NOVEMBER 5 is a red-letter day in Silay City. Two big events are celebrated in one day. It is the commemoration of Cinco de Noviembre 1898 (Negros Day) historic event that made histographers write the courageous deeds of the Silaynons who brought down the Spanish rule in pueblo de Silay. It is also the day wherein the comestibles take center stage to sanctify culinary arts, “Kaon Ta Festival.”
There came a time in Negros, particularly in Silay that the “native burgis,” known as the “principalia” whose interests were best served by allying themselves with the Spaniards, get tired of wearing “barong,” a mark of inferior status. The native elites still had to wear their shirttails out, if only to remind them that they were still “indios.”
The barong that the Filipinos wear to formal occasions today was a distinction of inferior status in the past. It was transparent so that they could not conceal weapons. There were no pockets because the Spaniards would want to picture out a “penniless indio.” (The modern “burgis” now let their drivers, the maids, the employees wear uniform so that they are immediately distinguishable from their employers. (We still believe that there is always an exception to the rule.)
Soon, some natives became less equal to others. Those who embraced the culture of Spain became “primera clase ciudadano,” the rest were having no class… “nadie.” The lucky “indios,” the “native burgis,” had adjusted their lifestyle as members of the “principalia” to the taste of the friars and the Spanish governor.
The “gobernadorcillo” (native town mayor) could be addressed with a title of a “Don.” In the “poblacion” (town), those who belong to the “principalia” were privileged to build their mansions around the plaza… near the church and the “municipio”. (You can now start looking at the houses around your plaza.)
The “privileged indios” (just like the Spaniards) had their taste in wine, art, books, music and clothes. Those who were in the inner circle started calling themselves “taga-poblacion.” Those who lived too far away from the plaza to hear the sound of the church bells were known as “taga-uma” or “taga-bukid.” The folks upriver were “taga-ilaya,” and those downriver were “taga-ubos.” Those who were not from the place were the outsiders (de afueras).
The Silaynons did not like that pattern. For them, they are all Silaynons: those with land are the “hacenderos;” those who work for the land are the “jornaleros.” Some of the “haciendas” were far from the church but their “hacenderos” lived there in their “balay-daku” or “casa de hacienda” among their “jornaleros” who developed canine devotion to their landlords. The “de afueras” could not understand that.
That could be the reason why the non-conformists (young “burgis” of Silay) agreed on the “Cinco de Noviembre 1898 Negros Revolution.” That was a revolution not patterned after the Aguinaldo Revolution in Luzon.
The new “burgis” of Negros wanted a liberation by themselves for themselves and their “obreros.” Those fighting in Luzon for Aguinaldo’s Government were the “de afueras.”
Another big event in Silay on November 4 and 5 is the 3rd Kaon Ta Festival. It is one big celebration that the best Silaynon “cocineros” from the “Buena familias” and the street food cooks are coming out together at the “jardin de Balay Negrense” to showcase the best of Silay… “manjar” (delicacies), “comidas” (meal) and “bebidas” (drinks).
For two-day food feasting (Nov. 4-5), Mayor Mark Golez has invited fellow government officials, and members of the varied societies to come to Silay and be lured by the gustatory delights that could just be found in one setting. The organizers have provided enough tables and chairs for all and the “nocturnal guests” will have music and spirits to keep their night young.
Tourism and Hospitality Management students are also encouraged to be there to see how a fantastic event is being managed. For roaming tourists, this could be a chance to complete your heritage tour… food, museums, rondalla, ancestral houses, pro-cathedral, and history. For television stations and journalists, this could be your opportunity to interview the chefs, traditional cooks, delicacy producers, ice cream makers, and the “manuglibod” (food vendors).
My best friend and mentor, the food “guro” Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez would always remind us, “Food is sacred because it gives physical, social, cultural, and spiritual nourishment. It makes us aware of who we are… and the capabilities that we can share to strengthen a community.”