An “arcaded sidewalk design” was proposed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to preserve the century-old houses along MJ Cuenco Avenue during implementation of its road-widening project.
DPWH Cebu City District engineer Nicomedes Leonor said they are considering to adopt the design in which they will only cut a portion of the structure’s ground floor for use as a sidewalk.
The design will preserve the house’s upper floor, he said. Nicomedes mentioned the design of the Yutivo building along D. Jakosalem Street and located beside the city hall and several buildings in Colon Street as an example.
But will the adoption of an arcaded sidewalk affect the structural integrity especially of the two century old houses owned by Dominga Querubin and Nasersas Macasero?
“Unsa on man kaha na nila pag trabaho (How would they work on it)?,” said a hesitant Juanita Chiu, granddaughter of the late house owner Dominga Querubin.
Chiu occupies the century-old wooden house located before the Ayala access road.
Their two-story structure bearing a Chinese-inspired design was built by their Chinese businessman-grandfather in 1890.
Her family managed to preserve their house although its ground floor was already converted into a grocery store.
“My siblings and I would have to talk and we’ll agree on a plan. How would they widen the road without damaging the house,” Chiu said.
Leonor said adopting the arcaded sidewalk design was safe to do.
He said they could retain the ancestral house’s existing posts especially those facing M. J. Cuenco Avenue and make these part of the sidewalk.
Dr. Maria Serena Diokno, chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), warned the DPWH against the destruction of the Querubin and the Macasero ancestral homes.
The Macasero ancestral home is located in the corner of L. Tudtud Street and in front of the Petron gasoline station.
Its lower floor is now used as display area for bricks and tiles among others. Its upper floor is used as a residence.
Jerry Gloria, who earlier wrote Diokno to call her attention on the need to preserve the two century old houses, said the Macasero ancestral house was used as a hospital during the World War II.
It was later used as an extension of the Mabolo elementary school during the liberation.
Former north district Raul del Mar said the DPWH should be left to negotiate with property and house owners.
If negotiations fail, they could later tap the intervention of the NHCP, he said.
“Any means to preserve old structure in the area while implementing the road widening project should be looked into,” the elder del Mar said.
Speaking on behalf of his daughter, Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar who is still out of the country, Raul said clearly defined sidewalks will have to be established in the area during implementation of the road-widening project.
Del Mar and Leonor met with affected property owners as part of their ongoing consultation inside the Chiu compound on Saturday night.
“If the property owners accept our proposals then no problem. But if they do not accept, we will have to work out something that will satisfy the property owners,” he said.
Leonor said they plan to cut 2.3 meters from the Querubin property of which the measurement starts from the gutter of the existing sidewalk.
About 1.5 meters of the 2.3 meter property will be used for road right of way.
He said they will adopt the arcaded sidewalk design to ensure that the Querubin ancestral house is preserved.
Leonor said the preservation of the old structures along M. J. Cuenco Avenue is only one of many concerns with property owners.
He said they also need to discuss with property owners which part of their properties will be used in the widening project.
“We don’t expect it to be easy. It’s tougher if they disagree, in which case we’ll be forced to expropriate,” Leonor said.
Leonor said the widening of Escario Street from Gorordo Avenue to Archbishop Reyes Avenue which they started in 2002 has yet to be completed to date due to a property owner’s refusal
The property located at the corner of Gorordo Avenue and beside the Golden Peak Hotel is now used as a Korean store.
As much as possible, Leonor said they want to avoid a similar problem in their widening project on M. J. Cuenco Avenue.
Leonor said under the DPWH design, they intend to expand to 26 meters the width of M. J. Cuenco Avenue at the intersection of General Maxilom Avenue where the flyover project will soon be built. /Doris C. Bongcac, Chief of Reporters