The Forgotten Old Mansion of Mango Avenue

Who remembers the old mansion of Simon Paterno and Dolores Veloso?


Cebu City today is a bustling and crowded metropolis of over a million people with high-rise apartments and office buildings and large shopping malls being built. Traffic is getting worse as jeepneys and private vehicles vying for control of the streets. More and more people are moving in from the countryside to find their fortune. The city is indeed a densely populated urban area but if you travel back in time way back when; it just like a provincial backwater as life was laid back and simple.

About a century ago, Cebu still has a lot of green and open spaces while the streets were spacious since only a few people have vehicles. No skyscrapers, airconditioned buildings, and shopping malls yet. Most people still live on nipa huts while the rich and the well-off live on the inner part of the old city with their traditional "bahay na bato." There was a strict racial and social class segregation then as the urban elite and rich mestizo population lives near the ayuntamiento and its surrounding periphery, the Chinese were assigned to the Parian, and the locals are settled even further.

By the time the Americans took over the country, they expanded the city to the outskirts so that new suburbs were built under their own urban plans. Among these places were inspired from places back in the United States like that of Los Angeles palm-tree-lined boulevard and the mountain retreats. Cebu would have places like Mango Avenue (General Maxilom Avenue) with real mango trees lined up. Some of the rich residents would soon move on to their houses on Beverly Hills and La Guardia, which is accessible to the old airport.

The Old Mansion

Apart from the recognizable landmarks and public buildings that most people know, there is this one place that true-blue city dwellers here pass by almost every day. That was the old ruin along Mango Avenue in front of the all-girls school St. Theresa's College. I myself pass by that place and wonder what the place would have looked like then. How it ended like that? Was it a haunted house like most urban legends would suggest? Was it a place where the Japanese tortured and killed a lot of people?

Unlike the usual Spanish era houses, you see downtown and in some other places like Carcar and Vigan, this house resembles a lavish villa you see in the Mediterranean or southern France. There is still that distinct Spanish-Filipino architecture features as the mansion, built on an elevated mound, overlooks a spacious lawn and elegant fountain. It also featured grand front stairs thereby allowing visitors to marvel at its magnificent splendor. It has three distinctive arches that somehow reminds you about the Arc de Triomphe when you look at the ruins later in its life.

The couple were married on July 22, 1921, this suggests that the mansion was built around that time

This mansion was the residence of Don Simon Paterno (1893-1983) and Doña Dolores Veloso (1898-1966), both heirs to old rich families. Apart from their rich inheritance, the family took advantage of the growing business opportunities brought about by the Americans. Simon was the brother-in-law of Don Vicente Madrigal through his sister Doña Susana Paterno. He managed the Madrigal businesses in Cebu especially the Madrigal Oil Mills. On the other hand, Dolores was already wealthy as she's the daughter of Don Mariano Veloso and his Spanish mestiza wife Doña Consuelo Carratala, the daughter of Barcelona-born engineer Don Enrique Carratala.


They got married on July 22, 1921, the mansion may have been built during that time considering the Art Nouveau and Roaring Twenties vibe on the architectural style. There is also a side entrance where the couple would have probably receive guests alighting from their cars.

As Cebu Carnival Queen, Consuelo hosted lavish parties and events at their residence with all the rich, powerful, and high-class socialites of the time. They were living like royalty at that time as shown on their old family photographs with their elegant wear.

The Ruins

Twenty years later, the world plunges into a world war when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. All through that harrowing four years of occupation, the city was devastated by all the bombings and wholesale destruction. The mansion was perhaps destroyed in the process as the Americans tried to liberate the island. No one can definitely tell what caused the untimely demise of this grand mansion.

Years that followed, the ruin was never rebuilt or restored to its former glory and soon it just became an urban blight as informal settlers made shelters nearby while homeless people left behind their marks by vandalizing it with their graffiti.


We may never know what happened to the Paternos and their children after they all but left their beloved residence. Perhaps, they have sought refuge in their new lives overseas and never came back to Cebu. Maybe they just left that painful past behind and live on with their lives.

Today

There is a booming residential market in Cebu as new apartments and condominiums are being built at a rapid pace. Old Cebu heritage fall on the wayside as developers only wanted modern buildings and any plan for urban heritage renewal is not on their agenda. Many old structures in the city are being demolished to give way to so-called "modern developments" that are out of place. Cebu should have reclaimed its old heritage back by preserving and rebuilding some old historic structures.


Sadly, this old mansion is all but just a footnote of our past. A new highrise residential building rises high over the foundation where it once stood.


If there is something we need to learn about history, it is to learn the lessons of the past to make the future much better. We end up selling our cultural soul in order to achieve material progress.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The Forgotten Old Mansion of Mango Avenue
The Forgotten Old Mansion of Mango Avenue
Who remembers the old mansion of Simon Paterno and Dolores Veloso?
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