The 17th century Yap-Sandiego Ancestral house in Cebu City is just across the street from the Heritage of Cebu Monument and a few meters away from Colon Street, the oldest street in the Philippines. This historic residential home was built in 1675 by Chinese merchants and is believed to be one of the oldest existing residential structures in the country.
It was in this house that the rich and prominent Filipino-Chinese lived during the Spanish Times. Today, 339 years after it was built,the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral house serves as a museum where we can see lots of religious images, antique furniture, kitchenware, glassware, paintings, and decorative art passed on through eight generations of the family.
Upon entering the house, you will feel like you have been transported to a different era. The caretaker will orient you to different areas of the house: the first floor, the second floor and the garden area.
Visitors are allowed to take pictures as long as you are careful and not break anything. The first floor stands on the pebble stone flooring and the walls are made up of wood and coral stones. The walls are adorned with paintings and portraits of family members dressed in colonial dresses (17th century). Several statues of the Santo Niño and Virgin Mary are kept in one area and there angel sculptures decorate the wooden ceilings and doors.
The garden or lawn area has an old wishing well and there you’ll also find a wooden boat (locally known as banca) that now serves as a flower planter. I was really impressed with what I have seen. A long time ago, this banca was used to reach Mactan Island.
The narra staircase will lead you up to the second floor. Do not wear your slippers or shoes as the wooden floor is very clean, shiny and slippery. I really like the displays of antiques furniture’s, kitchen wares and the design of the red roof that is made of Tisa clay. The wooden parts of the house are made of Molave wood, which is considered as one of the hardest kind of wood.
It was a bit challenging to get into the master bedroom. The dim old room was very quiet with a big bed covered with white linen, an old mirror, and several religious images. The dim light and the quietness of that old room made it a bit scary, so we joked and asked if it was haunted or something. The caretaker said the family still visit the house and sleep in the master bedroom from time to time as they do not want the place to be abandoned.
A Brief History
This ancestral house was owned by a Chinese trader Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florido who had three children. Their eldest daughter Maria later married Don Mariano Sandiego who was the chief of Parian during the Spanish colonial period.
The most recent owner is the famous choreographer and antique collector Val Sandiego, the great great grandson of Maria. This house was once used as a boarding house for students as it is close to colleges and universities. The students occupied several rooms on the second floor, which were later restored to their original state. Several of Cebu’s elites wanted to buy this property but Mr. Sandiego promised not to sell it in his lifetime as a tribute to his forefathers.