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Published: February 21st 2011
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 That mane has since been replaced by receding hairlines and shining bald heads.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 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 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 elephant......so 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 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 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 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
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
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
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 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. 😊
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