The facade of the Don Luis Santos home in Malolos Bulacan. Photo from Art Deco Philippines on Instagram.
Culture Spotlight

Inside the most flamboyant classical Art Deco house in the country

Built in 1933 by a beloved ophthalmologist from Malolos, the house, thanks to its rigorous upkeep and sturdy materials, remains in fantastic shape 
JEROME B. GOMEZ | Oct 17 2020

Don’t let its beautiful confection of a facade fool you—the home of Dr. Luis Santos in Malolos, Bulacan is made of tough material. “The house is very much intact, George [one of the heirs] told us that termites gave up on the hard wood used to build the house,” recalls the designer JC Buendia in his blog, writing about his visit to the property. 

From the outside alone, the house already cuts an imposing figure. Photo by Judgefloro from Wikimedia Commons. 

If there’s any doubt as to how strong the structure is, one need only look above its marker from the street: engraved on its cement fence is the number “1933,” the year it was built—which means the house has survived all manner of weather fluctuations for nearly 90 years. But of course its fantastic upkeep hardly betrays its real age. 

Stepping into the garden exposes the visitor to the home's delicate and intricate-looking facade. Photo by Judgefloro from Wikimedia Commons.

The house was built by the ophthalmologist, Don Luis, son of Paulino Santos and Alberta Uitangcoy. The Santoses are an old illustrious family from Malolos, and one might say Don Luis was the Dr Belo of the EENT community in his time, owing to how famous he was. 

“It’s the most flamboyant and stupendous classical Art Deco house in the country.” Photo fromArt Deco Philippines on Instagram.
The stunning staircase with its impeccably carved railings. Photo from Art Deco Philippines on Instagram.

The house was done in the Art Deco style which was quite popular in the 1930s. “It’s stunning,” says Ivan Man Dy who featured the house in his book Deco Filipino. “It’s the most flamboyant and stupendous classical Art Deco house in the country.” 

The house is surely not lacking in drama. A bust of the original owner Dr. Luis Santos stands on the right. Photo from Art Deco Philippines on Instagram.
"Galit sa kahoy," says a former guest, perhaps jokingly commenting on the amount of wood invested in the structure, and the painstaking work done on them for the details.

 In terms of detail and craftsmanship, Dy insists there is nothing like the Luis Santos home. From the phylons to the staircase carvings to the ceiling detail, the ornate kalados and breathtaking metal grills, one must prepare to keep one’s mouth open from awe while touring the house. The facade alone is already imposing in its grandeur. The structure and interiors are great reminders of how far one can take one’s vision for one’s private space. 

The dining room. Photo from Art Deco Philippines on Instagram. 
The Amorsolo mural on the ceiling. Photo from Art Deco Philippines on Instagram.

“Upon entering you will marvel at the grand staircase, the expansive receiving room and the foyer filled with hard bound medical books and mementos of Dr. Santos’ career as a well-loved doctor in this town,” writes JC Buendia. “The second floor was something else. As our group slowly ascended the magnificent staircase, my heart skipped a beat at the sight of the ceiling mural and Art Deco details.” The mural, of course, was done by Fernando Amorsolo. Another work by an important Filipino artist is the decorative water fountain, sculpted by Guillermo Tolentino. 

The home is still used by members of the family from time to time, according to Man Dy. The floors are said to be a combination of four tree varieties, which were sailed in all the way from Bicol. But that might not be the only reason this house is as sturdy as they come. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes holds pride of place in a private chapel inside the house, and a Santo Entierro figure occupies a bedroom. The latter is brought out once every year for the Good Friday procession. 

 

For more images of the house, visit Art Deco Philippines on Instagram. To buy the Deco Filipino book, click here.