THE family is a precious unit of society. For Filipinos, the culture of closely knit ties within this unit is something we treasure. Long before the advent of technology, conversations were personal, privacy was very much cherished and courtship and marriage were the norm.
This culture can be seen in the structure of a few remaining ancestral houses in Cebu, one of which is the newly renovated Casa Gorordo Museum located in the Parian district. The house was said to have been home to one of the most prominent families in Cebu: the Gorordos. The house was built in 1850 by Alejandro Reynes and sold in 1863 to a Spanish merchant, Juan Isidro Gorordo. Now a museum, it is home to a few stories that the new generation might find quite interesting.
The house has two floors: the ground floor (zaguan) or more commonly known as silong, and the second floor is called taas.
The ground floor was said to have been used as a storage area for some agricultural products from the Gorordo family’s plantations. It also served as the garage for the family tartanilla (horse-drawn carriage).
Now, the ground floor functions as a multifaceted museum space. The place is divided into parts; there is a lobby and there is also an area for receiving guests. The receiving area is where the guests are oriented before starting the tour. The museum boasts of an interactive tour where tablets are provided to guide the guests as they go along the tour, and a huge touch screen TV is available to give the guests an overview of how communities looked in Cebu throughout the years.
The tablets function as an electronic guide which the guests will use to scan QR codes posted in every place inside the museum which has a story to tell.
The ground floor also contains an audio visual room where guests gather to listen to a short documentary about Balay na Tisa, a little overview about the structure of the house. A miniature exhibit will also greet visitors at the beginning of the tour, giving the guests a glimpse of eight antique pieces one can see inside the museum.
The second floor is composed of several rooms, and back in the early days, the taas was said to have been exclusively for family members only, so visitors were screened before they proceeded to climb the stairs. Male suitors of the lady Gorordos were screened by their parents before they were allowed to climb up the stairs. Even after being able to proceed to the second floor, the suitors were made to stay in the suitor’s corner where the courtship was supervised by the parents of the lady Gorordos. Conversations were not private and when the suitors said “I love you,” the parents were there to ascertain if it was true.
The Casa Gorordo Museum is the only ancestral house in Cebu which houses a chapel inside. This was because the son of Juan Isidro Gorordo, Juan Bautista Perfecto Gorordo, became the first Bishop of Cebu. He often visited the house to rest after he was ordained and after he retired from being the Bishop of Cebu. He held private masses for his family during some occasions. His diaries are still there lying on his desk as if he had written on them the night before. One of the things that were found in Bishop Gorordo’s room and can still be seen in his book case is an authentic copy of Jose Rizal’s book, Noli me Tangere.
There is also a room which was designated specifically for the newly wedded daughters of the family. It was where lovers were expected to stay for their first night as a married couple and blood on the sheets was expected the next day to truly attest to the preserved virginity of the women. It was said that if no blood could be seen on the sheets the next day, such was scandalous and disgraceful, and this would be known by the whole family including the neighbors. This was a practice from the Spaniards that was passed on to Filipino culture.
Hundreds of stories remain uncovered behind the walls of the Casa Gorordo Museum. These are waiting to be revealed to give one a glimpse of the lifestyle of one of the most prominent families of Cebu.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 08, 2017.
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