Many of us are familiar with a few of Dr. Jose Rizal’s close friends—Austrian teacher and author Ferdinand Blumentritt, writer and propagandist Maximo Viola, army general Antonio Luna and his brother, the political activist Juan Luna. But not too many are acquainted with the businessman and former cabeza de barangay from Dapitan, Don Mariano Balsomo Hamoy.
The two gentlemen became close friends when Rizal was exiled in Dapitan from 1892 to 1896. Rizal and Hamoy even became business partners in the abaca business. “[History books] say that [Rizal] gave my great grandfather [Mariano] P1,000 to buy abaca here [in Dapitan] and sell it to Manila. They had a partnership na 50-50 yung hatian,” Peter Hamoy, a direct descendant of Mariano tells ANCX.
When Don Mariano built his family’s house in Dapitan in 1893, Peter says Rizal was a frequent visitor. The two men’s favorite pastime when together was playing chess. It was also Dr. Rizal who delivered Don Mariano and Doña Pilar’s firstborn, Peter’s grandfather, named Pablo in 1894.
The chess set in the Hamoy residence, among other memories of Rizal and Mariano’s friendship, are kept alive in the newly restored Balay Hamoy. The heritage house was closed down for reconstruction in 2020 and was reopened to the public as a museum last July 25.
Aside from Rizal’s connection to the house, cabeza de barangays and gobernadorcillos used to visit Balay Hamoy during the Spanish colonial era. It was also called “Casa De Nuestra Señora Del Pilar” or the House of Our Lady of the Pillar since Don Mariano and Doña Pilar were both devotees of the patroness and would join her annual procession every July 24 and 25.
“Not all heritage houses have a Patron Saint or a Patroness, and the Our Lady of the Pillar has been at the Balay Hamoy since the house was built. We celebrate its Feast Day every October 12 because the birthdays of Don Mariano and Doña Pilar is also October 12, magkakapareho sila,” offers Kat Hamoy, Peter’s wife.
Kat shares that it was their youngest daughter who sparked the idea of transforming Balay Hamoy into a museum. “She came to us in tears one day because her great great grandfather was described on the internet as ‘the forgotten friend of Dr. Jose Rizal’,” Kat recalls. The girl told them, “We need to do something about this. He cannot stay forgotten forever.” The family realized they need to preserve the memories of Don Marcelino, his friendship with the National Hero, as well as the beauty and rich history of Dapitan City.
For the restoration, the Hamoys made sure to keep as faithful to the original design and essence of the house as possible, making use of materials it was originally built with: molave, yakal, narra, and kamagong. “The structure and carvings were all originally part of the house. Ninety percent of what you see here has been here for more than a century ago,” Kat adds.
Here are other antiques of interest visitors can expect to see at the museum: a statue of Our Lady of the Pillar, a Sacred Heart of Jesus engraving in front of the house, an old photograph of Don Mariano whose frame was made by known Filipino sculptor Isabelo Tampinco, a piano, jewelry, and a steamer trunk or baul which was a gift from Rizal.
Balay Hamoy is the first Department of Tourism (DOT) accredited museum in the whole Zamboanga Peninsula. It’s located at 143 Mi Retiro Street, Dapitan City. Entrance fee is P250 for adults, and P200 for government employees, medical frontliners, teachers, students, and children.
Photos from Kat Hamoy