With the intention of understanding how Filipinos lived during the Spanish colonial era, we took a class trip to Casa Manila, a reconstructed Spanish colonial mansion of the mid-1800s, having in mind that we would get to see or have a preview of how the architecture was during the Spanish colonial period. Through taking a glimpse into a reconstructed replica of an original Spanish period house, we thought that the structure would enlighten us as to what the living conditions were like during the era. However, the edifice was not confine into presenting artifacts and materials classed only under the Spanish colonial period but it displayed diverse furnishings and artworks that range from the 17th to the early 20th century. Included was a collection of antique furniture and furnishings from China and Europe, which dates back in the 19th century as it showcased Chinese ceramics, crystal chandeliers, marble-top tables and other such items that showed the luxury of the era.
As these details were figured out, it appears as though Casa Manila was designed to showcase the Intramuros lifestyle of upperclass Filipinos at the turn of the century as it recreates how the ilustrados’ way of life was in the 19th century Manila. Casa Manila in a way tried to epitomize the style of living of the Philippine upper class, or ilustrados as they were known at the time. To say the least, Casa Manila gave the impression that the Filipino mentality of “more is better” may in fact obtain its roots from colonial times as it seemed to be already apparent among the ilustrados then. Also, the openness and spaciousness of the ante-sala and sala along with the intricate artworks on the walls and the ceiling gave a boastful feel of an opulent lifestyle. Upon further scrutiny of the area, the interiors appeared to be an eclectic blend of the different cultures which have influenced the Philippines as there were a few antique ornaments dating back to the period.
In light of the gathered information from the trip (some of which were provided by the eager-to-inform guards), eventhough Casa Manila is not actually an ancestral home, but instead is a replica of a 19th century Binondo residence that strives for authenticity, it still in a way gave a feel of what ilustrados were like and what it was like to live rich in Intramuros back then as each room is set up in a period style and decorated with antique furniture that transports us back over a hundred years in time. Nevertheless, it is of importance to note that visitors of the Casa Manila may be made aware of the fact that the interior of Casa Manila does not represent a particular period in our history but is actually a mix of the different cultures since it is very likely that it (Casa Manila) gives out this false notion. Casa Manila should therefore be approached with a view that the items inside does not really correspond to a specific era and does not confine itself to that era but intend to showcase the luxurious living of our ancestors during colonial times.