Archive for category Places
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! 🙂
Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well! It has been over a month since I last posted and it was not my intention to let it that long. My apologies! I got busy preparing for a trip that my family and I decided to take. I just want you to know that I’m still here and will resume writing as soon as I can, and that I didn’t just disappear from the face of earth! 🙂 I do missed writing very much but I am still settling in where I am at the moment after frantically preparing for the trip in less than a month. I will go back to it in the next couple of days. Cheers and good vibes always!
❤ Antigone ❤
Sometimes, all we need is a cup of coffee, some pastries, and a laid-back chat with a friend to get out of the funk we found ourselves into! Most of the time, after a cup of coffee with a friend, I feel better and energize. A nice coffee shop is my default place when I go to the mall with one of my closest friends. We would go around the shops, then chat and catch up while drinking our favorite brew.
In recent years, a lot of nice coffee shops have sprouted in the metro, and I’m glad as it means more choices and more nice places to relax and talk.
One day, I will write about those coffee shops! For now, I’ll go back to updating my stories. My apologies for the lack of updates. There were just quite a number of things that I needed to deal with the past days! Hopefully, I will have something for you guys in a day or two!
Cheers and good vibes as always!
❤ Antigone ❤
It all started over coffee, one afternoon. I told one of my best friends that one day, I would like to go to Negros Occidental and see for myself the beautiful ancestral houses there. I told her that, in particular, Silay City is on my bucket list of places that I would like to see in my lifetime. Since I have been to Vigan three years before, Silay is my next goal.
She sipped her coffee, smiled at me and then she said, “Tara!” I looked at her, quite surprised as normally, being a mom like me, she needed to arrange things at home before we can go somewhere, even for our ‘coffee and movie dates’. I asked her again to be doubly sure that she would like to go with me and that we will do it now, instead of in the future. She said yes! And so we planned our trip, the first out-of-town one we took together.
I got in touch with one of my old friends who is now based in Negros Occidental, as well as a former colleague who is from Bacolod City. My friend gave me a list of places I can check out when I asked him for a recommendation on accommodations. My friend and I would like to stay within our budget, so a simple, clean one will suffice. We only need the place for sleeping and to park our things. However, I have another requirement – that it should have a TV as I don’t like to miss an episode of On the Wings of Love, even while on vacation!
He also suggested we base ourselves in Bacolod as the places I want to see are not that far from the city. That way, he said, we can travel around, and at the same time explore Bacolod. His idea is actually brilliant and it saved us from packing and unpacking and moving from one place to another. That way, we also got to explore more places, like he said. I chose the cheapest on his list, if I remember correctly, and the most accessible from Bacolod’s main street. I also read the reviews, looked at photos online, and the place seemed okay.
We took the first flight out of Manila via Philippine Airlines towards the end of September as it was cheaper than the other schedules. By taking that flight, my friend and I had our first ‘Everyday I Love You’ moment, as Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano were on the same flight! We wondered if they have a show in Bacolod since it was around the start of the Masskara Festival season. Our question on where they were going was answered two days after, when we made it to Silay. We saw Enrique getting out of the pick-up they used in the movie near the church there! He and Liza were in the area for the location shoot of their movie!
We landed at the Bacolod-Silay International Airport more than an hour after we left Manila. I was told by the pension house where we will be staying that there are shuttles from the airport going to hotels and inns in Bacolod at Php 150 per person. However, my friend and I opted to take a taxi as it would just cost Php 100 extra each on our part. We have one luggage each, plus our carry-on bags. The taxi costs Php 500. The guys manning the taxi line were very nice and as promised, and after passing through a bit of only sugarcane fields and not much houses, we arrived in Bacolod, and at Pleasant Travellers Pension House after 30 minutes or less, I think.
The check in at the pension house is at 1PM so we had to wait. We were unable to check-in early as our room was not yet available. The staff showed us to the area where we can rest and wait. We left our things there to eat breakfast. First, we checked their canteen, but the food there didn’t appeal much to our stomachs at that time. We decided to venture out to Lacson Street, Bacolod’s main street, even if was raining a bit. Luckily, a taxi dropped off some people at the pension house when we were about to brave the drizzle. The first place we checked out, base on my Lonely Planet guide-book and my map, was undergoing renovations, so we walked a bit more, and found this very nice coffee shop at the L’ Fisher Hotel complex. We thought it would be on the expensive side, it being in a hotel complex, but it’s not. They offer nice and very filling breakfast meals, breads and mouth-watering cakes and pastries, and nice coffee too!
We went back to the pension house after breakfast and waited until we managed to check in past 12nn.
Our room is at the second floor, at the back part of the inn. It was okay, big enough for my friend and me, with two single beds, a bedside table, a closet, a dresser, a bathroom with hot and cold shower, and of course a TV! The place is clean and cost Php 780 per night (the one without a TV is around Php 200 cheaper). The blankets were thin (those white ones, and it got very cold at night, even if we adjusted the air conditioning). We requested for extra blankets (and pillows since there was only one each) at an extra, but minimal cost. I also wore socks to bed. Problem solved!
Bacolod’s streets are laid out in a grid form, along Lacson Street, so it is easier to find your way around. Our inn is at 13th street, parallel to Lacson. We usually just walk to Lacson and travel from there. All jeepneys and taxis pass through this street. My Bacolod colleague told me that Lacson is also their national highway. Indeed, you can access the North Terminal going to say, Talisay, Silay, through Lacson.
In between traveling to Silay and Talisay, we managed to explore quite a number of places Bacolod in the four and half days we have stayed there. Here are some of the activities we did, and you can do, while in the City of Smiles:
Food trip/coffee time moments along Lacson Street. Aside from the usual chains of restaurants you can find in Metro Manila and other urban centers, there are quite a number of local restaurants, and cafes along this busy main street. Here are some of the places we have been to:
- Ann Co Cakes
4. C’s at L’ Fisher Hotel
5. Starbucks (for the Bacolod mug)!
• Walk around Negros Occidental Capitol Park and Lagoon!
• Visit the Negros Museum.
• Have another coffee time at the Negros Museum Cafe.
• Explore Downtown Bacolod!
• Dine at Aida’s Chicken at Manokan Country
• Shop for souvenirs and pasalubong at the Negros Showroom along Lacson Street. The place has a lot of beautiful and very nice local products. Aside from these two, I also bought a beautiful abaca bangles which is now a favorite accessory!
• Go to Panaad Park and Sports Complex. Our Negros Museum guide told us that a real train that was used in the transporting sugar canes in the old days can be found in this place, so off we go, especially after we decided not to go to Victorias Milling on this trip. I was also curious about this place as I remember that a Philippine Azkals game was played at the Panaad Stadium. Panaad is far, if we will measure the distance from where we have been, which was the Negros Museum.
• Mall fix at The District. Getting out of Panaad commuting became a bit of a challenge as we were not familiar with the jeepney routes, and the area itself, anymore. Not much taxis either in that area. Luckily, we found this very nice taxi driver after a while. We asked him to take us to The District in the neighboring Talisay for our mall fix. He was also the one who took us back to the airport the following day for Php 500. We ate lunch there, had coffee, and then just went around.
• The Art District in Mandalagan. We managed to reach it after getting lost. We missed the stop to Mandalagan. There was not much activity in the area when we went there in the afternoon. Maybe, it is best to go there in the evening as I noticed there are several places where you can sit out and drink. After braving a dark stairway, we found the Gallery Orange and the current exhibit there.
Next, and that is after I have written the update to my fan fiction, my trips to Talisay and Silay! 🙂
Note: Sorry, this one is very long post. I put more information and photos, more than I would normally do, (including rates, prices of stuffs, fees, and also some links for more information) for those of you who would like to go there as well, and also for people who will end up in this blog, looking for information, like I do, before going to a place. I hope you will find this post useful!
I made it again to Vigan, as well as other parts of the Ilocos provinces, almost at the same period I was there in 2012, without really intending to! I was supposed to go there last month, but due to Typhoon Lando I had to move the trip even if my bags were already packed and my hotel accommodation and the bus ticket were booked. Going to Vigan in November, it turned out, was better than that October weekend. The weather was pretty good and there were not so many people when I was there recently.
It was a very fulfilling and a very enjoyable, laid-back kind of trip. Aside from revisiting one of my favorite places in the country, it reconnected me with something I really love doing but had neglected in years – traveling, the way I like it.
I love exploring and discovering places armed with a paper guide-book, maps, information I gleaned online, and from helpful people I met while traveling. I started to realize how I really missed this kind of thing when I went to Negros Occidental in September and explored the places in my bucket list by bus, by tricycle, by taxi, by foot, and by jeepney, armed with a map, a guide-book and by asking a local friend for information. As soon as I returned home after that trip, I planned this trip to Vigan with my friends who would like to go there as well. Suffice it to say that, I am truly bitten by the travel bug again!
Traveling to Ilocos Sur and Norte cleared the head, as well, as I was in some sort of crossroads in my life! I now know what I would like to do next, among other things! I would like to travel more and write about those travels in this blog, and of course, continue writing fiction/fan fiction, as well as other interesting stuffs for you guys.
My blog entries on my travels to Negros Occidental and the two Ilocos provinces, coming up after I finish the updates of my current stories. I hope you will like those posts as well!
Now with batteries recharged and with spirit renewed, I better buckle down and start writing! 🙂
Cheers and good vibes!
❤ Antigone ❤
My fascination with Philippine ancestral houses
For as long as I could remember, I’m drawn to ancestral houses. Seeing these beautiful and regal houses I would imagine the people who once called these houses home. They have loved, hoped, dreamed, suffered losses, celebrated life, and triumphed over adversities, generation after generation, in these majestic houses that withstood the vagaries of time.
If this is like falling love, then this bahay na bato in Nueva Ecija owned by Crispulo Sideco, was my first love. I wish it is my family’s so I can live in it. I pass by this ancestral house when I visit my grandparents and each time, I pay a silent homage to it. There is something about this grand old house, which also played a role in Philippine history, that calls to me.
Through the years, I have managed to see other beautiful ancestral houses. Some of them have been turned into museums, a fine-dining restaurant, inns and hotels, giving a glimpse of these houses’ rich past, and a way for us to experience and relive a manner of living long gone or changed.
Many years ago, I had requested a friend, who is from Batangas, if we can go to Taal, because I have read somewhere that there are a lot of old houses there, just like in Vigan. Taal was also nearer to Manila than Vigan, and I very much wanted to satisfy my fascination for ancestral houses. I wanted to see the inside of one, aside from Casa Manila, which I had seen years ago.
It was the house of Don Leon Apacible (not in photo) which has been turned into museum, I managed to tour while in Taal.
I always look for old houses in the places I have been. I have seen some in Camiguin the first time I was there in the late 1990s, but didn’t manage to take photos. In my third trip to this beautiful island several years ago, I saw this old house near the beach resort were my family and I were staying. I went for a walk and took photos. However, I didn’t manage to ask around about the house’s history.
If some houses have been converted into museums, one beautiful one in Manila’s San Miguel District has been turned into a fine-dining place by the heirs.
For years, I have been hearing about La Cocina de Tita Moning, the old Legarda home, a very beautiful old house with art deco architecture, converted into a fine-dining place.
I found the opportunity to finally see the place when a foreigner friend visited me several years ago. I took her there for lunch. The lunch, which had to be booked a day or two in advance, included a tour of the house, which we did before our sumptuous lunch.
Since there were just two of us, we were put in one of the rooms converted into a fine dining place for small groups. The food was great and more than what we could eat. The staff just packed everything left for us to take home. We dined in the manner it was done decades ago, with heirloom recipes, and it really felt like stepping back in time while doing so.
My friend and I walked around the area after our heavy lunch and saw this beautiful house beside the Legarda mansion.
I was in the equivalent of an ancestral houses heaven when I finally managed to tour Vigan in 2012. This was not the first time I set foot in Vigan, but it might as well be the first since I only passed through the city on the way to La Union many years ago. As much as I wanted to stay there and explore the place, it was not among my relatives’ itinerary when we started our road trip that took us from Tuguegarao, to Pagudpud, Batac, Laoag and down to La Union for the night, and Baguio in the morning. We only stopped at Vigan to buy drinks of all things! I told myself that one day, I will explore the place. I managed to do so with my foreigner friend whom I have shared similar adventures while in a training program abroad.
We arrived in Vigan at dawn, having taken the 9PM Partas bus the night before. The whole place was still sleeping, and it was just us and the tricycle driver who took us to this street corner from the bus terminal. Walking at around 4AM in Calle Crisologo, with all those small lamps and the street deserted, it felt like I had really stepped back in time!
We stayed in one of the old houses that has been converted into a hotel. The place has been modernized a bit, but still retains its old-world charm.
I love the stairs and the sala in between the rooms.
There is a small balcony there where you can people watch and look at all the other old houses in the vicinity.
In the two full days I had stayed in Vigan, I never got tired of looking at these beautiful ancestral houses, soaked in the atmosphere, and pretended that I was, indeed, transported back in time, to an era I very much wanted to see and experience if time travel is really possible! One of my favorite moments was having a cup of coffee in a sidewalk cafe in Calle Crisologo as my friend and I chatted and enjoyed the nice late afternoon November weather.
Since Vigan, I haven’t been to other places where there are a lot of ancestral homes, though I have seen some old houses in Bustos, Bulacan and the so-called bahay na pula in San Ildefonso when I passed by on the way to Nueva Ecija. But judging by this book that I bought in National Bookstore and additional information I found online, there are still a lot I haven’t seen.
Reading this book cover to cover, I have learned a whole lot more about ancestral houses,. One day, I hope I’ll make it to Negros Occidental, and see the old houses there, especially in Silay City. In the meantime, going to Pila, Laguna or Taal, Batangas again, is easier, as it is possible to take a day trip there.
I hope more families, like those featured in this book, will restore their ancestral homes. As I have seen also the sad state some of the ancestral houses have gotten into. Standing one time, then either rundown the next time I saw it, or totally demolished to give way to new structures. The old ancestral houses surely are more beautiful, and the same time more functional, as they were built brilliantly to adapt to our climate. They have also survived wars, upheavals, and so much more. These houses deserve to be preserved for future generations.
I always tell my friends teasingly that if I win millions in the lottery (kind of impossible at the moment since I don’t bet!) the first thing I would like to do, is buy a bahay na bato and restore it from where it is standing, or if it is not possible to do so, have a replica of a Spanish-era bahay na bato built, and live in it! For now, it is still a pipe dream, but who knows! 🙂
Inside the La Mesa Ecopark
Entering the La Mesa Ecopark through its canopied entrance is like being transported out of the city and into a forest in a blink of an eye.
Recently, I managed to do what I have been wanting to do – to go back to the ecopark, which is one of the places right at my ‘doorstep’ but haven’t been to, in a long time. The first and only time I went there was more than a decade ago.
The first of the two trips I took there again was on a weekday. There were fewer people and some of the kiosks/food stalls were closed. It was amazing, just to walk around. I brought my daughter and she got antsy so we left after more than an hour or so.
I came back on a Saturday since I missed exploring parts of the park. There were a lot of people – families carrying picnic stuffs, and groups just going around the park like my companions and I opted to do. The park was more alive. Some of the kiosks that were closed on a weekday were opened. Nevertheless, it was still very relaxing and peaceful to be there, as you can sit just in a corner, under the trees, and do some deep thinking, contemplate life and the universe (magmuni-muni) if that is what you would like to do, like what I want to do sometimes, or write the next chapter of my stories!
La Mesa Ecopark offers a variety of activities and points of interest for everyone, aside from taking in as much of the over abundance of nature around you.
• Butterfly Haven. A guide walked you through the stages of the development of a butterfly and see full-grown ones up close inside a small enclosure.
• Swimming. La Mesa Ecopark has two swimming complexes. One is near the entrance and the other one is near the fishing lagoon. The second time I was there, I thought of going in and see the inside of the first of the two swimming facilities. However, I was unable to do so as the place was booked for a private event. As for the second pool, I only caught a glimpse the first time I was there. It does look quite inviting from what I could see of it.
• Picnic. Fancy eating al fresco under the canopies of trees? You can do it through the designated picnic places at the Lopez picnic grounds. The use of the concrete picnic table is free of charge.
• Food stalls. There are some food stalls/kiosks in the park, just in case you don’t want to carry picnic stuffs.
• Fishing. You can try your hand at fishing in the lagoon. Standing at the other side of the lagoon, picnic area side, I did see some big fishes. If you are not into fishing, just looking at the lagoon is very relaxing and there are picnic huts for rent at the other side.
• Climbing the flower terraces. The view from the top of the Shell Flower Terraces is breathtaking. You also get to see the dam and the surrounding areas, and in the process, get a bit of exercise too, climbing up the many steps to the top!
• Exploring the amphitheatre. The Petron Amphitheatre looks like a small rice terraces. Two people brought a tent and pitched it at a vantage point of the amphitheatre the second time I was in the park. Quite a nice set up. Looking at them, I imagined myself bringing a laptop next time, and doing that too!
• Communing with nature at the mini-forest. Beyond the amphitheater is the mini-forest. You can hike around and enjoy the cool air whilst looking at the trees and beautiful foliage around you. There are walking paths and you will not get lost (as one of the guys with a high-powered camera we chanced upon, when we were about to venture into the forest, assured us, and he was right!) It was very peaceful doing so.
• Going around the orchidarium. From the lagoon side, you can explore and have a relaxing time inside the Drilon Orchidarium. There was a group of students doing some activities when we were exploring the place.
• Zipline (Zip across the flower terraces). Bungee fun. Water bike. Calesa/Horseback riding. These are some of the other activities you can try in the park. There is a boating lagoon, according the map I got, but when I asked the park reception about it, as I was unable to locate it, I was told that they don’t have it anymore.
• Walk around. If you are not keen on swimming or doing other strenuous activities, you can just stroll around the ecopark and enjoy nature without having to travel far out of the city.
I left the place happy. Next time, I will bring a picnic and try one of the pools, or the tent with the laptop near the amphitheatre. For the two times I have been there, I was just contented with going around the park, especially at the mini-forest.
For more information about the La Mesa Ecopark (opening hours, rates, facilities, and various activities you can do, how to go to the place, please click on this link).