When in Barili, a town in the southern part of the Cebu province, one can hardly miss the aristocratic bahay na bato that is situated just a few blocks from the town’s parish church. The grandest house in town is known as the Casa Pañares and it has quiet an interesting history, including being occupied as the Spanish Government’s Casa Tribunal (or administration office) during the last years of the Spanish regime.
Casa Pañares was built in the 1870s by Don Mariano Duterte Pañares to house his wife and children. The copra and tobacco trader was from Naga, Cebu. He married a wealthy local from Barili, Juliana Paras. She bore him four children but only Bartolome survived.
The two-storey Casa Pañares is rectangular in shape. Its design and architecture are that of the traditional bahay na bato, making excellent use of stone and wood. The walls of the ground floor is made entirely of white coral stones. Specifically, it makes use of coquina and tablilla, which are considered expensive types of coral rocks. It is difficult to find these coral rocks as you can either pry the shells from the reefs at low tide or hire someone to dive for them. This is also the reason why coral stones can only be found in luxurious houses and churches.
Don Pañares was primarily engaged in the business of tobacco, which at the time was the town’s leading commodity. He then invested on coconut lands with his profits from tobacco sales. He owned a vast coconut plantation and he made use of the “silong” as a storage area for his copra. The “copra” is the dried coconut flesh, from which oil is extracted. Sometimes, the area was also used as a carriage house. There are three arched entrances that provide access into the interior area. In the evenings, these doors are locked and bolted for security purposes.
A wide wooden staircase leads to the second floor, where we can locate the family’s living quarters. There is a living room, a dining area, and several bedrooms. The “bayong” (also known as “tindalo”) give the floors a rich dark color. The sturdy posts are made of “tugas” (from the Molave tree). The windows (“ventanillas”) and blinds (“persianas”) have efficient lattice work designs, which serve as air vents. The window panes are made of costly Capiz shells. The windows are high and the panels are designed to slide on grooved sills. Eight round wooden etchings adorn the exterior.
In the past, a movable divider separated two rooms. Depending on how the residents intend to use the rooms, these dividers can be placed or withdrawn in order to transform two rooms into a spacious ballroom, where the family can host grand celebrations.
Even with its solid structure, the house began to sink in the mud as a result of floods that frequent the town. Today, the ground floor is no longer being used. According to reports, experts have said that a “costly scientific action” is the only way to free the structure from the embedded silt.
Bartolome, the only surviving son of Don Pañares, inherited his vast estate, which earned him the reputation of “Coconut King of Southwestern Cebu.” He was educated at Colegio de San Carlos in Cebu City. In 1898, he went to Manila and enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He returned to the town of Barili during the outbreak of the Revolution. By 1904, he had dedicated majority of his time to agriculture.
In 1911, Don Pañares died in time to see his 31-year old son, Bartolome, become the town mayor (“Capitan Municipal”). Better known as “Nyor Oming,” to his constituents, he took on the political role upon the prodding of the influential, Don Sergio Osmeña, Sr. The establishment of Thursday as Mantalongon’s market day is among Nyor Oming’s most visible achievements. “Thursday Market Day” is the top income earner for the municipality.
Nyor Oming married a beautiful Spanish mestiza from Barili. She was named Manuela Villaflor but is also lovingly remembered as “Nyora Maning.” She appeared submissive but was truly a strong character, according to descriptions. The family had a retinue of servants, who flitted in and out of the rooms.
For their education, all of Nyor Oming’s children were sent to prestigious schools in Cebu City and Manila. In 1931, one of his daughters was crowned as the Carnival Queen of Cebu. Rita Pañares was reputed for her brains and beauty. His eldest son, Jose, was among Barili’s earliest immigrants to America. His youngest daughter, Teresita, became a doctor and was married to Vicente Ranudo, who is also from a prominent family in Cebu City.
Nyor Oming purchased a generator for the town in order to provide electricity during the times Teresita would be home. He died in 1966, after suffering from arthritis. In the dead of the night, his cries could be heard by the neighbors that combined pleas for relief and curse words: “Virgen Maria, tabangi ko intawon, sakit kaayo, ay peste yawa…”. Peace and relief came on August 16, 1966.
The family of Nyor Oming’s son, Cesar, now lives in the ancestral house. Fortunately, much of the “muebles fuertes” or finest furniture that accentuated the residence are still preserved.
Hospicio de San Jose de Barili
Don Pedro Cui, who is the man behind the Hospicio de San Jose de Barili, is a friend of Don Marciano Pañares. The Hospicio is also located in Barili, specifically in Barrio Guibuangan.
Don Miguel Cui and Maria Revilles educated Pedro at the Seminario de San Carlos before he was sent to the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. When Pedro returned to Cebu, he already had a license to practice law. During his short but eventful practice, he was able to defend a man accused of murder. Unfortunately, this man began to brag about being guilty but that thanks to his lawyer he was acquitted. Conscience-stricken, the young Pedro gave up his law practice and returned to Barili, where he focused on developing his hometown’s fertile lands.
Don Pedro and his older sister Doña Benigna never married but they engaged in numerous charitable acts. It was through these altruistic actions that the philanthropist siblings were inspired to build a home for the aged, specifically those who were abandoned by their families. In 1926, they established the charitable institution for the aged poor, which they funded using the income from the Cui enterprises. Towards the end of their lives, the siblings decided to donate their inheritance to Hospicio.
In 1927, the Philippine Government through Official Act 3239 accepted the offer of donation, and in March 27, on the feast day of St. Joseph, the Hospicio de San Jose de Barili was formally inaugurated.
Currently, the Hospicio provides resident focused care and services to aged indigents. It is a 100-bed facility with separate quarters for male and female residents. It also has a clinic for residents who need medical care, a guesthouse, an administration office, a refectory, and other buildings. It aims to provide “care and support, free of charge,” to “indigent invalids and incapacitated and helpless persons.”