The Heritage Houses of Silay City

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February 17th 2011
Published: February 21st 2011
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The RuinsThe RuinsThe Ruins

Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson Ancestral Home in Talisay City, Negros Occidental. This Mansion was torched by the US Army to prevent the Japanese from using the Mansion as Headquarters. It took 3 days to burn, yet the basic structure remains.

This. Is. More. Than. Just. A. Wedding.

Friends from all over are flying in for this wedding. College and high school friends from way back, who remained friends for all of 40 years. (Does that tell you how old I am?) Many of us stayed in the same dormitory for a time long enough to make sisters out of us. A time when we partied well into the morning, donned the shortest skirts and the tightest shirts, wore head bands on wet, frizzed, unkept long hair, and our jewelry cases counted too many huge dangling earrings. Our mothers screamed in terrror over our fashion sense. Our fathers could only shake their heads in frustration. 😞

Our male friends at the time were mostly guitar-strumming college boys whose hair were longer than ours. Oh, you should see them now. That mane has since been replaced by receding hairlines and shining bald heads. Tee hee. Some of us, then childhood sweethearts, actually ended up with each other. Some remained married. Others ended up as friends or enemies. Some of the girls "shared" a common boyfriend. That boyfriend won't be invited to this wedding party. Oh, I forget,
Ancestral House of Manuel Severino HofileniaAncestral House of Manuel Severino HofileniaAncestral House of Manuel Severino Hofilenia

Built in 1934, just a few steps from the corner of Cinco de Noviembre and Zamora St. Art collection includes works of Dr. Jose Rizal, Juan Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Manansala, Hechanova, etc.
there is one who was invited but won't be coming. (Coward! 😊)

Old Friends Assembling In An Old City

Took the 9am flight from Manila to Bacolod City, where my friends are waiting to fetch me and bring me to my hotel. Some of my college friends are already nicely settled in the hotel, ready for our friend's daughter's wedding tomorrow February 18, 2011. There was also lunch to celebrate the birthday of the mother of the bride, and another friend. Geesh, some congregation here. The screaming, the giggling wouldn't stop. We were simply too happy to see each other and spend a few days together like the good old times.

Lunch was in the mountains in a town called Don Salvador. And what sumptuous buffet lunch we had. Residents of Silay City and Bacolod City are called Ilonggas and speak a certain dialect. They talk with a sing-song accent and the joke is that they may be saying they'd murder you without you noticing the horrible message because of how sweetly they express themselves. They also have their own cuisine, to which I was introduced since I met this bunch of
Teodoro Morada Ancestral HouseTeodoro Morada Ancestral HouseTeodoro Morada Ancestral House

Restored to its former glory by its new owners, Rene and Jessica Dimacali. House is just a few steps from the Hofilenia House.
Ilonggas back in school. My memories include many "pasalubongs" or food gifts from them whenever they get back after a semestral break. I'm telling you, my taste buds have the memory of an with my sense of scent. I can smell good food a mile away 😊.

You bet we had a very long unhurried lunch, peppered with jokes that have been ritually repeated every time we get the chance to meet. Needless to say, the joke about the boyfriend shared by my 2 girl friends scores big time. Good thing he didn't come so we can freely talk about the poor fella! We also had a good laugh about the girl who had a string of boyfriends from A to Z , except X. No kidding. She has held that record and will die with that unbeatable record.

A Specter of Affluence from a Bygone Era

Silay City, is less than an hour away from Bacolod City. Just a 30 minute drive. It is in the Philippines' Western Visayas region and the flight took less than an hour from Manila. Because it counted many famous artists during its heyday, it
Lino Lope Severino BuildingLino Lope Severino BuildingLino Lope Severino Building

Formerly a department store (the first in Negros), this old building is now being used as an Inn by the Baldevia Family.
was then dubbed the "Paris of Negros". A number of heritage houses , mostly built at the turn of the 19th century, still exist, some remarkably well preserved, to this day.

It should be mentioned that Negros is the seat of the country's sugarcane industry. Many sugarcane plantations flourished and brought wealth to a number of families here. In our country, they were called hacienderos, taken from the word "hacienda" which means a big plantation or farm. Hacienderos refer to their owners or the families who owned them. These days, whenever we meet landed gentry, rich elitist families, we are tempted to call them "hacienderos". 😊

The Heritage Houses of Silay City

Silay City enjoyed its Golden Age with the boom of the sugar trading industry. This is the period from 1880 to 1930. Many of our parents and grandparents were born during this period. The city oozed with wealth and enviable affluence. Children of many sugar barons enjoyed their fortunes which manifested in the number of beautiful ancestral homes in the city. Interestingly, this period was also marked by the country's bid for independence from Spain. More interestingly, many of our national
Cathedral of San Diego de AlcalaCathedral of San Diego de AlcalaCathedral of San Diego de Alcala

During the war, the dome was painted black so it won't be so visible and thus be spared of air strikes and carpet bombing.
heroes and artists actually came from prominent families such as the barons from this part of the country. For a while, Silay City and its neighboring Bacolod City served as the hub for European artists and musicians. This atmosphere must have spawned the emergence, and prominence of many of our local artists and musicians in this part of the country.

Victorias Milling Company can be found in Silay City. You'd better believe this, but it used to be the world’s biggest mill from 1960′s -70′s. No wonder then, right? After all, these hacienderos observed a regular schedule of work limited to just 6 months (planting season), and another 6 months of harvesting and spending their fortunes. Those 6 "idle" months must have invariably spelled "party season" for the rich and famous Ilonggo families. Naturally, the ancestral houses one finds here have big lawns and gardens, as well as grand receiving rooms complete with chandeliers and grand pianos . Imagine the parties they threw here when the scions of wealthy families must have grown tired counting their fortunes!

There are several ancestral houses just off the San Diego Pro-Cathedral along Rizal Street. One may
Cathedral of San DiegoCathedral of San DiegoCathedral of San Diego

Built in 1925 at a cost of 200,000 pesos. Designed by Italian architect Bernasconi, funded 80% by Jose R. Ledesma Church was ordered bombed by Japanese Imperial Army but Lt. Doi who then headed the contingent did not carry out the order.
opt to start a walking tour from here or from El Ideal Bakery, also along Rizal Street. Since we had an appointment for a guided tour at the Hofilena Heritage Home, we started our tour here. Hofileña Ancestral House is the repository of the private art collection of Ramon H. Hofileña. The exhibit includes the work of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal , and a number of top artists in the country like Juan Luna, Hidalgo, H. R. Ocampo, Manansala, Joya, etc. We had the good fortune to have Mon Hofilena himself give us the guided tour of this lovely heritage house. Mon shared many historical trivia with us, peppered with some of his own personal history. There were many portraits of Mon in the second storey of the house, painted by some of his friends like Hechanova whom Mon thinks should have been given more recognition as a Filipino artist of note. The photos of the Hofilena ancestors and children were also all over the house, along with newspaper and magazine clippings featuring the accomplishments of the Hofilena children. Mon didn't forget to also mention how he was the first Filipino male bikini model (he is now
Balay NegrenseBalay NegrenseBalay Negrense

Built in the 1900s by the son of a Frenchman who settled in Silay in 1837 and installed the first economical sugar mill. Gaston was married to a Filipina from Batangas. The house has 12 bedrooms .
77 years old) and showed us some of his nude paintings with "strategically located" post-its in case there are children in the tour group. Wink Wink.

Not far from the Hofilenia House but not open to the public is this private home formerly owned by the family of Teodora Morada. The Dimacalis who bought this property restored, maintained and preserved the grandeur of this charming white colonial house. As with the Hofilenia residence, there was also the grand staircase where one imagines the debutante daughters of the former owners of this mansion walking down , resplendent in their designer gowns. Teeming with prosperity, many daughters from these wealthy families enjoyed this "introduction to society" (debut) by way of lavish parties celebrating their 18th birthday.

Balay Negrense is the ancestral mansion of the Gaston Family which has since been converted into a museum showcasing how sugar planters lived at the beginning of the century. The property has a huge front lawn , and a just as huge living room, and an even bigger second floor receiving room. Up on the second floor are the rooms, where canopied beds, antique Filipiniana costumes and other memorabilia
Balay NegrenseBalay NegrenseBalay Negrense

The receiving room is on the 2nd floor, reached by a double staircase.
are on display. You would even find collections of old dolls and other toys in what could have been a children's room. (Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday at 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Cinco de Noviembre Street Tel. No. 4954916.)

Bernardino Jalandoni House, now also a Museum, was built in 1908. This house showcases the affluence of Negros at the turn of the 19th century. All items on display are authentic period pieces. Interestingly, a grandson of Don Bernardino is a high-ranking leader of the country's Communist Party. His name is Luis Jalandoni who is now exiled in the Netherlands. (It is located at Rizal Street with Tel. No. 4955093. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.). Strolling along this same Rizal Street, one finds many more heritage gems which have since been converted into banks, eating establishments or other business offices. The entire Silay City is definitely one heritage town!

The Ruins. That's how they call this former mansion built by Don Mariano in memory of his departed wife Maria Braga who died while giving birth to their youngest child in 1911. Sounds similar to
The RuinsThe RuinsThe Ruins

Best time to visit is at dusk. Unfortunately, there were too many visitors at the time I visited that it was a challenge to take photos.
the Taj Mahal of India? The Mansion pales in comparison to the Taj Majal, but its timeless elegance resonates of an era when sugar barons ruled the land. What is amazing about this place is that it was built right in the middle of the sugar plantation. With its many huge windows, the sugar barons of those days must have enjoyed a 360 degree view of their sugar plantation as the "sacadas" (paid farm hands) tilled the soil. This place is best visited at dusk. Pray there is no school group or big tour groups when you visit!

And then there are the eating places in Silay. El Ideal Bakery and Restaurant on Rizal Street, Silay City is one of the oldest restaurants in Silay or in Negros Occidental famous for guapple (guava and apple) pies, buko (coconut meat) pies and assorted delicacies. I have not stopped eating since I arrived here in Silay City, but I certainly made sure I had room for the guapple pie, lumpia ubod which are rolls with heart of palm fillings, batchoy (a very Ilonggo soup dish). El Ideal also has a "pasalubong center" (gift center) and some take outs include
Children's Room at Balay NegrenseChildren's Room at Balay NegrenseChildren's Room at Balay Negrense

Now a Museum, the Balay Negrense is really the former house of Leopold Gaston, descendant of the Frenchman Yves Gaston who introduced and installed the first economical sugar mill in Silay.
ibos (made from corn, wrapped in banana leaf like a suman), puto lanson (a kind of rice cake made from coconut meat), piayaya, and many more. Surely, a trip to Silay City is never complete without trying out these native delicacies! If your pockets are lined with wads of pesos, try the Showroom. Here is a place where souvenir items are put in a different class worth every cent of their price tags. The capiz serving trays, bags made from indigenous materials, hand-crafted and intricately-designed neck and ear pieces, as well as sugary and baked foodstuff make for a shopping sidetrip to remember or .... avoid. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 29


Teodoro Morada HouseTeodoro Morada House
Teodoro Morada House

Found at the corner of Cinco de Noviembre and Zamora St.
Inside Balay NegrenseInside Balay Negrense
Inside Balay Negrense

Huge sala or living room, with French windows . This house was built in 1898 combining Spanish and American colonial architectures. Lovingly restored in the 1990s, old families in the area lent furniture to showcase the lifestyle of Silay's rich past.
Front Garden of Balay NegrenseFront Garden of Balay Negrense
Front Garden of Balay Negrense

The Gaston Family must have thrown truly lavish parties here.
Grand Piano Inside Balay NegrenseGrand Piano Inside Balay Negrense
Grand Piano Inside Balay Negrense

I can just imagine the entertainment during parties of that era. Most ancestral houses have grand pianos such as this.
Another Old HouseAnother Old House
Another Old House

I don't know who owns this house, but it can do with some major repair. It sits right beside the Hofilenia House. There were many just walking along Cinco de Noviembre Street between Zulueta and Zamora Streets. (PS. House is reportedly owned by Jalandonis)
Locsin Ancestral HouseLocsin Ancestral House
Locsin Ancestral House

This one is right across the Morada Ancestral House, just off Balay Negrense.
Inside the Hofilenia Ancestral HouseInside the Hofilenia Ancestral House
Inside the Hofilenia Ancestral House

This is the first ancestral house to open to the public, some 30 years before the others. There are 29 surviving ancestral houses, thus earning for Silay City the distinction of being a "Museum City".
Sanctuary for the ArtsSanctuary for the Arts
Sanctuary for the Arts

Treasured family heirlooms costing a fortune adorn the Hofilenia House.
Inside the Hofilenia HouseInside the Hofilenia House
Inside the Hofilenia House

This Ancestral House also sells postcards, t-shirts and other souvenir items.

21st February 2011

What a fun blog entry and a very interesting place to visit, some wonderful photos and the then & now ones are really good.
21st February 2011

Love those then and now pictures! Time moves on, great friends remain the same.
21st February 2011

Love the way you weave nostalgia with prevent events.
21st February 2011

Really Marvelous
These are wonderful photos liliram! They celebrate the beauty of the philipino culture and it's people. The architecture is really something and you and your peers all look so marvelous some 40 years on. Kudos to you
22nd February 2011

Thanks for your comments!
Glad you enjoyed this blog. This is one trip I truly truly enjoyed, meeting old friends and all. The friendship alone is reason to celebrate!
22nd February 2011

Heard so many amazing stories about Bacolod. Very nice blog tita Lili, hope to visit this place too.
24th February 2011

I always look forward to your blogs and this is another great one.
1st March 2011

I love how you fuse together personal experience and history...makes a great back story. Are all those houses in Bacolod? I'll be there next week and a visit to these heritage houses is a good addition to my itinerary. I'll look for that ibos and puto lanson. First time to hear about these delicacies (more familiar with piayaya and that yummy butterscotch).
19th April 2011
Another Old House

the owners
the owners of this house are the Jalandoni' of the not-so-distant-relatives of the Hofilena.
15th December 2012

Enjoyed reading your blog
Hi, I enjoyed reading your blog. I especially liked the storyline you have weaved in, and the pretty photos of ancestral houses. I liked it so much, I have added a link to it on my own Heritage Silay blog. (See the \"further reading\" page.) Do drop into my blog, saunter around, read a paragraph or two, see the photos and if you like, you can write a comment too. Hope to visit Silay again, and see some more houses that you have described in your blog. David
19th February 2013

Just curious. I am also from Silay. I recognized the church in your picture. That's the parish of San Diego. Is your friend an old Silaynon? Thank you
19th February 2013

yes, ina
Yup, that's the San Diego Church and my friend is from Silay. Belongs to the Gamboa family. Was there for her youngest daughter's wedding.

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