Iloilo I LOVE! explores Negros: A stroll along Silay’s Cinco de Noviembre Street (Part II)
On a roll at Cinco de Noviembre street, it seemed the street has so many beautiful old houses that it’s as if I’m on a museum tour. Echoes of the past, these perfectly preserved houses of Silay’s sugar barons will forever tell the story of how glorious the era when Silay was called “Paris of the Orient.”
An Ilonggo would really feel at home at this city because of the city’s deep connection with Iloilo. In the 19th century, Silay’s parish priest, Fr. Eusebio Locsin, invited his Ilonggo family and friends to settle at Silay because of the town’s fertile lands — a suitable place for agriculture, especially growing sugar cane. When they transferred and settled at Silay, these Ilonggo elites brought with them their culture and traditions plus their skillful craftsmanship. If you visit Silay City, you’ll catch a glimpse of mixed Ilonggo and Silaynon love for culture and arts, and impressive architectural achievements.
So to continue my journey along the famous Cinco de Noviembre and its side streets, here are some of the heritage houses I explored:
Don Victor Gaston Ancestral House or “Balay Negrense”
Yves Leopold Germaine Gaston was a Frenchman who was engaged in sugarcane production in his home province in France. He came to the Philippines in the late 1830s to assist wealthy local businessmen in starting their sugar business. He married a Filipina named Prudencia Fernandez, then settled down to the affluent life of a sugar baron in Silay.
Victor, the eldest son of Yves and Prudencia, built his house on Cinco de Noviembre Street in Silay in the early 1900s. The house of stone and wood fuses Spanish and American colonial architecture and features a double staircase, French windows and large living areas that allow air to circulate.
Through the years, the house fell into disrepair but through government grants and the support of individuals, the house underwent major reconstruction and had its rooms decorated with furniture from old Negrense families. When it reopened as a museum dubbed as “Balay Negrense”, it spurred renewed interest in the conservation of heritage houses.
Cinco De Noviembre Monument
Near the end of the Cinco De Noviembre Street is a miniature version of Farmacia Locsin. Farmacia Locsin was instrumental in the Negros Revolution against Spain because it served as a collection point for the peoples’ contribution in supporting the revolutionaries. The names of their heroes, Nicolas Golez, Leandro Locsin, Timoteo Unson, Melecio Severino, and Vicente Gamboa, are engraved at the side of the monument. Also, the name of Olympia Severino who weaved the first Filipino flag to be hoisted in Negros is also engraved along with the leaders of the revolution.
Bernardino Jalandoni Museum
The house built by Bernardino and Ysabel Jalandoni in 1908 was the first among the many heritage houses in Silay to be declared a National Landmark by the Philippine government. The Jalandoni House has come to be known as the “pink house” due to the peculiar choice of paint for its facade when it underwent a minor facelift some years ago. Its prime position on Rizal Street, the calle principal or main avenue of Silay, is indicative of the status the family enjoyed in the community,
Built of strong materials of hardwood imported from Mindoro, the two storey house feature well designed interiors of intricate artworks including its beautifully embossed steel trayed ceiling molded in Hamburg, Germany.
The eldest son of Bernardino and Ysabel, Cesar was schooled in medicine at the University of Vienna in Austria. Cesar was the father of Luis Jalandoni, a former priest who became one of the top leaders of the Communist movement in the Philippines. He has lived in exile in the Netherlands since the 1980s.
Luis spent the first twelve years of his life surrounded by lavish opulence in the “pink house”. Looking at the childhood photo of him that sits on top of the hundred-year-old Steinway piano inside the house, once can’t help but marvel at the irony of Luis growing up to become of the most prominent figures advocating the eradication of the very way of life he had been raised in.
Other palatial mansions along and near Cinco de Noviembre Street:
Silay’s Lost Gems: Ruins of houses which are shells of their diminished grandeur are found along Cinco de Noviembre street.
Some houses are now converted into commercial establishments such as the Lino Lopez Severino Ancestral House and Maria Golez Ancestral House (now occupied by RCBC, picture on top of page).
To be continued…
Previous posts on “Iloilo I LOVE explores NEGROS” series:
Tags: Negros, Silay City
Editor’s Note: Iloilo I LOVE! is publishing a series of articles about their recent trip to Bacolod and Silay City at Negros Occidental, Western Visayas.