THE United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) will conduct its annual conference to be participated by 250 to 300 architects from the entire Visayas Region. The theme of the colloquium is “Hugyaw Visayas.” It will be hosted by UAP-Bacolod, UAP-Negrense, and UAP-Mt. Kanlaon. The forum will be held on January 30 to February 1 at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay.

The three-day activity includes seminar-workshop, sports activities and cultural tour. One big event is the architectural tourism, “Panglugayawon sa Silay” (A Journey in Silay), a walking tour that features the heritage houses of Silay that have been identified as architectural landmarks by the National Historical Commission. This will be on February 1 and the guided tour will be facilitated by Architect Julieta Gaston-Patosa; Raymund Bayot, curator ofDizon Museum; and yours truly.

Participants will assemble at Casa Grande (ancestral house of Gen. Aniceto Lacson) for “Pamahaw sa Hacienda” (Breakfast in the Hacienda). I will brief them on the nature of the tour that will feature Silay, the Silaynons, and their houses made by sugar. Each house has a story to tell – love lost, love found, gambling decadence, sweet life, rise to power, sugar politics, and hometown delicacies.

In the past, Silay was Paris of Negros. Its culture has been honed by sugar and its future is determined by the people moving the sugar industry. The architects will be greeted first by San Diego Pro-Cathedral that is arguably the most audacious expression of Silay’s faith and religiosity, with Councilor Solo Locsin. The silver-colored Byzantium dome was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Lucio Bernasconi, an Italian architect, was commissioned by Don Jose “Pepe” Ledesma who financed 80 percent of the construction cost.

Our “Gone with the Wind” mansion is the Adelina Ledesma Ancestral House. This American “tsalet” has a drastically lower ground floor with neo- classic columns, and railings. It tells of a love story beyond romantic proportions. The Digna Locsin Consing Heritage House displays American period horizontal clapboard sidings with Art Deco grillwork and decorative brackets. French-style windows with glass panes complete the look. It is a living witness to the illusion of reality that is sugar.

The German Locsin Unson Heritage House reminds me of a diplomatic “hacendado,” Nonoy German and his demure wife, Inday Fe. It is an outstanding example of the neo-Spanish style that became so popular after World War II. The Federico Lacson Locsin House shows strong proto-Modernist lines and a play of roof levels of the 1930s, and the absence of ventanillas. It stands firm as a solid emblem of politics and public service.

This heritage house still follows the classic Visayan “bahay na bato” proportions with a double media-agua roof, and the floors (first and second) have grills and a discreet main door. This is the Delfin Ledesma Heritage House. Another house along Calle 5 de Noviembere is the Carlos Javelosa Jalandoni Ancestral House which is an example of the American period adaptation to the classic “Bahay na Bato” that evolved with influences from American 19th century “saltshaker” houses with wooden horizontal clapboard facades.

A neo-Spanish Mission style that was popular during the American Period is the Dr. Jose Corteza Locsin Heritage House. American concrete was utilized as the preferred material, with a “Misador” or watchtower in the rear. Dr. Locsin became a senator of the Republic of the Philippines later. This Silay house welcomed special guest and dignitaries.

Along Rizal Street is the Antonio Novella Sian Heritage house. This is an example of a streetwise townhouse, with an interesting chamfered corner treatment, glass paned windows, “media agua” double roofing and missing ventanillas, typical of the Visayas. “El Ideal Bakery,” a landmark as far as hometown delicacies are concerned, is the Cesar Lacson Locsin Heritage House. This heritage house still follows the classic “bahay na bato” proportions, but with glass panes and iron grilled ventanillas.

I would like to acknowledge the help of the Camera Club of Negros and the Heritage Conservation Society for providing us the necessary materials that the Silay City Tourism Office is using to prepare the Archi Tourism Info Sheets for the visiting architects. Thank you also to Lyn Gamboa of Negros Cultural Foundation for the coordination. (To be continued)