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Iloilo I LOVE! explores Negros: Visiting Silay City, where life is sweeter… (Part 1)

Submitted by on December 5, 2011 – 8:29 pmNo Comment

Silay City Negros

Continued from On the road and on sea to Bacolod

10 AM – At last upon disembarking from LCT Sr. Sto. Niño Navistar, me and my companion boarded a trike at Bacolod City Port in BREDCO and headed at the town center. Silay City was first in itinerary because the blog awards is scheduled later in the afternoon. We didn’t know what jeep or form of transport to ride going to Silay so we decided to ask for directions around the plaza.

After talking to some vendors, we were told we could ride a jeep going to North Terminal in Bata then we can either choose a jeep or a van on our way to Silay. So we did. Silay is about 20-30 minutes away from Bacolod City and we arrived there at around half-an-hour before noon.
Jumping from the van, excited and all set for my first photo shoot at this historic city, I left my companion at San Diego de Alcala Pro-Cathedral and headed first to Cinco de Noviembre street alone (light breakfast & no sleep at all)…

A bastion of Negros’ nationalism, culture and arts

Cinco de Noviembre Monument

Founded in 1760, Silay was at the forefront of sugar production at the turn of the 19th century. This golden age ushered in an era of prosperity, where dances, opera, theater and carnivals are common occurrence. In fact, the revolution that ended more than three centuries of Spanish rule in Negros was planned in the guise of Silay’s lavish parties. Silay was also famous for its import of artists and cultural shows. European performers would share the stage with local talents. Thus, Silay was made known by chroniclers as “the Paris of the Orient.”

Kabataang Silay Rondalla

No wonder today, unequivocal talent is still present in the city. Internationally-renowned group, the Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble, represented our country in the Cuerdas sa Pagkakaysa (Strings of Unity): Third International Rondalla Festival held in Tagum City, Davao last February 2011.

History lives in her palatial mansions

Silay learned and drew from the past. In their city, the past comes alive in the architecture and fine craftsmanship of its ancestral houses. These jewels continue to inspire awe and imagination to whoever enters its doors. A confluence of foreign and local ingenuity, these palatial dwellings tell the tale of an era made sweeter by the sugar produced and the colorful life lived. It is sugar that made Silay one of the richest towns in the country and the sugar barons or hacienderos spared no expense in the construction and furnishing their homes. No wonder, an Ilonggo would really feel at home here.

Built between the late 19th century and the pre-war years, 29 surviving ancestral houses were identified by the National Historical Commission as national treasures. Because of this, Silay was dubbed by travel writers as the “Museum City”. In 1997, the Department of Tourism declared Silay City as one of the Philippines’ top 25 tourist destinations.

Local Seats of Power

Silay City Hall

Silay City

Silay City Hall, built after the World War II, is part of major reconstruction efforts in the early days of the new republic.

Armin-Javelosa-Jalandoni-Ancestral-House

The Armin Javelosa Jalandoni Ancestral House, along Don Generoso Gamboa Street, was converted into the Sangguniang Panlungsod Building of Silay City in 2002.

Bajo Las Campanas

Large concentrations of beautiful mansions are in the city center. The louder the sound of the church bells meant the closer the home to the church. This reminds the haciendero that he is sitting in one of the best pieces of real estate in town. Hmmm, I wonder if we could still apply that today…

Manuel Hofileña y Severino Ancestral House

Manuel Severino Hofilena Heritage House

The Manuel Hofileña y Severino Ancestral House was the first to be declared a National Historical Landmark in the city.

A sanctuary of the arts, it houses Ramon Hofileña’s collection of paintings and sculptures by the Philippines’ renowned artists from the 19th century to the present – Juan Luna, Felix  Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Vicente Manasala, H. R. Ocampo, to name a few. A drawing by Jose Rizal when he was still a young student will surely draw attention.

Priceless works of foreign artists such as Spain’s Joya, Germany’s Durer and Japan’s Hokusai and Hiroshige found their way to this animated home. The bulk of the collection on display is only a small part of the more than a thousand art pieces that Ramon has lovingly preserved through the years.

Hofilena House Marker

Treasured family heirlooms, such as the 200 year-old Rachall piano that belonged to Ramon’s great grandmother, sit comfortably in the living room together with authentic period furniture. A visit to Silay is not complete without dropping by this lovely home. One can spend the entire day chatting with amiable Ramon on everything history, arts and culture, and local and national intrigue that you won’t catch in your history books.

No pictures inside as I needed appointment to be allowed in. Unfortunately…

To be continued….

Editor’s Note: Iloilo I LOVE! is publishing a series of articles about their recent trip to Bacolod and Silay Cities at Negros Occidental, Western Visayas.

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