Parian in Cebu is an enduring testament to a colorful Cebuano past both told and untold. Parians were districts established by the Spaniards for visiting Chinese traders. It was a necessary policy for the Spaniards to place boundaries between disparate ethnicity. The visiting Chinese traders in Cebu got their Parian, the Indios (natives) had their Pueblo de Naturales (San Nicolas) and the Europeans, their Pueblo de Europeos. The Parian in Cebu rose to become the center of commerce and trade during Cebu’s brief participation in the Galleon Trade. Centuries after Cebu bore witness to several cataclysms, Parian still stands as a living piece of history – or, at least that is what the bronze monument is trying to depict.
Another historical time machine in the Parian district is the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House. For a small price of 50Php, you will be warped into the 17th century in a house which was once a home to a prominent Chinese-mestizo family. Just don’t forget to put on mittens before climbing the creaking, albeit well-polished, stairs. An old banggera (shelf) is preserved complete with a banga (clay jar) for storing water and other antique utensils made of clay and porcelain. Tables and chairs with their intricate carvings sit nobly in the middle of the house’s sala (living room). In the bedroom, you can see a four-poster bed lying in its eerie magnificence transporting you to a time when women laughed with crimson blushes on their faces and hands over their mouths. A sungkaan (Filipino mancala board) lies waiting on one of the tables in the house. Sungka is a traditional Filipino mancala game whose popularity wanes along with the times and the coming of the internet age (Candy Crush, anyone?).
Remember those times when spooky statues in your grandmother’s altar, which seemed to keep their eyes on you wherever you went, made you catch your breath with fright? Well, you are in for the scare of your life. The house is full of these. It is as if some second-rate movie with third-rate stars is clandestinely shot in the house with all the bloodcurdling images with their piercing dead eyes. I am neither some medieval iconoclast nor a wedgie-surviving loser but, man, these statues make my hair stand on end.
The house also showcases how Chinese-mestizo families lived during this period of our Cebuano history — at least, how the illustrado hybrids did perhaps. There is a birthing seat for women lying at a corner in the house. I wonder if this was where they conducted pap smears and prenatal checkups as well – if they had one back then. A deep well is also openly displayed for public viewing.
The house is said to be the house of Don Juan Yap, a Chinese merchant, and Doña Maria Florido in the 1600’s. The house is dubbed as Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy, being made of sturdy wood and coral stones. It is recently turned over to the famous Val Sandiego, a renowned Sinulog choreographer.