The article below was also published in Cebu Daily News’ Lifestyle Section, June 16, 2007 while the photos where shot on August 14, 2010, a difference of three years. The photos and the accompanying captions may not match the article since the house has just been recently rehabilitated and converted into a museum.
A top view of the main house.
Not many people know of the existence of an 18th-century house in Pari-an, Cebu City that is reputed to be the oldest dated house in the country today. As of now, this house lie hidden behind the very high walls of a warehouse and only its terracotta-tiled roof can be seen if one stands at a particular spot in Colon street specifically near the Obelisk.
Details of a decorative iron work in the wooden door at the original gate entrance of the residence at Binakayan Street.
The Jesuit House of 1730, as it is known by the year that it was built, was once the residence of the Jesuit Superior in Cebu. When the Jesuits were suppressed in Europe and eventually expelled from the Philippines in 1768, several of their properties were put on sale. During the late 19th-century, a wealthy landowner and rancher from Bohol, Don Jose Alvarez, bought this particular residence. Sometime during the 1950s it was leased by Governor Sergio Osmeña, Jr. where it became an exclusive club for Cebu’s elite.
The contemporary entrance to the house (left) and the original entrance (right).
Permission is needed to see this house presently owned by the Sy family, owners of Ho Tong Hardware.The original entrance to the residence is along Binakayan street, a very narrow road, although access to it now is through the main entrance of the warehouse in Zulueta street. Carved monograms or medallions of Mother Mary, the society’s IHS and St. Joseph decorate the lintel of the gate of the original entrance whose door is made of molave and iron. As of now, a steel gate covers the original entrance to protect it from the elements although the medallions are clearly discernible.
Details of one of the decorative corbels inside the house
There are actually two structures, both connected by a bridge, inside the compound that comprise the residence. The two-level main house, also referred to as “House A” in previous articles about it, is made all of cut coral stones similar while the second smaller house (House B) is a bipartite structure of cut coral stone in the lower level and wood in the second level. Although the smaller house bears traces of renovation, both houses still retain the original corbels and the stout wooden posts while the main house still has the original roofing of clay tiles. Iron grilles secure the windows at the upper level of House A. A low relief bearing the words “Año 1730″ can be found above the portal in the interior of House A that opens into the bridge that leads to the smaller house.
A low relief in one of the walls inside “House A.”
The flooring on both houses is made of alternating planks of light and dark shades of hardwood. According to Fr. Rene Javellana, S.J. in his essay about this Jesuit residence which was published in 1989, House B functioned more of like a roofed azotea where the Jesuits probably spent the afternoon praying alone or was perhaps used for community gathering and recreation. As of now, House B has wooden walls, a ceiling and partitions which were probably just recent additions and not necessarily of 18th century vintage. Chinese influences are very much evident both in the interiors and exteriors. For example, in House B the decorative corbels are very much similar to those found in Chinese temples. At House A, the lines of the clay-tiled roof suggest those of a Chinese pagoda.
A view of the interiors in “House A.”
The main staircase used to have decorative banisters and newel posts although these are now gone. According to another article written by Fr. Javellana for Panublion, a website about heritage sites in the Visayas, both banister and post were similar in design to those found in the Augustinian monastery at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. And when the Alvarez family sold the house to the Sys, they asked for the banister and the post.
The covered bridgeway that connects the two structures that comprise the residence (left), the interiors of “House B” (center), and details of a post and the decorative corbels in “House B” (right).
Like many old structures of the past, both houses have undergone a series of transformations through the years although both are still intact. House A itself looks very much in good condition that one could hardly believe that it was built in 1730, or perhaps 1750, whichever. Judging from the look of it, this residence can still be rehabilitated to its former grandeur and adaptively reused as a museum. When we speak of Pari-an, what immediately comes into our mind is Casa Gorordo. Now there is this Jesuit House. Cebuanos need to appreciate the historical value of this structure. It would make them proud that they have the oldest dated house in the country today, the second being Casa Ordoveza in Laguna.