|Posted by andrea lizares on November 21, 2010 at 6:49 PM|
Members of the old rich families in Silay have a reputation for being snobbish. My Silay school teacher friend is certain about this but I'd like to think maybe not. Since 1962, Ramon Hofilena, the "Father of Heritage Conservation in Silay," has been welcoming all and sundry to his family's Manuel Severino Hofilena Heritage Home (1934). Monching says he is not rich but the house which he still lives in, is an illustrado's house with unmistakable touches of genteel elegance - a 150-200 year old German made Rachall piano handed down from Ramon's great grandmother, period furniture, antique lamps and chandeliers, large Ming dynasty jars that have been with the family for generations, the dining table set with fine china, silverware, wine glasses, and silver candelabras that Ramon cheerfully lights for visitors as part of the welcome. There are no reproductions in the house, Ramon points out, and hardwood plateras (glass display cabinets) in the dining room show Chinese porcelain and ceramic archeological finds all discovered in Silay and ante-dating the Spanish in the Philippines
Like a child happily showing off his treasures, like a teacher drawing students to share his love for art and culture, Ramon goes through his collection of toys and curios from around the world, including tektites and anting-antings that he says are good for luck (although he doesn't believe in luck), and an old press for printmaking which he is working to popularize as an art form.
Even if one is not exactly an art aficionado, the collection that covers all the walls of the second floor, is impressive. Represented are reknowned Filipino artists from the 19th century to the present - Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Manansala, Ang Kiukok, Ben Cab, and others. There is a drawing by the 15 year old Rizal while a student in the Ateneo, and works by foreign masters like Goya, Picasso, Durer, Hokusai, and Hiroshige. It is, however moving to hear Ramon give the most honor, to Conrado Judith, a poor and unknown Silaynon with no formal art education, who died at 34 but whose works can stand next to masters like Manansala and Ang Kiukuk.
The Balay ni Tana Dicang, my family's ancestral home in Talisay, is older and more grand than the Hofilena home (or than other heritage homes in Silay) but the Hofilena home has the incomparable and charming genius of Ramon Hofilena as its crowning glory and that is hard to beat. It's amazing how Ramon has opened up the entire house, even the bedroom he sleeps in, with original prints by masters on one long wall, Ramon's four-poster bed with an antique crocheted coverlet and embroidered pillowcases, the bookshelves lined with pocketbooks that are sepia colored by age, the large windows with the callados above and the ventanillas below. In the bedroom, more than anywhere else, the visitor is transported to another time, when Silay was the Paris of the Philippines. If Ramon will have his way, the city he loves best will indeed regain its former glory. And since everyone asks to pose with him, don't be surprised if the 76 year old Ramon, erstwhile swimming instructor and a professional model for bikinis (as well as for nudes), asks, "do you want me to take off my clothes?"
Tours of the Hofilena home are by appointment. Call (63- 34) 495-4561 and look for Mr Ramon Hofilena. The house is on 14 Cinco de Noviembre St. in Silay City, less than 15 minutes from the Silay airport. It's one tour you'll never regret.