Lifestyle

The Mansions of Silay Are Remnants of Our Genteel Past

Silay, in Negros Occidental, has an underrated Heritage Zone with the most preserved houses in the country.
IMAGE Nonoy Catugas courtesy of Solomon L. Locsin/Camera Club of Negros
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When you think about heritage sites in the Philippines, most people would easily think of Escolta in Manila or Vigan in Ilocos Sur. Negros Occidental is hardly top of mind, but Silay is actually one of the cities with the most preserved heritage houses, thanks to the efforts of the community and local government. After extensive social media campaigning, Silay received a 68% increase in tourism between 2010 to 2015.

In 2015, the city hosted the National Summit of the Heritage Conservation Society of the Philippines where it was put on the Google Earth Street Map View. That same year, Silay received an additional 10 historical markers for the ancestral homes in its heritage zone.

Silay might just be the next big destination for heritage and history enthusiasts here and abroad. Here are some of the houses you can see in its Heritage Zone.

 

The Mansion at Calle Ledesma
The Mansion was built in 1920 by Emilio Ledesma y Ledesma and his wife Rosario Locsin y Locsin-Ledesma. It's one of the many roads owned by the Locsins and Ledesmas (a quantity that grew thanks to many inter-marriages within the two families). Emilio’s father, Don Jose “Pepe” R. Ledesma, was the richest man in Negros during that time. He was one of the largest contributors of the Cinco de Noviembre Revolution of 1898.

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Rumor has it that Emilio and Rosario’s only child Adela had the house’s second floor demolished in the '50s so she wouldn’t see her former lover’s new family who lived nearby. She died without an heir in 2012 at the age of 97.

Currently, The Mansion is open for venue rentals, art exhibits, gigs, et cetera.


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The Pink House
Also known as the Don Bernardino Lopez Jalandoni Heritage House, the Pink House get its name from the vibrant hue that covers its exterior.

Built in 1908 by Don Bernardino and his wife Isabel Jalandoni y Ledesma, the house contains preserved pieces of furniture and interiors as well as intricate artwork, such as an embossed metal tray ceiling molded in Hamburg, Germany.

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The former heritage house is now a museum that specializes in Silay history.


 

Balay Negrense
Sugar Baron Don Victor Gaston had this two-story, 12-bedroom manor house built in the early 1900s. Located on the historic Cinco de Noviembre Street, he stone house, also known as the Don Victor Gaston Heritage House, puts together Spanish and American colonial architecture. It features a double staircase, French glass-paned windows, large living rooms, all new innovations for that period.

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The house is now a museum that showcases the province’s history as seen through the eyes of hacienderos like Don Victor.


Manuel Severino Hofilena Heritage House
The first ancestral home to open its doors to tourists, this charming house is the Negrense take on the American “tsalet” or chalet, a wooden cottage. Here, one of Manuel Severino Hofilena's descendants, Ramon, features a collection of painting by renowned artists (Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Manansala), which the patriarch had collected since the 19th Century. Ramon is usually available for stories that you can't find in history books.

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Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House
The Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House had living spaces on the upper floors and commercial spaces available for rent on the lower floors. In 1992, it was purchased by a bank which restored the house and its interiors to its former glory. The original Art Deco details are still visible on the archways and corner entrance. There are some noticeably Baroque details too, like carvings of masques and lions' heads.

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Balay Verde
Also known as the Green House, this heritage home combines the American clapboard style and Colonial Plantation style which was popular during the Revivalist Period in American history.

The stripped-down columns on both floors is evident of the proto-Modernist movement in architecture. Currently, this house serves as the headquarters of the Silay City Cultural Office.

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Antonio de la Rama Locsin Heritage House
This place, which dates back to the Spanish Colonial Period, is the oldest house in Silay. It follows the typical Visayan bahay na bato construction and comes complete with ventanillas and sliding capiz windows. It is also the ancestral home of the National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin.

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Cesar Lacson Locsin Heritage House
The favorite tourist spot houses the El Ideal Bakery, which is the oldest in Silay. This heritage house follows the bahay na bato proportions but it's fitted with glass panes and iron-grilled ventanillas.


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Generoso Gamboa House
Generosa Gamboa and his wife Olympia Severino were two of the prominent personalities during the Cinco de Noviembre revolution. The former later became the mayor of Silay during the American Colonial Period.

This heritage building is also often called the Twin House due to its similarity with the house next door. In truth, Generoso built these houses for his sons, Ernesto and Generoso Jr. It's embellished with Art Nouveau pierced screens (calado) and cast-iron brackets.


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German Lacson Gaston Ancestral House
This house represents an interesting combination of bahay na bato and American Colonial style. The horizontal clapboard sidings are inspired by American architecture but the capiz shells windows on the ground floor and vetanillas with wooden balusters are very Spanish.

The second floor boasts colored glass, rejas na buntis iron grilles, and Art Deco brackets. Slatted louvered windows extend to envelop the whole upper floor but from the outside it looks like the usual Visayan heritage houses. The decorative stair balusters and veranda on both floors were also developments during the American Period.


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Josefita Tionko Lacson House
This is the only house in Silay with an elevator. Dona Sefit was fond of travelling to Europe and in one of her many excursions, she purchased a belen and it became tradition to light it up to illuminate the ground floor every Christmas.

Located along a main street, there's a gallery bordered with classical columns. It's open to the public who use it mostly for shade. 


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Lino Lope Severino Building
This transitional Art Deco building was the first department store in Negros. According to old stories, the street had the same vibe as the famed Escolta in Manila. This building was also a symbol in Iloilo’s business district. 


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About The Author
Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
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