Philippine’s oldest house to get a facelift
1730 JESUIT HOUSE IN PARIAN
The oldest documented house in the Philippines is set to undergo extensive rehabilitation to preserve it for future generations.
Heritage experts on Saturday gathered for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the conservation of the 288-year-old Jesuit House in Barangay Parian, Cebu City, which was built in 1730.
Dr. Jaime Laya, chairman of the Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation Inc., stressed that since the Jesuit House is a historical treasure, its preservation is a must.
“The common objective is to help preserve the structure for future generations to see the tangible evidence of Philippine history, development, and spirituality,” he said during the MOU signing at the City Sports Club Cebu in Cebu City.
“We envision to set an example for the rest of the Visayas and other areas in the Philippines that conservation of heritage sites contributes to economic development and tourism growth. We’re hoping to inspire a great awareness of preserving heritage structures,” he added.
Escuella Taller, a center based in Intramuros, Manila, was tasked to oversee the conservation project in the 1730 Jesuit House.
The national and local governments as well as various sectors of society have pledged to support the conservation of the heritage site. The project will also involve members of the Escuela Taller chapter in Bohol, added Laya.
“This is a total conservation activity that brings together people from different sectors. The improvements will surely attract tourism, and at the same time inspire young people to grasp the achievements of their ancestors,” Laya said.
Among those who attended the MOU signing event were Juan Pita Rodrigañez of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation; Professor Ramon Jimenzes Verdejo of the University of Shiga Prefecture; Carmen Bettina Bulaong, executive director of Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation Inc.; Joselito Corpus of the Escuella Taller in Bohol; and Fr. Dionisio Marcelo Miranda, SVD, president of University of San Carlos (USC).
Also present were Cebu City Councilor Margot Osmeña, Cebu Provincial Tourism chief Joselito “Boboi” Costas, Rep. Arthur Yap of Bohol’s third district, and Jesuit House owner Jaime Sy.
Bulaong said Cebu’s Jesuit House is too significant to be forgotten and ignored.
“The Jesuit House is the oldest house in the Philippines. When we first visited the house in 2003, I was surprised that it was unscathed. I thought not very many heritage structures have the same feature,” she said.
“The Jesuit House is something unique. We need to conserve it well by following international standards among many others,” she added.
While conservation works are ongoing, Bulaong said the Jesuit House can still accommodate visitors.
The 1730 Jesuit House used to be the residence of the Vice Provincial of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, a religious order of the Catholic Church founded in 1534.
It later became the headquarters of the Japanese military during World War II and a private nightclub in the 1950s. It was eventually used as a hospital by the Americans, and became the residence of the Alvarez family, who sold the place to Nicanor Sy in the mid-1960s.
Sy used it as a warehouse. In 2009, the present owner Jaime Sy converted it into a museum.
The house is made up of a big two-level main structure and a smaller, similar structure. Both structures are connected by a covered walkway or bridge.
The bigger house is made up of hewn stones and has the original clay tile roof with a pagoda-like design inspired by the Chinese culture that used to flourish in the area before. The smaller has two corresponding parts: a hewn stone on the first level and hardwood on the second.
The interior of the house underwent several transformation throughout the years but some of its original pieces are still intact.
Cebu’s heritage belt
The Jesuit House stands on around 2,000 square meters of land along Zulueta Street, but is barely visible from the street since it is located within the Ho Tong warehouse, which is surrounded by high walls to protect it from theft.
Since the Jesuit House is more than 50 years old, it is qualified to be named a heritage structure, as provided under Republic Act 10066, otherwise known as the Cultural Heritage Law.
Cebu City, being the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, is home to a number of historical sites.
The downtown area is a heritage belt of old churches, houses and other structures that date back to the colonial Spanish past spanning 333 years.
By preserving the Jesuit House, Laya said more people will be given the chance to have a glimpse of the old Cebu.
“We hope people will recognize the important elements of history. Conserving the Jesuit House attracts tourism, provides employment, and inspires young people to perpetuate the achievements of their ancestors,” he said.
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