Sitio Ubos is Tagbilaran’s lower town located downhill from the backside of the St. Joseph Cathedral complex where the residence-cum-trading houses of some of the town’s merchandising families are located.
“Easily the most impressive house in Sitio Ubos is the Antonio Rocha House. It has tile roofs and stone ground floor skirting. I remember when we were still kids we used to call it the House of the Roosters because there used to be a pair of ceramic roosters standing on both ends of the main roof. The date 1831 is inscribed into a back wall, giving us an idea about the age of this grand structure. This was the house of the mestizo sangley Don Antonio Rocha who served for a long time as escribiente of the Tagbilaran parish.”
“Time had not been good for this branch of the Tagbilaran Rocha. By the 1970s its owners had to rent out some of the rooms of the house to students, One of those students later became a colleague of mine and he told me of his experiences while staying at the house. It seemed he had befriended the old lady who lived in the house and one time this old lady requested him to help her move around some of the things the family had kept at the stockroom under the house. One of the objects he saw there was this huge wooden chest full of old coins. We may never know what happened to this valuable cache. What we do know is that a member of the family sold the property to a Manila-based antique collector who shelled out some earnest money so as to gain foothold in the house, after which he began methodically stripping the house of valuable antiques before selling the house to its present Swiss owner (I got the chance to visit the house while this was going on and I saw this painting showing the very Chinese-looking Antonio Rocha, placed against the wall and stripped of its frame). My colleague who once boarded here also told me hair-raising stories of supernatural encounters here. One night while he was sleeping on his bed, he was rudely awakened when his bed was violently shaken. Another time he was awakened in the middle of the night when both his feet were pulled down by invisible hands. He sat up to see a dark shadow hovering at the foot of the bed.”
So shares Prof. Marianito Jose Luspo, a Boholano historian and president of the Bohol Arts and Cultural Heritage Council in Stories from Sitio Ubos 1 published in the Tagbilaran Tatler on April 22, 2015 (facebook file).
Considered as the “heart of the heritage district”, Sitio Ubos reputedly holds the oldest stone house (bahay na bato) in the province of Bohol, Casa Rocha, which has the date 1831 carved into a backwall.
What is currently used as a main gate is actually a side gate. The bottom part of the house is made of limestone blocks and serve as a storage area.
A flight of wooden stairs leads up into the second floor which is the main residence.
Noticeable are huge tree trunks which serve as posts and the detailed carved ornamentation on the trusses in the ceiling.
A huge faded green wooden doorway with lotus flower brass ornamentation opens into a spacious receiving room with a huge dome, a truly unique feature. A brass chandelier hangs from the center of the dome.
The back of the huge door reveals a double lock made by barricading the door with two thick, sturdy pieces of hardwood.
Scattered about are a few old chairs and an antique shell inlaid chest which serves as a center table.
An old wooden cabinet holds an antique wooden statue. The floors are made of large planks of hardwood.
Through a door, you pass into the dining area which is like a verandah with huge windows. On one side you can see the limestone backwall with the date 1831 inscribed on it.
There is an estimated 500 heritage houses and structures in Bohol out of which an estimated 300 are located in Tagbilaran City. Only a few dozen have so far been declared as Heritage Houses by the National Historical Institute, among which is the house of former Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia, a Boholano, at A. Hontanosas St.
In order to safeguard these heritage houses and structures, a city ordinance has been proposed by the City Vice Mayor and the Sangguniang Panglungsod Committee on Tourism to formulate The Tagbilaran City Heritage Conservation Guidelines and to create the Tagbilaran City Heritage District.
Modeled after Calle Crisologo in Vigan, and Intramuros in Manila, Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II said that the city is looking forward to providing incentives to private owners to help them preserve the original design of their houses instead of selling the property or having it torn down.
Aside from the heritage houses, another priority project for the mayor is the Bohol Friendship Park. This means relocating the Napoleon Abueva bronze sculpture commemorating the blood compact between Spanish Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and local chieftain Datu Sikatuna in 1565 from its current site beside the road to a mangrove park that would include an amphitheater for cultural performances, a series of shops on stilts, and a restaurant on a Spanish Galleon by the bay, with ample parking space.
Sincere gratitude to Ms. Josephine Remolador-Cabarrus, Ms. Gina Peluchi Kapirig and Mr. Neil Gerard P. Reyes of Bohol Tourism Office, Tagbilaran City Tourism Officer Ms. Shobel Ligalig, and Ms. Nonet Madrinan-Bolo who conceptualized the Tagbilaran Heritage Walk, a walking tour of Tagbilaran City’s Heritage Houses and Structures.