Parian was a bustling district in the 1600's. The main thoroughfare had two-storey homes. The area was divided into three sections: the Chinese merchants, the colonial Hispanics, and the Filipinos. Though there were political wranglings much like any specific time in history, people lived harmoniously. There was a well placed organized system of government that folks respected. And the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House stood in the heart of it all.
Constructed out of coral stones and wood (locals sometimes refer to it as "Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy"), the house was built before the turn of the 17th century, in the corner of Mabini and Lopez-Jaena Streets. It was built by a family of Chinese merchants, and is presently considered as one of the oldest existing residential structures in the Philippines.
This was the house of Don Juan Yap and Maria Florido who had three children: Maria, Eleuterio and Consolacion. When the eldest daughter, Maria Florido Yap, married Don Mariano Avendano San Diego, a cabeza de barangay (in the 1880's), this abode became a bustling center of activity. Through the years, this house was eventually handed down to a heritage enthusiast and dance maestro, Val Mancao San Diego and his wife Ofelia.
Presently, the house has been turned into a museum which opens daily from 9 AM to 6 PM with an entrance fee of P50 ($1.14). Considering the entrance fee of Fort San Pedro is just P30 ($0.68), the fee is little more expensive than expected.
Upon entry into the house, there's a logbook for guests. The two-storey house is cramped with a collection of long dining tables and an assortment of plates, cups and glasswares, each one a reflection of the affluence of a time long gone; an epochal era ravaged by colonialism. One stark characteristic of this house is the bevy of religious statues and artifacts of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Child, angels and even of altar boys. Religious items are indeed a feature of a typical Filipino home back in the days. There are paintings around the house, many of which are depictions of Parian as a place. If you count these religious artifacts, you'd lose count.
To get to the second floor, you have to wear mittens over your shoes, and climb on a steep wooden stair where more collectibles are laid out on display. There's a bedroom with wooden cradle and a four-poster bed. I asked the caregiver if the present descendants still visit. "They occasionally sleep over during weekends," he remarked.
In this post, we separated most of the external shots (the garden with a wishing well) from the interiors (which we will post as a 2nd parter). The wishing well at the lawn is filled with water, but has been deemed unpotable.
I looked out from the window and saw statues of what looked like camels. Why are there camels just across the street? "They're Christmas decorations," the caretaker said. At Christmas time, Mabini Street and the adjacent Parian areas light up in festive holiday splendor.
It is interesting to see objects that have survived through the years, while images of its past occupants gawk down on you while you're roaming their home. The past is a potent drug; it's a lingering spirit.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
Up next: More photos and the interiors of Yap-San Diego Ancestral House.
Camels for Christmas