THE quick trip around Silay was very interesting. Ramon Hofileña, the heir and curator of the Hofileña Heritage House, certainly made it so. No wonder the home turned museum lists as the top entry to the must-visit places in the city. Check out the place and you'll find out why.

Munching on piaya, a local sweet delicacy, we, the Davao media team and our hosts from the Department of Tourism (DOT) 6, made our way to the second destination-Victorias, with hopes that it would be as interesting as the (Silay) opening salvo to the Western Visayas tour.

Victorias is the sugar capital of the region located 34 kilometers from Bacolod. One of its attractions is the Victorias Milling Corporation, the largest sugar refinery in the country and the largest integrated sugar mill in the world.

Within the 7,000-hectare compound is the VMC Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole golf course, and its more popular point of interest, the St. Joseph The Worker Parish. The church was originally created for the company's personnel but it attracted more people because of "the controversy it got involved in."

St. Joseph The Worker Parish is also known as the Ossorio Chapel, after the abstract expressionist artist, Alfonso Ossorio, who painted the psychedelic-colored murals of the church with the image of the Angry Christ on judgment day as the focal point. Just like any daring and new interpretation of art, religious iconography most especially, the obra became very controversial with the reverent circle. Lips where murmuring not prayers but objections, and eyebrows not souls were rising heavenward.

To this day, none of the interior and exterior murals have been retouched.

The colors are as vibrant as it was on the day the artworks were completed, and this is due to the specially formulated paint used-Carbon carbide ethyl silicate No. 14.

While most of the exterior walls are covered with painted artwork, the façade sports a different treatment, but as impressive in its creation-murals of mosaic created with recycled colored soda bottles.

In creating the artwork, the artist, Ade Bethune, utilized thousands of chipped glass components that gave form to beautiful Filipinized images-Joseph's marriage to Mary, the Holy Family in the Nazareth workshop and the death of Jesus. In the same art treatment, Bethune also interprets the baptism of Jesus on the main wall of the room annexing the church's entrance.

In the garden that surrounds the church another artwork calls attention-a sculpture of a sugarcane-toting farmer on a carabao. Created in 1975 by students of Don Bosco Institute under the supervision of Hezekiah Katalbas and Vicente Gonzaga, the sculpture is more than just an artwork depicting the local industry, it also tells time. The sculpture is a sundial.

Lunch was a surprise. Never did any of us imagine to be dining beside pigpens, poultry pens and compost pits, but we did, at Peñalosa Farms.

The farm is owned by Ramon Peñalosa, an advocate of organic and probiotic farming. He shares this practice by offering a one-day introductory seminar and live-in seminars to everyone who is interested in sustainable agripreneurship.

To the visiting Davao media, he gave a brief background of the farm and its practices, and treated us to a tour of the well-planned area that wisely utilizes space and lunch prepared with ingredients from the farm's output-fresh herbs, vegetables, poultry and pork. In this farm, food is more delicious, tender, leaner and sweeter.

Yes, we dined within the proximity of pigs, geese, chickens and compost pits. Surprisingly, there was zero stench, and Mr. Peñalosa pointed out that this is due to the organic feeds that the animals are fed with. The experience was totally new to me, and nice.

Are there more to see around Victorias? I believe so, but those will be reserved for the next visit to the region. Meanwhile, on to next city, please.

Special thanks to DOT 6 for hosting the Davao Media Familiarization Tour, and to Cebu Pacific (with direct flights to and from Davao City to Bacolod every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday).

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