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August 24, 2007

Paoay Heritage House Up for Restoration

Heritage house in Paoay up for restoration
The Ilocos Times
May 14, 2006
by Cristina Arzadon

Owners of a heritage house in Paoay town are working on the restoration of a historical landmark—a bubble-topped octagonal house built by their patriarch the late Constancio Duque in the early 1940s. Locally known as the Duque house, the American period architecture was given tribute as one of three heritage homes in Paoay along with the well-preserved twin Bahay na Bato (white houses to locals) owned by the family of Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Duque, a known teacher in his time, was one of the early Ilocanos who moved to the United States in the early 1900s. “He got the idea to go to the US because all his friends have left the Philippines,” recalls Constancio’s only son Estanislao Duque, now a doctor based in Mindanao.
But unlike other Ilocanos who worked on sugarcane fields, Constancio, then a 16 year-old high school student enrolled in a Vigan seminary, flew to Chicago, Illinois to continue studies. “He went there without knowing anybody. He used a one-year stipend that he had saved from the seminary for his plane ticket and start up his schooling,” Estanislao said.

Duque finished his high school and college education there before returning to his hometown Paoay in 1939 and later built the American-inspired colonial house. “It was in Chicago where my father got the design for our house,” Duquesa Duque-Dugan, Constancio’s youngest daughter who now lives in Australia, said. “He always wanted to be different. At the time when the neighborhood houses were the typical box-type wooden structure, our father built a spherical house using but his memory of the 20 years he stayed in Chicago,” Dugan said. “I remember when we were young, we would be asked where we live and we would say, idiay nagbukel (There at the round house),” Dugan said.

The old Duque is said to have hired skilled carpenters to execute the architectural design that he had kept only in his mind. The octagon-shaped American architecture is made of wooden stone-cut fa├žade with a bonnet of a roof. His eldest daughter Rosario Duque-Pobre who visited Chicago recently said bubble-topped houses remain a landmark there.

The Duque siblings had kept all their father’s memorabilia in their house, which had become a museum of antique pieces from the old piano to a phonograph and other wooden furnishings.
Lining the walls of the Duque house are early family photos including a sketch of the heritage house that was done by Duque’s granddaughter Marissa. The family plans to replicate the sketch to small keepsakes which could be given as souvenirs to tourists on a heritage tour in Paoay.

Dugan said restoring the house was a promise she made to her father before he died.
“I wanted to bring back my father to Chicago while he was on a visit in Australia. But he never had that chance because he was in a hurry to go back to the Philippines. I have since promised to restore the house as my way of making up for him,” she said.

Mindful of the attention that their house had courted, the Duque siblings have started planning its rehabilitation keeping in mind the need to preserve the original structure. Termites have destroyed some sections of the house while wooden planks either need replacement or reinforcement Except for some sections of the facade, the original structure including its wooden floors has not been disturbed. But because Paoay has always been a catch basin of floodwaters, the Duque house had been submerged in thick mud as indicated by its original stone fences peeping out from the ground. Several flights of its stone staircase leading to the front door also presumably sank because only a section of the pillars on each side of the stairs were sticking out. Traces of hardened mud from recent floods occupy the basement, which Dugan said makes a magnet for termites.

The family had already commissioned a restoration architect to do the works on their house.
Since talks about the restoration spread, Dugan said she had already seven architects showing up in their house with their restoration designs. She had narrowed down her list to two because she did not like the designs that others presented.“I could barely recognize our house,” Dugan said playfully as she showed to two design proposals, which transformed the house into a Spanish-colonial villa capped with tiled roofing.

Dugan clarified reports that the National Historical Institute had offered to help in the restoration of the heritage house. “Nobody has come forward to help in the restoration. There has been no offer, which we don’t really mind,” she said. Dugan added: “And in case there will be an offer in the future, we would like to see the guidelines first. We don’t want to lose control of our house where we will be reduced to mere administrators.”

She clarified, however, that their house is always open to people who share their passion in taking pride of their ancestral home. At one point, Marcos daughter, Irene Marcos-Araneta surprised the household members when she invited herself at the top of the staircase and asked politely if she could have a look of the house.

“We have always opened our house to everyone who cares to take a look. We don’t mind the attention. Anytime of the day, we see people outside the house either taking shots or filming the structure. We share the pride to others who would want to make a connection and a sense of ownership to this house that our father built,” Dugan said adding that the family will keep the house and the lot where it sits probably until kingdom comes.

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