Exploring the Quezon Heritage House

The Quezon House, formerly located in Gilmore Street in New Manila, has been transferred to the Quezon Memorial Circle. During the Commonwealth period, it was where President Manuel Quezon occasionally recuperated from tuberculosis, at a time when the New Manila District was a rustic and idyllic countryside.

The house had gone through many changes and accretions over the years. And with the pressure of urbanization, the house gradually lost its context, use and meaning. When the family decided to sell the property, and while in the process of development, the heirs decided to donate the residence to the QC Local Government for the latter to develop it into a museum. The transfer to its new location will provide the house a new future as it will be interpreted in better perspective by the Filipino people. 

 The Quezon House is historically significant because it is associated to the lifestyle and health of the Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon. The only residence in the city he founded. Although the house is not architecturally outstanding, the original structure, divested of its accretions, reflects the country /rehabilitation house architecture of the American period and the family life of the former President.

The Quezon Heritage House is believed to be the only existing house that is associated with President Quezon and his family.

It was offered to the president in 1927 just after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The family used it as a weekend house until they were forced to flee to Corregidor in 1941 and later to the United States in 1942 because of the war.

Quezon died in the US on Aug. 1, 1944, with the family returning to the Philippines the next year. Upon their return, the family purchased the Gilmore house on installment, and was later able to acquire three adjacent properties in the area.

Constructed in the 1920s, the two-story beige and white house was constructed at the northeast portion of the 166-hectare property now known as the New Manila.

  The house is neoclassic in style, a theme common in the country during the American colonial period. It borrows and re-interprets elements from Roman and Greek architecture – for instance the use of Roman arches and the Greek post-and-lintel style edged with embellishments.

This is very evident in the design of the adjacent social hall, which was used as a venue of various important social events in the lives of both the former president and the first lady.

The structure itself is neo-classical. But when you get inside, there are sculptures that are very classical.”

The single-story rectangular structure has round columns in its front and rear. It features Fu dog sculptures and a pair of Caryatids, which are sculpted females used during the classical period as a supporting column. 

 Between the social hall and the house is a rectangular pool which, in the reconstructed heritage house, was transformed into a fountain.

The house itself, however, was not strict in following the neo-classical theme. Over the years, changes were made by the Quezon family to the house that had been their home for more than five decades.

For instance, the main entrance of the house features glass doors etched with bamboo and designed with iron-wrought leaves. Malacura says this may have been a manifestation of Aurora’s interest in Japanese culture.

“We have to take into consideration that the former president lived here only for a short time,” says Malacura, noting that the house mainly gives visitors an idea on how the family lived after Quezon died.

The main attraction of the house is the second floor, which features the original narra beds used by the former president and his wife. These were in the two bedrooms connected by a

The couple had to sleep separately due to the president’s illness. A bed for his nurse, as well as the chests where he kept his personal items, is also displayed in the president’s room.

In the main room on the second floor was a plant box given to the first lady prior to their escape to Corregidor. It also features the original spiral staircase from the Gilmore house.

Other original muebles displayed in the house are cabinets and mirrors of the former presidential couple, including one given by his colleagues from the Senate. The doors, grills, and some of the stained glass panels were also from the original Gilmore property.

The ground floor speaks more of the Quezon family, particularly Aurora. The main room, which was used by the former first lady as her office when she was forming the Philippine Red Cross, features furniture custom-made to fit the period. 

 The ground floor also features the room used by Aurora when she was older, as well as a guest room and an extension dining room constructed during the time of the Avanceñas. The house also has two kitchens – one on each floor – which showcases the family’s food tradition, including a recipe for the president’s favorite dish, Cocido .

Sixty percent of the materials from the original house were used in the recreated one at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

The Quezon family was said to have spent their weekends at the Quezon Heritage House to seek respite from the fast-paced life in the city. Later on, it was used by the family of Quezon-Avanceña until she decided to move to Alabang for health considerations.

The place was conducive to the president’s condition as it offered a fresh and clean environment, which also reminded him of the forested surroundings in his hometown in Tayabas..”

Avanceña, who was teary-eyed during the inauguration, says she has a lot of memories in the house – not all of them good ones.

I also heard the sad story of Donya Aurora,Baby, and Nini’s First husband Felipe Buencamino III)p were killed in that ambush in Nueva Ecija in April 28, 1949 incident allegedly perpetrated by Hukbalahap members. Aurora left the house that day to inaugurate the Quezon Memorial Hospital in her home town of Baler, now a part of the province named after her.

You will definitely forgot that the house is now in the middle of the Quezon Memorial Circle

They want to show the public that Quezon and his family lived a life similar to the rest of us.The goal of transferring the house was to put a face to the family life and the personal side of the former president.

I think this house, when we see it, we can say that it’s a home that every person can relate to.It was where he recuperated when he was ailing. I feel that sometimes we really need these tangible manifestations and not base our knowledge on concepts or on books. We have to see things to be able to identify with the place, with the person.

The Quezon Heritage House shows us that this couple had a good family life and this is their home. This is where their children lived. It makes us closer to him as the president (who founded the city.

The local government spent almost P10 million for the transfer of the Gilmore property. The plan to preserve the house started during the administration of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Mayor Bautista also instructed the city planning and development office to request information from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on how the local government could acquire the old house and have it registered as a heritage site.

However, the NHCP said the house falls short of the requirements that could merit its declaration as the local government felt the need to preserve the legacy and heritage of the Quezon family. Tours will be scheduled to disseminate information about the heritage house. 

The local government may introduce fees in the future, or even rent the space at the social hall for events and functions to generate revenue. For the meantime, admission to the heritage house is free.

The transfer of the house is part of the local government’s efforts to development the Quezon Memorial Circle.

If you want to know about Quezon as a politician, visit the Quezon Museum. If you want to know about his personal life, visit the heritage house. I was told that the city will also open its social history museum and transfer the public library to the circle next year to provide the public with information about the city, its people, and the country.

Incidentally, as Quezon City celebrates its 75th anniversary, the local government has cooked up a series of festivities (listed above). Each of which are scheduled on October 10 and 11, 2015 and has been crafted to leave a mark on the city’s 75 years of cityhood. Happy 75th anniversary, Quezon City

Quezon City’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Festivities
October 10: 4-7PM Diamond Jubilee Mardi Gras at Tomas Morato Area
October 10: 7-11PM QC Grand Parade of Lights (Day 1)
October 10: 8AM-3PM Blogathon
October 11: 7-11PM QC Grand Parade of Lights (Day 2)
October 11: 7-12MN QCROCKS@75 at Quezon Memorial Circle

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