Negros Oriental: The Castle House

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At first glance, it was an ordinary lot, with a white eerie worn out house designed to look like a castle. Nobody would have guessed that once upon a time, it was really built to function as such—a castle; a fortress; a mosque.

Needless to say, most of the people who pass by the area of Agan-an wonder of the “castle-like” house and even stare in awe at it for a second or two. It is definitely not the typical house that you see from day to day because the architectural design is neither modern nor usual, especially in this day and age. True enough, the castle-like house near the airport road, was built 27 years ago, which was an era that called for the protection of a fortress and 60 armed men.

During the 2nd World War, Enrique Lezana Medina Jr., a Muslim, had fled to the small town of Sta. Catalina where he had owned a farm. Tended by farmers, it was a vast cropland that provided for the basic needs of his family. Nothing was really out of the ordinary until the NPA (New People’s Army) attacked Enrique, his family, and his farmers, to obtain their vast cropland. “We were fighting it out there… many people got killed,” Enrique said.

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Still standing. Discoloration on the white paint is apparent, but despite this, the fortress remains a quiet
grandeur as it stands in its secluded lot.

In the year 1987, Enrique transferred his family in a house at Agan-an, near the airport road, which was not the castle-like house yet. This time, the NPA had followed him and again attempted to shoot him and his family. Luckily for Enrique, the police headquarters was near the place he lived in, ergo the NPA eventually stopped firing and left. “…ahh these people want to fight. Okay! I will build a house here,” Enrique said. So he did and bought the lot next to the house that his family was presently living in.

“The house has to be solid and I’m going to put my family here,” Enrique said. With the help of his architect friend, Khalid Roxas, in a span of a year, they were able to come up with a fortress. A house similar in design to a castle, which was something that Enrique deliberately asked for. It was made of pure cement—3, 000 sacks of cement; no hollow blocks; no wood. It had five rooms; each had its own comfort room, an office, an extra comfort room for the guests, a mosque, and a servants’/soldiers’ quarters adjacent to the house.

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The Mosque. Also referred to as the dome, was a popular place of worship by Muslims back in the day when there were still no mosques near Dumaguete City. This is located on the top-most floor of the house.

According to the youngest daughter of Enrique, Aisha Elham M. Opada, “It looked like a Sultan’s house…”. The marble floors were fully carpeted and their furniture was brought in all the way from Mindanao. The house was inviting in its splendor and majesty yet it kept every outsider out with 60 armed men and 12 dogs standing guard the anchor steel fences of the fortress.

All their doors were made of steel—from the main entrance and exit doors to their bathroom doors. Even the windows were covered with aluminum screens further barricaded by steel grills. It was in every sense of the word, a fortress, on the inside and out. To reiterate, contrary to this were the number of Muslims welcome to worship in this fortress that was also part-mosque. Being the only mosque in the city during that time, Muslims from various places would come to his house and asked to pray in his mosque and Enrique never denied such a request. Upon the completion of the house, no rebels ever attempted to attack or break into it which was why Enrique had finally foregone the 60 armed men and the 12 dogs.

After quite a time, he and his wife decided to part ways and left the house to his wife and children. Eventually, different people started to live in the castle-like house on different durations; and these people, along with their different lifestyles, greatly affected the exterior and interior design of the house. Carpets were taken out, chandeliers were removed, and even furniture was replaced. What was once a Sultan’s fortress, now only lies remnants of the grandeur lived once upon a time.

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Watch out. In each corner of the second floor and on the rooftop is a post for a guard. There are a total of 8 posts for soldiers on this fortress. The medieval walls barricading the second floor and the rooftop are for easy duck and cover purposes in case of a shootout.

Presently, the youngest daughter of Enrique, Aisha Elham M. Opada, along with her own family, is living in the castle-like house. Aisha was saddened to see on her return that the place was so far from what it was before. Fortunately, she and her sisters are considering a full restoration of the house. Standing for 27 years now, we look forward to seeing the fortress’s initial majesty. Until then, passers-by will continue to gawk at the mysterious castle house for they do not know the measures it takes to build a fortress dictated primarily by safety.

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Spirals inside a box. All stairs, 1, 2, and 3, are spiral or curved. Quite unusual for a house that has a box-type exterior design. According to Mr. Medina, spiral-type stairs save space.

(Original article written by Kae Nuique and Dylzaree Recentes. Edited by Jane L. Photos by Dylzaree Recentes.)

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