We left the port of Dumangas at around 3 and reached Bacolod before 5 in the afternoon. The trip provided a spectacular view of Western Visayas’ three major islands. The last strokes of light gave a wonderful view of the islands from the deck. For someone who’s not used to seeing these postcard imagery, it was a great treat indeed, and a rare one that won’t be forgotten for a long time.
At the port of Bacolod, we were met by relatives who brought us straight to the historic city Silay where the momentous cry of cinco de Noviembre was heard. This has been their home for almost half a century.
It is true that most of the affluent families of Negros are from the landed class of Iloilo. These families were drawn by the prospect of good business in the fertile land of Negros. An exodus of the high class Ilonggo families. Fortune did not disappointed them as the sugar industry made them wealthier and more influential.
It was a pity that as soon as we reached Silay, darkness started to descend upon us. I tried my best to take as much picture as I can while listening to my relatives, trying to answer their questions (which were all in Ilonggo) as best as I can – and since my Ilonggo is very bad, I had to listen closely so as not to disappoint them. I was surprised that they did not spoke to me in Tagalog even after I’ve told them that I was born and raised in Manila. They possibly assumed that my mother taught her children. She never did but she used it around us and it is this exposure that made it familiar to us children.
If you’re an antiquarian, you’ll definitely fall in love with Silay. Referred to as “Paris of Negros” this museum town has a great collection of perfectly conserved heritage houses. There are 30 houses here that are recognized as heritage houses by our historical bureau. I can probably spend a week or two here and it would still be not enough. It was a magnificent sight to see so many houses that for me before only existed in photos. My relatives then took me to San Diego Pro Cathedral, next to the church is the city hall.
I then ask who’s paying for the restoration and maintenance of these houses, my Abuelo’s simple answer was “still the families”. The secret, then, to the survival of these beautiful monuments are their awareness and remembrance of their beautiful past – well, their moneyed pockets also plays an important role. Most of these Silaynon families are still well-off (perhaps an understatement) and there’s no lure of disposing their ancestors properties to the highest bidder, something that has become common back in Manila.
I remember Doreen Gamboa Fernandez’ essays about the food culture and the theater history of Silay. Her essays were the only reference I had about Silay and I read them a few years back. Now I know why she spoke highly of her hometown and its people. The town’s history and treasures is something that must be experienced to be appreciated. And its not that hard to reach, the Bacolod airport is actually in Silay. Who ever coined the name, “Paris of Negros”, was telling the truth. No words can describe those houses that up until now attest to the grandness of the old Silaynon life.
We had to leave in the morning and I felt terrible that my time was so short. Not enough praise can be given to my relatives who, even with the short time I had add to this is my short notice, gave me a quick tour of Silay. At around 8 in the evening, we decided to eat at a Mang Inasal branch, which had a very relaxing surrounding and a crew that were so friendly. The Lacson bakery (El Ideal I was told) and the Montelibano house proved the perfect backdrop.
Early morning, the following day we were already in Bacolod port waiting for the barge (packed with several San Miguel trucks) going to Dumangas. I promised that I’ll be back some day, I hope soon.
04 July 2010