By Philippine standard, General Santos is a young city.
Residents here can only marvel and be awed by photographs of old stone and wooden houses in old towns and cities that coffee table books and magazines feature once in a while.
That is until Warren Manilay literally built an ‘ancestral house’ in the middle of a middle-class subdivision which, unless you have heard of it, is as quaint and truthful as the old houses you will find in many towns in Luzon, Iloilo and Bacolod at the turn of the 20th century.
For added measures, the house is filled with antiques and heirlooms only an avid collector like the Manilays will have the passion to keep.
Consider these, a restored 1917 White truck with wooden carriage, a 1965 flaming red Ford Mustang, a 1960 Ford Falcon, a 1975 Mini Cooper and a 1970s Minica that are parked beside the house.
And yes there is a 1941 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, too, that stands beside an R60 BMW (1960).
But Manilay said his priceless collections are the framed photographs of his grandparents hanging on the walls of the Ancestral House, as the Manilays call their unique place.
Some of the furniture pieces are family heirlooms like the 12-seater dining table made of tindalo and narra and the sala set in the spacious living room upstairs the 2-story house.
A crochet-covered canopy bed is masterfully set inside the only bedroom in the house, with matching old side table.
The wooden planks of the floor, made of tindalo and narra, were shipped from Batangas, Manilay mused.
The house has all the trappings of Spanish-era ambiance including an authentic replica of a banggera (extended window sill) complete with old vinegar and wine gallons.
The materials used in constructing the replica house, he said, were all salvaged from demolished old houses in southern Luzon, particularly in Batangas, where the Manilays come from although Warren and wife Sara grew up in Laguna.
He said carpenters had difficulties assembling the house as his instructions were not to alter the shapes of the wooden planks, beams and trusses, window and door jambs, including the Capiz window panels. Amazingly, these all fitted into perfection.
The imposing main door made of dau, Manilay said, was bought from a church in Pampanga which underwent renovation.
The exposed bricks of the house columns are also saved materials.
But Manilay also have recent collections, like all the cellular phones he had owned and used since mobile phone made the wired telephones now collector’s items and old telephones of which he has one beside a pre-World War II tube-dialed radio (not the transistor type).
Best time to visit the place is from 4:00 in afternoon to just after dusk at 6:30 pm when the lights are on and be lucky enough to find an angle that will give your photo the blue hour effect.
Beyond being just a repository for his antique collections, Manilay said the house is functional. He accepts dinner meetings of up to 20 people or pre-nuptial photo sessions for modest fees.
Manilay said he is willing to have his house declared as official city tour destination.
But that will come later.
Manilay intimated he wants to build a chapel that will house his trove of religious statutes, icons and figurines.
“Para maihiwalay ang mga ‘to (To separate them from the rest of our collections),” he said. Among his accumulated religious icon are two life-size statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, bronze figurines of various saints, old wooden crucifixes and assorted sculptures.
He also plans to build function rooms a little farther from the mahogany tree-surrounded ancestral house that stands at the eastern side of his half-hectare lot.
He admits he may have to hire a curator for the house that has turned into a personal museum and to catalogue all his collections.
“The last time I joined an antique show, it took me a week to catalogue the 20 items I entered in the show,” Manilay said.
Manilay has hundreds of artifacts ranging from the smallest to the biggest which is the house itself.
His frequent travels while still the human resources manager of San Miguel Agri Division led Manilay to where his passion for collecting anything old and of value has brought him now.
“Tuwing may napupuntahan kami ng aking wife na ibang lugar (Every time me and my wife visit other places), we look something old to collect,” he relates.
Manilay said he built the ancestral house when their collections could no longer be displayed in his residence, which is only separated from his ancestral house-cum-museum by a six-foot wall.
“Naku, noong nilipat na namin ang mga antigo, ‘di ko inakalang ganuon na pala karami,” he mused (Until we finally transferred our collections, it didn’t occur to us that we have that huge collection).
He started building the house piece by piece and section by section in 2005 and completed it in 2007.
The 56-year old antique collector has already lost track how much he and his wife had spent on their collections.
When he resigned from San Miguel in 1992, he joined the administration of former General Santos City Mayor Rosalita Nuñez.
He later quit city hall but by then he and his wife had already established the Golden State College, one of the leading technical and vocational schools in the city. The school is now also offering 4-year degree courses. They are the leading hotel and restaurant management school in the city which suits just fine for their latest passion.
The Manilay Ancestral House is located in Purok Malakas, Barangay San Isidro just at the back of SM’s Savemore grocery.
For inquiries, contact Romuald at 09328575148.