Tanseco house keeps century old family records, Filipiniana dresses


BULAKAN, Bulacan—In a busy street in this old kabesera of the province, an astonishing 92-year old house still keeps today a century old record of family births and deaths posted on the door of a cabinet and more than a century old Filipiniana dresses, just among the millions of reasons that demonstrates Bulacan’s prominence as the culture and heritage capital of the country. 

While seventy three year old former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato “Boy” Dela Pena, makes their Tanseco ancestral house in Camino St. Barangay San Jose as their family’s “guest house,” and as a venue for their class reunions, little to the knowledge of people in the community and the tourists who have visited the place, the rooms in the house still keep the family’s 100 year old record and clothes. 

Former DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena with Kabesera Inc. members shows off the recorded document posted on the door of the cabinet in his grandparent’s house in Camino St. in Barangay San Jose, Bulakan town on Sept. 7. Photo taken by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

In the door of a cabinet in one of the rooms was pasted and is still readable today, a typewritten record of the marriage date of Dela Pena’s grand parents–Homobono Sempio Tanseco, and Isabel Fajardo Tanseco, with the list of all the names of their nine children, their birth dates and the deaths of some of them.

The former secretary proudly shares the sleeves of Filipiniana dresses of her 1887-born grandmother which he had preserved. Photo taken by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

“Dito nakatala ang mga pangalan ng naging bunga ng pag-iisang palad ni Homobono Tanseco at Isabel Fajardo na ginanap noong ika-2 ng Marso, sa Taong Isang Libo, Siyam na Raan at Lima. Dito din naman makikita ang araw ng pagsilang ng mga naging bunga, gayon din ang kamatayan ng ilan sa kanila,” (It is listed here the names of the fruits of the union of Tanseco at Isabel Fajardo that was held on March 2, 1905. It is here also the dates of their birth and even the deaths of some of them are also listed)”. 

Pangalan   Kapanganakan     Kamatayan 

Carlos           8 – 3 -06                           

Generoro       8 – 2 – 08

Ariel             7 – 26 – 12

Loreto           2 – 11 –15

Luz              7 – 12 – 18         

Sorrastro       4 –  9 –  21         5 – 1 – 21              

Victoriano      6 – 7 –  23          8 – 15 – 23

Marta            2 – 23 –25          5 – 26 – 25 

Editha           9 – 15 –27                                                                                                   

On the Sempio’s side, Dela Pena’s grandfather is related to Gen. Gregorio Sempio Del Pilar who also hails from Poblacion. The hero’s full name is “Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio”. A monument is built in the hero’s honor at his birthplace in Poblacion.             

Dela Pena who is the youngest of the three children of Luz said the document was made by her grandmother between 1927-1930.

His father, Emilio Dela Pena from Balanga, Bataan moved to Bulakan and became the Postmaster in the town in the 1940’s, where he met and fell in love with his mother and married her. 

During their childhood, Dela Pena and his two elder siblings, Luzviminda, 80 and Rosario, 76 were also surprised and amazed when they discovered the typewritten record of their mother and her children’s births and deaths, typewritten in a coupon bond and was posted on the cabinet’s door.

Based on the record, the Tanseco couple had nine children, three died during infancy and six lived. All six of them have already died years ago. The last one of them, Editha, the youngest, died in 2012. 

In this Sept. 17 photo, former DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena proudly tells the advantages of “ventanilla,” a wooden window at the bottom of the real window in the Tanseco house which provides additional passage of air. Ventanillas are a common design and structure in old houses. Photo taken by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

Dela Pena said the manner the list was made and how it was kept by their grandmother is really admirable. “It is not only a simple family record. It connotes our grandmother’s diligence, sincerity and emanating love to her family particularly her children that she wanted it known by all the rest in our clan even up to the next generations,” he told NEWS CORE inside the house in a recent interview. 

She said despite his Lola Isabel, who was born on November 16, 1887 in Barangay San Nicolas did not go to a formal school, she communicates and expressed herself eloquently. She learned only through “Cartilla” or the “3R’s,” (reading, writing, arithmetic), of the education system during her time which was home learning.

Perfecto Teodoro Martin, former President of Kabesera Inc., the historical, cultural and heritage group of Bulakan said some families during the earlier years really practiced writings on the cabinets not as a graffiti but as a record kept in a rather tight manner and location to keep it more protected and preserved. “May mga nakita akong ganoon sa aming lumang kabinet o aparador sa Barangay Bambang. Sinusulatan talaga ang gayong mga tagong lugar dahil malaki ang tsansa na hindi mawala ang data o anumang impormasyong nais irekord,” (I also have seen the same in our old cabinet in our ancestral house in Bambang. Those hidden spaces are also made as papers because of high chances the information can better be saved and kept), he told NEWS CORE. 

Martin said other important events in the life of the Bulakenyos—places they have visited, they had stayed for a vacation, date carabaos were bought, etc. were also commonly written in cabinets and walls. The practice was just like a journal, even measurement of height for several years, and so many others, he said.

Such houses and information are part of the cultural mapping Kabesera Inc. is currently completing today to further discover and preserve the rich culture, history and heritage of Bulakan while it braces the at par modern world ahead when the now in full works and construction New Manila International Airport begins operation in a few years. 

The former DOST Secretary said he also discovered his grandmother’s compilation of pictures, news clippings, and letters sent to her by his cousins who have moved in Manila that time. Many from his aunts and uncles have stayed in Manila for good because of their works, he said.

“The photos of their graduation, recognition, awards, family photos, news clippings of their achievements, letters.  Our lola kept them all, compiled them neatly,” he said.  According to him, he gave them back to them after their lola died so that they can keep and cherish them in their own family records.     

Other family memorabilias however, including the army uniforms of Carlos and Generoso were destroyed and disposed by Japanese guerrillas who ransacked the house during the Japanese war. 

His Lola Isabel had also left more than a dozen of her Filipiniana dresses (saya). Dela Pena was still able to retrieve and save the sleeves of some of the worn out pieces and he made them preserved in frames.

“I framed and displayed the sleeves of the saya of my lola as part of the family and the town’s heritage for women today to also see how simple yet elegant the Filipiniana dresses in the earlier years,” he said. 

He recalled his grandmother wore an all-black Filipiniana on formal occasions particularly in going to church after his grandfather died in 1951. Lola Isabel always kneels before an altar above the stairs of the house.

Just like the memorabillas of his cousins and other family members, he also distributed many of their Lola Isabel’s saya to his cousins in the United States, other countries and in Manila so that they could have their own collection of the Filipiniana dress of the first matriarch of their family.   

Dela Pena also recalled a story by his grandmother, that Anita, the younger daughter of Marcelo H. Del Pilar from Sitio Cupang in  Barangay San Nicolas, was her childhood friend.  

The house is now owned and maintained by Secretary Boy and his family. The last person who lived in the house was his Aunt Editha. But because she was a spinster,  they brought her with them to the Dela Pena’s own respective house just beside the municipal hall until she died at the age of 85 in 2012. 

Both Tanseco and the Dela Pena houses remain intact today, preserved and are admirable heritage of the rich history and culture of the old kabesera of Bulacan.

In the 2024 Pamana calendar of Kabesera, the Tanseco house will be among the featured captivating old houses of the town.

When his friends and classmates are in the house, Ka Boy makes sure he offers them some of the town’s local delicacies, the native longgniza, his favourite dish—tocho, relleno. He also brings them to local historical and religious destinations in the town like the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Shrine, Gregorio Del Pilar monument, Senator Soc Rodrigo’s house, Gen. Anacleto Enriquez shrine, etc.

“I act like their tourist guide, and they also fall in love with our town, with our history, with our culture,” he said.

Bulacan First District Rep. Danilo Domingo had filed in Congress February this year House Bill 7161 “Ac Act Establishing a Heritage Zone within the Municipality of Bulakan, Province of Bulacan” to help ensure that all the vital history, culture and heritage of the town will be preserved while the town converts itself into a premier city in the country and in the world because of the New Manila International Airport. 

The Secretary just ended his stint last year when former President Duterte finished his term. 

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