I have traveled along the Vito Cruz Area for a while now, and have become acquainted with many of its old houses. I have a particular affinity for structures that have been ignored by the passage of time, and with these houses, even more so. They carry a connection to the past that, for me, is too important to be forgotten. They offer a powerful sense of history which gives hope.
When a friend of mine asked me to write an article about these old houses, I wasn’t enamored of the idea. Though I think of them as small historical treasures, I find I have too little knowledge of history to give an accurate account and perspective; one I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have other people read. But I realized that knowledge can be overrated, and that a sincere and honest rendering of the quality these structures can stir on a person can sometimes be more important than an accurate retelling of history, so I decided to at least give it a shot.
What is it about these old houses that make them so extraordinary? At first glance, you merely see the dirt, the crumbling walls and their insect-infested pillars. Their age is clearly evident. Aside from the obvious historical value these houses provide, why give them a second thought? In fact, why even write about them? There has to be something more; these structures must have something essential to give us, something we could learn or need.
Quite frankly, it is difficult to get past the dirt and decay, but I realize when I look closer, there is a beauty that can only come with age, and these houses have it in spades. Age offers for a common person the opportunity for nostalgic musings; and in this case, a more than hopeful rendering of a severely wished-for past. The Vito Cruz area is, for some people, a window to a past that is more beautiful, polite and cultured than the present. An age where adults take time to look and dress better; where Filipinos, at the very least, offer a semblance of graciousness when in the company of other people. The Vito Cruz area then becomes less of a historical site, and more of a door to a positivism that, at this moment, Filipinos severely need.
Change can be a dangerous thing, and the passage of time has been particularly difficult on these old houses. They have been largely forgotten, and people would rather escape to the more modern establishments than reminisce about a past too difficult to imagine. But, though I acknowledge that progress would eventually push on these houses their eventual death, we need not forget them. In them lie a connection we should not let go of; to remember them is to have light.
I do not know if this idealization is the real past; it is probably merely a dream brought about by a hyperactive mind. Still, for me, the Vito Cruz area offers a connection to a place that gives hope a permanent residence; and living in a country seemingly ruled by chaos, that is more than we can wish for.
*An old article published in a now defunct travel magazine.
Photo taken here.