Monday, February 4, 2008

...of an Old, Beautiful Time

I love the charm of provinces, with simple folk showing much respect for old things passed on to them by their grandparents' grandparents. I love seeing hand-carved furniture or hand-blown glass meticulously cared for by next generations. I don't consider this materialism, more like sentimentality and remembrance of family history.

This romance for old things has died, unfortunately. The rise of IKEA (I call them fast-furniture, lol) has killed this respect for lovely, old bric-a-bracks. I am guilty of this too, I'd be quick to let go of anything old or worn-out. It seems practical to just buy a new one than maintaining something special.

Anyway, when work beckoned us to find a picturesque rural neighborhood (and no beach communities included, darn!) we chanced upon these lovely archaic houses, about 200 years old. And because this government of ours is too poor to declare the houses of historical significance (meaning shell out money for maintenance), the 21st century descendants have taken it upon themselves to salvage what's left.

We didn't intend to shoot the houses, just the streets and alleyways around them. But the pretty little details of these homes seduced me into venturing inside. And armed with just an old Nokia phone, these pictures don't really do them any justice.

I loved the four-poster bed, intended for a seƱorita, set near her wide french-lace curtained window where she was once serenaded, or presumably seduced. I loved the glass door knob on her bedroom door, which could've trained her to handle things delicately, and not to bang it if she ever got upset (I would do a lot of door slamming if I weren't allowed out of the house).

There were small washed out watercolour portraits, a far cry from the lush acrylic or oil paintings that hung in the homes of the old rich. The portraits may be small, but quite tasteful. Whoever the old ancestor was (an 18th century Chinese immigrant, the one in the picture above, next to the mirror) was modest, considering his home was huge. The mirror in itself is also a conversation piece. A letter from his son was etched on the glass. "To my dearest father, the master of this home", it said.

I was also peeking -- alright, rummaging -- around the house, looking for little clues of their personalities. And in one old drawer, I found this. A stack of crumbling documents. This one is a last will and testament, dated 1865 and written in Spanish, the Philippines' mother tongue in the colonial days. The paper was literally deteriorating in my hands (O, God forgive me for holding them). I hate being this curious and nosey, but I was drawn to the beauty of the script. The way his pen swirled revealed his education and genteel nature. And that in his last days, he bequeathed this lovely house to his younger sister. It was not a very special story, but this paper, this house, is like stepping into someone's diary. Ordinary made extraordinary by time and care given by the succeeding generations. And with that, I said my apologies to the spirits and put the documents back where I found them.

A superstitious camera crewman said there were ghosts in the place. I didn't feel that at all. The house is not haunted for me. It was loved, and that is why it felt so inviting. In fact, if I was lucky enough to see a ghost, I'd probably say "Good day, Sir. You have a lovely home".

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