Oftentimes when we mention the word “old house” or “bahay na bato” what instantly comes into our mind are the heritage cities like Vigan or Silay.
But little did I know that there is a gem hidden right in the heart of Manila. And it is just a stone’s throw away from Binondo, the very place I often rave about for its delectable Chinese foods!
The place that I am referring to is none other than San Nicolas, Manila.
San Nicolas is Manila’s forgotten past. For some it may look dirty and all but behind these grimes are jewels that made Manila once the jewel of Asia. San Nicolas is one of the very very few areas in Manila that has survived the bombing spree during the World War II.
Just like in Vigan or Silay, time seems to have stood still in San Nicolas. Turn-of-the-century houses still stood up graciously in the area. Especially in the streets of Madrid, Lara, Elcano, Lavezares, Camba, San Nicolas, Barcelona and Peñarubia.
Ceramic tiles being used as street markers are still evident like this one in Lavezares. Calesas or horse-drawn carriages is still common in the place. Capiz shells were used to decorate the windows in most houses.
Most of the houses follow the usual design of the bahay na bato, where the ground floor is made of concrete and is usually just used as garage and the living room is on the second level. Large ventanillas are used for good circulation of the air.
Probably one of the most beautiful houses in San Nicolas is the Casa Vizantina or the Byzantine House. Casa Vizantina is an embodiment of what we call Turn of the Century Grandeur.
The 3-storey house has floral motifs and arches which are common characteristics in Byzantine Architecture. This Manila’s jewel is definitely one of a kind. For one, there are only a few structures in the country that uses the Byzantine Architecture design. Most of the structures in the country has either Baroque, Gothic or Renaissance design.
I was so thankful to actually been to the Casa Vizantina. This house has already been condemned by the Manila City Hall. The house has been declared as a safety hazard and is scheduled to be demolished sooner that you can even say the word “Heritage Conservation.”
Well I cannot blame anybody here. The house is indeed in its near-death stage. It is just so sad to think that all these years the owner never even card to maintain this house. Sayang ang hardwood na ginamit, at ang kwento ng bahay na ito…