“Wow! This is very interesting!” That’s what I had in mind when I learned that a foreigner wrote a book about architecture that we as Cebuanos tend to ignore or don’t give much value nowadays. Kiyoko Yamaguchi and the University of San Carlos Press recently launched Poblacion Houses in Cebu in Casa Gorordo.
The book is a product of Yamaguchi’s doctoral dissertation. She spent about a year of fieldwork here in Cebu and learned interesting details about some of the iconic houses or buildings featured in her book.
These are just some of the cool things you probably didn’t know about her book and Cebu’s architecture history in general.
Poblacion Houses in Cebu explores the effects of colonial rule transition to urban planning and architecture.
Perhaps you have heard the word Poblacion many times and have no idea what it means. I first learned what it is when Ka Bino Guerrero, Cebu heritage interpreter, explained it to us during a walking tour in Argao Church.
According to Wikipedia, poblacion means town or population in Spanish and it is a central business district of a certain municipality. This was their effort in centralizing their power and controlling the population. A poblacion may have all or some of these features:
- central plaza
- Catholic church
- municipal or town hall
- houses of prominent people
When the Spanish era ended, they have left a legacy of civilization and urbanity to the Filipinos. You could somehow say that their architecture was a subtle way of telling us, “Hey! We’re going to stay here for a very long time, so deal with it!”
Then came the Americans. Instead of destroying what the Spaniards have built, they added more structures like more roads, railways, ports, schools, hospitals, post offices, hotels, social clubs, movie theaters and a whole lot more. This was their subtle way of telling us, “Hey! We have good intentions and we are more benevolent compared to your previous colonizers.”
From the humble bahay na bato (stone house) to concrete buildings, the architectural transition of Cebu (and the Philippines in general), personally speaking, is quite fascinating.
The photos found in Poblacion Houses in Cebu were drawn by the author herself.
When I first saw the book cover, I was amused by the colorful house which looked ever so familiar to me. Then I was amazed to learn that it was one of Kiyoko Yamaguchi’s drawings! Apparently, she is a full-time watercolor artist in Kyoto since 2014!
During the book launch, Yamaguchi said that she decided to draw the houses instead of just taking photographs beca use she could add more life to it; mixing old elements of the house with the new elements of the area like a parked car, nearby store, or people going about their everyday lives.
By the way, before settling down in Kyoto as an artist, Kiyoko Yamaguchi:
- was born in Shiga, Japan on 1976
- earned her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley
- started her doctoral dissertation from September 2002 to November 2003 in the province of Cebu
- earned her Ph.D. in Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University
- taught for 7 years in The Chinese University of Hong Kong
That’s quite an achievement, don’t you agree?
Poblacion Houses in Cebu is part of the Magellan Quincentennial Book Series.
The book launching is part of the University of San Carlos preparation for the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in Cebu.
Wow! It’s been a while since they landed on our shores and changed our lives.
My Final Thoughts about Poblacion Houses in Cebu
For me, the book is quite heart-breaking and amazing at the same time. It is amazing because it is a collection of architectural beauty that we can always see and heart-breaking because it took a foreigner to publish this kind of book (which I think should have been done by a Cebuano).
As I began to flip the pages, I can’t help but marvel at Kiyoko Yamaguchi’s drawings and admire the history we all tend to ignore as Cebuanos.