17 Heritage Houses in the Philippines That Have Been Adapted for Modern Use
What happens to ancestral houses? Do most of them get neglected and eventually torn down? The Heritage Conservation Bill or Senate Bill 1234 tries to avoid this by giving incentives to heritage house owners instead. These structures not only speak of history, but they can also be profitable once adapted into restaurants, hotels, museums, and more. This practice is called adaptive reuse—keeping the physicality of the building intact while repurposing it for something else. Heritage conservationists are encouraging adaptive reuse across the country, and here are some successful projects that are paving the way.
La Casita Mercedes, Makati City
Makati extremely idyllic during the pre-war days and families chose it for their residence for its tranquil environment. La Casita Mercedes was built as Poblacion de Makati back in 1939. Being distant from Manila’s ground zero, the structure survived the war and it has been repurposed into a bed and breakfast.
The place opened to the public in 2015 after two and a half years of renovation. La Casita Mercedes is still furnished with its original, vintage pieces of furniture, as well as a few additions of contemporary art.
Dycaico Ancestral House, Angeles City, Pampanga
The Dycaico Ancestral House in Angeles City survived the wear and tear of decades. It's now a multi-purpose hall that houses a rural bank and tutorial center on the ground floor as well as Seeds Restaurant on the second. The farm-to-table concept by Chef Sau Del Rosario fittingly serves reinvented Filipino dishes such as spicy prawn with coconut vermicelli and crispy duck adobo with pinakbet.
Cafe Apolonio, Bustos, Bulacan
The historic Casa Apolonio was built in the 1850s in the bahay-na-bato style. The architectural highlight is the 16 hand-carved concrete columns that support the house. The house was quite popular back in the day and Jose Rizal is even rumored to have stopped over en route to San Rafael and Malolos.
Now, it is a café, serving Filipino and Spanish cuisine under the name Cafe Apolonio. It was named after Apolonio Perez, the grandfather of the fourth generation Perezes who own the place.
Camalig Restaurant, Angeles, Pampanga
What was an ancestral grain depot for over 100 years is now Camalig Restaurant. Camalig is the Kapampangan word for "shed," which derives its name from the house’s original purpose. It was converted to a restaurant in the 1980s and its patio was even landscaped for al fresco dining.
The restaurant is decorated with the city’s mementos and old photographs. Their bestseller, Armando’s Pizza, also known as “Ang Pambansang Pizza,” is a classic, family recipe.
1335 Mabini, Mabini, Ermita, Manila
Once Manila’s opulent address, Ermita was home to the super rich before and shortly after the war and Casa Tesoro was originally built as a vacation house.
During the war, it became a headquarters for soldiers, then used as a post office, a spa, a nightclub, an office for an employment agency, and a branch of a money changer. Now it is a contemporary art gallery that exhibits works from both foreign and local independent artists.
Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, Baguio
A boutique hotel completed in 1909, Casa Vallejo is considered to be one of the 10 oldest landmarks in Baguio City. It even gained a special recognition from the Baguio Centennial Commission for being built a year before the city itself was established.
It also features a restaurant, bookshop, cinematheque, and spa. Located on Upper Session Road and a few minutes’ walk away from Burnham Park, it remains to be one of Baguio’s main tourist attractions.
The Henry Hotel, Manila
What used to be a compound of over five houses in Pasay is currently known as The Henry Hotel Manila. Back in the '40s, however, it was the home of a Filipino-Chinese business owner and his extended family. Its breathtaking garden was landscaped by National Artist Ildefonso Santos and its 32 rooms all reflect the lifestyle and interiors of decades past.
The same compound also houses the Avella Art Gallery and fashion designer Jojie Lloren’s atelier.
Limbaga 77, Quezon City
The Timog area surprisingly has a lot of ancestral houses which are now being used as restaurants. One of which is Limbaga 77. The restaurant used to be a home and details and features of the old house were kept, from the spiral staircase to the 1940s-style windows.
Visit the official Facebook page of Limbaga 77.
Paradores del Castillo, Taal, Batangas
Batangas has a lot of heritage homes and one of the most well-known houses that were adaptively reused is Paradores del Castillo, which was built in the early 1900s. It was restored from 2013 to 2015 while still adhering to the Spanish-American colonial style.
The house is called Paradores del Castillo, a Spanish custom of transforming old structures like castles into government-run luxury hotels. Parar or para literally means to stop and Castillo means castle, giving a whole new meaning to their name, stopping by or staying at a castle.
Visit the official Facebook page of Paradores del Castillo.
The Mansion, Silay City, Negros Occidental
Located along Calle Ledesma, “The Mansion” was built in 1920 and designed by Lucio Bernasconi, the Italian architect who also designed San Diego Pro-Cathedral. It was the house Adela Ledesma, the only daughter of Emilio and Rosario Ledesma.
The stately house originally had a second floor but legend has it that Adela had it removed because she could see the happy family of a former betrothed who lived across the street. It is now a café and artist space, thanks to heritage workers and public officials who saw the value in preserving The Mansion.
Visit the official Facebook page of The Mansion.
Cafe 1925, Silay City, Negros Occidental
Near El Ideal, the city’s heritage bakery is Café 1925, a quaint little coffee house that seats around 10 to 20 people. The place is just in front of the Leandro dela Rama Locsin ancestral house and it is difficult to miss because of its eye-catching stained glass windows. Inside are wall-sized paintings of different heritage sites around the city. Tourists and locals often drop by the café for their Osso Bucco.
Plaza Central Inn and Halaran Plaza Hotel, Roxas City, Capiz
These hotels in the heritage district of Roxas City are located just in front of the city hall. The Plaza Central Inn, in particular, maintained the original house's structure, including the laminated wood flooring and pieces of furniture. Antique pieces are also placed around the hotel as decors.
La Planta Hotel, Bais City, Negros Oriental
Many years ago, Bais City had only one power plant which provided electricity for the people in the city. It became a landmark in the area and has since been converted into a 17-room hotel.
The hotel prides itself for its blend of old family tradition and hospitality and modern and efficient services. It has a pool, as well as a coffee shop and bar that would transport you back in time.
Visit the official Facebook page of La Planta Hotel.
Sans Rival Bistro in Dumaguete
Trinidad “Tita Trining” Teves-Sagarbarria, the founder of Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries, who popularized silvanas and sans rival, started peddling her sweets in 1977, but they quickly needed more space for their sweets. The original store still stands along San Jose Street, but with their expansion, they have also converted the first floor of their old home at the corner of San Jose Street and Rizal Avenue. This has become Sans Rival Bistro which serves savory meals aside from their famous pastries.
Claude's Le Cafe de Ville, Davao City
Located on Rizal Street, Claude's Le Café de Ville was once known as the Oboza Heritage House. The house, with its prominent veranda that looks out into a garden, was built in 1929. The descendants eventually all migrated abroad and the house was put up for sale in the early 2000s. French chef Claude Le Neindre and his Filipino wife Tess decided to purchase it for their restaurant which used to be on another street.
While the restaurant serves French provincial dishes, the couple decided to retain the house’s memorabilia which are displayed in the veranda. You can spot the Obozas wedding portrait, photographs of celebrities and officials who visited the house, and an antique wood and glass cabinet.
McDonald's, Plaza Rizal, Zamboanga City
In 1928, it was a neo-classic building for the Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China. Now, it holds branches for McDonald's and Western Union.
The building is just across Zamboanga City Hall, another heritage site that can be found on the perimeter of Plaza Rizal. During the American occupation, there was a plan to make this plaza and its adjacent plazas to look like a local Central Park.
Hacienda Don Juan, Glan, Sarangani
A few kilometers from the city center is this barrio house that's been transformed into a restaurant and mini museum. The hacienda itself is now partly a resort. Inside, you'll find antique furniture and art, which are available for public viewing. The house is also a popular spot for debut and pre-nuptial pictorials.
The house was owned by the Aquino family (not related to the political clan). It was saved from deterioration and forces of nature when it was restored to be the centerpiece of Hacienda Don Juan.
Visit the official Facebook page of Hacienda Don Juan.