Losing our grandpa’s house
As someone who has been keenly aware of heritage preservation in Cebu and the problems attendant to old ancestral houses, it never occurred to me that those same problems would hit hard at home.
Early this week, I was informed by my sister that our paternal grandfather’s house in Pagadian, which would have turned 50 next year, had finally been sold to the local diocese. Its back had bordered the epistle side of San Jose Parish Church, which explains why this purchase would have been advantageous for the diocese.
For reasons of familial pride and historical sentiment, my mother, Edna Llanto Reynes, who had married into the Bersales family in Pagadian, had been opposing its sale as did all of us her children. But the sale went ahead anyway and I hear that the things inside, properties of my late grandfather, lawyer Andres Bersales and his wife, Leonedisa Dablo Bersales, were being carted away by my late father’s siblings hopefully for safekeeping.
My father, lawyer Eleazar D. Bersales, who unfortunately passed away in 1985, would have vehemently opposed the sale of this house, which sat right across the street from ours. But as it stands, pride and sentimentality had to give way to too many heirs with too many personal needs to attend to in their advanced senior years. Not one of my grandpa’s children was born in this house, thus, memory has not gone so far as to hold back for that last time before plunging into selling it. They were all grown up already when this house had been built, standing just after one of the corners of the city plaza up in the slope that characterizes Pagadian. But this house was no ordinary one. My grandpa, a serious shell collector, had decorated its façade with numerous shell species. Inside too were shelves full of different shells as much as books collected by my grandma who was a public school head.
As someone who has helped establish museums in Cebu, I too had musings of turning this house into a family museum. But all that is gone now. The only silver lining is the hope that the Diocese of Pagadian will find ways to preserve the house instead of tearing it down and putting up some parking lot. I dread the thought of this. For I too have fond memories of this house during those four years when I lived in it as a teenager in Pagadian. Now I finally understand how one must be very careful that whoever inherits one’s house must have the capability to maintain and preserve it. Otherwise, a buyer may just be around the corner, or in this case, behind the house.
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Drenched in rain, we began the third round of archaeological excavations in San Remigio yesterday. Already, Ruth Hermoso, the town’s tourism officer and Darwin Hagnaya (who literally lives in Hagnaya,near the port where ships depart for Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island) welcomed us with cartons full of skeletal remains and broken fragments of earthenware potteries that were unearthed two weeks. These were accidentally dug up when the public toilet and huts were being constructed at the Lapyahan, the town’s white sand public beach.
I would like to invite the public to visit us and get to know more about Cebu’s past through this month-long archaeological field school with my students from the University of San Carlos. Together with me are Dr. Ame Garong of the National Museum and my usual teammates in the excavations in Cebu since time immemorial, Joe Santiago and Dante Posadas.
Let me thank the Archdiocese of Cebu through Archbishop Jose Palma, Msgr. Carlito Pono and Fr. Fritz Malinao for permitting the excavations we will carry out on the church grounds across the Lapyahan after the Holy Week. I also would like to thank Mayor Jay Olivar for allowing this research project on the public beach. Of course all this would not have been possible without the funding support of the USC Museum, through its curator, Marlene Socorro Samson and USC president, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD. The Cebu Provincial Tourism and Heritage Council, under Gov. Gwendolyn F. Garcia, has always been an important partner in all our archaeological activities in Cebu—with logistical and technical support that are indispensable and for which I am extremely thankful.
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