Glorious houses of the past: Links to history

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Saturday, July 16, 2011


DESPITE the advent of modern-day architecture and construction schemes, ancestral homes that weathered the test of time still stand, testimonies of a glorious past that remain links to history for future generations to see.

The need to preserve this heritage has continuously been echoed by Ivan Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society, stressing its importance and the role ancestral houses -- and their dwellers -- played in molding the history of Pampanga.

In the City of San Fernando, the now popular Heritage District along Consunji and V. Tiomico Streets has become an attraction for students, historians who marvel at the line of declared heritage houses that embody a different period in the Philippines' colonial history. There's one thing they all share in common: they were all occupied by the Japanese during the war.

Along the city's Heritage District is the Lazatin House of the American Colonial Period, built in 1925 by Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo and Encarnacion Singian y Torres. During World War II, it served as residence to General Masahru Homma.

Next to it is the Consunji House, home of Don Antonio Consunji, Gobernadorcillo of San Fernando in 1892. He was actually removed from office by Spanish authorities because of his presence during Jose Rizal's visit to San Fernando in June of that year. Then, during the Philippine Revolution, he became Presidente Municipal of San Fernando from 1898 to 1899.

Further toward the city proper are the Santos-Hizon House, built at the turn of the century by Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura and is an example of architecture prevalent during the American Colonial Period; the Hizon-Singian House, which was declared a heritage house by the National Historical Institute on January 27, 2003.

This "bahay na bato" from the Spanish Period was built in 1870 by Anacleto Hizon, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from 1877-1879 and 1886-1887, and Victoria Singian de Miranda y De Ocampo. It was inherited by their daughter Victoria Hizon y Singian, who was married to Godofredo Rodriguez y Yabut from Bacolor. It was occupied during the 1896 revolution by Spanish General Antonio Ruiz Serralde, appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as a military hospital and barracks from 1943 to 1944, and served as headquarters of American General Walter Krueger of the 6th American Army during the liberation period until the end of 1945.

It was later passed their son, the late Gerry Catalino Rodriguez Y Hizon, former president of the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO), who was married to Aurora Angeles.

Near them is the Hizon-Ocampo House, the birthplace of Fernando Ocampo y Hizon in August 7, 1897. He is known as the pioneer of modern Filipino architecture credited for restoring the Metropolitan Cathedral and Manila Cathedral, the Central Seminary Building of UST, and the Sacred Heart Noviciate Building in Novaliches; the Tabacalera House, built in 1925 by the couple Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo, sugar farmer and former president of SFELAPCO and Encarnacion Singian y Torres, was home to the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War to Serve as a residence of the 14th Army Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, General Masaharu Homma and headquarters of the Kempeitai, aside from housing the Tabacalera offices.

Along V. Tiomico Street could be found the Henson-Hizon House, which was built by the couple Saturnino Henson y David, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from 1882-1883 and 1896, and the first "tesorero municipal" from 1900-1902, and Maria Lacson.

Inward near the village of Lourdes could be found "The Chalets of Teopaco Subdivision," which, during the American colonial period, became the new residential area of San Fernando. The area was badly-damaged as a result of the 1995 floods but several chalets still stand in the area, like one owned by Eva Datu and his brother.

The city's Heritage district is punctuated by the historic Pampanga Hotel that was the first site of the Pampanga High School when it first opened in 1908. It was also used as the Harvardian College, then the Pampanga Hotel and Panciteria and renamed the Pampanga Lodge and Restaurant.

In Angeles City, a bounty of ancestral houses could also be found, like the Old Pamintuan Residence downtown. This impressive historical landmark once served as the seat of the short-lived Philippine Republic under President Emilio Aguinaldo and venue of the first and only celebration of the Anniversary of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1899.

Restored to preserve its original grandeur, the old Pamintuan residence housed the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas regional office. Near it is Bale Herencia (built in 1860) and could be found at Lakandula corner Santo Rosario Streets. It is a picturesque house with the unsavory reputation of having been built for the mistress of a parish priest. The current owners now use it as a banquet hall.

In Mabalacat, along Vicente de la Cruz Street parallel to the busy Sta. Ines exit of the North Luzon Expressway lies the imposing Morales Mansion, an 82-year-old concrete and wood structure with an architectural style that harkens back to the days of "bahay na bato," yet infused with geometric, art deco elements considered in those times, as described by Alex Castro.

The fleur-de-lis accented wrought iron grill fence bears the initials of the original owner, Don Rafael Morales y Guzman, the youngest son of the town's principalia, Don Quentin Morales and Dña Paula Guzman.

Betis carpenters under the supervision of master woodworker Felix Guiao undertook the construction of the house on a sprawling 2,000 square meters property, began even before the young Georgetown law graduate married Belen Lansangan of Sta. Ana.

In Guagua, the Lopez House built in 1930, was once named in a 1935 telephone directory "The Pride of Guagua Pampanga." It was owned by Doña Juana and Don Alejandro Lopez who left the house when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1942. Almost all of the houses nearby were burned but the house was spared and was occupied by a Japanese military official. It was said that the dungeon below the house was used to imprison the Filipinos and Americans during the war. The house reportedly has tunnels leading to various places in Guagua and contained several jars and other artifacts. After the war, Doña Juana and Don Alejandro went back to the house. But after eruption of Mt. Pinatubo 1991, the dungeon was buried in mud.

Many more ancestral houses could be found all over Pampanga, like the Alvendia ancestral home in Floridablanca and Guanzon House in Sta. Rita.

A lot more await revisiting by heritage proponents and historians. They may be in silent state and their attendant history a thing of the past.

Still, their existence remains a symbol of wealth and a link to the past, from a glorious era long gone.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 17, 2011.

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