I am a descendant of the Atega family.
Let me repeat that for clarification — I am a descendant of the Atega family. Now, you’ve heard it twice. What’s the big deal?
Well, you see, I am currently residing at the famed Atega household in Cabadbaran City, a barangay in Mindanao. We’ve been coming here for years because this house is our ancestral home, passed down through generations from the start of the my ancestors’ copra (coconut) business.
Before coming to the house, we stopped by our ancestors’ grave site, a small, gated area where all of my ancestors have been buried, including the original owner of the house, my great-great-grandfather. The sons and daughters of our Spanish ancestors were laid to rest here many years ago, and it’s easy to see the intricate family history from the way the tombs are organized.
The house has been featured in books, magazines, and articles because of its history as well as its inner beauty. The house has been well-kept since its establishment in 1904 by my great-great grandfather, Don Andres Atega. His father, Pedro Garcia, moved to the Philippines from Spain to share his faith as a friar.
Chandeliers, dark hardwood floors, original furnishings, and ornate imports embellish the house from ceiling to floor. On top of that, the architecture of the house is extremely unique, an amalgamation of European and Filipino elements. There are a few rooms that are very open, like this living room area. During its time it was one of the premier designs in the area, with top-of-the line imports and its flashy glamour. Walking in here was like walking back in time.
Around the house, old photos dating back to the early 1900s can be spotted, as well as paintings of the original owners. The legend about this wall is that “if you’re not dead, you’re not on here.” These photos reflect many of my family members who passed away long before I was born. However, the age and expressions of the people in the portraits adds an element of intrigue and mystery.
There are also original letters and journals of my great-great-great grandfather’s, which are written in Spanish. These have been preserved for decades and are kept in the common area for visitors to see for themselves.
Through its time the house has served not only as a home to over seven generations of people, but also as a WWII hospital, a jail, an embalming site, and a bar. Many people died or were killed here, as the house was used not only to house people, but as a headquarters for the Japanese military during WWII. Now, needless to say, there have been plenty of stories of the supernatural surrounding this mysterious house.
One of the stories involves a particular guest waking up in the middle of the night screaming, his bed levitating over six feet off the ground. There are also rumors that a woman in white is seen often around the house and the surrounding town — her name is Roberta and she is one of my grandfather’s many wives. Another story I’ve heard was about the piano playing in the night without anyone in the room. Aside from that, stories of moving furniture, clinking chain noises, and other supernatural elements are not uncommon among my relatives who live here.
While we were looking around the house, one of my uncles offered to let us see one of the haunted rooms. It looked like something out of a movie, with its dusty cobwebs and vintage linens. It looked as if no one had been in the room for decades.
They usually keep these rooms locked and off-limits because they are “haunted;” that is, most of the unexplainable occurrences of the house have happened here.
I’ll be staying here for two nights, and in this time I hope to hear and see more of the character and stories that this house has to offer. Ancestry is a very important thing here in the Philippines, and I’m learning a lot about mine by staying in the very bedroom where my great-grandmother lived.
I won’t go too much into my family history because it’s pretty extensive (though if anyone’s actually interested to hear more I’d be happy to chat with you!). But just take my word for it — this house certainly has a “living” vibe to it from the many stories that lie within its walls.