Thursday, April 10, 2008


I'm even sadder today to lose the house on Madrid Street. It's more historically significant than I first thought. Just today, I received this letter...

Hi Carlos,
Sorry off topic from tours, but just about Casa Vizantina (Byzantine House) or the House on Madrid corner Penarubia. I have not attended your Binondo tour but actually did a partial study of this house (under cultural heritage management at UST Cultural Heritage Studies). Here's a part of my report with some pictures.

Statement of Significance:
The Casa Vizantina, made primarily of local hardwood, is aesthetically significant for being representative of the prevailing late 19th century Floral style bahay na bato in Binondo. The characteristics are evident in the delicate embellishments on the facade, including neo-Byzantine elements like slender colonettes and round wooden arches. The facade is significant for its use of quality Philippine hardwood and the workmanship involved in its creation. The facade and the house, forms part of an aesthetically and architecturally important street scape in San Nicolas, Binondo.

The house is important for its historic association with the development of Binondo as the prosperous center of commerce in 19th century Philippines. Moreover, it is associated with the rise of the principalia as the country opened up extensively to world trade. The house is one of the surviving three-storey structures from the 19th century that was once common in areas like Binondo that still retains most of its original fabric.

Partial History:
The house, along with the facade, built in 1890, was created by Don Lorenzo del Rosario. Don Lorenzo was a native principalia and one of the numerous building contractors in Binondo (De Viana, 2001). In 1886, he won the contract to renovate the Tribunal de Sangleyes. From 1914 to 1919, the house was leased out to Instituto de Manila to hold elementary and high school classes. It was a school until 1919 when the Instituto moved to its own building at Sampaloc and expand to become The University of Manila. Around after the second World War, the house was leased to various tenants.

The facade and the house forms part of the distinctive street scape of San Nicolas during its heyday, that has escaped the ravages of wars. The collective scale of the surviving structures are significant and reveal much about the history of San Nicolas and Binondo as the commercial capital of the country in the 19th century. On a broader scale, the structure reveals the context of the development of the Philippine economy during the later 19th century when the country opened itself to extensive world trade since the galleon trade ended. The cash crop economy presented more opportunities for entrepreneurial inhabitants from various parts of the country to economically prosper. This gave rise to the class of "Principalia", which included the educated Illustrados, who had more opportunities to study and travel. The period also saw the increased influx of foreign people, influences, and objects in the country that are revealed in the architecture of the later 19th century.

The attached pictures are from Instituto de Manila Annual The Golden Leaf.
Manila: Graduating Class, 1918 and 1920.

Eliza Agabin