Heritage Sites

Cantilan’s Ancestral Homes: Heritage & History Combined In The Cradle Of Towns

Surigao del Sur

Ida Damo
Ida Damo | Sep 21, 2017
Cantilan’s Ancestral Homes: Heritage & History Combined In The Cradle Of Towns

There is a town in Surigao del Sur that is considered the cradle of towns in the area.  Cantilan used to comprise the towns of CarCanMadCarLan (Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, and Lanuza).  

In the middle of the town are evidences that Cantilangnons have preserved and conserved for future generations to still wonder at.

Ancestral houses dating to as much as 1821 still stand.  Some have been renovated but retained its “old-world” feel, while others have been modernized but still bear traces of the original structure like capiz shell windows, callado (wood carvings), and big columns or buttresses that served as the cornerstones of the structures.

Read: Marajaw, Hotel Karajaw: Your First and New Home in the South of Surigao 

In the house of the Rufo Ortiz, one of the town’s pioneers, I learned that the buttresses served as dowries for women to enter into marriage.  It represented the strength and sturdiness that a woman contributes to the marriage. 

All around, hard wood was used on the floors, the furniture, even up to the ornaments displayed on the cabinets.  The old patina of wood would be witness to the thousands of footprints and wipes that the surfaces have endured through its century of existence. 

One room had a small hole in one of the wood floor planks. It stood out because of the story that accompanied it.  It is said that during World War II, the house was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army.  One night, one soldier forgot his cigarette and it burned a hole on the floor.

It was just one reminder of the history behind the Ortiz Ancestral house as told by one of his heirs, Jesus Ortega, who now lives in the house.

In one street, Cantilangnon Cathe and I, were welcomed into the house of Cabeza Jose Arizobal by one of his heirs, Sustenes or popularly known in Cantilan as Papa Titong.

We went up the grand staircase and sat on chairs beside windows facing the road while he told us stories of the house.

On one of the wood carvings (callado) was proof that the house was renovated in 1921 but was built in 1857.  He said that on afternoons, they were made to sleep on the sala while the soft wind entered the house through the callado on the windows and walls.

Papa Titong said that no metal hinges were used on the doors but only wood bolts and nuts and that the sliding windows were made from capiz shells.

He told us of his mischiefs during the old days. Of running and playing on the streets, climbing trees in the forests, and harvesting fruits from the native trees of guava, santol, manga, lomboy (duhat) and others. They also had a grand time fishing and harvesting seafood from the rivers and seas of Cantilan.

He said that life before was simple, fun, and laid back. His house will always remind him of his happy childhood and of times gone by. 

The ancestral houses of Cantilan has stood the test of time and of man and nature’s upheavals.  It is a testament of the glory days of this cradle of towns.  It will remain as a reminder of the Cantilangnons’ resilience and history--- a heritage that every Cantilangnon is proud of.


How to get there:


From Manila, Cebu, or Davao, take the plane to Tandag and then the bus to Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.
It is an hour-long trip over one of the most beautiful coastal highways. Almost every street in the town’s poblacion has tow or more ancestral houses.

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