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Owners fight to save Balay na Bato

By: - Day Desk Editor / @dbongcac
/ 09:53 AM July 22, 2012

Only half of a century-old house  may be left standing in barangay Mabolo  if the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) implements its road widening project there.

House owner Nersas Macasero said he want his two-story “Balay nga Bato” declared a historical landmark to spare it from  demolition.

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“I want to preserve the structure because it is one of the oldest houses in Mabolo.  I am a resident of the barangay and as much as possible I want landmarks in our area preserved,” he told Cebu Daily News in Cebuano.

The house was built in the early 1890s by Mabolo resident Eldefonso “Noy Onso” Mendoza. When he  passed away, his widow, Na Ikyan, sold the house.

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The wooden house located at the corner of M. J. Cuenco and L Tudtud street occupies a 231 sq. meter lot. The walls on the  ground floor are made of coral stone while its upper floor is made of a combination of blackish “bayong” and yellowish “tugas” hardwood.

Wide floor boards measure about 14 inches long, the  same kind of  wood in  floors at the old Malacanang Palace building, said Macasero.

The original windows  were made of Capiz shells. Macasero, however, said he already replaced some damaged upper windows with jalousie blades.

The house was used as a hospital during  World War II and is a block away from the Mabolo Church grounds and the barangay hall.  The two properties used to be a garrison for the Japanese Imperial Army during the war.

Quoting oldtimers accounts,  Macasero said the house was used to treat soldiers wounded during the war and Mabolo residents who were injured when typhoon Amy hit Cebu between 1913 to 1915.

Before he acquired the house, Macasero said the “Balay na Bato” was used as an extension of the Mabolo Elementary School  across the Mabolo Church during the Liberation period.

The house was also used as a food store, fabrication shop and bakeshop by its previous owners.

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Most of the coral stone on its ground floor have been covered with cement for a flatter surface  when the house was used as a bakeshop before Macasero acquired the structure in 1987.

From 1987 to date, the ground floor has  been used as a display area for bricks and balusters which he sells. The second floor is used as sleep quarters for Macasero’s workers while he now lives in a house in Mandaue City.

Road Widening

If the DPWH road widening project is implemented, Macasero said the house will be  cut by five to seven meters.

“Walay hapit mahibilin sa among balay,” he said.

(Nothing will be left of the house.)

Macasero wrote the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (CHAC) in Cebu City to seek the declaration of his house as a historical landmark.

Juanita Chiu, owner of another century-old house, near the corner of the Hipodromo access road,  appealed for the same declaration.

Chiu said the setback of her house would reach five meters.

The DPWH road widening project will increase the width of the road from two lanes to six lanes in a portion of M. J. Cuenco Avenue.

Funding of  P180 million was set side for the natinal project,  which has kept former Rep. Raul del Mar of the north district busy in pulong-pulong forums with affected residents of over 300 houses and structures.

Del  Mar directed engineer Nicomedes Leonor of the Cebu City Engineering district, to conduct a fourth survey of the properties which would be affected by the road widening project.

Del Mar said he wanted concerns of  property owners addressed and damage to their properties “minimized” or avoided before the widening project would start.

“While they have their applications (for the declaration of their ancestral houses as historical landmarks) we will not touch it.  If these are declared, we will have to leave it as it is,” said Del Mar.

Still, Del Mar said they would continue to convince house owners to allow use of a portion of their properties for a sidewalk.

“Ug dili sila mo sugot and  a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, you know who the culprit is. We want to prevent that (road accidents) from happening but we cannot also prevent the declaration (of their structures as a historical landmark),” said Del Mar.

Leonor said that there was a way to preserve old structures without having to compromise the government’s road widening project.

He proposed a design of an arcaded sidewalk.

This  would mean that the ground floor of the house would be cut for use as a sidewalk while the upper floor is preserved.

Still, residents have reservations.

“Wouldn’t this affect the foundation of  houses  that are completely made of wood? Wouldn’t this collapse?”

Chiu said she has to consult with her  siblings about the proposed arcaded design.

Preservation

Dr. Maria Serena Diokno, chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, wrote public works officials in June 26 asking them to spare the “Balay nga Bato” from damage during road widening project.

She also asked for a coordination meeting with DPWH before the agency implements the Mabolo road widening project.

Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 mandates that  structures 50 years and more should be considered  Important Cultural Property (ICP) and should be preserved.

The Cebu City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Councilor Margot Osmena on  July 18 to declare the Balay na Bato and another ancestral house in barangay Mabolo owned by  Chiu as historical landmarks.

“There is a need to support the efforts of CHAC in declaring old houses in Cebu City as historical landmarks to help promote heritage conservation in the barangay level,” the resolution said./with Correspondent Edison delos Angeles

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