|Posted by andrea lizares on November 21, 2010 at 7:02 PM|
Three of the Queen's ancestral houses are open to the public as lifestyle museums. The home that offers the most fascinating and the most informative tour is easily the Hofilena home which is featured in The Prince of Silay's Heritage Conservation. The best known of the city's heritage homes is the Balay Negrense ( 1898 ), the 12 bedroom home built by Victor Gaston y Fernandez, son of Yves Leopold Germaine Gaston. The Frenchman who married a Filipina is credited with being the first to generate widescale interest in cultivating sugarcane on a commercial scale in Negros and the one who introduced the "Horno Econocomico" precursor of the present day sugar mill. The house of Gaston's heir is fittingly grandiose but even more so are stories of Victor Gaston going out to his roof garden to await ships sailing from Europe to bring to the port of Silay, much awaited merchandise and performing artists from Europe. Abandoned in the late 70s, this magnificent sample of French and Spanish colonial architecture on the historic Cinco de Noviembre street was restored through the efforts of the Negros Cultural Foundation and the Gaston family. When it was reopened as a museum, old families lent out furniture, furnishings, clothes, paintings, and household articles from the turn of the century so that the house could showcase the lifestyle of the city's rich past.
Living Room of the Jalandoni House Museum ( 1908 )
Of Silay’s three museum houses, the 1908 Don Bernardino Jalandoni Museum, or the Pink house is the only one that is built in the typical Bahay na Bato style of Filipino-Spanish domestic architecture. The ground floor with its thick stone wall was used as a zaguan (garage area and since the house is along the main street, later used as commercial space), while the family’s entire living area including all the bedrooms are in the upper floor which is made of wood. The Pink House is smaller than the Gaston house but the original interiors with their fine wood work and furniture, as well as old household equipment and articles remain intact, giving visitors a privileged and authentic view of life as it was lived by the well-to-do Jalandoni-Ledesma family. The house is made more interesting because Don Bernardino’s daughter married Dr. Trino Montinola, one of the founders of First Farmers Sugar Mill (Talisay), while a grandson, Fr. Luis Jalandoni became one of the highest ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which hoped to begin the communist revolution in the fertile fields of the sugar barons.
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The original facade of what has forever been known as the bakery El Ideal
Actually, the first Silay Heritage home that I fell in love with was the home of Mr. Cesar Locsin y Lacson, the structure everyone recognizes as the 1920s bakery, El Ideal. The historical marker by the roadside is easy to miss but the house is more than a hundred years old and its original owner was one of the many Chinese who helped make Silay the center of commerce during the early years of the twentieth century. El Ideal is a Balay na Bato Chinese style. Like most of the old houses of rich Chinese in the Philippines, the family's living quarters were on the second floor while the ground floor was reserved for the hardware, the bodega, the bakery, the shop, or the store. Before the airport was transferred to Silay in 2008, the interior of El Ideal looked like pre-war Chinese bakeshop, the dark wood stain that dominated the walls and the frames of the cabinets where the baked goods were displayed giving the feel of a a sepia colored antique photograph. The interior is now a cheerful combination of neon colors that remind me of how Singapore and Malaysia rehabilitated their old Chinese quarters. The new look hardly detracts from El Ideal's charm.
The new, colorful interior of El Ideal
The Locsin home that we identify as as El Ideal (there are other Locsin heritage home in Silay) is charming because aside from the fact that it is an enduring testimony to Silay's Chinese heritage, for the longest time, El Ideal has been something of a symbol of Silay FOOD. Food is one thing for which the city is famous (aside from the heritage homes). Silay's heirloom recipes are such best sellers that the Locsin family alone boasts not only of El Ideal but also of Rolis, Bar 21, and Sweet Greens, the last three being among Bacolod City's most popular restaurants. The non-rich of Silay may have little love for the invisible Silay rich who claim one or another of the City's more than 30 Heritage Homes. But these homes recognized by the National Historical Commission are not mere remnants of a legendary wealthy past when Silay seemed to be the center of the world. These are homes of heroes and heroines who fought for Philippine independence, of rich and powerful political leaders, industrialists and businessmen, the men and women whose names are such an important part of the making of Negros. Despite the rich/poor gap that some people in Silay feel very keenly about, it is therefore difficult for an outsider (who is not a leftist) not to be enchanted by this fascinating city and it's people. And when one considers the many other things Silay has to offer (more of these in later posts) - food, art, culture, the sugar mill and iron dinosaur, outdoor adventures - foreigners and locals, even this die-hard Talisaynon can fall in love with the Queen.
Links: Silay's Ancestral Homes:
Housing our Rich Past - A very informative article published in Cebu Pacific's Inflight Magazine. An Eyewitness to the Post - Collection of photos of Silay Ancestral Homes, from Silay City's Facebook Page.
Bacolod, a Glimpse of Silay's Ancestral Houses - Beautiful photos of lesser known Silay Ancestral Homes. .
Manuel Hofilena's Heritage House and the Art Collection of Ramon Hofilena: Negrense Home Holds Stunning Collection -Philippine Daily Inquirer article on the Hofilena Home. The Hofilena Heritage House, Silay City - a well written write up of one visitor's experience of the institution that is Ramon Hofilena. .
El Ideal - The bakery's page in multiply.com. The El Ideal photos are taken from and link to the multiply site.
Silay History - a very informative account of the City's history, as told in the City's official website. Photos of Old Silay - Photos of Old Silay in the Silay City Facebook Page. Silay City in Facebook - Maybe the easiest way to connect with Silay. The Silay Page has links to 19 albums of Silay scenes and events.