Iloilo City Cultural Heritage: Eugenio Lopez Ancestral House (Boat House)

The house of Don Eugenio López and Doña Pacita Moreno in Jaro is better known as the Boat House on account of its nautical Art Moderne style. It was created by Architect Fernando H. Ocampo in 1935. The house features round, porthole-style windows and an expansive upper story deck like that of a ship. It was recently refurbished by Pandot, son of the original architect.

Eugenio Lopez Ancestral House

The Boat House is a fine specimen of chic 1930s Art Deco. The façade contains nautical details such as port holes and decks. The main entrance is understated and stately. The geometric, two-tone, Philippine hardwood floor reflects the opulence and optimism of the era. The hanging stairway to the tower is a functional steel sculpture.

Boat House

Boat House Flooring

Boat House Floor

Boat House stairs

Ruby Anniversary

In 1969, the Lopezes celebrated their ruby (40th) anniversary with President and Mrs. Marcos in attendance. Don Eugenio wanted a party that would stun the world. He had the money, the zest for life, and the dramatic flair. To this end, he invited European royalty-the king and queen of Bulgaria, a German prince and princess, some relatives of the Bourbons of Spain, and a couple of millionaires from Europe and America. Newspapers and magazines here and abroad dubbed it “The Party of the Century.

PAL planes were contracted to fly in the foreign guests who occupied two floors of the (then) Sheraton Hotel (now Hyatt) on the boulevard. The imported royalty was provided with ternos and barongs custom-made from measurements provided beforehand. Doña Nitang’s terno by Pitoy Moreno was decorated with rubies. Her Cartier diamond and ruby necklace and earrings, a gift of Don Eugenio, was rumored to have cost $55,000.

1,000 guests included the old Filipino elite, their business associates and friends, the Meralco executives (and their awestruck wives). Our job was to give the guests who had arrived the day before guided tours of the city.

I drew a French maitre d’hotel, darn it, while the managers of hotels and banks, the tycoons, and the lesser royalty, fell to my friends. On D-day itself, I remember us all-Shirley Ozaeta, Ditas Lerma, Eleonor Galang, Aida Lopez, and close friend Josie Rufino, going to beauty parlors for pompadours and make-up, manicure and pedicure. We all came out unbelievably beautiful but we all looked alike.

The garden was decorated with over 30,000 ruby lights. There were 300 small white tents and a central tent with a revolving top. A gazebo was erected for the three orchestras and the imported singing group. A small fountain on the table was continuously gushing champagne which was caught in glasses by the
wandering guests. The moment everyone was seated, 130 waiters served the banquet.

A 30-foot high water fountain bathed in lambent light (mistaken for the champagne fountain in subsequent newspaper reports) was the central attraction of the dancing pavilion. It had a sliding steel roof, compliments of Marubeni, a big Meralco supplier. When the fountain was turned off, a platform slid out to cover it. A huge two-tiered mock wedding cake was shelled in and twelve Lopez grandchildren burst out of it, singing and dancing. The celebration, it was reported, outdid the coming-out parties of Henry Ford’s daughters, and some of the celebrations of the Rockefellers

The dance was opened by Mr. and Mrs. Lopez and President Marcos and his First Lady. Despite Madam Imelda’s beauty the presidential couple seemed unremarkable beside the perfumed, old-rich magnificence of Doña Nitang and Don Eñing, You could hardly tell the political rumblings behind their waltz.

President Marcos didn’t relish the fact that, although the Vice President was Mr. Lopez’s brother, everyone knew who was calling the shots. The president certainly didn’t like anyone but himself doing that, As the two most powerful couples in the Philippines danced, the steel dome above them slid open to reveal a perfectly round full moon right in the center of the aperture. One couldn’t help gasping. Why, Mr. Lopez could even command the moon to stay there! It was like challenging the gods

-Gilda Cordero-Fernando in The Last Full Moon

Read also: List of Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Sites

Source: Reynaldo Gamboa Alejandro and Vicente Roman Santos in Estilo Ilonggo: Philippine Southern Lifestyle published by KCC Innovations in cooperation with DOT (2009)



Sheila is a legal editor and a digital marketing enthusiast. She is a kdrama fan, a dog person and a certified foodie!

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