Fond memories of Silay

MY GOOD friend Nor (Norberto Arcangel) was here in Silay City together with the four employees of Mayor Menchie Abalos of Mandaluyong City. They were here to document the progress of the school that Mandaluyong constructed for Don Salvador Benedicto, a part of the outreach program.

While in Silay, they stayed at the German Unson Bed and Breakfast, a heritage house designed to accommodate tourists who would want to experience the lifestyle of the “hacenderos” (sugar barons).

Mandaluyong is the sister city of Silay. The sister accord happened on November 12, 1996 during the time of Mayor Edwin “Bigot” Velez.

During that time Nor was the cultural affairs-tourism officer of Mandaluyong. He was once the president of Metro Manila Cultural Officers Association, later of the National Capital Region Tourism Officers Association.

He was elected PRO for Luzon of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (Atop) and finally as Atop national executive president.

He had worked for five Mandaluyong mayors in a row since 1983. Just like me, he is now a retiree. Mayor Menchie Abalos has taken him in as a cultural consultant.

He keeps and maintains a school and a community museum. His community museum has been officially recognized by the National Museum as the “First Barangay Museum” in the Philippines.

Nor started his fond memories of Silay with flashbacks while we were having lunch in a Balaring shoreline restaurant. “It has been a week since the closing of the 18th Annual Convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines on October 4 to 7, 2017 in Iloilo City.

Friends have asked what took me to Negros particularly to the City of Silay as they are delighted by my many travel photos shot in this old charming city.

“My official itinerary did not include my Negros trip but I would not let go the opportunities of meeting again my close friends in Bacolod, Bago, Don Salvador Benedicto, San Carlos and Silay. Could I do the visits in one day? I wish I could. I prioritized Silay because I always love its cultural splendor. It is an ‘ancient’ world set against vast sugar plantations.”

“From the national highway, one sees the contour of the mighty mountain of Patag. (This is actually Patag Valley, a part of Mandalagan Mountain Ranges). This mountain is dear to me because sometime in 1995, the Negros Occidental Jamboree (NOCIJAM) was held there to which the boy scouts of Mandaluyong were invited as the lone delegation from the National Capital Region.

“I headed the group. Toward the end of the week-long gathering, a strong typhoon hit Negros and Patag was not exempted. The entire disaster had served as a successful test for survival to the participants much more to the Mandaluyong delegates. I saw Mayor Bigot Velez as a strong ground commander (being the host). That led the way for me to know him better.”

“The occasion paved the way for Silay and Mandaluyong to become sister cities in a very meaningful ceremony at the Sen. Jose C. Locsin Cultural and Civic Center during the Kansilay Festival (Charter Day Anniversary). Being the chief of the Mandaluyong City Cultural Affairs and Tourism Department, I had the distinction of representing Mayor Benjamen Abalos Sr. and leading the eight-member team that flew to Silay for the event. From then on, the doors of Silay are widely open to Mandalenos and ours to Silaynons.”

“The famous ancestral houses of Silay being nostalgic memories of time past when sugar was sweetest as life among the Silaynons. The “hacenderos” and “sacadas” in my mind have interestingly blended to allow me to paint what Silay could have been during the bygone years. The Pro-Cathedral of San Diego stands mute witness to the rich history, culture and traditions of the place. The statues of some favorite saints that surround the church as sentinels, I wonder, must have kept Silay closer to God.”

(To be continued)


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