The Heritage Houses of Silay-A A +A
By Ver Pacete
As I See It
Friday, August 3, 2012
MY mentor, Architect Juliet Gaston Patosa, told me once that Silay is one of the few remaining places that have dense consideration of ancestral houses in our cultural heritage area with a negligible intrusion from modernization.
How do structures qualify as architectural legacies? The National Historical Commission (NHI) specifies that these must have been social, historical, cultural and architectural significance. NHI, to date, has identified 29 old structures that meet these requirements. They were houses and homes to people who achieved national and international awards.
Architect Leandro Locsin, national artist for architecture, grew up in a house in Silay that provided him the inspiration. A mini-restaurant specializing in Silay food, 1925 was constructed near that house to honor him. Conchita Gaston who grew up in the Victor Gaston mansion is a world-renowned mezzo soprano in the opera circle. Senator Jose Locsin constructed a house for his constituency and special visitors like Pres. Manuel Quezon, Pres. Carlos Garcia and other dignitaries.
Jose “Pitong” Ledesma’s “balcon” was loaded with musicians to amuse the “Viernes Santo” procession participants passing by his house. The house of Don Vicente Montelibano was the venue of the orchestra who would play for a week for his entertainment and all Silaynons who loved music.
Doreen Gamboa Fernandez, a culinary connoisseur and multi-awarded professor, enjoyed a hacienda house with her father who was a typical old-rich hacendero. The house of Arsenio Jison is very imposing. It served as a Silay landmark to the man who became the first president of the Philippine National Bank. Vicente Montelibano lived in a house that was to be the home later of St. Theresita’s Academy. Montelibano donated a clock from Europe for the belfry of San Diego Church. It is remembered like the Big Ben of London.
The Lino Lope Severino Building was the first department store in Negros. The Jose B. Gamboa house was the location of the unforgettable movie directed by PequeGallaga, “Oro, Plata, Mata.” The house of Maria Ledesma Golez is located in the very heart of Silay, the ‘Paris of Negros’. The president of Sugar Producers’ Cooperative Marketing Association before the Marcos Regime was German Unson. He has a house in Silay and during his presidency of SPCMA, sugar boom in Negros was at its height. The Manuel Hofilena House now owned by his son, Mon, is famous for art collection and a veritable attraction for educational and cultural tour.
The house of Tess Villanueva Sanchez of the Locsin Family is El Ideal Bakery, a bakery and a restaurant that can tell its own tale of Silay food. The house of Rudy and Emma Lacsonnow managed by Baby Nora has a kitchen that offers the best lumpia ubod in the world. Don’t miss other toothsome delicacies, especially the tourism-quality ‘pili’ square.
There are some houses in Silay with more colorful stories. I am just giving you a sample. Some stories cannot be told in public because they are about love stories on forbidden love, curse of the accursed father, accounts on how haciendas are lost in gambling tables and juicy relationships that violated the Ten Commandments.
Frequent trips abroad, influence the Old Rich of Silay to adopt a wide range of architectural styles in building their house from floral to geometric styles of the “balayngabato” prevalent during the Spanish Regime to Art Deco influence. The “balayngabato” has a typical structure similar to the old houses in Vigan City. The base is concrete and the upper portion is made of wood.
When we speak of Art Nouveau we refer to the style of decorative arts named after a store in Paris in 1895 by Samuel Bing that sold objects in the new style. The name soon became that of the style generally characterized by the use of dynamic curves based on the shape of flowers and flames with opalescent colors. Art Deco is the style that succeeded Art Nouveau in the 1920s, inheriting from the latter high standards of craftsmanship and an interest in new materials, but developing a more linear style based on the shapes of the square and rectangle, in reaction against the extreme curves of Art Nouveau.
So, it takes a Silaynon to know more about Silay. Our heritage houses are not just landmarks of a golden civilization. They are footprints of Silaynon achievers who made Silay what it is now. Would you like to follow the trail?
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 03, 2012.