Cebu, Cebuano History, Heritage, History

The House of Ho Tong

In the late 1960s, a young man who was a student at the Ateneo stumbled on Fr. William Repetti’s Pictorial Records and Traces of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines and Guam Prior to 1768 in the university library. The young man was Jaime L. Sy, the son of Nicanor Sy (Sy Han Kiong) who was the then President of Cebu Ho Tong Hardware. As a boy, Jimmy (as Jaime was known to family and friends) was educated in the Jesuit-run Sacred Heart School for Boys. He went to the Ateneo de Manila University for his degree in Management.

Upon seeing the picture of the house, Jimmy exclaimed, “that’s our bodega!” Ho Tong hardware had used the Jesuit House as one of their warehouses for their business. He had the page photocopied and sent it to his father through JRS. When he came home during the break, he asked his father where the picture was but his father told him that he had misplaced it. His father had just taken the information as a matter of fact. To Nicanor the house was simply a bodega. He had bought it from the Alvarez family in the 1960s and intended to use it as a warehouse. Nicanor liked the property since it was already fenced and the house seemed sturdy and resistant to the occasional quakes that rocked the island province.

 

After his graduation in 1972, Jimmy, who was now working at the hardware, noticed that some Jesuit priests had started visiting the house. The house was just a bodega at that time instead of a museum. The house continued to exist as a warehouse for the hardware until Jimmy started to slowly convert it into a museum with the help of his cousin who was an architect, Tony Abelgas.

In 2008, the Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House was opened to the public. It has four galleries: the San Juan Bautista gallery, Parian gallery and the Jesuit gallery. Jaime also placed some memorabilia of his inside the house as well as his antique collection that he had accumulated through the years.

Advertisements
Cebu, Cebuano History, History, Social History

Piecing the puzzle

A lot of historians from the provinces {like mine for example} say that Philippine national history has – unintentionally – left some (if not most) of provincial histories in the wayside and continues to be Manila-centric. This was a bone of contention almost 40 to 50 years ago. Today, several initiatives by provincial, regional and local historians have filled in some gaps in history and have allowed students of history to see the different historical processes and experiences in each region.

This blog post is an excerpt of a research proposal I submitted in graduate school: A Social History of Hunger in Cebu from 1899 to 1930.

Cebu in the nineteenth century was a rising commercial entrepot. Its geographical location and its natural harbor (See Canute Vandermeer’s work on Cebuano population) were advantages to a growing trade not only with its Southeast Asian neighbors but with the entire world as well. In 1860, Cebu was opened to world trade thereby increasing the volume of goods coming in and out of the province bringing in not only material stuff but a steady influx of new ideas, lifestyles and yes, even diseases.

As Cebu enjoyed its opening to world commerce, cultivation of sugar in some areas in the northern part of Cebu like Bogo increased. A preoccupation with land ownership began to emerge and land banking began at this time resulted in the displacement of a good number of tenants as land began to be a basis of wealth and influence in this time.

As more historical works of Cebu and its socio-economic development will be written by students of history, the puzzle pieces of national history will become clearer, more complete and more representative of the whole archipelago’s history. Cebu’s historical experience in its changes in landowning patterns, port-and-hinterland interactions and cultural developments show some similarities and contrasting patterns with other areas opened to world trade in the 19th century (Alfred McCoy & Edilberto de Jesus). Ports opened to the world economy did not necessarily have the same historical development and experience as that of Manila.

Recommended reading: Bruce Fenner’s Cebu: A Social-Economic History. It is a classic work in Cebuano History and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Cebuano economy and development of Cebuano society especially the Cebuano elite. Several prominent families like the Osmenas, Velosos, Chiong-Velosos, and some mestizo Chinese families are featured in the book.

There’s also an interesting work/graduate thesis on the Cebuano port economy by a former co-teacher of mine from the University of San Carlos (Roquezon Rubia).

History, Teaching

Teach. Research. Community work.

Seventeen years after graduation and letting go of my fears and apprehensions, I am now able to articulate 3 areas where I want to focus on professionally:  teach (part-time), do research and write a book and write articles and do community work.

It has taken me that long to let go of my fears and sort out what I really want.

When I was much younger, it was the steady income and money that was uppermost in my mind.  I wanted a stable job never mind if the teaching requirements took up most of my time from doing research.  After an experience teaching 2nd graders in a public school and teaching 7th and 11th graders in a private school, I finally put my hands up in surrender and mustered enough courage to pursue what I want and what I enjoy doing and that is to teach a subject or two, read, read and read books and articles and write and have time for my blogs and other creative ideas.

As my dad again reminded me this morning during breakfast, “Tsi, don’t think about the money.  Work on what you’re passionate about first and then the money will come later.  Sow first by doing unpaid work first and then the income will follow.”

I guess I now have the strength and self-awareness to admit to myself that I am not cut out for an all-out teaching career.  The kind of teaching career that makes one stay all day in the school churning out lesson plans, grading papers and working on all the paper trail.  It makes my brains go out, makes me restless and bored.  I want to work outside the box (literally and figuratively).

I would rather go to school for my classes only, mentor a few students for their papers, work at the university library for research work and publish a book and some articles.  At the same time, I would want to work on a community project that combines some of the things I am passionate about which are:  community development and history.

It was scary at first contemplating about this move but it has been two months now since I left the school where I once taught and so far this has been the most restful, “busy but not stressful” and enjoyable time of my career.  It is a bit challenging though not to have a fixed schedule as you have to be mindful of keeping time blocks to make sure that you work on the research projects you are involved in.  I have found that these days while I do not have a fixed schedule and a time in, time out schedule, I am more punctual without absences at this time.

Hopefully, I get to work on my planned Instagram and blog for Cebuano History and Culture.  That’s always been my dream:  to someday work on something that will make the ordinary Juan de la Cruz and the Bisayang Dako (like me) passionate, more aware and more knowledgeable about our local history.

 

*Photo mine – Taken at the Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House*