Monday, September 26, 2011

Museo De La Salle: Echoes from the Sound of the Past (Dasmariñas, Cavite, Philippines)

Travel the path back to the past, viajera.

Published by Rektikano Magazine, 2009

At the heart of Dasmariñas, Cavite there lies a rip in the space-time continuum where one can slip through and return to the 19th century to relive the golden days of opulence and romantic decorum. The portal to the past is a set of heavy double doors, the arched Puerto mayor, where carriages and carrozas used to pass through.

Cobbled streets lead to days of old.

These doors open to the Museo De La Salle inside the campus of De La Salle University- Dasmariñas. In itself a world within a world, an oasis of escape from the madness of the metro, De La Salle University-Dasmariñas is characterized by buildings of Spanish colonial architecture and quarried stone-paved roads shaded by tree canopies. In the midst of dark greenery, the past is encapsulated in a two-storey building of stone, brick, and mortar, inspired by the 19th century bahay na bato (house of stone). Envisioned by the late Br. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, former DLSU president, Museo De La Salle serves as an educational museum reflecting the vanished illustrado lifestyle of the olden days.

Looking out to a bright future from a safe place in the past.

The Museo is patterned after some of the best examples of the bahay na bato in the country including the ancestral homes of the Constantinos in Bulacan, the Arnedo-Gonzalez family, and the Santos Joven-Panlilio clan in Pampanga. The lifestyle museum is made alive by heirlooms and antique pieces such as furniture, decorative objects, fine and applied arts, as well as baubles and bibelots loaned by the same families that own the houses which inspire the museum.

Mirror, mirror by the wash, where's the faucet and the trash?

Some parts of the replica house were salvaged from the spoils of Pinatubo. The Panlilio ancestral home in Bacolor, Pampanga was buried deep in lahar after the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. After the dust had settled, the family treasures were dug up and entrusted to the institution of La Salle who guaranteed their stewardship. For instance, the magnificent hardwood staircase that leads to the second floor of the museum was dismantled piece by piece in the midst of the ashes and reassembled in its new home. Some of the tin ceiling panels, elaborately embossed and painted, were also acquired from the Panlilio home.  

Climbing up to the illustrado's high stature in the 19th century.

A young and eager guide leads visitors through the trip to the past, walking them through each room that offers an intimate peek into the extravagant lifestyle of the Spanish colonial era. Here, one may hear whispers of the past: of a giggling dalaga earnestly filling her diary on a beautiful carved dark wood desk. Here, a visitor may be offered a seat in one of the eighteen-seater dining table bedecked with 18k gold-lined plates - a gift from the Duke of Russia. Here, a tourist may sit on the one of the high chair windows to look at the burbling fountain below or watch the parada as the sound of the marching band travels all the way up to the second floor’s wood panel ventanillas.

Of course, these are all just imagined sounds and voices---ghosts of the past that still linger and give life to the empty mariposa chairs, a breeze that blows through the heavy draperies, bringing a tinkle to the draped crystals from the sconces. The harp on one side of the room and the piano on the other remain silent, yet the music lives on. It is the sound of romance and nostalgia to many, an echo of extravagance and pretension to some. In most houses,nobody knew how to play these instruments, yet they were acquired as status symbols. Like the piano and the harp, the stamp of pride is evident in every corner of each room. Wood carved wall brackets remind the family of where their wealth comes from, depicting a picture of a farmer or a musician.

The Museo is a living space illustrating the Philippine elite culture and lifestyle of days old.

History too lays a heavy hand on the design of these houses. Remnants of the war serve as accents or functional items all around the house from the ammunition shells used as door stops to the armorio (armour cabinet) used as pillow racks. Red and gold are predominant colors, a homage to the Spanish flag. Each room was carefully thought of, the design carried out through extensive research of the period between the early 1800s through the 1900s. The design details of the caida, sala mayor, despacho, cuartos, oratorio, comidor and cocina stay true to the aesthetics of the Spanish Colonial Periods, the Philippine art nouveau, and the early American Colonial Period. 

With DLSAA's Cesar De Larrazabal

Outside, the garden overlooks a man-made lake where one can listen to the trees retell secrets they witnessed as they stood providing shade for lovers in an embrace. They are lightheaded from taking in the fragrance of flowers and traditional turn-of-the-century botanical plants like champaca, cadena de amor, campanilla, dama de noche, and ilang-ilang. The scent is nostalgic and intoxicates the trespasser into believing that he has indeed walked back in time. When he heads home, he will still imagine the subtle fragrance of sampaguita exchanged between lovers and perhaps wonder if he did hear the teasing pluck of the silent harp.

The fountain and the surrounding sculptural works are executed by 19th century Philippine master carver-sculptor Isabelo Tampingco, an atelier from Quiapo


Too bad the photos are not showing.

Sorry about that. Just reposted the pics. They're not that great anyway, but thanks for traveling back with me :)

Post a Comment