Manalang-Gloria Ancestral House & Smith, Bell & Co. (Tabaco City)
Thanks to my friend Mike G. Ong for bringing us to his grandmother's house last May 6, 2012 at Tabaco, Albay. (above photo taken with my iPhone 4s)
TABACO CITY – A century-old, Spanish-style house of stone and capiz shell windows in Tabaco City in Albay looks as illustrious as its former occupant, Angela Manalang-Gloria, regarded as the “matriarch” of Filipino women poets in English.
It was doubly significant, therefore, when the National Historical Institute unveiled last week two markers at the Manalang-Gloria ancestral home near the city’s international port.
Sitting on a 3,700-square-meter property, the house was built in the early 1900s by a wealthy Bicolano, Don Mariano Villanueva. It was considered one of the most beautiful houses of its kind in the country.
Its old Spanish architectural design has been preserved through the years and protected from renovations.
With an 800-sqm floor area, the two-story structure has four big bedrooms, two living rooms, a dining hall, a kitchen, a terrace and a basement.
The stairs, floors, ceiling and windows are wooden. Capiz in the windows filter the glare of tropical sunlight.
Bahay na Bato
Though seemingly bare, the house has some old furniture, photographs and some of Manalang-Gloria’s books.
In the mid-1900s, the house became a trading center of Smith, Bell and Co., an American-owned merchandise firm which had a branch in Tabaco.
Manalang-Gloria, described as a “pragmatic businesswoman” in a literary biography written by Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, bought the house in 1965 for P50,000 from an American agent of Smith, Bell and Co., who was clueless of its real estate value.
Manlapaz said the poet felt no compunction for having “taken advantage,” as it were, of the agent’s ignorance because, she maintained, it was his business to know what he was selling.
Legazpi City museum curator Erlinda Belleza said the bahay na bato, or the stone-and-wood houses of the 19th century, is a product of native and Spanish parentage. In the book “Igkas-Arte: The Philippine Arts During the Spanish Period,” the bahay na bato features a sala (living room) flanked by bedrooms with wide doors and bounded, sometimes on two sides, by the volada or airy gallery.
Space flows from one room to another. When all doors to the rooms are opened, the house becomes one vast space. It has an elaborate system of openings and shutters—the windows wide and high, sometimes extending the whole length or width of a room, the book said.
Elemelita Almosara, NHI deputy executive director, said the agency put up the historical markers in front of the house after a team of heritage architects surveyed and analyzed its features.
“Based on an analysis of the NHI, the Bahay-Kalakal (trading house) of Smith, Bell and Co. is really a remarkable and classic bahay na bato, the oldest in the city of Tabaco,” Almosara said.
Tourism regional director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said the place would be included in Bicol’s tourism packages. More than the grandeur of a heritage site, what makes it significant is the story behind it, she said.
The site would be of great help in showcasing the rest of the historic city, Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro said. “We want to give our tourists good memories of how we once lived and how simple life was before.”
According to Manlapaz, Manalang-Gloria bought the house only for investment purposes. Although she found it to be very beautiful, she never considered moving into it. “I don’t like living in an expensive house,” she was quoted by the biographer as saying.
Manalang-Gloria’s clan today values the old house in a much different way.
While the matriarch had no room for sentimentality, her only daughter and heiress, Angelina Gloria-Ong, lives a less complicated life as a housewife.
“It was only during the last few months of my mother’s life when she lived in the house she had bought. It was where she died in August 1995,” Gloria-Ong, 65, said.
“People would think my mother was romantic because she was a poet. But she was more of a businesswoman—strict and very conservative,” she said.
She said the recognition given by the NHI both to the house and to her mother has made her feel proud and honored.
Gloria-Ong said she started to live in the house only in February 1995. Now, only the sixth of her eight children—Michael, 28—also lives there. The rest, except the youngest, have their own families.
Michael said his nephews and nieces still frequent the place, which is near their school. The clan also holds special family occasions in the house.
“After the markers were placed, passersby would come near and read them. Nobody gave this much attention to our house before. Now the people begin to appreciate it,” Michael said.
Gloria-Ong said the family was willing to open some parts of their house to the public and tourists someday.
article Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
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