Saturday July 21, 2018

Pacete: Peacetime in Silay Art Exhibit

ONLY Filipinos understand “peacetime” as a word that has been our contribution to the language of the Anglo-Americans who know it from their dictionary to mean “absence of war.” “Pre-war” could be a similar term but the feeling could be intense if we say “peacetime.”

I hope that the “now generation” could connect to what we mean by “peacetime.” I am touching on this topic because the Executive Committee preparing for the international Rondalla Festival (November 3 to 10, 2018) to be hosted by Silay has requested me to be a part of the team that will train the best teachers of Silay to be tour guides for the international visitors.

Why Silay is concerned and not other towns and cities for the “peacetime” scenario. That is to be understood well because during that time Silay war the “Paris of Negros,” the cultural, political, and intellectual hub. The long period in Negros history produced Silaynon governors: Melecio Severino, Leandro de la Rama Locsin, Antonio Ledesma Jayme, Matias Villa Hilado, Jose CortezaLocsin, Ramon Hilado Severino, and Emilio Maquiling Gaston. That was from 1899 up to 1937.

“Peacetime” and “prewar” refer to the same historical period but they are never used interchangeably. When we refer to the period before December 8, 1941 (the day Japanese planes bombed Clark Field in Pampanga, Nicholas Field in Pasay and similar attacks were made in Davao, Baguio, and Apario), “pre-war” is used. We could say, “He is a prewar graduate of the University of the Philippines.”

To refer to this historical period as well as to convey feelings about those days, ‘peacetime’ is used. We can say, “The Silaynons appreciated good life and cultural splendor because it was peacetime.” In Silay, “peacetime” started early even Cinco de Noviembre Revolution (for one day) was not a critical point in Silay’s cultural history.

For the majority of the Filipinos, “peacetime” began with the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth on November 15, 1935. For those who remember the date, it was a period in history that we had a president in Malacañang and a legislative body perceived not under the dictates of the American governor-general.

The situation made the Filipinos feel that they are free (as perceived again) to develop their own national identity. That ‘rosy’ atmosphere generated a lot of good feelings around. In Silay, the mayors were Felix Lacson (1934-1936), Generoso Gamboa (1937-1939), and Roque Hofileña (1940-1945). Hofileña was mayor of Silay when the Japanese landed in Negros on May 21, 1942.

In Silay (the Paris of Negros) life was sweet as sugar. There was the KahirupTheater where the members of the principalia, ilustrado group, buenafamilia, burgis...the “admirados,” converged to see European stage actors doing a performance in Silay. Sugar was produced in Silay and so...banks were there and other financial institutions. Sugar traders and the astute “monopolistas” had their agents in Silay.

The longest seaport (1.70 kilometer) was in Silay loading and unloading exports and imports. Rich Spaniards and other rich foreign merchants would come to Silay to trade their best goods and commodities. International artists like pianist Arthur Rubenstein and Spanish poet Salvador Rueda were invited in Silay to perform and to dine with the “buenafamilias.”

There was Jose “Pitong” Ledesma, a Silaynon pianist, conductor and philanthropist, who composed sonatas and his “Tanda de Valse” is considered a masterpiece. For several instances, he brought operettas and zarzuelas from Europe to Silay to perform with Silaynon artists. (To be continued)