Iloilo I LOVE! explores NEGROS: Living ala Sugar Baron at Silay’s Jalandoni Mansion (Part III)
Iloilo I LOVE! visits Bernardino Jalandoni Museum at historic Silay City. A perfectly preserved time capsule, the museum offers a real glimpse of the luxurious and glamorous life of sugar barons and Silay’s elite.
For those who regularly visit my site, this is already my third installment on my Silay City chronicles. Exploration of the city would never be complete without visiting the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum at Rizal Street. I was hesitant to enter the mansion because I always think that museums prohibit picture taking, but to my surprise I was even encouraged by the staff to do so. Dressed in a pink Filipiniana, my guide opened the doors to the life of the rich and famous of Silay. So take a seat as we journey way back in time when our country’s elite enjoys the wealth brought by the sweet trade.
The Pink House of Silay
I would never miss the pinkish color of the house’s exterior from afar. It was pleasant, though faded; one would question the reason behind its color. Nevertheless, the museum earned another the title, “The Pink House (of Silay)”.
A true descendant of pre-Hispanic Filipino building technique, the mansion follows the typical nipa hut. Its simplicity is at times drowned by its grandiose facade of carved wood and elaborate steel designs. The existing wooden structures are the same hardwood that were originally shipped from faraway Mindoro. Most of the embossed tin ceiling trays on the second floor are the very ones imported then from even more remote Hamburg, Germany. Imagine the amount of wealth needed to procure such materials.
At entrance, visitors are greeted by display of contemporary art; one wonders how these paintings would play out when placed near the “karitela” at the side. The atmosphere at the first floor may have been the anti-climax, but that’s how it used to be even in Spanish colonial times.
Guests and visitors of the house are greeted by a grand wood staircase. As I climb through those stairs, I gently caressed the wooden handrails and feel the history of the house coming to life.
But the impression at the staircase was nothing compared to the beauty of the living room. There I could see the echoes of its glorious past. Furniture, well maintained, tell the story of how the former inhabitants lived in their time. Its spacious and well lighted area is symbolic of its owners’ lifestyle. All rooms are connected at the living space – the heart of the mansion. Going back to the furniture, the hard wood and elegantly carved sofa would be an envy of its contemporaries. The silyas and butaca (lounging chair) are of the same hardwood, similarly carved, and provide comfort in this tropical climate.
A House of Music
Scattered at different parts of the house are music instruments. Mind you, these are not ordinary pieces; rather they were the best of their time and were exported from Europe and America. Sitting alone at the center of the living is a delicately carved harp. I didn’t dare touch the strings, less I would be asked to leave early, but I really felt the temptation to evoke the heavenly sound it might give. At its opposite is the hundred-year-old Steinway piano imported from the US (with all of its keys perfectly intact).
Another treasure inside is an Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis (Faciebat Anno 1716), made in Germany. Though I’m not sure if this Strad had been appraised for authenticity, but it will surely testify for the talents of the family household when it comes to music. They’re genuinely gifted and being able to play such meticulous and sophisticated pieces of instruments are also symbolic of the family’s status as guardians of culture and arts.
Places of Rest and Recreation
The havens of the house’s inhabitants are not devoid of grandeur either. Honestly, greatness emanates from them.
Inside the master’s bedroom, the imposing Ah Tay Bed – a four poster bed designed and crafted by a Chinese Master Furniture maker named Ah Tay from Binondo – was previously owned by a revolutionary named Kapitan Marciano Lacson.
Another antique – the altar and kneeler are important family possessions reflecting the religiosity of the time. Traditionally, the family comes together at 6 o’clock in the evening for the Angelus. After the prayer, the children would kiss their parents hands while the latter blessed them. Other personal effects found inside are the chamber pot, pitcher, wash basin of porcelain imported from Europe. I definitely love the illustrado bedside table and the intricate aparador inside.
The daughters’ bedroom is equally impressive as well. The bed is made of hardwood and cane; the aparador is of familiar but beautiful design also, one you would probably be having today (minus the intricate wood carvings). Though not seen in the picture, the old slippers of Mrs. Magdalena Locsin Puentebella, the first pharmacist of Negros, are on display also.
Education is of great importance in the household as evidenced by their intricate study room. Inside is a roll-top desk or “escritorio” which was imported from London in 1920, owned by Atty. Jose Gamboa – an outstanding citizen and author of several books of law. Also in display are Law books from 1850 to 1940, mostly written in Spanish. A candelabra sits idly atop the study table – reminiscent of the phrase, “nagsusunog ng kilay“. Another treasured possession, though not seen in the picture, is a 16th century Chinese tapestry.
Dining Hall and Kitchen
As with all houses, the dining area evokes a place of gathering and sharing. But this particular dining place is different – it had witnessed some of Silay’s most celebrated feasts and parties of its elite. Its hosts are generous and with great taste. The china are extraordinary, while the glassware and silverware are prized possessions today. The dining table itself is historical – a Spanish era elaborately designed hardwood owned by 1898 revolutionary leader Kapitan Marciano Lacson. To keep the dining hall well lit, pulley lamps or “fantallia” are used (that’s before the advent of electricity).
Hmmm… I would definitely fall in love with their kitchen. A true Filipino style kitchen complete with earthenware or “tibud” for aging vinegar and salt, wood and also the all -time favorite caldero. (One would definitely call this state side – their cauldron was brought in by the US Cavalry in 1899). Other imported items are pitchers from US Navy and a German-made water filter jar from 1920s. A “batya” or hardwood basin is also used for laundry.
Ten Pounds of ice was delivered daily to wealthy households for 5.00 pesos per month – an amount equivalent to 3,500.00 pesos today.
Machines and “Gadgets”
Telecommunication started to revolutionize in Silay when the Americans came; the elite wouldn’t want to miss the arrival of an interesting contraption called the telephone. Considering the sophistication of the telephone, I would definitely find this early device a huge headache.
Rural Line Rules: When making a telephone call, if the line is not in use, replace the handset on the hook and give ONE short ring with the bell crank. When you have completed your conversation, hand the handset on hook and signal the operator to disconnect, giving ONE short ring, THIS IS IMPORTANT. For further instructions see your Telephone Directory. (Ha! I rather sent letters through an owl).
A sewing machine came “handy”, complete with its own table and rotating wheels.
A grandfather clock now placed prominently in the receiving area.
And the distant ancestor of your Ipod- a POLYPHONE!
So I guess we have to go back to 21st Century to fully appreciate these important pieces of history, and realize how fun to have lived like that in the American colonial era. It’s not all luxury and glamour; it’s also substance and meaningful living for the family and descendants of Don Bernardino Jalandoni. That lifestyle may have been lost, but its significance has just taken other forms which are very recognizable to us in these “modern times”. I wonder, a hundred years from now, how would a blogger describe how we lived?
Tuesday to Sunday – 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
For Guided Tours and Inquries: call (034) 495-5093
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.