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Life is full of uncertainties...seize the moment and enjoy the day. Carpe diem! My blogs are written accounts of our life now and what we could have done 30 years ago.  And given the chance now, as what Mark Twain said, we would want to throw off the bowlines, sail away, explore, dream and discover. The blogs are my written expressions of the adventures and experiences Dennis and I share, together or even in distance.

Although I am not an expert on blogging, Dennis has been instrumental to what I am sharing with you right now.  Through his prodding, motivating and pushing, I was able to come up with a few blogs and I enjoy writing now. I hope you will find them useful, entertaining and educational.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Villa Epifania in Sta. Rita, Pampanga

The Grand Old House of Sta. Rita., Pampanga

Because of our new adventure of road tripping, my daughter and I, decided to visit Villa Epifania in Sta. Rita, Pampanga.  I have never been there myself.  It was through the research of my Schatz, Dennis, that I came to learn about this old house.  I have tried asking friends around if they are familiar with this house but only a few have acknowledged having heard about it but have never been there.

Dennis sent me links about the history of this place and some pictures, too.  This has tickled my fancy because I began getting excited about visiting places, too.  It is his passion.  He wants to learn more about historical events and places. Actually, he has inspired me and each time we start discussing about places, I look forward to seeing these places.  Too bad that he can't be with us but I share with him the experiences we had together with some pictures and video clips.

In a news article featured in Sunstar Pampanga, I came to learn about Villa Epifania. The article (Villa Epifania/Sunstar) has clearly educated me about this grand old house. It is located in the backwater town of Sta. Rita.The villa was named after Dona Epifania who came from an equally rich and powerful Floridablanca-based clan, the Alvendias. The ancestral lot was owned by the Guanzon patriarch Don Agapito Guanzon (Captain Pitong) the then Captain Municipal (equivalent to today’s municipal mayor) of Sta. Rita.Capitan Pitong’s son, Don Olympio Guanzon (former Pampanga Governor) would later inherit the lot and an earlier old house in the same lot by 1925. The old house would later be dismantled to give way for the villa and would later pass on to Don Felipe Guanzon.

The villa was designed and constructed by Architect Mariano Pineda, a native of Sta. Rita and relative of the Guanzons. Pineda would later join the Federal Architects of America. Constructed between the years 1931-1932, the house was one-of-a-kind at that time; it was the only all-concrete house in Sta. Rita and the architectural design is incomparable with other historical landmarks in the town. The whole house is made of concrete with few exemptions, like the upper wall on the western side of the house facing the north. This part showcases a gallery of windows as old as the house itself. The main walls of the house are concrete, about a foot thick on all the major sidings. The concrete materials were imported from Guiguinto in Bulacan. The villa’s wood portions are of the finest Philippine hardwood (narra, camagong and molave) and the furniture is of King Louis style. The furniture was acquired for the villa in 1931 and was bought from the Philippine Carnival in Manila and allegedly made by the prisoners of Bilibid prison. An azotea flanks the north side of the house which gives a perfect view of the western farm lands in Sta. Rita, a major portion of which were once owned by the Guanzons and other notable lords from the Pineda, Lansang and Gosioco clans.

The doors of the former house that stood in the lot found their way into the second floor of the house. The doors and windows are made of colored glass with hues of green and orange. Wrought iron bars and grills protect the glass frames of the windows and the doors. A "portico" with granite staircase, will greet the visitor upon approaching the house and above it is a grand veranda accented with baroque pillars. Another small porch is located at the second floor near the grand veranda.  This porch though smaller is equally grand; the truth is there is no point in comparing the architectural designs from one another. An architect friend once said that the designs of the villa are “asymmetrical”, each with its own beauty and dominance in the house. No two sides are actually the same. The irregular symmetry unfolds into a united design, “baroque yet classical”.

The inside of the house is much the same design. However, a lot is still in store for an inquisitive visitor. The villa also offers other verandas at the second floor and a minor rooftop and chimneys for the kitchen. Not bad for a house made in 1932 at a hefty value of (reportedly) P90,000. It was used as headquarters by the Japanese officers, USAFE guerillas and alkaldes during World War II and would late pass on as a relic of the past. But such beauty would not go unnoticed and soon enough it caught the eyes of location directors. The house was first featured in the Lino Brocka film “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” in 1976. Later in the 90s it was used as the backdrop for the movie “Tanging Yaman.”

The villa is located along Ocampo Street in San Jose, north of the town church and west of the municipal hall facing the east. The villa had served as a house that would later shape the political and social life of the town. From this villa came illustrious names in business and politics. The grandeur of this residence has done well to lift the bearings of this clan.

At present, the villa is unoccupied except by a caretaker who would be happy to show you around. So if you happen to pass by Sta. Rita, try visiting Villa Epifania. It would surely give you a taste of what living in style really means. It would just be waiting for you at a corner of a lonely street."

On that day when we visited the old house, it seemed not to be as majestic and grand as how it was described on the news feature.  It is saddening to note that the frontage was not well kept inspite the mention of a caretaker. The grasses were about a foot and a half tall.  The gate was rusty and broken. It does not really show that somebody is tending and maintaining the house. I was not impressed and happy with what I saw because it does not show signs that it is really being preserved and given importance. Probably, the caretakers would just start trimming the grass and cleaning the surroundings when visitors are expected.

There were a few people whom we have seen ridden on a tricycle going to the back part of the house.  Seemingly, they could have been the caretakers but the house was not actually taken cared of. There was a dog who was barking upon sight of us but he was tied on one part of the house.  We were not able to have a glimpse of the inside of the house but we were able to take a few shots of how it actually looks like now. One thing that is remarkable that would signify its historicity is the presence of the Philippine-American flag on the front of the house and the inscription of 1932 on the topmost part of the house, probably signifying the year when it was built.
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