|Posted by andrea lizares on November 21, 2010 at 6:43 PM|
Silay City used to be this sleepy little town that progress forgot. The huge San Diego Pro-Cathedral was an apparition straight out of Italy but Silay City Hall right next to it was as rundown as the city hall of a small town could be. Before Silay discovered itself again, the only things interesting about the city were 1. El Ideal, the 1920s bakery where banadas, broas, and and other Panaderia de Molo type baked products were always a treat, and 2. the big family names that call Silay home: Locsin, Ledesma, Jison, Jalandoni, Gamboa, Gaston, Montinola, de la Rama, Hofilena, Golez, Hernaez, Lopez, Montelibano, Severino. These names are so very loud that for us who do not live in Silay, and for many who do not live in Negros, it seems that in our province, there are no other surnames. A good thing that although Cinco de Noviembre is the Silay St. where Leandro Locsin's pharmacy was a gathering point for revolutionaries, of the Cinco de Noviembre generals who led the Negrense revolt against Spain, Aniceto Lacson and General Simon Lizares, were proudly Talisaynon (from the Lizares hometown of Talisay), while General Juan Araneta was from Bago. The impressive ancestral homes of the rich Silaynons are a dominant presence in the city proper but Silay itself did not fall in love with these homes until the 1980s or the 1990s. Planter families that lived inside those houses were everything except visible to the ordinary man on the street. The common folk whispered stories of closet skeletons and fair but love-lorn recluses behind shut capiz shell casement windows and hardwood doors. A Silay school teacher told me "the rich in Silay do not mingle with ordinary people and we do not see them except when the more pious family members walk behind heirloom carozzas during Semana Santa processions." I was amused that she felt this way but one of the authors of the April 2009 Rogue magazine articles on Negrense Planters wrote that when he was growing up, he didn't see poor people except in the family farm. Apparently, the great divide between rich and poor isn't just a perception of the non-rich. "The Silay rich are really different from Negrense rich in other towns," the not rich of Silay maintain. It's interesting to note that the big names that dominate Silay are those of old rich families that moved to Negros after cheap imported cottons brought about the collapse of the textile industry of Jaro and Molo in Panay. These families, many of them of Chinese descent, brought their business smarts as well as genteel and cultured ways to a province that was essentially a frontier in the late eighteen hundreds. While there were other rich families in other parts of the island, in no other town or city were there as many sugar barons living in proximity to each other. Old Silay was a glitzy whirl of social gatherings, fiestas, concerts, and theatrical productions that sometimes featured performers from Europe, earning for the city the name "Paris of Negros".