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 is 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, and the rest 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 has rightfully become a showcase of the aristocratic Filipino abode from an almost forgotten era. The first floor displays implements for land preparation and farming. Nearby, a lady harvests corn. Elsewhere are tools used for food processing and for laundry. The main stairway is well preserved. Then, this was a good index to the wealth of the household. The stairway was made of balayong and tindalo. One glance and you'd be quick to associate a 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 into assigned partitions, i.e. an area for socializing, an area to receive guests, another corner for dining, etc. These divisions are provided by "calladas", hanging dividers in comedors (hallways). There's a prayer room. The "sala" is in mid-hallway. Bedrooms carry 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. Elsewhere, there's a cello, a phonograph, a sungka; a library, etc.

Dining halls have been divided according to its use/user; there's 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 would stay, holding their long skirts after ascending 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 as well where young maidens receive their suitors and guests. Notice the "chaperon chair" at the opposite side. Even the simple arrangement of a house reflect the social mores of that young era.

The azotea has a creeping plant called yellow bells. This balcony is breezy, perfect when you require 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 appointed bedroom. Mostly though, the Barili-born priest lived in the seminary.

There's a water well in front of the souvenir shop, right 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 in the use of the photos. From Yap-San Diego House, turn right, then right again at Lopez Jaena. You will find Casa Gorordo nearby.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

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.


Ramakrishnan Ramanathan 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.