LEGAZPI CITY, July 3 (PIA) – The seat of government where the capital town of Sorsogon was born is now slowly dying and may soon be forgotten.
This prompted the newest accredited visual arts arm of Sorsogon Arts Council (SAC) Kurit-Lagting, a community-based arts organization to initiate a photo shoot project last June 22 at the Bahay ng Angkang De Vera, an ancestral house beside the Sorsogon Pilot Elementary School and the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral here to boost the efforts for its restoration.
“The photo shoot project, dubbed as “Pitik-Abante”, called on support in the restoration of the Bahay ng Angkang De Vera (De Vera ancestral house), an important historical edifice in Sorsogon that was once a grandiose house but is now a dilapidated remnant with only the concrete walls at the ground floor and posts at the façade surviving the natural disasters and elements,” Kurit-Lagting art director and founding member Geri Matthew Carretero told the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Bicol in an exclusive interview.
“Pitik-Abante”, according to Carretero, was an avant-garde inspired shoot utilizing found-objects and recycled materials as costumes to produce experimental and innovative designs is aimed at promoting environmental awareness.
According to artist – entrepreneur Mari De Vera, also the granddaughter of the house owner Vicente De Vera, the Bahay ng Angkang De Vera was formerly owned by Lizarraga Hermanos which was sold to Selim Nassr in 1889. In 1902, Vicente De Vera (representative of Sorsogon in the First Philippine Assembly in 1907 and the first Senator from Sorsogon who served in 1916-1922) acquired ownership of the house. Vicente’s son and Mari’s father, Teodoro was also elected as a senator under the Liberal Party in the late 40’s also utilized the house as residence.
Prominent people from all over the world stayed in the historical house including General Vicente Lukban and Ananias Diokno in 1899; Richard Evelyn Byrd, before he became a Naval Officer and polar explorer; Alice Roosevelt, daughter of American President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 when she visited the province to together with then Governor General of the Philippines and later President of the United States William Howard Taft to officiate and witness the inauguration of the Sorsogon Provincial High School (now Sorsogon National High School) and Alice Bridge which was named after her; and Philippine Presidents Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena Sr. and Elpidio Quirino in various occasions for their political sorties..
The house served as the venue for the declaration of the town of Sorsogon as the capital of Sorsogon province in 1903.
This was also where Governor Bernandino Monreal stayed from 1902-1903 which was later used as station by the Japanese forces during World War II from 1942-1945. After Japanese forces occupied the edifice, the 158th U.S. Regimental Combat Team and the 56th Special Bicol Brigade made it a military post in 1945.
After the war, it was used by the Constabulary and became the office of San Miguel Brewery, Bureau of Internal Revenue, hospital and developed into a hotel (Bayview Hotel) in the late 1980s.
In 1987 the edifice was damaged by Typhoon Sisang.
The National Historical Institute (NHI) approved the historical marker for the house in 2006 but the unveiling was postponed after the house was destroyed by typhoon Milenyo.
Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee provided a seed fund for its initial restoration but it was again destroyed by subsequent typhoon Reming, thus the project did not materialize.
NHI has declared that it cannot install the marker on the historical site under the present condition but can be reconsidered after restoration works.
In January 2013, another descendant, Edgardo De Vera wrote the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to avail of its technical assistance program (TAP).
“We may work hand-in-hand with your experts in the preparation of the conservation and management plan,” De Vera wrote the NCCA.
Few days before the photoshoot, NCCA TAP project coordinator Flor Balibao informed SAC spokesperson Joseph John Perez that the officer of National Committee on National Research is currently discussing the concerns on the Bahay ng Angkang De Vera to the head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites.
Both the De Vera family and the Sorsogon artists are taking another shot to relive the glorious past of the Bahay ng Angkang De Vera. (MAL/JJP-PIA5)