When readers found out we were headed to Ilocos on a sightseeing trip a few months ago, many sent fantastic recommendations of things to eat, where to stay and what to see. One reader, through private emails, very kindly invited Marketman & family to visit their ancestral home in Vigan, a historical and heritage home, that while open to the public, is typically only visited by prior appointment or arrangement. Of course, we were thrilled and jumped at the chance. In the course of confirming our planned visit, it turned out that the reader’s husband was an old schoolmate of ours from HS days…how’s that for a small world kinda story?
When we checked into our hotel, Villa Angela, we asked about the Quema Residence and were told it was just a few steps away, not more than a five minute walk, in fact, though we didn’t have an exact address. We did have the name of the caretaker who was going to show us around. Not knowing any better, we tried our hands at the door knocker at one home we thought might be the Quema home, but no one answered the door, so we crossed the street to a much snazzier and well painted and jazzed up residence and knocked there. Nobody came either, and we asked a nearby sari-sari store and were told we were knocking at the door of the residence of Congressman Singson, Chavit Singson’s son…oops :).
So we returned to the first home on the corner and at that point a construction foreman met us and agreed to let us have a look around as the lady we were supposed to meet had stepped out for an errand. The house was WONDERFUL. But it was also undergoing serious renovation and construction work. The first floor was where the calesa or two was parked in the old days, and it had a stone floor. The cement or stone walls gave it a solid feel and one got the feeling that all the less refined things in the home were stored down here, along with extensive staff quarters.
We then climbed an impressive carved wooden stairway which led to an expansive second floor with public drawing rooms, bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, etc. The home is well described in this article from the International Herald Tribune by Katherine Tanko (Tanco?). The wide hardwood floor planks were INCREDIBLE, some two feet wide and up to 12-15 feet long in some cases… utterly stunning pieces of wood dating back a century and a half or so. Probably cut from the virgin forests nearby, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have such an abundance of building material, at wickedly low prices, I bet!
The Quema Residence had stunning wooden wall panels, capiz windows, high ceilings, and natural air vents on the side of the house. One of the cooler features were “peepholes” in the floor so that you could see if someone was downstairs, and if you didn’t want to see them, you could tell your butler or major doma to shoo them away…. heehee. Furnished with lovely old pieces and some interesting artwork, I can see how if fully renovated and cleaned up, this would indeed be a stunning residence to spend some time in…
Mrs. Marketman looked around the second floor and she discovered my favorite part of the visit by FAR… this very old “refrigerator” or “icebox” (photo above) where one puts a huge block of ice from China or North America (brought in by ships, covered in insulating materials), and as the ice melted, the items in the shelves below would keep cool. NOW isn’t that the absolute coolest find??? If any of you have a relative who wants to sell Marketman an antique like this old refrigerator, I would definitely be interested in acquiring it. It is just too neat… A quick look around the second floor kitchen yielded a huge painting job in progress but one couldn’t ignore the wonderful tile floors that must have dated back 100 years or so…
It was truly a pleasure to spend a brief 15 minutes in this home. The Kid probably thought she was being dragged through a museum but the peepholes, the old fridge and other practical touches made this very real for her… I think she got it that people (very lucky people at that) actually lived in this manner many, many years ago. Thank you, thank you to the reader and her family who made this visit possible, you know who you are…Maraming Salamat!!!