By Dr. Jaime Laya
The “old town” across from San Agustin was baptized Barrio (later Plaza) San Luis, after one of the quadrants into which Intramuros was divided. The ones that rose first were:
- The three-story house at the corner—the house museum (“Casa Manila”) whose façade reproduces that of a 19th century three storey structure on Jaboneros Street, San Nicolas;
- The middle building, probably 17th century— modeled on a house on Solana Street facing San Francisco church;
- The rightmost house—a recreation of a 1890s Cuyugan house in Ermita at the corner of M.H. del Pilar and Arquiza Streets whose architectural drawings survive in the National Archives.
A neo-classic house was subsequently built around the corner on Real Street. Its façade is that of a house illustrated in Fiestas de Manila, a manuscript in the library of Madrid’s Palacio Reál.
Martin I. Tinio, Jr. designed the San Luis color palette. Contrary to popular wisdom, the wood exteriors of Spanish Period homes were neither painted white nor varnished but were in cheerful blues, reds, and yellows like the Victorian “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. Interiors, too, were enriched with wall paintings. A bedroom of Casa Manila is painted with Etruscan motifs.
Casa Manila is entirely furnished with authentic pieces including objects from the Quiapo ancestral home of painter Felix Resurrección-Hidalgo, notably the chapel’s neo-gothic altar, the large Murano chandelier, and the wooden forbeauty-only fireplace in the sala.
Early on, IA began building a collection of Philippine sculpture, paintings, furniture, textiles, jewelry, metalwork, utensils, and other objects admired and/or used in olden times. These were acquired on a recommendation by a Panel consisting of Esperanza B. Gatbontón, Arturo de Santos, David Baradas, and Nene Cortéz. In hindsight, the Panel was able to acquire many irreplaceable items at a very reasonable cost.
Casa Manila has entirely furnished Intramuros Administration @ 40 (Part 3) with authentic pieces including objects from the Quiapo ancestral home of painter Felix Resurrección-Hidalgo, notably the chapel’s neo-gothic altar, the large Murano chandelier, and the wooden for-beauty-only fireplace in the sala.
The final selection and arrangement of furniture and furnishings of Casa Manila were directed by Conrado Escudero, who also inveigled friends like Patis Tesoro to make it into a “living museum.” Corralling family members, Patis and friends made Casa Manila buzz with costumed children playing sungkâ, doñas at ease demonstrating the language of fans, servants gently moving the dining room’s punkah, cooks busy preparing lunch.
Highlights of the Santo collection are matchless gold-leafed relieves from the magnificent 18th-century retablos of the Iglesia de la Immaculada Concepción of Cebu’s University of San José. The church was demolished in 1965 and its contents dispersed. Parts of its retablos were acquired by Antonio Bantúg who donated many relieves and columns to IA.
Only San Agustin survived of Intramuros’ ancient churches. The Cathedral was restored but the ruins of the Recollect, Franciscan, Dominican, and Capuchin churches had been torn down. The only remaining fragments were in a warehouse whose walls were those of the Jesuits’ San Ignacio Church. IA bought the property with the aim of restoring the church and attached convent into a museum.
The dream has become a reality. And under administrator Guiller Asido, Museo de Intramuros will open next Monday (April 29) where IA treasures can finally be seen.
(To be continued)
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