WE were late for our scheduled house tour by several hours, lost in time island hopping in Cantilan earlier and it was already past 7 p.m. when we stopped by the Century-old, Herrera Ancestral House in Lanuza. The house is one of the attractions that draw hundreds of tourists to Surigao del Sur province.
We were willing to go inside the house, except that there was power outage and the whole town was blanketed in darkness. The caretaker of the mansion was waiting for us but only two of our companions who felt the emergency need to use the restroom decided to brave the darkness.
The white old mansion looked forbidding in the darkness outside, and I was almost sure someone was going to open the French windows a bit a peek at us from the darkness above.
Then the caretaker issued the challenge for a night tour of the white house and most of us reluctantly agreed. I was more scared to be left outside so I joined the pack. The darkness swallowed us and all we stuck close to each other. Manang, the caretaker led the way with a small lamp and we mounted the two flights of stairs into the main hall
The gas lamp cast scary shadows on the old chandelier dominating the ceiling, making me renew my vow never to have any chandelier of my own. Still stuck to each other, we trooped to the kitchen and the rooms and were ready to go when the caretaker said we should check the ground floor where the library is. We were hesitant but we followed her down the dark wooden stairs and into a garage. She unlocked a door and we crowded into a room filled with shelves and dressers, mirrors and an assortment of old knick-knacks.
I discovered that they have relocated most of the relics to the ground floor including the century old iron, pitchers, stoves and other utensils, an antique typewriter, a whole row of religious statues, and I was shocked to find out I was leaning on a cabinet full of dolls. I never had a doll in my entire life, even as a kid. I was always scared of them and seeing them in the dark shadows.
I clicked the shutter randomly, not knowing if I got anything in focus or not. I kept aiming my camera at the open doors and flashed without even looking what was in there, too scared to peek. Aiming my camera at one of the dolls, I clicked, not aware that Roland had lowered his flashlight, giving the doll a more scary effect.
I visited this mansion for the first time in 2007 with photographers Rhonson Ng and Jojie Alcantara, in broad daylight and it was not scary at all, except for one of the rooms where I felt goose bumps but in the dark, it was different. An old rocking chair also fired my imagination, and I can feel it rocking by itself anytime like there was someone invisible sitting on it.
Situated just a block away from the Prospero B. Pichay Sr. Boulevard, the Herrera Ancestral House was built on May 28, 1898 for business purposes. The “White House” as it is popularly called is owned by the late Don Gabriel Uriarte Herrera, the first mayor of Cantilan. The White House is well-maintained and is now managed by his heirs.
Any visit to Surigao del Sur won’t be complete without a tour of this historical White House. Come on a regular day to view varied antiques and relics as it also serves as the museum of the municipality.
A few meters away from the White House is the Surf Camp and Boulevard Café, a favorite surfer rendezvous that offers reasonable rates for overnight to longer stays for tourists.
By air: Lanuza is accessible by air through Bancasi Domestic Airport in Butuan City and Surigao Domestic Airport in Surigao City. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airlines fly regularly to these routes.
By sea: Regular sea trips are available through various shipping lines like Cokaliong, Cebu Ferries, WG&A, etc. from Surigao City and Nasipit ports in Agusan del Norte.
By Land: Lanuza is accessible by land through buses, jeepneys, vans and other vehicles for hire from any point in the Caraga Region, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.