ancestral house, Philippines, Siquijor, Heritage, buildings, old houses
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Ancestral Houses on Siquijor Island, Philippines

For a while, I have been taking photos and video footage of ancestral houses in the Philippines. The patience of the owners has been great and their hospitality abundant. Proud as they are for being the owner of the house sometimes even from the Spanish occupation or post-Japanese war they have tales to tell about the history of the house.

Some houses were built for the Japanese generals, looking for a comfortable place to stay during the war. Others were confiscated for prisoners of war. Whether or not the stories are all historically accurate. They are told with pride and show a dedication to the place these people live.

Cuevas family, Ancestral house, Siquijor, Philippines
The house of the Cuevas family was used by the Japanese for their prisoners of war

Tourist usually only get to see the Cang Isok house, build around 1800 by the Spanish

The Cang Isok house is told to be the oldest house on the island. It is situated on a beach near Enrique Villanueva.
It is amazing how it survived the forces of nature over time.
The story tells that the owner has to leave the house during storm-season, for it is no longer safe when the winds beat the structure.

But those who love old houses should not visit the Cang Isok house only. Most houses are hidden along little dirt roads or away from the main road behind cornfields. For most ancestral houses are farmhouses and tucked away in the mountains.

Build on poles they oversee the land, space underneath is used as a storage facility

ancestral houses, Philippines, old houses, heritage, culture, Siquijor
Most houses do not know any nails unless later repairs have been done in a rush. The hard wooden structure tells stories of ages and the polished shining floorboards have known many feet.

Most houses are very big and elevated. Dining areas that can seat 40 people are no exception. Cooking is mostly done on open wood fires and although there is electricity nowadays, old kitchens with water storage in clay jars are still to be found next to the modern fridge.

The details of some of the houses are stunning as is the nail free furniture that I found.

ancestral houses, Siquijor, old house

is there enough money and knowledge to preserve these houses?

The sad part is that it takes a lot of knowledge and money to maintain the houses in good shape. Every Filipino dreams of a modern kitchen and needs an extra room. So many houses close the storage area under the house with hollow blocks to provide sleeping quarters for ever-growing families. And original kitchens are being replaced with modernities.

Even the outside maintenance of the houses worries me. Different kind of wood is used to fix holes, original ornaments are often broken and falling out. As I said, it takes a lot of money and knowledge to restore an ancient old building.

traditional water jar, siquijor, ancestral house
Traditional water jar in the kitchen

The Philippines Historical Foundation has named some houses throughout the Philippines ‘cultural heritage’ and listed them for preservation, but as far as I know, none of the houses in Siquijor is on that list.
I hope they soon will look at Siquijor for the preservation of this beautiful historic houses. For many are being abandoned, the wood sold to whoever needs wood and so a huge part is the Siquijor history is going to be lost.


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