Exploring the ‘Paris of Negros’
Hofileña Heritage House
Jalandoni Heritage House
If Ilocos has Vigan, Negros has Silay!
Silay, a city about 14 kilometers from Bacolod, like Vigan, is a place replete in history. It has a number of still existing beautiful old houses, some of which are open to the public for tours.
It is a place I have been wanting to visit for so long because of my fascination with ancestral houses. I would like to explore this place, dubbed as the ‘Paris of Negros’ because of its rich cultural history. I finally had that opportunity when a friend and I took a trip to Negros Occidental, late 2015.
While we landed in Silay City, as the new airport is there, we opted to base ourselves in Bacolod and tour Silay, Talisay and other areas we would like to see from there.
We took the trip to Silay on the third day of our vacation.
From Bacolod’s North Terminal, we took the Ceres Bus bound for Victorias. Like the day before, when we went to Talisay, we asked the bus driver to let us off somewhere in the place we were about to visit. This time, I asked him to drop us at the church in Silay, the San Diego Pro-cathedral, as I have read that the city’s ancestral houses are just near it.
Cesar Lacson Locsin Ancestral House
However, upon reaching Silay, it was not a tour of ancestral houses we ended up doing first! Instead, we went to El Ideal Bakery, the oldest bakery in Silay, located on the ground floor of the Cesar Lacson Locsin Ancestral House. The bus stopped at a traffic light, and lo and behold, we saw the famous bakery. My friend’s sister had asked her to buy piaya there. In our happiness at seeing the bakery, we told the driver that we will just get off there, instead of the church. Thus, we did our tour of Silay backwards, we bought pasalubong first!
We just left our boxes of pasalubong with the nice ladies at El Ideal. Aside from piaya, we also bought butterscotch, ground coffee beans from the area, and muscovado sugar.
San Diego Pro-Cathedral, Silay City, Negros Occidental
My friend and I were greeted with shrieks and screams when we reached the gate of San Diego Cathedral, a short distance from El Ideal. Not only that, a large number of teenagers, still in their school uniforms, came rushing to where we were. We got curious as well and checked what the commotion was all about. We didn’t wait long to have our answer. Enrique Gil, of Forevermore fame, and now Dolce Amore, got out of a red pick-up truck. It turned out, he and Liza Soberano were in Silay shooting the movie ‘Everyday I love You’! We left the happy teenagers and onlookers and boarded a tricycle to take us to Cinco de Noviembre Street where two of the three ancestral houses open to the public are located.
Stopping at the first one, the Hofileña Heritage House, the red pick up truck, the same one that was in the movie, passed by, and that was our third ‘Everyday I love You’ moment as we were also in the same flight as these actors two days before. We have wondered where they were going, then we knew!
The Manuel Severino Hofileña Heritage House is the first heritage house in Silay that opened its door to tourists. The current owner, Mr. Ramon Hofileña still lives in it. He was in the premises when we arrived, but he didn’t conduct the tour himself as I have read he would do at times, or if one booked a tour in advance. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting experience touring my first Silay ancestral home. This was the first ancestral house that I have toured that is still being used as a residence.
Our guide, toured us first on the ground level, with many interesting information about the house, showing us a variety of things that Mr. Hofileña amassed during his travels. The ground floor also showcases the house as it was, with beautiful porcelains, family heirlooms and old photos, dotting the place. Looking at those, one can vividly imagine the generations that had lived and celebrated life there.
The second level of the house is like an art gallery with so many paintings on the wall. Some of them, works of several national artists.
We walked towards the end of the Cinco de Noviembre Street, leftwards, checking out other ancestral houses, after our tour of the Hofileña House. When I started reading about the old houses of Silay, I thought that the houses were clustered in Cinco de Noviembre, I imagined that the street would be like Calle Crisologo in Vigan wherein ancestral houses dotted both sides of a quite narrow road in small clusters. It was not the case with Silay as the beautiful houses are spread all over, but it does not make the place less beautiful, unique and historical.
Having reached the end of the street, we walked back under the intense heat of the noon sun to go to our second ancestral house, the Balay Negrense or the Don Victor Gaston Heritage House.
The house was built by the sugar baron, Don Victor Gaston in the early 1900s. We took the guided tour of the house. We were also lucky to have met one of the descendants of Don Victor when we arrived.
The house was restored and turned into a lifestyle museum with prominent families donating furnitures, our guide told us. It showcases life as it was lived by the hacenderos in the area.
From Balay Negrense, we walked the length of Cinco de Noviembre, rightwards, and saw other old houses. We also passed by the Cinco de Noviembre Marker. It was at this site the Negros Revolution against Spain was launched in 1898.
Cinco de Noviembre Marker
While on our way to lunch, on board the tricycle we took, we saw other ancestral houses in Silay which are not open to the public. The driver took us around a bit and showed us these houses which, otherwise, we would have missed.
The driver dropped us of at the Ann Co Cakes in Rizal Street. I wanted to see this as well as my Negros-based friend told me that it has more artworks than the one in Bacolod.
It surely has more art, much more beautiful and spacious than the one we have been to the day before. The food and the coffee are good.
We hailed another tricycle after we had our delicious lunch, coffee and cakes.
The third and final house on the list is the Don Bernardino Jalandoni Heritage House, finished in 1908, and most popularly known as the pink house because of its color. It too, had been turned into a lifestyle museum.
From the Jalandoni House, we walked back towards the church and the plaza. We saw more old houses along the way, some were converted into commercial establishments.
We wanted to check the Silay Museum before we head back to Bacolod. However, it was closed as they were doing renovations. Nevertheless, the nice and accommodating staff at the cultural office, opened it for us.
They also gave us some materials on Silay ancestral houses, and told us where we can buy delicious Silay food. We were directed to an ancestral house, near the branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands in the city.
The last stop of the day was El Ideal, where we started. We retrieved our boxes and waited for the bus that would take us back to Bacolod, feeling very happy to have fulfilled a dream!
• We got this tourist brochure after we have been all over the place! If I had it beforehand, I could have put captions on the other houses we toured by foot or by tricycle. I hope it would help you, instead. The brochure also has information on the rich history of Silay.
• Flyer which contains some information on the Jalandoni Heritage House.
• This post is the third and my final post on my Negros trip. Long overdue one, I know! If you had missed or would like to check the Bacolod one, please click on this link and the Talisay and its share of beautiful ancestral houses post in this link.
Happy travels! 🙂