Camiña Balay nga Bato: Heritage, shopping, and much more (Part 2)
A proud history and prestigious family traditions mark the 1865 Avanceña House, now called Camiña Balay nga Bato at Villa Arevalo, Iloilo City. From afar, one can clearly see how beautifully this house was preserved for almost a century and a half now. A time-capsule in its own right, the house still serves as the dwelling place of the 4th generation of Melocoton-Avanceña clan. Join me in my recent visit in one of Iloilo City’s best preserved heritage homes in this two-part post. (Part 1 here.)
Going back to the Ground Floor
Where were we the last time? Ah yes, we had a taste of the unique tsokolate and surely it’s time for, shopping! To the relief of my companions, shopping resumed! They treated themselves with tsokolateras, antique house decors, hand-woven bags and cocoas. Truly, Lola Rufina’s Heritage Curio Shop is an alcazen (storage) of Panay history and culture. You can take home the whole of Panay if you shop there (is that an exaggeration?). I really fancy those old santos with their “balays” or pedestals, even at old age and already pigmented they still bear the style of a master craftsman.
Going back to the piano at the ground floor, I’m not joking when I said you can have it if you have a million pesos with you. Anyway, we just contented ourselves posing with the piano and pretending like a skilled pianist.
Are old wares your interest? You will definitely find the shop a must-go. Among the displays are antique plates and jars, in different shapes, sizes and designs.
It was a unique experience but the tour is not yet over.
In the courtyard, one will surely notice garden’s simple yet religious theme. Numerous figures of saints carved in red sand stones dotted the green scene. Red sandstones or “Igang” are abundant in the southern coasts of Iloilo – it’s the material used in building Miag-ao church. Stone images of saints are also available at Lola Rufina’s Souvenir Shop. A beautiful view of the garden can also be seen from the windows at the kitchen and dining hall.
Ang Balay nga Bato
From afar, you will never miss the Spanish time architecture of the house. The house is a true example of the classic balay na bato. Having almost the same age of Molo’s Church of St Anne, this example of Hispano-Filipino house is in good shape and well maintained. Built in 1860 by Fernando Avanceña (uncle of Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña) and his wife Eulalia Abajo, the house originally had batten and board walls, and a bamboo and nipa roof – a typical Filipino bahay kubo.
Due to frequent Moro raids at Villa Arevalo, the family added massive mamposteria or lime stone rubble and plaster walls.
Light and air enter the house through large windows which are guarded by metal grills. The windows are open by sliding wooden panels decorated with latticework and grids and covered with translucent capiz shells.
Twenty four hardwood posts or haligi support the house while the ground floor is a made of stone. The two posts supporting the entrance from the rear are beautifully sculptured with grapevine designs.
What really caught my attention are the cornice lamp holders seen at the middle of house’s exterior walls. In the early days when electricity was not available, these holders serve as the placement for the lamps to illuminate the surroundings of the house. They’re beautifully sculptured – too bad they don’t have any replica as a souvenir.
The main entrance used to be the door facing the highway but was now closed. Instead visitors enter the compound through a gate at the side.
Definitely, the Avanceña House or Camiña Balay nga Bato is a remarkable example of ingenuity of the Filipinos when it comes to architecture, design and craftsmanship.
Weaving: A Family Tradition
The family had never forgotten their roots – their textile weaving traditions. Inside the house there are several remaining traditional weaving looms. We’re very fortunate to see one of these looms in action. The family had been in textile business during the Spanish times and at times engaged with many weavers who worked with abaca, piña, cotton and silk combinations making sinamays and other hand-woven textile.
Visit and Have the Camiña Balay nga Bato Experience
Camiña Balay nga Bato is open for visitors. I would advise that you call them ahead of time for reservation since they’re meticulously preparing treats for their visitors (as cooking their famous tsokolate takes time also). You may contact the owners and their staff at:
Camiña Balay nga Bato c. 1865
20 Osmena Street, Villa De Arevalo
Iloilo City, Philippines 5000
(033) 336-3858 / (033) 396-1927 /Fax: (033) 336 5075
From Iloilo City, you may take jeepneys going to Villa Arevalo (Mohon). You may also take taxis to get there. Prominent landmarks around the area are the Sinamay House and Villa Arevalo Plaza (Plaza Villa).
Camiña Balay nga Bato is located along the Osmeña Street (a segment of the highway going to Oton).Tags: Heritage Houses, Iloilo City, Metro Iloilo - Guimaras, Villa Arevalo