Silay Kahirup Theater-A A +A
By Ver Pacete
As I See It
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I DO not have strong evidence or existing documents to identify the year when the famous Kahirup Theater of Silay was founded. 'Kahirup' means harmony in all angles of social existence. For the pre-war Silaynons, it is their 'Paris Opera House'. (By the way, the Paris Opera House designed by architect Charles Garnier was inaugurated on Jan. 5, 1875 after fourteen years of construction work.)
The Silay Kahirup Theater could have been constructed at the turn of the century. It was built in a more or less 1,000 square-meter lot (now occupied by the houses of the family of the late Ramon Jison). It is located at Zamora-Gomez Streets. The theater could have been influenced by the Beaux Arts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco of the pre-World War II years. While other towns in Negros Occidental were into crude farming, Silay was already into advanced agriculture, commerce, trade and industry. The migration of Iloilo prominent families to Silay in 1840 paved the way for the proliferation of arts and culture. Silay was dubbed as the 'Paris of Negros'.
There was a construction boom of beautiful mansions and buildings in the town center that gave Silay a unique character that made her the 'intellectual and cultural hub of Negros'. Silay was a trendsetter in fashion, in industry, and in democratic ideology. Sugar was the number one product of the Silaynons. In 1916, the price of sugar leaped three times thus creating a golden era for Silay.
Silay had the longest seaport in Asia (1.7 kilometers) and this was opened in 1894. Performing artists from Europe had their performances at Kahirup Theater back to back with Silay home-grown artists. Going to the northern town of Negros Occidental from Bacolod, commuters passing Silay would be greeted by the imposing Gabaldon building of Silay North Elementary School, the dazzling Plaza Olympia Severino with European architecture blending with the Church of San Diego de Alcala designed by Italian architect LucioBernasconi.
The rest of the buildings left and right of Rizal Street up to Gov. Emilio Gaston Memorial High school were stretches of 2-story structures: commercial establishments and residences of the 'buena familias' of Silay (Montelibano, Locsin, Jison, Sian, Lacson, Severino, Golez, Jalandoni - to name a few). The Negrosanons came to Silay to shop and to eat the best food in first class cafeterias serving Asian and European cuisine. The best imported goods and comestibles in the island could be purchased only in Silay.
The 'hacendados' and their children would ride in their expensive cars and park them in front of the church. They would take a walk at the plaza to enjoy fresh air and to meet friends. At sunset, they would all go to the Kahirup Theater to see a zarzuela production or the repertoire of songs and dances performed by the 'buen hijas and hijos'. Kahirup Theater honed choreographers, actors, dancers and singers. It also brought to Silay a breed of cultured citizenry who from among them emerged world class artists, principled civic leaders, dedicated professionals, and men of vision who committed themselves to local and national politics as 'Taga-Silay' statesmen. The Kahirup Theater was an emblem of cultural awareness that brought the acculturated Silaynons together. Before the Cultural Center of the Philippines (1969) in Manila, there was already the Kahirup Theater.
After World War II, the seaport of Silay stopped operations. It was damaged during World War II and the shoreline suffered siltation. Commercial and passenger vessels were not docking there anymore. They transferred to Banago Port. When Bacolod became a city in 1938, Silaynon professionals and the Chinese businessmen of Silay started to consider Bacolod as an opportunity for promising Negrosanons. The first city mayor of Bacolod was a Silaynon, Alfredo Montelibano, Sr.
The Kahirup Theater graciously vanished with the passage of time. When Dr. Jose Corteza Locsin became a senator in 1951, he worked hard together with Mayor Romulo Golez, Rep. Carlos Hilado and Rep. Jose Puey that Silay would become a city on June 12, 1957 (RA 1621). Through the efforts of Locsin, the first cultural center outside Manila was inaugurated by Pres. Carlos P. Garcia on August 24, 1957-the Rizal Cultural and Civic Center. It became the best venue for the artistic inclination of the Silaynons until now. It is Kahirup Theater in thought and spirit, in dreams and in ideals.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 26, 2013.