Concio Ancestral House: Past Perfect in Pateros
Phillip Kimpo Jr. | May 13, 2014
Mention the word Pateros, and the first thing that comes to mind is balut, the Filipino delicacy that evokes either delight or terror. And ducks, after which the town was named.
Yet the only remaining municipality in a metropolis of sixteen cities proved to be quite the history professor to the Choose Philippines team that visited it last Good Friday, April 18.
And one old house along the ancient royal street of Pateros was the tome that told the story. This sala where an architectural maestro grew up, that slab of rock beside what used to be a riverbank, the mirthful chatter of a family reunion mixed with the community’s chants of the passion of Christ—all pages of the rich narrative of what Pateros used to be, how it stands right now, and a glimpse of its future.
The grand old dame of Pateros
We were caught unawares by the sudden shift in scenery—a few turns from the bustling beltway that is EDSA and the gleaming, modern Fort Bonifacio had taken us inside a peaceful residential neighborhood, with the occasional small commercial establishment popping up.
The two-lane street was M. Almeda, which we would later learn was the old Calle Real—“royal road” in Spanish, an indication of how important the street was in colonial times. And how important were the structures built along it.
We stopped by one such building. It turned out to be the oldest surviving edifice in Pateros. It turned out to be the Concio Ancestral House, also known as the Bahay ni Maestrang Tayang.
The house was built in 1908 (or 1907, as sources differ) by Feliciano Tuason Concio and his wife Matea Ymzon Rosales, more popularly known as “Maestrang Tayang.” She was called as such having been a highly respected teacher in the primary schools of Pateros. Her husband, on the other hand, was one of the town's consejales.
The residence is an elegant and enduring example of the distinctively Filipino architecture that uses wood in the upper floor and stone in its ground floor, a style that was called “arquitectura mestiza” as early as 1668.
While many similar houses are barely eking out an existence, have fallen into a state of half-disrepair and half-fire hazard, or have been demolished altogether, the Concio House remains robust and resplendent more than a century after its birth. Its narra floors have been impervious to termites and other pests.
Its yellow-green interiors, proudly displayed by expansive windows, are a bright beacon in the evening. During daytime, its light-blue exterior, repainted in original colors, do not clash but instead work well with the sunlight.
A stately residence by the river
How a house is made a home depends on the people living inside it. In the case of this petite palace of Pateros, these people have been responsible for seeing to it that their home can serve as an inspiration for generations to come.
Maybe it should come as no surprise, as one of the Philippines’ great architects, whose creations stand proudly to this day, hails from this clan. Cesar H. Concio Sr. (1907-2003), one of the children of Feliciano and Maestrang Tayang, grew up in this house. It might not be a stretch to imagine that the future architect imbibed his beautiful sense for form and function from the stately residence and its bucolic environs.
See, the residence used to lie in the midde of two roads—one of pavement, the other of water. The Calle Real in front led and still leads to San Roque Church, which is the only Catholic church in town. (Pateros is that small.) At the back, a tributary of the then-pristine Pasig River ran by. Past tense, as the city has long vanquished the waters.
A majestic house sitting by the riverbank, with its own mini-wharf and a banca ready to ferry its residents to anywhere. It would’ve been picturesque, something incomprehensible in today’s Metro Manila.
Cesar Sr.’s surviving contemporaries tell how they used to play by the riverbank, and how the banca could take them down to Quiapo to shop or go to church, or even further west to Manila Bay, as well as upstream and eastward to Laguna de Bay and the lakeside towns. No traffic jams, no pollution.
When you have clean running water, you have a healthy habitat for animals. These include ducks, upon which Pateros built its revered balut industry. The Concio House used to have a balutan downstairs. So not only was the edifice aesthetically pleasing, not only was it functional for the family, not only was it one with the elements, but it was also a little hub of economic activity. Talk about being sustainable.
As mentioned earlier, the master architect, Cesar Sr., would replicate this blend of form+function in his works—he produced the blueprints for UP Diliman’s iconic twin buildings (Melchor and Palma Halls), as well as its Protestant Chapel; the UP College of Forestry building in Los Baños, Laguna; the Insular Life Building in Ayala, Makati City; the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Quezon City; and the cultural and religious landmark that is the Baclaran Church, among others.
Back to the ancestral house. Even as the structure is already more than a century old, some parts of it are even older. As Cesar Concio III, Cesar Sr.’s grandson and an architect himself, narrated to us during a brief but meaningful walking tour (to be included in a ChooseTV video, coming soon), the current building was built upon a previous one, and the original stones dating to the late 1800s can still be seen.
House of Christ, house of commune
Not only is the house steeped in history and witness to the formation of one of the nation’s great artists. In these parts, it is also known as the abode of Jesus Christ.
Well, to be exact, many Pateros locals know it as the house of the “Santo Entierro” (literally, “Holy Burial”), the depiction of the dead Christ after His crucifixion and before His resurrection. As old as the residence is its practice of the pabasa; the Filipino Catholic tradition is performed in the living room every Holy Week.
During our visit, we arrived in the midst of pre-dawn chanting of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. We then witnessed it being carried out by both the young and old of the community throughout the morning and noon, while downstairs, members of the Concio clan meticulously prepared the flowers to accompany the Santo Entierro’s statue on His carriage.
By three in the afternoon, the traditional hour of the death of Jesus, members of the clan were solemnly bringing the statue down the stairs and onto His carroza. Before long, we were following the clan as they brought the Santo Entierro to the church, where it joined other religious statues and the devoted populace.
The pabasa, the preparation of the Santo Entierro and its carriage, and the procession to the church is a clan custom passed down from generation to generation. The different branches of the clan descended from Feliciano Concio and Maestrang Tayang divide the tasks among themselves.
In fact, clan members, from those who live in Metro Manila to those living abroad, from the surviving offspring and nephews/nieces of Cesar Sr. to the kids who have yet to discover the rich heritage of their family, return to their ancestral house every Holy Week, filling the living and dining rooms with light—and reliving history, as well.
Reliving history. That’s how we felt as we followed the procession from Concio House to San Roque Church, and back. As we were returning to the ancestral residence, we passed by this particular street corner.
From that vantage point, it seemed that tiny and intimate Pateros was opening up to wider, wilder world. The road led to an archway of Makati City, and on the horizon were skyscrapers.
It reminded us of one lesson we had learned that day. Which was, however we might feel hemmed in by the swathes of spires and clusters of concrete, there’s always this small, sweet spot, a silent sanctuary—as if we’re suddenly sitting on the banks of an idyllic river, with spotless water lapping at our feet and warm laughter drifting from our home just behind us, never distant.
(All photos in this article, otherwise stated, were taken by the author.)
Choose Philippines would like to thank the members of the Concio clan and household whom we interviewed for this article and an upcoming video (to be published soon here in our ChooseTV section): Rina Concio Quinto, Julia Maria C. Atencio, Edgardo Simon San Jose, Carmencita Paz de Leon Rosales, Coray Rosales Cruz, Aleli Poblete Vinluan, Cesar Concio III, Socorro Concio Cruz, Herminia Rosales Fajardo, Joselito & Alex Menguito, and Lita Concio Lantin.