and a dining room. 40% of the lot was filled with large "azoteas", complete with a lush garden. Since there were a lot of trees in the property, it was a nice place to relax particularly during breezy afternoons.
The house also served as the setting to one of the saddest moments in our family. When the husband of my Lola Tayang died, my Lola Tayang died just 5 days after. A few years after, their eldest daughter, my Aunt Jocelyn, died of a heart attack at 16 years old, while watching a basketball game.
Over time, the once beautiful house suffered from neglect, poor repairs, and improper alterations until it was abandoned.
Records show that my house truly belongs to my Lola Tayang. The records at he Quezon City Hall Registry of Deeds, indicated that she's still the true owner of the house, and not the caretakers to claimed it as their own after she died.
I am truly honored to be part of a family that owns this beautiful postwar house. I know it is not as big or as glamorous as the other ancestral houses that I have featured before, but I can call this mine.