La Castilla Musuem: A Walk Back in Time
If there’s one period in time that I can go back to, one of those periods would probably be the 70s. I can picture it all in my head: waking up on a Sunday morning, wearing my best dress, listening to Bee Gees’ songs in legit vinyl record and turntable while sipping coffee in a music room. This is what I thought about when me and a few of my college friends went to La Castila Museum last Friday.
La Castilla Museum was built in the 1970s as Atty. Rodolfo Pelaez and Sra. Doña Elsa Pelaez’s summer house. The Pelaez’s are one of the city’s prominent families. The couple are also the founders of the Liceo de Cagayan University which is located next to the museum. The mansion/museum is heavily inspired by European architecture and design.
Before you get inside the museum, you’ll have to pay 20 pesos as the entrance fee, then a guide will tour you around the house. From the gate, we had to walk several steps to reach the entrance of the museum. Their spacious front lawn made me think of the movie The Great Gatsby. The mansion’s facade also made me think of Ang Huling El Bimbo’s music video for reasons that is still unclear to me until now haha :)
The first thing that greeted us when we got inside the museum are these velvet chairs with eye-popping colors. There was one in royal blue, one in red, one in green, and another one in yellow. The royal blue and red ones are my favorites. The chairs, carpet, and intricately designed coffee table just made me think of Europe.
Intricately designed Ching Jars (the two clam-like jars on the left and right) are the older version of today’s compact powder
One of my favorite parts of the museum was their music room. The brown love seats, the elegant carpet, the crystal chandelier, and the drapes in an eye-popping rich color of red — everything in this room was so attractive. I felt like I was inside a European house that I pinned on Pinterest haha!
The tour guide told us that the family used to gather in the music room to listen to their children play different kinds of musical instruments. There used to be an old grand piano in the room but the family took it to their other mansion in Cebu. The guide also showed us the family’s old turntable, vinyl records, old cameras, and an old video camera.
The dining room and kitchen were nothing different. The kitchen looked like the typical 70′s kitchen with white vinyl tiles, white cupboards. and brown cabinets. Their dining room had this old wooden dining table made from a huge Narra tree.
Left: A portrait of Doña Elsa Pelaez when she was still 10 years oldRight: The family’s old turntable and a vinyl record encased in this old wooden cabinet
After ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the museum’s music room, living rooms (yes because there was like three living rooms with different kinds of furniture), dining room, and kitchen, we went to what they call The Pink Room.
It was Dr. Rafaelita Pelaez’s (the couple’s daughter) bedroom. Inside the room, souvenirs and old dolls were kept in glass cabinets. Her old dolls weren’t the small Barbie ones. It was similar to that of horror movies such as Anabelle and Conjuring! According to the tour guide, some of her dolls, when they’re wound up, will walk on their own. That freaked us a little bit haha :) The room also has Dr. Pelaez’s small bed with her initials engraved on the wooden headboard and it was so low that you couldn’t hide under it.
Some of Dr. Rafaelita Pelaez’s toys. That doll is a Japanese wind-up doll that produces a sound similar to that of a music box. This actually creeped us all out. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and hearing this doll’s sound! Hahaha
Left: A coat of arms made from metal. This can be seen in their first living room
Right: A portrait of Rafaelita’s husband hung on top of her dresser
The tour guide said that Dr. Rafaelita Pelaez used to sleep in the bedroom adjacent to her parent’s room, but the family gave her another room (which is the pink room now) when she got married. She and her husband used to sleep in the said room.
The next room that we went to was The Blue Room. Apparently, it was the boy’s room. When you enter the room, you’ll be greeted by this huge glass cabinet of different kinds of action figures, cars, and other toys. It was probably every boy’s dream back then.
I couldn’t quite remember who were Rafaelita’s brothers who slept in the room but I have a hunch that this was also her son, Rudolf Pelaez Golez, old room. Rudolf studied in Julliard School of Music in New York. After he graduated, he came back to the Philippines and had several benefit concerts. He is a whiz at the piano. Now, he is the dean emeritus of the College of Music in his family’s university.
Framed posters and Rudolf’s certificates hung on a wall of the blue room.
After touring the first floor of the museum, we went up to the second floor where we saw this wide veranda which was facing the Cagayan de Oro river. The other side of the veranda was covered in thick vines, which according the tour guide, was a relative of the poison ivy.
I can imagine the family waking up early and have tea or coffee in this veranda while breathing fresh air. It was the 70s so I assume the air quality was better then haha
Then we went inside the master’s bedroom where we were slightly creeped out by the gowns and suits displayed in glass cases. It was Doña Elsa and her husband’s bedroom. The gowns are said to be designed by Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, the same fashion designer that designed several gowns for former first lady Imelda Marcos.
Left: Doña Elsa’s wedding gown which scared us a bit when we entered the room
Right: Photo of the couple during their wedding day with several relatives. I think this was taken during their wedding day because Doña Elsa was wearing the same gown on the photo
Remember the part when the couple’s daughter, Rafaelita, slept in the room next to them? Well since Rafaelita transferred to the pink room, her old bedroom became a walk-in closet of the couple. It is where all the other gowns, suits, Rafaelita’s old bed, several wooden chests, and this huge wooden cabinet. Since she was also into sewing, an old Singer sewing machine and her framed works were displayed in the room.
Here’s one very interesting fact: the tour guide said that the last thing that Doña Elsa instructed her maids before she left for Cebu, was to never open the huge wooden cabinet. She is the only one who will open it. Ever since she left for Cebu and passed away, the cabinet was never opened. I found it very interesting and it made me wonder what was inside it. Gold or jewelry maybe? Or some really weird stuff? Haha I can only guess.
We capped off the tour by asking the tour guide several questions out of curiosity. Questions like “Have you had a weird experience while working here?” and “Where are the family now?” were thrown at her and she was happy to answer it. She admitted that she had weird experiences like lights going on and off and the vinyl record turning without anything causing it. Also she said that some of the family members have houses next to the museum and are living in the same area.
Out of all the museums I’ve visited in my city, the La Castilla Museum is probably my favorite so far. I’ve passed by the street in front of the museum several times before and I’ve always wondered what is behind the high walls covered in thick vines. Now I know! Haha :) I find the tour very interesting. It’s cool to know how one of the prominent families in the city lived their lives before.
If you’re planning to visit Cagayan de Oro soon, this place is definitely a must-visit one. It’ll transport you to a different period in time. I know this because that’s how I felt during the tour :)