Along with my love for old churches is my relatively new-found passion for ancestral houses. I used to dismiss such houses, being more fascinated with European minimalism and American organic architecture. But once the travel bug hit me some years back, I started to really see why Filipinos should start to care more and appreciate these houses that once dotted the roads of pre-war Philippines.
And there’s probably no better place to rekindle that passion for bygone architecture than in Iloilo City. The city is a history buff’s dream with its numerous Spanish-era churches and grand old mansions. On my third visit to Iloilo, I finally got to enter an ancestral house within the city; the Camiña Balay Nga Bato.
Brightly-colored looms in reds and yellows greeted us as we entered Camiña Balay Nga Bato’s darkened interiors. The house was originally built in 1860 for Fernando Avanceña. It was strategically positioned right beside Iloilo River, perfect for transporting their hand-woven textile products to the nearby towns.
Lola Rufina’s Heritage Curio Shop is located a few paces from the loom area. Here, antiques and curious crafts rule. Old saints carved in stone, ceramic jars, painted plates and their specialty, woven textiles, among other knick knacks.
One can easily buy a piece of history for their prices aren’t that prohibitive; well, except if you’re going to buy their piano which cost a cool million pesos.
After ogling around for something to buy, our entourage then proceeded to the museum part of the Camiña Balay Nga Bato. The living spaces on most ancestral houses in the Philippines are located on the second floor of the house and this particular bahay na bato is no exception.
We treaded on wide hardwood floors; our eyes roaming from the floor, the walls and the ceilings of the Camiña Balay Nga Bato. We were suddenly transported centuries back to bygone eras.
This heritage house, which has now been converted into a full-blown ancestral museum, is now being managed by the sixth generation of the Avanceña clan.
I walked slowly, taking in all the details of the house when I found myself at the Oratorio. An altarful of olden saints and Sto. Niños flanked one of the walls, almost resembling a small chapel.
To be honest, it creeped me out a bit, especially the half-sized mannequin-looking statuette.
I quietly exited the saints and proceeded to check the other rooms in the house.
Like most ancestral houses, the Camiña Balay Nga Bato has its fair amount of antique furniture and appurtenances, but what really ticked my interest in this house was their ceiling which is made of plaited metal. I saw a similar one at the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum in Silay, but this one definitely impressed me more.
Before ending our tour, our group was served with kinihad, a biscuit similar to biscocho.
I’m no fan of anything sweet, and that includes biscuits, so I wasn’t really that excited when they started to lay plates after plates of the said delicacy. I tried a bite and that’s it for me.
Well, or so I thought.
My opinion of kinihad soon changed as they started to pour hot thick tsokolate de batirol into ornately designed cups. We were then instructed to dip the biscuits into our drink which is by far, the thickest and tastiest tsokolate I’ve had in my life. It was a match made in chocolate heaven.
We shopped, we ogled and we ate; which was a more than perfect way to finish our Camiña Balay Nga Bato tour.
Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Lola Rufina Heritage Curio Shop
Address: 20 Osmena St., Villa de Arevalo, Iloilo City
Contact Number: (033) 336-3858 | (0917) 305-5355
Open Hours: 8:00am – 6:00pm Everyday
Entrance Fee: Php150.00 - tour with tsokolate
Php200.00 – tour with tsokolate and pancit molo
Php500.00 – tour with lunch, tsokolate and pancit molo
GPS Coordinates: 10°41'22.9"N 122°30'53.6"E