Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Casa Gorordo - Rewinding to an Affluent Past (Cebu City)

Notice the graceful wooden calladas dividing the hallway.
Along Lopez Jaena Street, in Barangay Parian, Cebu stands a beautifully maintained 19th century house built in 1850 by Alejandro Reynes. In 1863, this was sold to Spanish merchant, Juan Isidro Gorordo. Through the years, this became home to the first Filipino bishop of Cebu, Juan Bautista Perfecto Gorordo (photo below, left).

The bishop was of mixed ancestry. His father was from Vizcaya, Spain while his mother was a Cebuano native. He was said to be exceedingly brilliant that even as a student studying philosophy and theology, his last two years were spent teaching Humanities at the University of San Carlos, then a seminary.

His family was wealthy enough that during his term as bishop, he donated 54 hectares of land in Consolacion where a leper station was built. The bishop's father was, after all, a wine tax collector. When the bishop passed away at the age of 71, 40% of his fortune was donated to the church. The rest went to his remaining relatives.

The ground floor is made of Mactan coral stones, while the upper level is constructed out of hardwood. It became the living quarters of its affluent owners. Wooden pegs were employed instead of nails, making this an architectural marvel these days. The house became representative of the aristocratic Filipino abode from an almost forgotten era. The first floor has implements for land preparation and farming. A statue of a lady is seen harvesting corn. There are tools used for food processing and for laundry. The main stairway is well preserved, which was a good index of wealth in that era. The stairway looked sturdy, and made of balayong and tindalo. The whole set up suggests the owner's degree of influence.

Capiz shells, held together by laths, have been fitted to the sliding panels that make up the window. Molave wood (tugas) supports the structure of the house from ground level to its clay roof.

The second floor is a continuous hallway divided by partitions, i.e. an area for socializing, an area for receiving guests, a corner for dining, etc. These divisions are provided by "calladas", hanging dividers in comedors (hallways). There's a prayer room. The "sala" is in the middle of the hallway. Bedrooms have four-poster beds with canopy and wash basins, typical in that era. There's an "aparador", an "armario" (pillow rack), a "lavador" with porcelain-made basin. We saw a cello, a phonograph, a sungka; a library, etc.

There were dining halls meant for different users - an 8-seater for formal dining and another for informal dining. The kitchen has an "abuhan" (earth stove), a food cabinet, a dish dryer (banggera) and the rectangular kitchen table, with 2 balayong benches. The banyo has a big jar filled with water. Modern shower back then hasn't existed yet.

The caida ("fallen:) represents the area where ladies linger, holding their long skirts as they ascend the stairway. This is usually longer than the "sala", extending up to the boundary of the dining area. The prayer room is where the family would gather to pray. The bishop would also occasionally hold mass in that small chapel.

There is a suitor's corner where young maidens can receive their suitors and guests. Notice the "chaperone chair" at the opposite side. Even the simple arrangement of a house reflects social mores of that era.

The azotea has a creeping plant called yellow bells. It's a breezy balcony perfect for balmy nights of introspection.

What's more engrossing are the signs and explanations placed in each section. When Gorordo became bishop, he'd visit this house on weekends and sleep in his own bedroom. Mostly though, the Barili-born priest lived in the seminary.

There's a water well in front of the souvenir shop, on a manicured lawn. It isn't for the wishing kind, but it makes a great setting for profile photos. There's an entrance fee of PhP70 ($1.60) to be paid prior to entry. Cameras are allowed, but there are restrictions for the use of the photos. From Yap-San Diego House, turn right, then right again at Lopez Jaena. You will find Casa Gorordo.

Prayer Room

The azotea has trellis filled with vines.
Found at the silong are these displays (above and below).

Casa Gorordo is located at 35 Lopez Jaena Street, Cebu City. The museum is open daily except Mondays, from 10 AM to 6 PM. For more information, call them at (63-32) 255-5630.

#casagorordo   #cebucity   #history   #philippines


Ramakrishnan said...

Grand and ostentatious ! I presume the wood used for lining interiors in those days would have been mahogany !

Sherry Ellis said...

That looks like a really lovely place!

eye in the sky said...

Yes, I agree. Mahogany was quite popular among the well heeled, and its quite endemic in the area as well (at least for those who can afford them).

eye in the sky said...

It's an interesting place to visit as well, Sherry. It gives a glimpse of the past... and of how some people lived.