It all started with a lamp
By JENARA REGIS NEWMAN
Reprinted from July 1994
Dr. Lydia Aznar Alfonso's
unique collection of antiques,
artifacts, and art works
showcases the cultural legacy
of Cebu, a province in central
WHEN Dr Lydia Aznar Alfonso built her own home thirty years ago, she looked for an antique lamp for the nursery. Before she knew it, she was hooked into antiques. Today, she has one of the best collections of antiques and prehistoric artifacts, as well as an impressive collection of modern Cebuano art.
Lydia, widow of Dr Antonio Alfonso, grew up in the large household of the founders of the Southwestern University, Don Matias and Dona Anunciacion (Barcenilla) Aznar, in Cebu City, queen capital of central Philippines. Lydia became a doctor, specialising in obstetric-gynecology.
These days, she's not in obstetrics anymore, but she still works and finds time for her other passion: art and antiques.
Some of Lydia's collections, including white claw
dragon jars, a Santo Niño with a silver crown,
and assorted satoses from Cebu. The portrait of
Lydia is by Cebuano artist Boy Sagario.
After the lamp, she bought from the lamp-seller celadon jarlets for P300. At that time she did not know a Ming or a Sung, but she got the jarlets after a collector told her about celadon.
The jarlets got her interested in antiques. She read books about them and went to experts at the University of San Carlos. And she started collecting, and learning more and more about what she collected. Finally, she went digging on her own.
In Mactan, she dug some potteries and eventually bought the whole place. She also dug some coffins with trade beads in them. She was so hooked she hired an archaelogist to help her. Whenever a dealer would offer her something, she would go to the site of the diggings in Carcar, Sibonga, Argao, Liloan, Consolacion, Badian.
For thirty years, she kept house for husband Tony, reared three children, practised medicine and helped in the family businesses, and acquired an impressive collection of burial artifacts, prehistoric
stone implements, potteries and ceramics, jewellery (gold and beads), santoses and church relics, including a collection of modern Cebuano art.
Her collection makes Lydia's house a veritable museum. It's a split-level house that sits on a hill in Pardo in the periphery of Cebu City. A few years back, she had another house built next door for a married daughter. Lydia has made sure no other house would block her view of the city below, the islands of Mactan and Bohol in the distance, and Talisay, site of the landing of American troops that liberated the province from the Japanese during the last world war.
To display her collection better she made her basement the depository of her diggings and other artifacts. And a hall was added to the basement for her collection of contemporary Cebuano art.
At this stage in her life, Lydia looks at her collection as a heritage for all Cebuanos to share. Part of it, on loan, is the
Lydia stands in front of a painting
by W.R. Cuevas, Jr.
core collection of the newly-opened Southwestern University museum which has on exhibit artifacts which tell the story of Cebu, from prehistoric to pre-Hispanic times to the Spanish, the American and modern eras.
Eventually, Lydia Aznar Alfonso's collection will be housed in a museum that will showcase Cebu's cultural legacy and Cebu's role in Philippine history. Her dream of a museum will materialise on a Pardo hill near her present home.