A Visit to the Ancestral Houses of Gapan, Nueva Ecija

 Gapan , Nueva Ecija province- Philippines

We arrived past 9:00am in Gapan City after almost 3 hours of travel from Quezon City . Our group were met by Mr. Ramon Valmonte and Mr. Louie Ramirez administrators of the Ancestral Houses of the Philippines-Gapan , Nueva Ecija chapter and We were one of the first tourist group from Metro Manila that were allowed an exclusive entry to some  ancestral houses of the area.

Gapan City rotunda

Gapan City is the oldest town in Nueva Ecija founded sometime in 1595 . Records of the first Catholic mission to the far east indicated that in 1595, Fathers Contres Tendilla, Caballo and Salazar were responsible for clearing the forest which later became a pueblo.

Gapan City rotunda with Virgen La Divina Pastora

All the houses that we visited are private and their furniture sets are heirloom pieces , so we were brief not to touch them. Although there is no strict protocol with regards to the group’s behavior inside the house, Everyone is very cautious with our behavior .

 Silvino Valdez and Barbara Agno Heritage House

Silvino Valdez and Barbara Agno Heritage House is  one of the largest ancestral house in terms size and scale  ( equivalent to 3 to 4 houses ) which is located in a corner lot of Delos Reyes Street built around the last quarter of 1800’s .  The second house had an interesting  masonry on the lower level and wood works on the second floor which reflect a gentle era of the 1920’s . Based on the location , size and  architectural grandeur . It showed that it belonged to a well to do family during that era.

Valdez Ancestral House as seen from the other side of the street

Intricate wrought iron bars fill its baluster and elaborate floral latticework made from hammered steel can be seen from its ceiling. The windows are from period colored glasses of the late 1920’s.

The house is more popular known as Ms. Eula Valdez ancestral house.You can also see a mermaid figure in one corner of the ancestral house with 1928 . The key stone year indicate the year that the house was completed . The concrete overhead water tank beside the house was constructed in 1928 when there was no electricity and water supply yet. The water from the deep well was being pumped manually by a male house help so water would run to the 2nd floor bath and toilet plus bedroom sinks.

Valdez Ancestral House

Her maternal  grandfather was Filipino painter Fernando Amorsolo.  There seems to be 2 large houses which are inter-connected with each other . One would reflect a turn of the 19th century design  and the newer one with an art nouveau design with large balcony facing the street.

Family History :

The house was built in the last quarter of 1800 ( 1870’s to 1880’s)  Mr. Silvino Valdes who was married to Ms. Barbara Agno.

” The house was inherited by their son,  Mr. Estanislao A. Valdes & wife and grand aunt Maria Valdes-Sevilla. Ms. Andrea Reyes who had two children, Emilio married to Isabel Fermin and Maria who was married to Benito Sevilla who were childless. Emilio died early so Maria inherited the house and later gave it to Emilio’s son and our father,Estanislao (Dandy) who was married to Gracia Jorge Amorsolo. Now the house is a community property owned by Estanilao and Gracia’s seven children namely, Ma. Elena, Ma. Veronica,Marcus, Miguel, Ma. Isabel Rosa, Concordia Andrea and Julia (Eula). ” – personal interview from one of the siblings .

 

Taruc Ancestral House

Taruc Ancestral House is located beside the Valdez Ancestral House . The house belongs to the family of the prominent radio and media personality Mr. Joe Taruc ( born Jose Malgapo Taruc, Jr. ) DZRH news anchor /  Senior-Vice President and father of another news anchor from GMA channel 7  Mr. Jay Taruc ( Motorcycle Diaries and I-Witness) . The house roof was renovated using new galvanized roofing . The wrought iron gates were recently installed and the house probably got a fresh coat of paint .

old house with a higher perimeter wall

This is another ancestral house located beside the Valdez Ancestral house , The house is a period turn of the century house with newly built walls . According to one of the locals, The wall used to be lower . The owners wanted some privacy hence they built taller perimeter walls with some stone vases. This is to avoid the prying eyes of local photographers and for security purposes.

colonial houses

There are several old ancestral houses within the old municipal area. Since they are owned by private families, One cannot simply enter one’s house without the consent of the owners. Some of the houses had caretakers or distant relatives living within the premises. One can only admire the houses by just looking them outside and their facade.

 Cuison Ancestral House

The Cuison Ancestral House is also known as Doña Martha Cuison ancestral house, his husband is Mr. Agustin Cuison who is part Chinese . She is a well-known philanthropist in the community .

  . sala set

wrought iron peacock stand

underwood typewriter

The current house was made in the mid -1930’s reflecting the art deco era. The wrought iron grills windows and doors, sala sets, furnitures among others.

group photo at the grand staircase

The house had a new perimeter wall and a neatly manicured lawn. Some portion of the house had been renovated .

dining area

The dining area is large with several cupboards ,  furniture set and dinner wares from that time . Most of them are only use in special occasions.

food storage furniture

This a kitchen storage furniture a localized version of a refrigerator ( minus the cooling system) , This was used in most homes until modern refrigeration until became cheap and accessible.  The local would put oil at the base of the furniture which prevents ants, rats , insects and it allows air circulation inside the food storage prolonging the shelf-life of the food like fruits and vegetables.

altar

The rooms of the Cuison house is large and spacious with a family altar . There were several heirloom santo images made from ivory with lavishly embroidered dress .

grilled windows with intricate wooden lattice designs

statue holding a light

Gapan North Central School

Gapan North Central School is another fine example of a Gabaldon style architecture . The nice entrance arch reflect the gentle era were school buildings built with spacious garden, large windows and high ceiling which held in the air circulation. Unfortunately a covered walkway obstructed the view of the main building .

old municipal building

The old municipal building had a date 1733 and 1896 on the main entrance with a gun and sword . You can see the brick masonry materials , intricate iron grill works, balcony .

Munting Bulwagan Alaala kay Ginang Mariquita Garcia Gutierrez Zabat

This is a simple post war house  along Delos Reyes street that was converted into a training ground for kids who wanted to join a band  or basic music lesson. Zabat Band would give FREE music lesson to kids ages 10 years-old  everyday at 6:00pm . The children would undergo rigid training before being accepted as full fledged member of the famed band.  There is a small family museum inside the compound But we were not able to visit the memorabila room due to time constrain. We are just contended with watching some band members marching the street .

History :

It was Padre Eliodoro Chico y Bustamante, a Tagalog priest, who organized the first local band in Gapan, Nueva Ecija on November 22, 1820. He appointed his relative, Lorenzo Zabat y Chico, to supervise the band. It was called Banda Zabat and became famous in Nueva Ecija and the surrounding provinces. The first Filipino to be recognized as band director is Leonardo Silos (1826-1910). At about age 20, he was appointed director of the band of the Spanish Army’s Regiment No. 5. His third son, Rosalio, directed Banda Pasig, a contemporary of Banda Zabat.

There is an active facebook page of the Zabat Band   . They are also well-known band not only in Gapan , Nueva Ecija but the band is also known in other parts of the world .

Note : I will make a separate blog post on the ancestral house of Dr. Del Rosario

References and Bibliography :

“Banda Uno, Banda Dos.” Filipino Heritage: the Making of a Nation, vol. 8, pp. 2213-2217.

Gapan City :Website: http://www.gapancity.gov.ph/

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