When in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, the sugar capital of the Philippines, you shouldn’t miss Silay, especially if you’re into history and culture. Silay is rich in heritage houses, more than 20 of which are currently listed as national historic sites and structures by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. If you go to Bacolod by air, you will definitely not miss Silay because it’s where the airport is. 🙂 But to see the heritage houses is a different story.
We took the jeepney with route Bata- Libertad from Bacolod City (Php 7 fare) and alighted at the Bacolod City North Bus Terminal, where jeepneys and buses pick-up passengers to Silay City. We took the non-aircon Ceres bus at Php 15/person. Total travel time is about 30-45 minutes. You will know you’re in Silay when you see San Diego Pro-Cathedral to your left. It’s a church with a big silver dome, so it’s hard to miss it.
Here are some of the places to see in this historic city:
San Diego Pro-Cathedral
The cathedral is the only church in Negros Occidental with a dome. The parish was first built with indigenous wood until Don Jose R. Ledesma, a rich sugar baron in Silay donated much of the money used to build the present day church. The church was designed by an Italian architect named Lucio Bernasconi.
The interior is as impressive as its outer architecture
Bernardino Jalandoni Museum
A few meters across the cathedral is the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum. The house is open to visitors from Tuesdays to Sundays at an entrance fee of Php 50. We were greeted by a guide dressed in Filipiñana upon entering.
This heritage house is originally the residence of Don Bernardino Jalandoni and Doña Ysabel Lopez Ledesma, who are both natives of Iloilo. I remember people I know from Iloilo telling me that most of the opulent families who established their haciendas in Bacolod are originally from Iloilo. They came to Bacolod because the soil there is ideal for growing sugarcane.
Our guide first walked us through the ground floor, which as she narrated, used to be the garage for horse-drawn carriages. The family’s doll collection is displayed in one of the rooms in the ground floor. A caroza with the statue of Mama Mary is also parked in one of the rooms.
One of the most recognized dolls in the bunch
The caroza is being paraded up to this time during the Holy Week
A collection of old photos in sepia are displayed, as well. Seeing the formal poses of the wealthy families, I couldn’t help but wonder how boring it was during those early days when wacky pose was never heard of.
As we went up the wooden staircase, the intricate furniture, the materials making up the house, the elegant ornaments, the chandeliers, expensive musical instruments and all things found in the house spoke of the affluence of the Jalandoni family.
I could imagine sugar barons dealing business with this telephone while smoking their pipes in between serious conversations
Singer – does that ring a bell? (Okay, I just revealed my youth with this comment)
The floor is made of harwood from Mindoro while the embossed white steel tray ceiling is imported all the way from Germany. Even the baby stroller is the kind that I only see in classic western movies.
The living room
I know an old house can give someone the creeps, but the lady in white reflected on that frame is not what you think…she’s nobody else but our friendly guide
The chair with the long “armrest” is a traditional Filipino birthing chair. It’s such a shame I did not learn about this if not for this Silay trip. The long “armrest” is not for the arms but rather for the mother’s legs to rest on while giving birth.
The part I will never forget from our guide’s stories is this wooden box which used to store perishable goods (photo below). Our guide told us that in those times when refrigerators are not yet used in the country, they have to import ice just so they could keep their goods stored at a low temperature. I couldn’t imagine how much it would cost them to bring in those ice for their personal use.
Food storage box
The nut cracker
Like the Jalandoni museum, Balay Negrense is open from Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is Php 60 for adults, 45 for senior citizens and 30 for students and children. Balay Negrense is the ancestral house of Victor Gaston, the son of Yves Leopoldo Germain Gaston (who pioneered sugarcane cultivation in Negros) and Prudencia Fernandez, a Filipina.
I didn’t realize Kuya Kim was shooting for Matanglawin, peeking through the window of the 2nd floor as I took this shot
The first floor has a high ceiling, large windows with smaller openings extending through the floor, allowing good natural ventilation. The wooden floor is elevated one meter above the ground, allowing air to pass through beneath the wood, which avoids retention of moisture from the wood, thereby preventing the wood from rotting quickly. Wow! That’s an example of green architecture, as we call it now.
The house has an office room and a total of 11 bedrooms for Team Gaston, composed of 12 children.
These dolls may have looked adorable for the young haciendero daughters of the early 20th century. Looking at it now makes me think of Chuckie.
Well, at least there’s a presence of divine forces to help wash away your fears
Some of the artworks for sale at the museum’s ground floor
Cinco de Noviembre
November 5, 1898 was the day of the Negros Revolution when Negrenses gathered in this street corner, known today as Cinco de Noviembre, to proceed at the Spanish garrison and ask the Spaniards to surrender in a bloodless encounter.
Other Heritage Houses/Buildings
There are a lot more heritage houses in Silay. The town is small and the heritage houses are within walking distance from one another. Just try to avoid doing your walking tour when the sun gets scorching hot.
Other heritage houses had been converted to commercial centers, while still retaining their original structures.
Digna Locsin Concing Heritage House
Generoso Reyes Gamboa Heritage House
Manuel Severino Hofilena Heritage House
Rene and Jessica Velez – Dimacali Heritage House
Sen. Jose Corteza Locsin Ancestral House
Manuel dela Rama Locsin Ancestral House
Check out other Negros Occidental Destinations:
My friend and I haven’t covered all the ancestral houses but I’ve mapped out the ancestral houses in the link below. I’m giving myself a reason to come back to this quiet and historical place. 🙂
Note: You can also make a side-trip to The Ruins of Talisay, Bacolod, which is close to Silay, if you’re coming back to Bacolod City.