Román Sarmiento-Ana Canarias Ancestral House
(AKA Tisa) Sta Catalina St. Erected: 1859 (present owner: great-great-grandson Manuel Valencia Castro)
At the side of the interior stairway going up is etched 2 February 1859. The house has sometimes been described as a manor house, but there’s no evidence now of a manor being around it. It looks simply like any big house in the town residential center, however imposing as it may have been compared to the others around it. The Sarmiento lands, or manor, must obviously be elsewhere.
And tisà is simply how the townspeople of Carcar refer to the house of Don Roman Sarmiento and his wife, Doña Ana Canarias since the red tile roof (tisà) identifies the house right away. While the second story wall are wood panels, the ground floor is all coral stone blocks, the same material as the church and very few other houses in the town. The coral stone base protected it from predictable floods and termites.
Termites must be the cause why no older houses of all wooden material, of which there must have been many in the centuries-old town, can no longer be found still standing in Carcar. The coral stone, too, must have distinguished the very rich people from the rest of the folks. Imagine, in the 1800s, living in a house that approximates the power of the church?
But while the stone blocks thus evoked power, the wooden intricacies on the second floor better displayed the wealth. The floor’s alternate dark red and light wood planks greet a visitor coming up the stairs and his eyes are then led to the woodwork that are the ceiling panellings, the carvings on the doors to the rooms with the ventilation fretwork. Power and wealth. The furniture, the furnishings and the collections in the house, as these could only be selected and acquired through sophistication and travel, made up the culture.
His house alone confirms Sarmiento (c.1812-1885) as one of the most prominent persons in Carcar from the mid-1800s. Records indicate he was born in Cebu City (more specifically Parian), a mestizo Sangley with the pre-Claveria name of Roman Protacio (wife’s was Ana Maria). He must already have had an ongoing business in Carcar before settling in the town for good since his son was already baptized here in 1839 at 3 days old (thus, probably born in Carcar) even while Roman was still considered a parishioner of Parian and still did not belong to any Carcar cabeza de barangay. His parents were Antonio and Dorotea Maria and had a known brother, Severo, also living in Carcar with his own family.
Roman Sarmiento became gobernadorcillo (mayor) himself of Carcar before 1857, probably the first mayor of the town (certainly the first in recorded history) to have come from Cebu City. Churchgoers to Carcar will not miss the marble lapida on the floor on the left nave from the main portal (near the door to the staircase leading to the loft) memorializing his and wife Ana Canarias’s donation of the church organ.
The family itself has heard of reports that Roman’s wife, Ana, came from Luzon. But there was a Canarias family in Carcar at around the same time, although a direct confirmation of Ana’s being related to them has not been found yet. Furthermore, a contemporary of Ana, a Martina Canarias, was the wife of Mariano Sagolili, also a mestizo Sangley from Cebu City (presumably Parian), who must also have been the patriarch of the Sagolili family in Carcar. For all we know, the entire Canarias family of Carcar could have come from Luzon, although not with the surname yet, but the likelier story would have been Roman’s getting smitten by a Carcar lass. As was Sagolili.
Anyway, Roman and Ana had four grown children: Gregorio (married to Gertrudes Villanueva); Telesfora (married to Francisco Base Urgello); Manuela (married to José Carballo Osmeña) and Licerio (married to Severa Ybáñez)—and maybe all of them already born in Carcar, with Gregorio in 1839.
Manuela’s husband, Jose Osmeña, was a son of Guillermo Osmeña and Manuela Carballo, both said to be already deceased by the time of Jose’s marriage to Manuela in Carcar (1888). In the marriage, Jose was said to have been born in Binondo.
His father, Guillermo, was a lawyer and had a bufete at 18 calle Joló (now Juan Luna) in Tondo. He figured in historical accounts first as a lawyer with other Cebu personages fighting for the retention of Parian as a parish and town, and also as the teacher of Andres Bonifacio in his (Guillermo’s) Tondo escuela. The Osmeña lands in Carcar were managed by Guillermo’s brother, Tomas, and presumably after Tomas by Jose himself. President Sergio Osmeña’s mother, Juana, was a younger half-sister of Guillermo and Tomas and other siblings.
The Tisa house descended to Manuela, and then to her and Osmeña’s only child, Catalina. Nyora Taring, as Catalina was called by the townspeople, was married to Dr. Pío Enríquez Valencia, from Paombong, Bulacan. The Valencia household was quite large and remarkable in that the children were named alphabetically from the eldest Alberto, then Benjamina, Caridad and so on, down to youngest Nilo.
Roman and Ana can be proud of their descendants some of whom, other than the Valencias, are the Gregorio Line–Air Force Col. Cesar Alegarbes, Roman (II) the sculptor and the Cacafranca and Varga families; the Urgellos of Cebu City and Carcar (including former Philippine army chief Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello who was himself born in Carcar) and Licerio’s descendants.
In 1888, Don Gregorio Sarmiento declared a property for a house situated on the road to the pantalan of Carcar. Don Gregorio, stated as married, 47 years, hacendero, born and resident of Carcar with Cedula Personal (CP) No. 7, notarized his ownership of this house in the poblacion of Carcar; that the house was composed of “madera en piso y paredes de tabique principales con bajos su cocina alcobas” that he had constructed at his own expense. The purpose for the declaration was to obtain a title to the property. He also presented as witnesses persons he hired for the construction, in order to confirm his statements: Segundo Alesna (?), casado, 41, carpintero, born and resident of Carcar, CP No. 9; Lito Alesna (?), casado, 55, albañil [mason] y carpintero, born and resident of Carcar, CP No. 9; Pelagio Gutierrez, casado, 45, cantero [stone-cutter], born and resident of Carcar, CP No. 9.
The property was physically described as located on a solar (that he owns) and is bounded by: the lot of Ruperta Alegrado; Pedro Reyes; at the rear (detras) by lots of Gregoria Alcoseba and D. Mariano Paneda [sic]; he also stated that the construction costs were 500 pesos, including “empleados, materiales, and mano de obra”; the official witnesses and signatories were: D. Nicolas Veloso and D. Tomas Avila, both residents and principales of Carcar; and D. Rafael Lopez, resident of San Nicolas (Cebu Protocolos, Doc 142, 6/8/1888; 1386: S45-S47).
The present owner is Caridad’s architect son, Manuel Castro. It was the determined efforts of Manny and his cousin Marc Van Zwoll (Leonora Valencia’s son) that restored the house back to its glory days, and more. What the two did for their great-great-grandparent’s house became the signal for the town to wake up and become more conscious of its cultural heritage. Power, Wealth, Culture. And the almost frantic care given to the restoration is appreciation for and appointment with History.
The Year 2009 celebrates both 150 years of the house and Gregorio Sarmiento’s 170th birth anniversary (November 28). Something memorable is in order.
 At least three children died in childhood: Aquilina (d. 1850), Juan (1851-1851) and Sabas (1851-1851). A Eusebio was born 1853 and I have no detail for him after that.
 Manual del Viajero de Filipinas, 1875.