Art Object: The ancestral house turned museum

A certain charm imbues century-old houses. One would initially remark their look of defiance, having survived possible catastrophes either natural or otherwise. Next would be how, in their architecture and design, these houses have frozen time: the imposing door, the august hallway, the large rooms opening into a view of courtyard, the pieces of furniture harking back to the old days of “calesas,” women in their “ternos,” and the long silences of the afternoons un-interrupted by work or soap opera. Inevitably, one would notice the history contained in the houses’ space, that ineffable sense conveying how people lived during a certain time, the values and aspirations they upheld, and the culture that governed them.

I have seen and stepped into such houses, beginning with the handful I visited in Negros Occidental, Cebu and later Vigan. So well-preserved, these houses echo their former glory, evoking a sense of nostalgia and also a sense of pride for their brand of architecture where every component was dutifully carved, planed, sculpted, polished and built by human hands. If you position yourself in the center of a room and close your eyes, you may hear the creaking of the wood, feel the soft breeze due to efficient ventilation and smell the unmistakable odor of history itself.

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