Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

This article is available in Spanish.

The Spanish colonial period left many “bahay na bato” not just in Manila, the once seat of power of the Spanish government. In fact, old Spanish houses in the Philippines, especially in the provinces, are aplenty. These magnificent ancestral houses once served as abodes for many prominent figures in the Philippines.

Although built many decades or centuries ago, they’ve stood the test of time. Some have already been used as buildings for various government offices. Others were turned into homes for historical artifacts, and the rest became locations of commercial businesses.

Ahead, we’re going to dig into the history of various old Spanish houses in the Philippines; these ancestral houses don’t get a lot of coverage from traditional media outlets, unfortunately. We’re also going to touch on the history of their sites — what the Spaniards did in these places, and more.

Casa de Comunidad de Tayabas

Casa de Comunidad de Tayabas
NHCP Photo Collection 2019

Located in Tayabas, Quezon, this tribunal house was built by Gobernadorcillo Francisco Lopez in 1776. Because of its weak equipment, however, it was rebuilt from stone by Gobernadorcillo Don Diego Enriquez in 1831.

In 1890, there were plans of converting it into an “ayuntamiento,” or a town hall, after it was burned in 1877. But due to lack of funds, the plan was abandoned.

According to historians, it was around the middle of the 18th century that the former capital of Quezon was moved to Tayabas. Subsequently, the province’s name was changed to Tayabas. Juan de Salcedo discovered the province on his journey from Laguna to Ambos Camarines (Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur) in 1571 and 1572.

Tayabas, like many other provinces, was ravaged by the Moro. A fleet of 25 or more vessels raided the towns of Casiguran, Palanan and Baler — when Aurora was still part of Tayabas — in 1798. They were also at the mercy of the settlements along the southern coastlines of the Bondoc Peninsula. These attacks lasted nearly until the end of Spanish control.

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
demesafrankc / Shutterstock

Located in Parian, Cebu city, the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is actually of Chinese architecture that incorporates Spanish elements.

The ancestral house, which dates from the Spanish colonial era in the 1600s, is a museum dedicated to the city’s Chinese settlement. According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Chinese settlement was on the north side of the Spanish city, connected to the sea via an estuary. Visiting Chinese traders had arrived in Cebu prior to this time, but it was only during the Spanish rule, and specifically during the 1590s, when Cebu briefly engaged in the Galleon trade, that the Chinese district of Parian was established and developed into a market and trading center.

Constructed between 1675 and 1700, the said ancestral house is believed to be the first Chinese residence built outside of China. Don Juan Yap, a Chinese merchant, built the house for himself and his wife, Doña Maria Florido. In the 1880s, the Parian district chief, Don Mariano Sandiego, married the eldest daughter, Maria.

Relics such as Santo Niño and some fine china can be found inside the house.

The Spanish Heritage

The Spanish Heritage
Google Maps

This is an ancestral house called The Spanish Heritage, which is located between Sta. Catalina Street and San Juan Street in Dumaguete city, Negros Oriental. The lower floor now houses commercial businesses.

Unfortunately, La Jornada Filipina was unable to find information about its owner. Still, we looked into the history of Negros.

It was in 1565 when, while docked near Bohol, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi spotted a huge land mass and ordered an expedition to explore it. For several days, the frigate was dragged around Buglas, its former name, by a strong current. And because the Spaniards saw a lot of dark-skinned people, they gave it a new name: Negros.

Augustinian friars then began “Christianizing” Negros island the following year.

The Spaniards administered the island as a single province for about 400 years, despite the fact that separate settlements were typically located at significant distances from one another.

Benita Jara Ancestral House

Benita Jara Ancestral House
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

There are many ancestral houses in Silay, Negros Occidental, and one of them is Benita Jara Ancestral House. The said property’s owner was Nicolas Armin Jalandoni.

In 1565, Silay was given the name “Carobcob,” which translates to “ribcage” in Hiligaynon. The village was also known as “Calubcub,” “Caracol” and “Caraco” in early documents, the latter two means “snail” or “spiral” in Spanish.

On Jan. 25, 1571, Carobcob was granted as an “encomienda,” a legal system that turned into a form of enslavement, to Cristobal Nuez Paroja, one of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s 17 troops.

Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House

Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

Also located in Silay, this ancestral house is otherwise known as Balay Negrense Museum. Its owner was Don Victor Gaston y Fernandez.

Gaston was the son of Yves Leopoldo Germain Gaston and Prudencia Fernandez, a native of Balayan, Batangas. His father was one of the pioneers of the sugar industry in Negros. Together with his 12 children, Gaston lived in this house until his death in 1927 at the age of 70.

His property was converted into a museum on Oct. 1990.

Eulogio Rodriguez Ancestral House

Eulogio Rodriguez Ancestral House
NovieGshots / Shutterstock

Located in Rodriguez, formerly Montalban, in Rizal, this ancestral house was once owned by Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Sr. He was the Senate President of the Philippines from 1952 to 1963. His house was developed into a museum since then.

It is believed that the first Spanish Governor General sent his nephew, Juan de Salcedo, to seize the towns in the southern districts of Luzon after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi defeated the rajahs’ forces due to their stronger weapons. Salcedo then took the towns one by one in 1571, gaining the trust of the locals through diplomacy.

Municipal entities of the central Spanish government in Manila were formed from the towns. Following that, Spanish missionaries, usually Franciscan and Jesuit, were dispatched to the newly-formed towns to construct churches or chapels, preach Catholicism, convert people to Christianity, and disseminate Spanish culture.

Sixto Castelo Lopez Ancestral House

Sixto Castelo Lopez Ancestral House
NHCP Photo Collection, 2013

This ancestral house can be found in Balayan, Batangas. It was built in the 1850s.

The owner, Sixto Castelo Lopez, was born on April 6, 1863 in Balayan to Natalio Lopez and Maria Castelo. He attended the University of Santo Tomas, graduating from secondary education in 1884.

Lopez was a friend of Jose Rizal.

According to historical records, Spanish generals Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, on their route to Manila in 1570, explored the coast of Batangas and discovered a Malay community near the coast of the Pansipit River. The town of Taal was formed in 1572, and the convent and stone church were built subsequently.

The Spanish government officially established the Province of Bonbon in 1578 by Fathers Estaban Ortiz and Juan de Porras. But eventually, it disbanded the Bonbon province in 1581 and formed a new one called Balayan. Fearing more eruptions of the Taal volcano, the capital was eventually moved to Batangas.

Per the province of Batangas’ official website, the province’s history “can never be separated from the history of the Christianization of the Islands.”

Herrera Ancestral House

Herrera Ancestral House
GreggGalgo / Shutterstock

Known as the White House, this one stands out in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. The property’s owner was Don Gabriel Uriarte Herrera, the first mayor of Cantilan. It was built on May 28, 1898 for business purposes. At present, antiques are displayed inside the house.

According to historical records, Chief Solibao ruled the town of Surigao, which was a thriving settlement. The town was known as “Surigao” when the Spaniards arrived, but it was better known as “Caraga” when early Christian missionaries arrived in the province. The province’s name was derived from the name of its inhabitants — the “Caragas” of the Visayan race.

Surigao became a regional core of Spanish political and ecclesiastical authority, rivaled only by Tandag on its southern coast.

From Ilocos and Quezon, to Negros and Surigao, the Spanish conquistadores definitely exerted control over the Philippines, occupying many parts of the archipelago.

And along with the conquest comes history. These old Spanish houses in the Philippines hold many untold tales. As many of them were uprooted from their original locations and reconstructed elsewhere — an abomination — it’s important to preserve the ones remaining erected.

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