In the old district of Jaro in Iloilo stands a 200-year-old house where the wife of former vice-president Fernando Lopez Sr., Maria "Mariquit" Javellana-Lopez, once lived. The house was built by her banker grandfather Ramon Javellana, and it served both as a residence as well as a bank. Robert Lopez Puckett, a great-great-grandson who is now the owner of the house, removed a plank of the molave floor in the master bedroom and showed us where the bank’s money used to be kept. In 1910, a vault was installed there and it still exists today.
Puckett started the restoration of his ancestral house in 1993. The wall finish on the ground floor was carefully chipped off to reveal the original red bricks underneath.
More than 20 coats of paint, applied by various tenants through the years, were removed from the wooden walls. The meticulous restoration work continues to this day. The house is lived-in and Puckett, who is the president of Solar Electric Company Inc., had solar cells unobtrusively installed on the roof, his small concession to modernization. Indeed, Casa Mariquit could very well serve as a metaphor for the bigger setting that is Iloilo today – a rich inheritance of a grand past that continues to hold meaning in the present.
By Julie Cabatit-Alegre
MANILA, September 19, 2004 (STAR)