8 Cultural Spots in Negros You Can Visit This Summer
This Southern region holds many (sweet!) surprises such as a bakery in a centuries-old building and an art gallery in an ancestral house
Among the many reasons tourists are still drawn to Negros Occidental, aside from its colorful festivals and sweet delights, may just be in its preservation of the past.
What makes its history so interesting may no longer simply be attributed to the mestizo landowners and barons who once ruled the region during the rise of the sugar industry in the late 1800s. Because something else came about when these affluent families lived their sophisticated hacendero lifestyles—for theirs was a life built on the best elements of this grand old age, each one beautifully represented and restored in the historic bahay na bato and heritage sites found in Silay and Talisay.
These ancestral homes now serve as marvelous monuments and lifestyle museums that depict the past yet still remain relevant fixtures for the present and forthcoming generations.
About fifteen minutes from Bacolod City is Silay, where thirty-one ancestral houses are dutifully maintained (some even still lived in) by descendants of the region’s prominent hacendero families. Once referred to as the “little Paris of Negros,” it was established in 1760 and was brought to life when migrants from nearby Iloilo turned the Spanish settlement into an important commercial and agricultural center.
In 1846 a Frenchman named Yves Leopold Germain Gaston was among those who pioneered the sugar industry, leading Silay into becoming the top sugar producers in the country. Yves’ son, Victor Fernandez Gaston, thereafter resided in what has come to be known as Balay Negrense, a twelve-bedroom structure made of balayong wood and built in 1897, known for its airy interiors and antique furniture donated by other Negrense families.
Brgy. III, Cinco de Noviembre St., Silay City
Bernardino Jalandoni Museum
Other notable houses in Silay include the Jalandoni House (also known as the Pink House), built in 1908 and originally owned by Bernardino Lopez and Ysabel Jalandoni. It has been restored and turned into a museum, a part of which is dedicated to a gallery of photographs featuring all the houses designated by the National Historical Institute as heritage sites
Rizal St., Silay City
El Ideal Bakery
Another relevant structure in the city is the home of Cesar Lacson Locsin, which houses the famous El Ideal Bakery on its ground floor. This is a popular stopover for for tourists en route to the airport to buy pasalubong of their famous guapple pie, bañados, Pan Gasiosa, angel cookies, and other Negros delicacies.
118 Rizal St., Silay City
South of Silay is Talisay City. Seeds brought in from Spain were planted onto vast, fertile lands with modern machinery, which thus gave rise to the haciendas and its thriving community of landowners, farmers and other plantation workers in this area.
Balay ni Tana Dicang
Among the most notable figures of the time were Efigenio Lizares and Enrica Alunan (also known as Capitana “Tana” Dicang), and their home which is now referred to as Balay ni Tana Dicang. The museum was formally opened in 2008, marking only the beginning of family-led conservation efforts honoring the extraordinary matriarch whose industrious character continues to inspire a long line of talented descendants to this day.
36 Rizal St., Talisay City, Negros Occidental; tel. (034) 495-2104
The Kapitana Gallery
While you’re in Balay ni Tana Dicang, do drop by the Kapitana Gallery, which is on the ground floor of the ancestral house. Kapitana regularly features exhibits and works of contemporary Filipino artists such as Junjun Sta. Ana and Ambie Abaño.
Even ancestral houses that were destroyed in the war were given a second life, much like what seems to be an iconic sight in Negros—The Ruins—which are the remains of Mariano Lacson’s early-1900s mansion in the midst of sugarcane fields. Stripped down to its main structure, the European-style mansion is still an imposing beauty.
Talisay City, call mobile 0917-832-6003 for directions
The preference for wide, open areas during this abundant age still rings true for modern homeowners in the region, and this is most evident in Bacolod City, where modern homes (and developments) encroach on its old-world structures. But there are still many delightful things to see—and buy!
Association of Negros Producers Showroom
Back in the 1980s, a crisis shook the then-thriving economy of the sugar industry, thus taking a toll on its people who were mainly dependent on sugar production and trading. Resiliency, initiative, and skills saved the whole province from economic decline, and the Association of Negros Producers Inc. was born. The ANP maintains the Negros Showroom, the doorway to the province’s wide variety of ingenious and locally-manufactured products.
Level 1, Robinsons Place Bacolod, Lacson St., Mandalagan, Bacolod City, or visit their website
The Sason Shop
Who knew that within the simple yet thriving Brgy. Alijis is a furniture haven. The 300-sqm Sason Shop showroom, the brainchild of architect Bernie Sason, features export-quality furniture whose aesthetic is the ideal mix of traditional and modern. The architect, when asked of his design style, says “Ayaw ko ‘yung maraming burloloy. Malinis siya.” To achieve his clean, precise designs, he says “Inaalis ko ang mga unnecessary ornamentation.”
Most of his creations are made of wood: Philippine mahogany, lauaan, and tanguile. To come up with his modern wooden pieces, he uses leather and steel. If you’re dying to buy his modern-rustic designer pieces, Sason also has a showroom at SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.
Alijis Road, Bacolod City, tel. (034) 435-4759, or follow them on their Facebook page
While you’re there…
You might as well eat. Bacolod and the rest of Negros has dozens of restaurants and eateries to die for. A no-frills but yummy example is Manokan Country, a complex housing a number of eateries that serve the best chicken inasal in the land. Locals say Nena’s Rose II and Aida’s are the best among the bunch. Aside from inasal, try the cheap but succulent oysters and other fresh seafood dishes.
And since this is the Sugar Capital, expect the desserts and pastries to be delicious. Calea is a favorite, and this coffee and pastry shop’s cake displays will make it difficult to decide which one to buy, so don’t stop yourself from relishing a slice or two! Another crowd favorite is Felicia’s Pastry Shop with its to-die-for sansrival and the prettiest, plainly irresistible macarons in town.
This article originally appeared in "A History of Homes" in the May 2010 issue of Real Living magazine.
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