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Modern Bayanihan: Moving a 99-Year-Old House

An amazing story of how an ancestral house in Navotas gets moved (piece by piece!) to Antipolo City

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Original Article: Amillah Rodil Photography: Dakila Angeles Pictorial Direction: Gwyn Guanzon

Don Ramon Santos built a grand, three-story bahay-na-bato-style house for his family on Calle Real, Navotas, in 1917. The prominent third-floor balcony overlooked Malabon River and its environs. Almost a century later, the same balcony looks out onto Ortigas area and Makati. This isn’t Navotas, but Antiplo, where Don Ramon’s house was relocated, bit-by-bit, each floor plank, joist, and window numbered and reconstructed.

The hardbound book Tahanan: A House Reborn lovingly documents the amazing history and reconstruction of this ancestral home. It is the first Philippine rebuilding to be documented and published. “The house was falling apart,” says Mike Santos, grandson of Don Ramon. “It trembled whenever trucks passed by.” The frequent floods also prompted their move, but instead of just packing their belongings, the family brought the whole house with them. Architect Bobby Quisumbing helped restore it for modern living.

Don Ramon’s house is as grand as when it was built, but instead of presidents (Manuel L. Quezon visited the patriarch), now Mike and his sister Didi’s children have a run of the place. The ground floor is where Didi lives, and functions as an independent unit with its own living areas, kitchen, and bedrooms. The beautiful sala is retained on the second floor, and looks much as it must have been a century ago. The third floor serves as Mike’s private quarters.

The Santos house is a testimony to Don Ramon’s descendants’ pride in their heritage and will to preserve it, and it resonates with a new lease on life for possibly another century. 

Exterior

Save for the new steel and concrete frame, each piece of this house is original. The house in Navotas was dismantled, and each architectural and interior member (floor planks, transoms, joists, vents, etc.) were numbered and photographed. When the demolition was completed, they transported 20 truckloads of the pieces to the current site in Antipolo and put them back together.

Living room or sala

The calado arches in the living room are done in an art nouveau style, typical of the era it was made in. When these arches were stripped of their paint during the restoration, the original colors of green and peach were revealed. They decided not to retouch them.

Dining room

Siblings Diana and Lawrence in the dining room, which the family uses only on formal occasions. The dining table can be separated into smaller tables. An authentic art deco lamp hangs over the table.

Spiral staircase

A small spiral staircase leads up to the third floor, which serves as Mike’s “pad” where two small rooms or cuartitos have been converted into one big bedroom.

Bedroom

In Mike’s bedroom, old paintings are placed casually on windowsills and on an old Ambassador living room set. Says Mike: “I like to keep the windows open at night. Sometimes the bats come in and make quite a racket.”

Grillework

Intricate wrought iron grillework shield the ventanillas, the small shuttered windows underneath the main windows. These are left open for cross ventilation.

Balcony

Didi’s grandfather installed wooden panels on the balcony railings to protect his grandchildren who loved playing there. They serve the same purpose for Didi’s children today.

Read the original article ("Moving House") in the October 2004 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details.

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