Photos by Sonny Espiritu
Don Conrado ‘Ado’ Escudero is known for his commitment to protect, preserve and share our country’s rich culture and history, and he proves this once again when he opened to the public the Casa Consuelo museum in Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort on October 24. Casa Consuelo is the old Gomez house owned by Don Esteban Gomez and Doña Josefa Pamintuan de Gomez of Pampanga.
In the late 1800s, the Gomez house was a picture of class and opulence on Plaridel Street, Angeles City (formerly Culiat), Pampanga. It served as the residence of Don Esteban, Doña Josefa and their 11 offsprings. Following the death of its original owners, the house was passed on from one heir to another.
“When Lola Sepa passed away in 1941, it was inherited by the youngest of the 11 children, Federico ‘Perico’ Gomez. Perico then sold it to another brother, Vicente, who was married to Pilar Mendez, for P40,000 in 1945. The couple converted the ground floor into a restaurant and cocktail lounge, popular among G.I.s, called Spic & Span. When Vicente and Pilar died, their children closed the restaurant and sold the house to Atty. Jose Feliciano on December 2, 1983,” narrates Capt. Ben Hur Gomez, one of the great grandsons of Don Esteban and Doña Josefa, and a direct descendant of the first owners.
Atty. Feliciano then offered the house to Don Ado who was at that time restoring the Pamintuan mansion, also in Angeles.
“I looked at it, I fell in love and eventually convinced my older sister (Doña Consuelo or Elsie), who didn’t know what she was getting into, to purchase it in the late 1980s,” shares Don Ado.
Over a hundred years and several occupants and owners later, the Gomez house finds its way – piece by piece – to Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon. Now called Casa Consuelo, the century-old structure remains elegant as ever. From being a home to the Gomez family, it is now a repository of memories and artifacts that showcase the life of a Filipino “buena familia” during the first quarter of the 20th century.
Capt. Gomez, who worked as a pilot for 39 years, remembers spending the weekdays in his Lola Sepa’s house with his three brothers (Carlos Jr., Romeo and Carmelo) when they were studying at the Holy Family Academy in Angeles. “We lived in Mabalacat so every Monday morning we would go to Angeles and stay in the house until Friday afternoon,” he recalls. “I lived in that house for four years.”
Juliette Gomez Romualdez, meanwhile, fondly recalls the fun games they played at the house where she and her brothers would race up and down the two grand staircases.
“I was a very young girl when we used to go to that house, especially at Christmastime to celebrate with our Lola Sepa. I remember how we would enjoy the games and the lining up for the aguinaldo that we were given,” recounts Mrs. Romualdez.
It was only a few years ago when the reconstruction of the Gomez house started. With the help of Heritage Consultant Arch. Jojo Mata, Don Ado’s late nephew Don Escudero painstakingly documented the tedious transfer of the numerous parts and pieces from Pampanga – from the intricate lattice woodwork, roof tiles to etched glass windows – and reassembled them to what is now Casa Consuelo.
Bent on maintaining the original look, Villa Escudero’s team of expert artisans, led by Don, had some of the materials reproduced. “Don searched for artisans, who used available materials to have a product similar to what was used before. With the roof tiles, he searched to find a manufacturer in Spain who still produced the same product and arranged for the necessary supply to be delivered,” notes Don Ado.
He adds, “On my part, I basically furnished Casa Consuelo by meticulously selecting pieces from the collection of antique furniture, which our late mother left us.”
House museum blessing
On October 24, Don Ado invited the Gomez clan, historians and proponents of culture and heritage preservation at the blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony of Casa Consuelo.
Capt. Gomez, Mrs. Romualdez and some of the members of the illustrious Gomez family graced the well-attended affair, which also served as some sort of homecoming for the family.
“I would really like to thank Don Ado for doing this, it’s not just for our family but for the Filipino people especially to the people of Pampanga and Central Luzon,” enthused Mrs. Romualdez.
The Latin Mass of the Tridentine Rite was held at the Iglesia de San Francisco led by Reverend Father Philip Ma. Gorecho, OATH. It was followed by the ribbon cutting, unveiling of the markers, and blessing.
Don Ado and Mrs. Romualdez, together with National Historical Commission chairperson Maria Serena Diokno, Philtrust Bank chairman and president Jaime Laya, historian Martin Imperial Tinio, Jr., Zonta Club Manila director Minerva Tanseco, “Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion” Patis Pamintuan Tesoro, and Emmanuel Ticzon talked about the opulent Gomez house, the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines and the life and times in a venerable home during the first quarter of the 20th century.
Diokno expressed delight that Casa Consuelo stands today to tell us “about the practices before and how things change, because it’s important for the younger generation to see this so that they appreciate how their ancestors lived.”
Tinio and Tanseco, meanwhile, talked about the opulence of the Gomez house.
“I was struck when I first saw the balcón of the Gomez house in 1979 because it was the most beautiful balcón I had ever seen in the whole country, and I have seen every old house from Aparri to Jolo,” shared Tinio.
Tanseco provided the guests with the details of the house and invited everyone to “come back and look at it in detail.”
While the house was owned by wealthy Filipinos, Dr. Laya said that Casa Consuelo not only reflected the lifestyle of the well-to-do but also of the workers who toiled in the kitchen and cleaned the toilet.
For Tesoro, the day wasn’t only a house museum blessing but a day of discovery. “I always knew the Gomezes and Pamintuans were related, but I never knew how and why,” she expressed.
“Today I discovered that the lady of the house, Doña Sepa, and my grandfather Don Florentino are brother and sister and I never knew that,” she said.
The guests then savored a sumptuous merienda cena composed of plantation salad, fish salad, kinilaw na tanigue, chicken galantina, jardinera, Estofado ala Villa Escudero, pastel de lengua, pancit buko, bringhe, baked ham, crema de ube, leche flan and gulaman hulmado.