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Syquia Mansion in Vigan

It’s July! I will be celebrating my birthday this 26th and I’m still not sure where we will spend the Ramadan 9-days vacation, which starts on the 25th until the 2nd of August. I haven’t thought about that yet. I don’t want any addition to the backlog of posts that’s been nagging me for months and I’m not even halfway through with my Philippine vacation posts! Let’s tackle the Syquia Mansion this time.

If there's one house where I learned so much about the Filipino way of life during the Spanish era, it's the Syquia Mansion. It's the first of the three stops of our calesa ride. The calesa driver mentioned some mansions we can choose to visit but we said yes to Syquia Mansion when he told us that Elpidio Quirino, one of the Philippine presidents, owned the house.

Syquia Mansion epitomizes the more than three centuries of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. It evokes of wealth, fine living and aristocracy. You can easily guess that the former occupants of this house were either insulares (those who were born in the country to pure Spanish parents), or Filipino/Chinese mestizos (Filipinos having both Filipino and Spanish/Chinese bloodline). Syquias, I later knew, were Chinese Mestizos.

A stern-looking caretaker greeted us at the entrance and gave a brief introduction on the history of the mansion. Because he delivered the introduction in a way that you would be lured to go up the mansion to know more about it, we paid the donation which served as our entrance fee and went up. (But looks are quite deceiving. The caretaker we mistook as stern was very friendly on our way out. He even took our family picture with the Quirinos' carriage!)

I fell in love with the intricate carvings on the bed and other furniture. Did you know that those carvings have meaning? They denote social status and family rankings. I also liked the big windows that let the air and sunshine in.

The Spanish mansions have what they call “eyes”. They're holes the residents or the helpers use to check the arrival of guests. If the guests were wealthy and prominent, they were ushered to the receiving area. But if they’re not, they were not allowed to go inside the house. The caretaker explained that such attitude was the basis for the famous Filipino proverb: "Aanhin pa ang bahay na bato kung ang nakatira ay kwago, buti pa ang bahay kubo ang nakatira ay tao" ("What good is a stone house when owls live there. A nipa hut is better when a person lives there.") Owl, obviously, was used to represent those "eyes".

This dining area is big enough for another one-bedroom house. It may look small to you but if you're like me who grew up in houses with either small dining areas or with them incorporated in the kitchen, then this is already a dining area and a playground for you.

By the way, did you notice those big curtain-like materials hanging from the ceiling? I initially thought they were used to fan diners during the summer season. But they're not. They’re used to drive away flies from the dining table. Flies, notorious for carrying many diseases, reproduced rapidly then and led to outbreaks of diseases. You wouldn’t want to know why that happened but still, I will tell you. Because sanitation wasn’t the main concern then, people would just throw their poop outside, the catapult way. I'm exaggerating here again, of course. The tour guide didn’t mention any use of catapults but people really threw their poops as far as they could! As a result, the flies indulged in those freebies, carried bacteria, and spread communicable diseases. The unhygienic practice only stopped when the Americans came to the Philippines and taught proper waste disposal.

Remember my simple dream of going inside a Spanish house or mansion? I already achieved that when I went to my classmate's house during my high school years. But it wasn't as big as Syquia Mansion though. How I wish I could live in a house maybe not as big but as spacious and well-ventilated as the Syquia Mansion. But because I live in a time when a 42-sqm is the norm on urban living and an 85-sqm house and lot in the suburban areas fits a family of four, I should be thankful enough to be living in a city back home where everything you need is within easy reach - including toilet bowls and flushes!


Missy said…
Belated happy birthday ;-) when we were in Vigan we didn't have enough time to explore it, we just took calesa ride for just 10 minutes (I think), it's just one tour along few blocks of Calle Crisologo and then we walked along that street and bought some souvenirs.

Nice tour of Syquia mansion
Beth said…
Hi Missy, we rode the calesa for experience only! I always want to explore places on foot. Thanks for dropping by. I will check out your blog for those Ilocos provinces posts! :)

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