Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House in Parian, Cebu City

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


Ramakrishnan said...

Charming old house. Amazingly well preserved. Loved the greenery around and in particular the wishing well. Do you throw coins and then make a wish ?

eye in the sky said...

@ R. Ramakrishnan:

It really looked old, and there's a sensation of being transported back in time; what with all the old stuff lying around... like spirits that linger.

I do throw coins in wishing wells, but I didn't there (though there's a sign) because the caretaker said people used to get their supply there, i.e. it used to be potable - and I didn't want to contribute to its "pollution" by throwing a wish. :)

I think people should throw coins in wishing wells... because what if they'd come true? Otherwise, what's a piece of coin over the possibilities of wishes coming true? :)

Anonymous said...

hi, are you from cebu?

i have been in this ancestral house, last May 25, 2012. This is the most unforgetable ancestral i have ever been. the place was really wonderful.

I was just wondering if you have seen the old-traditional dance that they are doing outside the house? im wondering what kind of dance was that.. :)



eye in the sky said...

@ Kate:

No, I'm not from Cebu. And you're fortunate to have seen that "dance" because I am not even aware of such. :)

Anonymous said...

Yu Hi. I know this might sound crazy but I have no choice. For the past couple of days I've been on the net trying to find any one that might help me. You see my brother went to that ancestral house with his coworkers and there's a painting that made them say, "oh my God". Same words I uttered when I saw the painting. It is that of a girl sitting on a chair with a fan on hand. You see, the girl in that old painting looks exactly like me. I mean exactly like me. We're like twins. My name is Grushen Guazon, you can check my facebook and see for yourself. I was wondering if you know who she is. I can't explain why I want to know about her but I just feel like I need to. Thank you. :)

eye in the sky said...

Hi Grushen,

I read your story with interest. You're right; you do have uncanny likeness to the original matriarch, it might as well inspire mystery novels.

Unfortunately, I don't know more than what's written here; I took notes while the (unofficial) guide annotated during my visit (I was the only visitor then).

The story you want probably rests on what the current owner, Mr. Val Mancao-San Diego, knows. He's a direct descendant so he should be interested. I saw the similarity from your FB and it's quite fetching. Why not try writing him a snail mail? I was told that the owners occasionally sleep there during weekends.

Thanks for sharing your story. :)

Anonymous said...


I must say your write-up about this ancestral house is so detailed. The pictures are also unique, not seen on other blogs. I hope you don't mind, I am currently doing an article on the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House that is to be posted in the company website. Would it be possible to use your article and photos as reference? I can discuss this further. Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon! Patricia Perez

eye in the sky said...

Hi Patricia,. Thanks for the kind words. Of course you may use the article as long as there's attribution to "Eye in the Sky". I like the place. I have been there 4x and I've taken my family there and a German girl from London who visited the country. Let me know if you have other concerns about the post. I am in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia right now but will be incommunicado for 3 days to see what's outside the city. Thanks for the interest. :)

Unknown said...

Can we shoot here for our Rizal?