His name is Rusty. We met him when we decided to visit the Syquia Mansion without an appointment. We are not sure if we needed to make one. But we were a group of 12 pax, and so we thought it would be worth his while to give us a guided tour. Besides, how can he refuse my 2 “elves”?
Gathered on the 2nd floor of the Mansion, Rusty immediately went into Tour Guide mode. He was very systematic. Laid down the rules early on. He reminded everyone to stay together; no one should stray away as we move from hall to hall, from room to room. No camwhoring while tour is underway. Photos can be taken only AFTER his monologue. One can ask questions, but no one should touch anything.
I’ve met these types. And love them all. Stickler for rules. Efficient. Passionate with what they do. Fierce! And they know exactly what information to dish out to perk up our interest as we move around the heritage house.
Rusty belongs to a family of caretakers. He is 5th generation and being single, he claims to be the last caretaker from the same family taking care of the Mansion. He lives here. Alone. He is not young anymore, and when he goes, we wonder who would dare take his place. It’s a beautiful house. But we all found it a little creepy. When asked, Rusty admitted to “faint” creepy stuff happening in this Mansion during his watch. Yay!
Rusty started off by pointing out the “holes” strategically located around the Mansion. The first hole is on the floor, to peek newly-arrived visitors in the ground floor of the Mansion. When deemed “worthy”, the guests are then led to a receiving anteroom upstairs. From where they are seated, another peep-hole is used to check if the same guests are “worthy” to enter through the Main Door and into the sala or living room of the Mansion. My “elves” love this trivia about lifestyles and practices back then.
As “worthy guests”, we were first shown the most precious antique piece in the house. A Ming Dynasty vase made of silver graced a round table in the anteroom. Its ‘twin vase’ graces another round table inside the living room, but its beauty and importance is overshadowed by a painting of the lady of the house, resplendent in her pink gown. This lady is Vicky, the daughter of former president Elpidio Quirino, a widower when he assumed the presidency of the republic. His daughter is thus the youngest ever First Lady of the country. In fact, the only teenage First Lady I know. She is also the only First Lady who got married. Not being a Presidential Spouse, Vicky married Luis Gonzales of Pangasinan when she turned 19, with whom she had 3 daughters and 1 son, Louie, whom many know as the man who married Kuh Ledesma. Luis died and left Vicky a widow in 1984. Vicky then remarried a man by the name of Don Paco Delgado, a shipping magnate. This marriage was marred by tragedy and a lot of controversies which haunt the descendants to this day. But that’s another story, isn’t it?
Glibly referred to as the Quirino Mansion, this heritage house was actually inherited by the wife of Elpidio Quirino, the very first Ilocano President. From the Chinese family of Sy Kia, the house was passed on to Dona Alicia, who unfortunately died during the Second World War , along with 3 of their 5 children, while fleeing their home. This widower was subsequently sworn in as the 6th President 2 days after then President Manuel Roxas died in 1948.
Rusty informed us that the Mansion belongs to no single person, but instead to all the surviving heirs of the Quirino clan. While not one of the heirs live here, Rusty claims there are enough affairs held here to keep them all busy. No wonder the Mansion has a more “modern” and functioning kitchen that looks out to a patio and a fountain. I can just imagine the parties held here. I just wonder if any of the guests stay behind to spend a night or two here. Surely, the big beds in the bedrooms can accommodate them. 🙂