Spending the last hurrah of the August holidays before this year embarks on the “ber” months is a trip to the neighboring region in Visayas, and if you’re up for heritage and cultural experience, the best place to be is Negros Occidental.

We planned to spend our Day 1 to The Ruins in Talisay City but unluckily, the place was closed as we got there.  We were a bit disappointed with the tricycle driver as he charged us the exact fare despite the fact that we’re not even close to the gate or have completed the trips. No  time was wasted as we ignore this pitfall in traveling with a stranger and immediately we headed on to Silay City.

SILAY CITY – THE HERITAGE HUB

Silay is dubbed with different names as the Paris of Negros, the Museum Ciy, the Athens of the Orient Seas, being the cultural and intellectual hub in the region and its well preserved heritage ancestral houses. Silayanons are fond of arts, knowledge and cultural shows. History tells us that the first known settlement was in 1565 in Carobcob.  “Carobcob” is  a native word meaning “to scratch”  owing to the villagers means of livelihood by scratching for “Tuway” shells. According to local folklore, Silay got its name from Kansilay, a brave princess who fought the Moro marauders. She died and a mysterious tree grew in her honor.

On ordinary days, Silay is bustling with provincial life: laid back and slow paced. Strolling the main avenue, are several old buildings that still bear the rich historical and architectural taste of the former glory of Silay. There are well preserved ancestral houses, with Mediterranean aesthetics which you can imagine how dramatic it is to live in this place. How is it like to live before wearing a kimona and patadyong, looking by the sliding window while being serenaded by a bachelor in camisa de chino.  I have this temptation to go inside each house and allow my eyes taking these images one at a time. What was waste of a lifetime not to discover these places and before sundown, we visited few and notable ancestral houses and landmarks.

 EL IDEAL BAKERY

What I can say, I love romantic locations and this spot just catch my fancy. Built  by the late Cesar Lacson Locsin,  El Idea served heritage recipes since 1920s. They sell delicious delicacies like cookies, biscuits, empanada, broas, biscocho among others. For our good food adventure, we tried their best empanada at Php 40.00 and mais con yelo at Php 58.00 Very affordable and good for romantic dates.

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Facade of El Ideal
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Refreshing snacks

BALAY NEGRENSE

At Cinco de Noviembre St, I asked one of the street food sellers, where is Balay Negrense, he said go straight and look for the big house with no paint. He’s right, the house was predominantly unpainted with its brown wooden structure and on the first floor was made of concrete walls with local hardwood as the foundation. Balay Negrense was originally owned by Victor F. Gaston the elder son of late French sugar baron Yves Leopold Germain Gaston. To date, the house is officially one of the heritage houses listed in the National Historical Institute of the Philippines. I can’t help but feel something weird looking at those huge trees circling around the yard. It also has its Mediterranean influence with this Greek white columns located outside the house. How about picturing yourself like  in Alice in Wonderland or be in Encantadia.

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BERNARDINO JALANDONI MUSEUM

One thing not to missed when in Silay is to visit the Bernardino Jalandoni ancestral house located at the main street of Rizal. We were enthused by Ms. Amor, the museum’s tour guide about the historical and the family background of the house. The lower part of the house was used as a bodega wherein you will be greeted with the two karitelas and a weaving loom.

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Karitela
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Weaving loom

The wooden stair case winding up to the second story gives an enigmatic feeling. Looking at the different sizes of old family pictures with forlorn faces is like asking us why were here feels uncomfortable. I felt goosebumps again as we lead our way where I was captivated with everything I see. Every nook and cranny is elegant, a good picture to capture with. What I love about this house is the rare kind of antique living room fixtures: from well crafted chairs, old telephone, pottery, chandelier,  Singer sewing machine to old Steinway piano, the old family pictures, the old rocking chair which I did not dare to touch. And the books in its original hardbound form and even the dining glass wares in the dining area are classy too.

According to Ms Amor, the second floor is  made of shiny hardwood from Mindoro and some of their materials are imported from Germany. The living room is a testament how old wealthy Filipinos had its sophisticated and elegant lifestyle.  I could just imagine the meetings on the whereabouts of the hacienda; the highs and lows of sugar business; tea chit-chats on the marriages, births and deaths are being held in this family space. Or perhaps this is the spot where ladies sew and do embroidery to while away time

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I took a chance to chat with the caretaker and asked if are their unusual presence he noticed while working in the museum. I asked him because my hands tempted to touch one of walking cane which I know was originally used by the owner. He answered me with a nod and said that several times before, he even wakes up to a sound of steps in the second floor. Too late, I already did touch the cane and felt the intricate textures in my palm.

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Another room. I think this is the Master’s bedroom.
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The room of the elder son
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A ladies room with a wooden chest. Not shown is arinola beneath the  table with a sink.

I could not fail to notice the last room near the window where there is an old baby crib. I asked my travel partner – Anwar if he was able to get a picture of it, and wasn’t surprise to know that he didn’t because it was really strange to go near the room.

But here’s the undaunted attempt to capture this room with a baby crib using a low tech phone camera. Looks creepy, right?

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We took a side tours on the commercial establishments and landmarks in the heart of Silay heritage zone.

SAN DIEGO PRO CATHEDRAL

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GOLEZ ANCESTRAL HOUSE

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SIDE TRIPS

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There are still a lot of ancestral houses to visit, but due to time constraint, we need to go back to Bacolod City on time to prepare for our second trip to Cauayan. A next trip to share for.

It was indeed a commendable effort of the family  and descendants of the house owners to preserve these heritage sites, despite modernism reminds us to keep up and evolve. Yet, the beauty of heritage and history is still there to fascinate us.  It is not all about the physical appearances but what’s more important are their stories of hardships and triumphs so that these can be shared to the next generation, that once upon a time, we have a rich heritage and history  as a Filipino. We have something to hold on to our past, so we can move forward and understand where we are coming from.

TRAVEL GUIDE/TIPS

  • Were staying at Lacson Street, so we took a Bata – Libertad route jeepney to reach Bacolod City North Bus Terminal, fare is Php 10.00 The terminal is a modern type with lots of Ceres buses and food and mini marts. Before riding a bus, buy tickets in designated booths. Find a Ceres bus bound to Victorias City, fare is  Php 15.00.
  • Depends on your travel itinerary, since we’re already hungry we decided to stop over first at a bakeshop. So first stop is El Ideal since it’s location is strategic for bus unloading area.
  • Better start in the morning, so you still have ample time to visit more or less 20 other notable houses in Silay. See the heritage list at  http://www.silayheritage.com/p/silay-heritage-list.html for more of declared and marked heritage houses.
Historical sources: Internet
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