THE International Rondalla Festival will be held on November 3 to 10, 2018 at the “seat of arts and culture,” Silay City. More than 300 musicians will walk down the lane of the “Paris of Negros.”
Enter a city that will take you back to a bygone era. One would experience the splendor of the mansions of the sugar barons. The moment of reckoning slows down but the passing of time accelerates towards the promise of the future. Ah, you are in Silay, my hometown!
Dubbed by travel writers as the “seat of arts, culture and ecotourism,” Silay finds a place as one of the 25 major tourist destinations in the country (DOT 1997 profile).
The San Diego Church, whose architecture was influenced by the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City, occupies center stage as the only pro-cathedral outside of Metro Manila. It is a living asseveration that Silay is at the helm of Christianity.
The National Historical Commission identifies 29 living ancestral houses in Silay which are considered as architectural landmarks. Each house has a story to tell – what it was like to live, love and survive at a pivotal point in Negrosanon civilization -- a civilization which survived political infighting, undercurrent human emotions, intricate characterization of an age; a fascinating history lesson that shows the timelessness of human ambition.
Three of these houses have been opened to the public as lifestyle museums, the Victor Gaston House (Balay Negrense Museum), the Bernardino Jalandoni House and the Manuel Severino Hofilena House (the first house in Silay to offer its hospitality to tourists). The Hofilena house is a repository of the art collections of Ramon Hofilena.
Cinco de Noviembre marker at Calle 5 de Noviembre featuring a canon made by Panday Pera is a monument of the bloodless revolution in Silay which took place on the fifth of November 1898.
The Silay City Park occupies the area where the sunken Plaza Olympia Severino was located before it was demolished during Martial Law regime. Plaza Olympia won the award as the “most beautiful plaza of the Philippines” in 1951.
The best hometown delicacies are sold in Silay. The late Doreen Gamboa–Fernandez (my Silaynon friend; a professor at Ateneo University; an authority on foods and Ilonggo sarswela) considered Silay as the “banwa sang dulce” (town of sweets) because our “kalan-unon” (delicacies) here are sugar-based.
El Ideal Bakery, Silay’s oldest bakery, sells buko pie, guapple pie, cassava cake, dulce gatas, assorted cookies and other heavenly delights.
The best piaya could be bought from the kitchen of Jessica Go (along Gomez St.). This is the favorite piaya of PGMA, Richard Gordon, Gemma Cruz–Araneta, Nekkie Coseting, Loren Legarda and Ace Durano. The finest “lumpia ubod de Silay,” pili squares and other mouth-watering Silaynon delights that Nora Lacson prepares are always available in her parlor. These are the products we showcase in Makati City during the annual Negros Trade Fair. Tatak Silaynon! Sabor Silaynon!
The “lubid-lubid” (twisted, sweet, tiny, golden brown bread crackling) of Nicky Jison and his other oven-fresh bread and pastries at Mariels Bakery (near the public market) are fast becoming the favorites of the Silaynons and friends.
If you want less expensive but savory assorted hometown eatables produced by the delicacy makers’ cooperatives, catch up and feast at the early morning barter trade at the public market where you will find the best siomai, kalamay-hati, baye-baye, inday-inday, butong-butong, puto-tikoy, puto-dahon, banana cake and more.
For those who want to escape from the crowded malls and noisy streets, you can dine and relax at the Balaring shoreline restaurants (6 kilometers from the heart of the city). Enjoy the sea breeze, observe the fishermen with their nets while waiting for your sizzling squid, gambas, grilled tilapia or bangus, gingaw tinola, tangigue kinilaw, alimusan paksiw, sweet and sour lapu-lapu, and chili crabs.
Before going home, find time to visit the Balaring Mangrove Rehabilitation Project. A canopy of bakhaw, bungalon, alipata and pagatpat trees will provide you a cool shade while you enjoy balancing yourselves on top of bamboo bridges while viewing below crabs making love, or listening to warblers, or enjoying sailfin lizards running after sea rats. Marvel the sunset and the panoramic view of Guimaras Strait. It will offer you a dreamscape and encourage you to write like Kathleen Woodiwis or Joanna Trollope.