Manila Bulletin


- DR. JAIME LAYA Interior Design · Santa Cruz · Netflix · Facebook · Imelda Marcos · F. Scott Fitzgerald · Vigan · Boac

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are dif­fer­ent from you and me.” It’s al­ways been like that. Un­like the 19th cen­tury hoi

pol­loi who lived in ba­hay kubo with two rooms, Dons and Doñas were in grand homes, spend­ing time in large rooms with high ceil­ings and floors of wide bal­ay­ong, molave, or narra planks.

The ul­ti­mate was prob­a­bly the Paterno home that oc­cu­pied an en­tire block be­tween Car­riedo and P. Paterno Streets in Santa Cruz. Its sala, known far and wide as Sa­lon de Diez Puer­tas, had 10 dou­ble doors, three each on the long sides and two each on the short sides. It was over­whelm­ing with su­per ex­pen­sive Euro­pean fur­ni­ture, chan­de­liers, mir­rors, heavy cur­tains, car­pets, pedestals, paint­ings, and all kinds of bric-a-brac—minia­ture fur­ni­ture and fur­nish­ings were pop­u­lar col­lectibles.

The grand 19th cen­tury homes of Lipa and Ba­color are but mem­o­ries. Sur­vivors in Vi­gan (like those of the Syquias and Que­mas) and Malo­los are enor­mous but they were gen­er­ally sim­pler. The Lardiz­a­bal home, the largest of Boac, Marinduque, had the sala and a bed­room be­hind the street façade; the stairs, caída, and a bed­room were be­hind. The kitchen was on a pro­ject­ing wing. A pas­sage above the stairs land­ing con­nected the front bed­room and the kitchen.

To­day’s sta­tus sym­bols—gi­ant flat screen TVs, Birkin bags, BenCabs— had their 19th cen­tury equiv­a­lents in large gilt-framed mir­rors, cut-glass chan­de­liers, and ivory-headed san­tos in glass domes. Ex­pen­sive to be­gin with, ship­ping them un­bro­ken from Mu­rano would have mul­ti­plied the cost. Pro­ces­sional im­ages join­ing town pro­ces­sions also pro­claimed se­ri­ous wealth. Then there’s this gi­ant

pam­ing­galan oc­cu­py­ing the en­tire width of a Sta Rita, Pam­panga din­ing room wall.

Some com­mon up­per­class home items of yore, how­ever,are now puz­zling.

Benches can be back­less (bangkô), with backs like church pews (capía) or with backs and slat­ted com­part­ments un­der­neath (gallinera). Bangkô are multi-pur­pose and can be used up­stairs for din­ing or down­stairs. Capía and gallinera were nor­mally placed in a wait­ing area for ten­ants, mer­chants, and fa­vor-seek­ers who were not al­lowed up­stairs. The gallinera com­part­ment is sup­pos­edly where visi­tors can park their roost­ers. I’m not fa­mil­iar with rooster so­ci­ol­ogy but if there is more than one caller each with a rooster, there could be an un­der­butt cock­fight.

Hat rack. Men wore hats and in rainy sea­son ev­ery­one car­ried an um­brella. On en­ter­ing a home, one there­fore needed to hang hats and leave drip­ping um­brel­las. A piece of fur­ni­ture was de­signed for the pur­pose, with hooks for hats and an um­brella holder with a small pan. Some had small mir­rors for a quick hair check.

Buy­era. On ar­rival, guests were of­fered areca nut, buyo leaf, lime, and other in­gre­di­ents like to­bacco. Nuts and leaves were placed in an ex­quis­ite sil­ver tray. The ones I’ve seen are all highly or­na­mented and oval-shaped. Nat­u­rally the chewer would need to spit ev­ery so of­ten, as would gentle­men en­joy­ing their cigars. A spit­toon there­fore had to be nearby, usu­ally placed un­der a ta­ble. The chew­er­spit­ter’s aim would have to be good.

Pro­ces­sional chairs. In the ab­sence of TV, Net­flix, tex­ting, and Face­book, gos­sip­ing and ob­serv­ing go­ings-on in the street was a ma­jor pas­time. A pro­ces­sional chair, one with long legs, was in­vented to make peo­ple- or pro­ces­sion­watch­ing more con­ve­nient. Or­di­nary chairs are too low and an oc­cu­pant would need to stand from time to time to see what was go­ing on, par­tic­u­larly if the house is high. The so­lu­tion was to lengthen chair legs. With­out stand­ing or strain­ing one’s neck, the house­holder can see what was hap­pen­ing be­low.

A pi­ano and a harp were handy for the ter­tu­lias that home­own­ers held to en­ter­tain them­selves. These were lit­er­ary-mu­si­cal pro­grams per­formed by fam­ily mem­bers and guests. The late Alita R. Mar­tel (sis­ter of FL Imelda

Ro­mualdez Mar­cos) re­lated how the Ro­mualdezes held ter­tu­lias and that her spe­cialty was decla­ma­tion (“O Cap­tain! My Cap­tain!”).

Lavadór and Ori­nola. With­out en suites, the rich had fur­ni­ture in a nar­row cor­ri­dor be­tween room and win­dows (called volada) that held porce­lain basins for light ablu­tions and ori­nola, cham­ber pots al­legedly some­times used as soup tureens by so­cial climb­ing in­no­cents. Sta­tus was clear if one pissed on im­ported English porce­lain (prob­a­bly Derby or Min­ton).

Notes: (a) The quote is from F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s 1926 short story, “Rich Boy”; and (b) The Lardiz­a­bal home of Boac, Marinduque burned down a cou­ple of years ago.

Com­ments are cor­dially in­vited, ad­dressed to walang­

To­day’s sta­tus sym­bols—gi­ant flat screen TVs, Birkin bags, BenCabs—had their 19th cen­tury equiv­a­lents in large gilt-framed mir­rors, cut-glass chan­de­liers, and ivory-headed san­tos in glass domes.

 ??  ?? RE­MEM­BRANCE OF THINGS PAST A room in the Paterno house
RE­MEM­BRANCE OF THINGS PAST A room in the Paterno house
 ??  ?? A SEARCH FOR LOST TIME The Na­tiv­ity scene in­side a Euro­pean glass dome
A SEARCH FOR LOST TIME The Na­tiv­ity scene in­side a Euro­pean glass dome
 ??  ?? CHAR­TERED CITY A Manila street cor­ner
CHAR­TERED CITY A Manila street cor­ner
 ??  ??

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