Monday, March 18, 2019

Pacete: Peacetime in Silay Art Exhibit, 2

SILAY Exhibit for the International Rondalla Festival (November 3 to 10, 2018) will also include the “glory days” and for the Silaynons that refers to “peacetime” (the period before December 8, 1941)before the start of World War II in the Philippines.

The growth of capitalism in Europe, with free trade as a key concept, induced Spain to open the Philippines to world trade in 1834. Manila became one of the busiest ports in the Orient. In 1885, the first boat service between Silay, Iloilo and the different towns of Negros was initiated by Isidro de la Rama.

British and American merchant houses financed the production of Philippine sugar, tobacco, hemp and coffee for export to distant markets. At the same time Western consumer goods from cheap British textiles to French champagne flowed into the country.

In 1894, Silay opened its 1.7 kilometer port, the longest port in Asia at that time. Silay was part of the Philippines that was linked to world capitalism. According to writer Francisco Varona, “The ‘admirados’ of Silay, ambitious families who had been already nurtured in the atmosphere of culture, developed a taste for the imported stuff.

Some imports coming into Silay: chandeliers from Europe, crockery from China, marble, beaten gold, olive oil, olives, chickpeas, pork and beef lard, aniseed, vinegar, tea from China, wines, champagne from France, gin in barrels and cognac in casks.

The “buen hijos and hijas” had embroidery needles from Europe, thread, gold thimbles, cases with silver or ivory knobs, parasols (whalebone and silk) straw hats with silk flowers, soap (balls or loaves), pomade in jars, perfume, rose and lavenders water, coral beads, and cotton cloth from Madras.

Many of the “burgis” were enjoying medicines from America, toothbrushes, suit and shoe brushes, hair and wigs, pocketbooks and diaries from Morocco, cigarette paper, books from Europe, writing paper, and playing cards.

Thus emerged a native hacendero class of Chinese “mestizos” and urbanized “indios” whose fortune rose and fell with the export economy.

Like the privileged colonizers, the Silaynon “buena familias” could now build magnificent mansions and cultivate a “burgis” lifestyle. The ‘hacendado’ class spoke Spanish and culturally enjoyed local and European operas at Kahirup Theater. It was normal for the “Admiradas” to host bouquets for foreign guests and sugar barons, and to show their imported commodities from Europe.

Some Silaynon children married fortune–seeking Spaniards or went to Manila and Madrid to become lawyers, doctors, priests, and subversives. The more educated and culturedthey became, the less willing they were to accept ‘indio’ status insisting that they were Filipinos. That kind of Silaynon thinking paved the way for Cinco de Noviembre Revolution.

Even the friars in Negros envied the “damas” (ladies) of Silay because of their glittering gold and called these ladies “indios bestias cargadas de oro” (beasts adorned with gold). The “jornaleros” (sugarcane workers) with canine devotion to the land owners were responsible for bringing wealth to the semi-feudal lords of the “haciendas.”

During the height of the Philippine Commonwealth Government, with a monthly salary of 100 pesos, a Silaynon could live comfortably and send his children to public school. With 200 pesos a month, he bought a car, lived in a nice house and went to work in a “de hilo” suit.

All those went up like a smoke on December 8, 1941, on the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. All these and many more will be presented in Silay International Exhibit at the Puericulture Center with our trained guides. Come and join us at the International Rondalla Festival (November 3 to 10, 2018). Experience “Peacetime” in our exhibit.


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