FOR all their wealth and stature, the Aboitizes have stayed true to their roots through the decades. And yet there is no place that displays the family’s sense of heritage and history more than the Don Ramon Aboitiz House on Elizabeth Pond St., Cebu City.
To kick off the the 50th anniversary of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), guests from media were recently given a tour to the house-turned-museum, which is curated by Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, RAFI executive director for Culture and Heritage, with the guidance of Jon Ramon Aboitiz, RAFI vice president and grandson of Don Ramon Aboitiz.
Dr. Gerra enthused that a visit to the museum offers a clearer insight into the Aboitizes: the two-storey American era house was aquired by the patriarch Don Ramon from a friend in the 1930s, survived a world war, and became witness to how a tightly knit family was nurtured by age-old values it held dear.
The museum isn’t open to the public yet, but appointments and reservations can be made for educational tours and similar purposes. For, now here’s a peek into one of the country’s most important ancestral homes and what curios can be found inside:
High Ceilings, Huge Windows. In the old days, air conditioning was all natural, including that of the Don Ramon Aboitiz House: fresh breeze would blow from all sides, and air would circulate freely to cool the house with its high ceilings. From a well-ventilated spacious room on the second floor, Jon Ramon, who guided media guests himself, pointed at the huge windows and said: “When you look here and here, there was nothing but mountains.” The room, which has an old television set and a turntable, used to be their grandmother Dolores’s private sitting room, where family and friends gathered when they came to visit.
Cebu’s First Elevator. Operated manually, the Don Ramon Aboitiz House is home to Cebu’s first elevator. “For the grandkids, the lift was the most fascinating feature of the house at that time and they played with it until they got stuck inside,” Jon Ramon recalled with glee. The elevator was located at the far end of the private sitting room and was connected to grandmother Dolores’s room. In those days, it was common for the husband and wife to have separate rooms.
Family Values. Jon Ramon shared that her grandmother Dolores, known for her frugality and prudence, kept a notebook in her room where she wrote every single centavo she spent. He also recalled how his grandfather Don Ramon would say, “God bless those who don’t waste my time,” referring to close friends and associates whom he would entertain at his private office, now the Memorabilia Room.
Word of Honor. At the Roots Room that used to be the board room, there hangs a framed handwritten quote of Don Ramon’s most famous lines: “The biggest fortune I have is my word and reputation. Money can be lost and can be recovered, but once your name and reputation is lost, one’s word is worthless and one is truly finished.” Jon Ramon said Palabra de Honor was his grandfather’s guiding principle: “He values his word and keeps his promise. This was the key to saving the company during its most trying times.”
Boat Wheel in the Roots Room. Dr. Gerra said the Roots Room on the ground floor is where visitors can fully understand the history of the Aboitizes. At the entrance is a curious object that perhaps represents how the Aboitizes charted the course of the family business: a boat wheel. This boat wheel is what remains of the wooden ship MV Tagbilaran, the only vessel in the area that survived World War 2. Shortly after the war, Don Ramon acquired this wooden ship, fixed it and made it seaworthy for their transport business. And the rest, of course, is history. (Text & Photos N.S. Villaflor)