Camiña Balay Nga Bato: A Tour on Ilonggo Heritage House (Part 1)
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.
It was around 9 AM in the morning when we arrived at the Avanceña House (as I already booked our visit days before). The staff is very warm and welcoming, and immediately led us into the ground floor of the house which now serves as an antique and souvenir shop (Lola Rufina’s Heritage Curio Shop), and as their offices. Available in the shop are old santos, saints carved in red sandstones, hablon and sinamay, paintings, antique wares, and of course tsokolateras. (You can even buy an old Steinway & Sons Piano for a million peso).
So I ushered my companions from shopping to the tour. =)
Walking on the hallway leading to the grand stair case is like journeying back to the mid-19th Century when Ilonggo illustrados are principal drivers in economy through their textile weaving businesses. No doubt, an old loom is displayed right in front of the escalera.
One of our companions took notice of some of the lamps in the house. She said that back in the old days, only the rich can accommodate those so-called “Petromax” lamps while the masa (common people) has to contend with the old fashioned gasera. Difference of the two? Petromax designs use bulbs that were powered by denatured alcohol, while the gasera has flame fueled by gas. She jested that when they woke up in the morning, their nostrils are full soot because of the gasera‘s smoke.
The house was very quiet, but my brain is buzzing on how much history this house has and its contribution in our society, especially its owners. A bust of Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña is prominently displayed along with other ancestral artifacts.
Turning right at the hallway is the escalera, or the grand staircase. It is steeply inclined – just like a ladder in a typical bahay kubo. But this simple design is surrounded by meticulous carved hardwood and capiz shell windows. The entrance leading to the second floor is guarded by a wooden door equipped with an indigenous locking mechanism.
Upon reaching the second floor, we were greeted with a central foyer having complete access to all parts of the house. In front facing the escalera is the oratorio or place of prayer, to the left is the grand sala, and at the right is the dining hall.
Just like in early times, a wooden hat stand is still there to secure the visitor’s hats or even swords. Lucky enough, some of the old hats, caps, and swords are still in displays. Let see how’ll I’ll look wearing this old soldier metal hat:
I never saw a house with an altar as huge as this before. This oratorio struck me of its grandness and antiquity. The pedestal is high enough to kiss the ceiling. Displayed are very old santos (seems like they’re mannequins with movable torsos and can be dressed).
The Grand Sala
After marveling at the oratorio, we were shown to the grand sala. “Grand” is a perfect adjective for this as the main living room is more than ten meters long and is decorated with antique furniture. Certainly, guests are awed by the stately tables and chairs, old jars and cabinets. Looking up, I was impressed by the intricate metal-pressed ceiling.
One of my favorites is this cabinet hand-painted with Iloilo’s old churches (note at the lower left – Oton’s old church):
Kitchen and Dining
Ah, so much history and heritage, antiquities and religious figures made my stomach scream “growl!”. And fortunately, it’s time for snacks!
We were led to the dining area where the staff already prepared our Camiña tsokolate experience. They served our hot cocoa in small porcelain cups. One must try dipping a kinihad into the tsokolate – you’ll surely enjoy the mixed bitter and sweet Chocó with the crispy toasted bread!
Of course, the snack will never be complete without a trip to the kitchen!
To be continued…
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 5075Tags: Heritage Houses, Iloilo City, Metro Iloilo - Guimaras, Villa Arevalo