Unisan heritage house

Unisan’s Vargas & other heritage houses

The beautiful and prominently located Vargas Mansion

The beautiful and prominently located Vargas Mansion

I’ve always looked up at Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula as something of an interesting place. It is far, seldom visited and way off the beaten path. Recently, a Facebook friend, Jan Michael Marasigan, invited me for a photo walk and we decided to travel to this peninsula to explore what it has, at a glance.

It was already 9AM when Jan and me arrived in Unisan, our first stop in Quezon’s Bondoc Peninsula, hoping that there will be some interesting architecture, an old church perhaps, a watchtower or cemetery chapel and, of course, heritage houses. With such a short time, we only limit our walks within the town center.

Interior of the Vargas Mansion with its coffered ceiling. Brown door opens to balcony.

Interior of the Vargas Mansion with its coffered ceiling. Brown door opens to balcony.

After a short breakfast of a small plate of pansit and sinukmani, a type of native rice cake popular in Quezon, and budin, more like cassava cake, we asked around. Alas, there was no old church to photograph but what caught our eye were the old houses lining the streets from corner to corner.

Interior details: left, section of wall with callado at top and piano; right, grand staircase made from philippine hard wood

Interior details: left, section of wall with callado at top and piano; right, grand staircase made from Philippine hard wood

Unisan’s heritage houses are more or less, turn of the century with no structures built during the Spanish colonial era. There’s no bahay-na-bato but mostly wooden structures, both first and second levels. Many have callado details, some have wrought iron grills while others are clearly early American colonial period.

The Vargas House along the corner stood out from the rest of the old structures. It’s generally white finished, got interesting callado details, a balcony, massive, perhaps the biggest in the town, and prominently located. The structure was built circa 1907 and one of the oldest. If the friendly owner is around the small store, he can show you the interior.

The three storey former municipal building with an interesting 60s/70s circular building at its side

The three storey former municipal building with an interesting 60s/70s circular building at its side

Interesting detail of ventanilla wrought iron grill

Interesting detail of ventanilla wrought iron grill

Just opposite the Vargas Mansion is the former municipal building. It’s a three story structure with a rather odd third level which is wider than the lower storeys.

But what really caught my attention was the fantastic wrought iron grills of the ventanilla at the uppermost level just below the large windows. These reminds me of the ones present at the Sunico foundry in San Nicolas, Manila.

Contrasting with the said structure is the attached cylindrical 60s/70s cement building with a beautiful flight of stairs at its side. I was just entranced by the contrast both in color, form and age.

Beautiful wooden house at street corner

Beautiful wooden house at street corner

This is another interesting house directly corner opposite the Vargas Mansion, in terms of form. One thing that I’ve noticed here is that most of the houses don’t use capiz shell windows but square glass panes. Most still have the ventanillas with grills.

Heritage house along the main highway

Heritage house along the main highway

I like this house. Its a seeming bahay-na-bato type but still turn of the century. The posts at the first level gives that impression of elegance and massiveness.

Two old houses along the highway.

Two old houses along the highway.

Another corner house along the highway with interesting details above the capiz windows. This is one of few structures using these decorative and functional shells. Locals say that it is now abandoned.

Another interesting house near the church

Another interesting house near the church

At first glance, this house just look like the other houses sans the long and extended secondary level roofing. Instead, the windows have their own eaves to, more or less, prevent rainwater from totally entering the second level. But surprise, surprise, the main section above the main entrance stairway is elevated, thus making it unique in the area.

One of the beautiful houses in the area that fascinated me, located near the church

One of the beautiful houses in the area that fascinated me, located near the church

Lastly, this is one of the very interesting and elegant structure near the church plaza that has just awed me that I took several shots. Its a probably late 20’s house. The first level is made of cement but the second level is something else. It looks massive but at the same time delicate and airy. The wooden grills over the ventanilla is interesting, lines and square shapes that contrasts with the intricate wrought iron flowing design of the grill as shown above.

Unisan may not have the rustic old church but its old fabric is still surely alive and well in the form of its turn of the century and early 20’s/30’s houses that dot the streets. Interestingly, there are still 50s and 60s structures that have rounded corners which add contrast to this town center.

Travel to the Bondoc Peninsula is conveniently done by bus trip from Manila to Lucena’s Grand Terminal where several minibuses and passenger vans service the different municipalities.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

5 Comments

  1. Dan
    December 21, 2012 @ 11:27

    Thank you, this is very helpful for travelers! Btw, for people
    interested in Heritage places to go in the Philippines, I recommend Taal,
    Batangas Heritage Town as part of your itinerary! It is a cornerstone
    of Filipino history & culture, home to the largest Catholic Cathedral in the far East! Discover more at: taal.ph

    Mabuhay!

  2. » Mulanay’s been invaded with Santas! | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    December 25, 2012 @ 17:41

    […] Curiosly, there were quite a few old houses in the town. Most that I’ve seen are 70′s to the present with quite a few in the 50s and 60s, unlike in Unisan which has turn of the century structures. […]

  3. » Tumult & moving on, 2012 wrap up, Part 3 of 3 | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    January 2, 2013 @ 9:27

    […] with my friend Jan. There, we explored for old churches and other heritage houses. We visited Unisan, Pitogo, Macalelon, Catanauan and Mulanay before heading to Atimonan and […]

  4. Ramon Curameng
    April 13, 2018 @ 15:46

    Can you upload a photograph of the Maxino house in Ilaya, Unisan, Quezon? Thanks, Mr Cabigas! – ramon maxino

  5. estan
    April 30, 2018 @ 21:03

    Hi Ramon, not sure about the Maxino House but I made a quick search, it was bought by Acuzar.

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