'Victoneta I', the Salvador Araneta and Victoria López residence in Mandaluyong. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Derrick Manas
Manila's pre-war homes were some of the most beautiful in the Far East, for the city was host to landed families of Spanish, Chinese, and American descents. These stately homes got an upper hand location-wise, in which some of the houses were built either in the Spanish enclave of San Miguel or at the new American area of Ermita. But this is not always the case. Some families actually chose to build their homes outside of the city, where one can feel the cool breeze of the wind. An example of this was in Mandaluyong, a town not far from Manila, where the 'Victoneta' was built.
The 'Victoneta I', owned by the aristocratic couple Salvador Araneta and Victoria López de Araneta, was one of the stately homes built outside the city. Built in 1933 by three architects, namely Domingo Lerma, and the greats Juan Arellano and Andrés Luna de San Pedro, the Victoneta won the title 'Most Beautiful Home of 1933' because of Doña Victoria's luxurious taste. The house boasts a number of feats: the Victoneta had thirty-three rooms, making it one of the largest houses in the city, it had a private chapel with its own entrance, and was designed by three architects in different phases because of its massive size.
Doña Victoria López and Don Salvador Araneta. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
Don Salvador Araneta Zaragoza is the son of Don Gregorio Araneta Soriano. Both are members of the illustrious Spanish-Filipino Araneta family, whose roots hail from Gipuzkoa in the Basque Country of Spain. Doña Victoria López was a member of the López sugar barons of Iloilo, where her first cousin Don Eugenio López Hofileña was one of the country's richest men during the post-war years.
Note: Names are written in standard Spanish naming custom. Spanish names are written without the Filipino 'y'. So, for males (or single females), it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]. For married females, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]de[husband's family name]. For widows, it would be [given name][paternal family name][maternal family name]vda.de[husband's family name].
One of Victoneta's many patios and gardens. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
Victoneta's chapel entrance. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
As stated earlier, the Victoneta was built in 1933 by architects Domingo Lerma, Juan Arellano and Andrés Luna de San Pedro using the Hispano-Moresque-Mediterranean styles of architecture. Because of its grandeur, it won the title 'Most Beautiful Home of 1933'. Located on a 17,000 square meter property in Mandaluyong, Victoneta was a portmanteau of the names Victoria and Araneta, the names of the house owners. One of Victoneta's features was the chapel. The chapel had intricate seats whose interiors were designed by the great Andrés Luna de San Pedro.
Chapel interiors of the Victoneta designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
An overview of the grand sala. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
The Victoneta had a lot of rooms because of Doña Victoria López de Araneta's tastes. The house had a very large sala, or living room, where the Aranetas had the great Fernando Amorsolo commission a painting for them entitled 'The First Baptism in the Philippines'. Unfortunately, the painting, along with the rest of the house, were destroyed during the liberation of Manila in 1945.
One of the bedrooms at Victoneta. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
Victoneta's grand sala. A massive painting commissioned to Fernando Amorsolo hangs on its walls. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
The war years were a time of hardship for the Araneta couple. It has been said that the Japanese had been eyeing the house because of its sprawling property. The Aranetas vacated the house after it was confiscated by the Japanese, and left Manila for Baguio to be with the other Araneta and López family members. In 1945, the Victoneta was used as a refugee center where around seventy civilians were interred. As the combined Filipino and American forces were closing in to Manila, the Japanese had a bomb planted inside the chapel. Unfortunately, the bomb went off after a Filipino refugee accidentally detonated it. All of the refugees inside were instantly killed.
Victoneta's dining area. © Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes
After the war, Don Salvador and Doña Victoria had decided not to rebuild the Victoneta, due to the reason that many lives were killed inside. Instead, the Araneta couple abandoned the property and relocated to Malabon, where another house also named Victoneta stood.
Victoneta in ruins. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Edwina Litton Ortigas
The original Victoneta just laid in ruins for decades after 1945. The ruins were finally demolished recently.