Silay and the Houses from the Sugar Boom Era

On our penultimate day in Bacolod, I take a day trip to Silay to take a look at the city’s ancestral house. I’ve been here in 2010, the first time I’ve been to Bacolod, but I’m interested in seeing the houses once again.

At the cusp of Spanish and American colonization periods, Negros rose to prominence mainly due to its sugarcane. Silay, a town 15km north of Bacolod, was the main benefactor of such celebrity status. With Europeans coming to the city in droves at the turn of the century and affluent families building elegant houses, Silay became the “Paris of Negros.”

The leafy Silay Public Plaza provides a good site for meetups.

The glory days of Silay, though, have long been gone and a tourist will never mistake the city straddling the banks of the Seine. Yet the nostalgia lingers on and the town’s rustic charm and hospitable locals are instantly captivating. Several ancestral homes dot the city and three have been converted into adoringly curated museums.

The Hofileña Ancestral House was the first ancestral house in the city to open in public.

The Hofileña Ancestral House was built in 1934 and is a prime example of the residences of the affluent in the city. The house was occupied by the Japanese and subsequently the Americans during World War II, while the family fled to the mountains. Today, the house is owned by Ramon Hofileña, who tours guests with prior bookings.

The Balay Negrense is a restoration of the Gascon ancestral house.

Two blocks south stands the Balay Negrense Museum, also known as the Victor Gascon Ancestral Home. Gascon is the son of one of Negros’ pioneers of sugarcane cultivation. The house was abandoned and fell into disrepair by the 1970s. One of the family’s heirs started the Negros Cultural Foundation, which led the restoration of the house. Now, it’s listed as a heritage house by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

The Bernardino Jalandoni Museum is also known as the pink house due to the color of its facade.

Just along the national highway is the Bernardino Jalandoni Ancestral House. Jalandoni and his wife, Ysabel Lopez Ledesma, were originally from Iloilo but settled in Silay. Their house was completed in 1908.

The dome of the San Diego Pro-Cathedral is said to have been patterned after the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Another distinctive structure in the city is the Romanesque San Diego Pro-Cathedral. Its cream facade and silver domes tower over the street beside the public park. It’s the Philippines’ only pro-cathedral, that is, a cathedral that is not yet entitled to a proper cathedral.

The El Ideal Bakery has been serving customers for more than 100 years.

Just south of the city center is the famed El Ideal Bakery, which was established in 1920, right in the midst of Silay’s glory years. The restaurant is housed in another early 20th century building, showing just how long has this bakery been in existence.

Magikland served as the foundation of a Filipino fantasy movie.

About 2 kilometers further south, just off the main highway is the recently opened Magikland, the first outdoor theme park in the Visayas. The park served as the inspiration for the late Peque Gallaga’s final film, a fantasy epic that was shown in the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival. Unfortunately, the park is open only on weekends. I arrive on a Monday, which means I have to content myself with taking pictures of the front gate.

After having a cup of tea at a cafe, I ride a bus back to Bacolod and spend the rest of the day with my parents. We meet a friend of theirs at a mall and talk things over cups of coffee.

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