The Walks of Kulot


I WOK’d in SILAY.

* I WOK’d in Silay is part of the author’s 3-day travel journal from his first mini solo backpacking trip to Negros Occidental.

No turning back.

I arrived at the Silay-Bacolod airport at around 5:30 am just before sunrise. I was quite nervous with my spontaneity as I have not prepared a detailed itinerary for my first ever mini-solo-backpacking trip – just some notes on must-visit historical places and contact numbers of pension houses and hotels in Bacolod. I felt like a soldier geared up for battle without any ammunition. “Oh well, there’s no turning back this time.” I told myself. As they say, having no plans and making spur-of-the-moment decisions make the experience more exciting. After being all psyched up, I went out of the airport gates and rode a tricycle going to the Silay town proper.

El Ideal Bakery in Silay City.

The tricycle driver dropped me in front of an old house quintessential of Silay’s old-world architecture.  A red sign hanging below the house ventanillas says El Ideal – which I later found out to be a famous bakery in Silay selling pastries and bread since the 1920s. Suddenly, I felt I was transported into a different world which reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows as a kid – Bayani — where the two kids in the show are sent to the past on a mission to discover and learn about the lives of Philippine heroes. That moment I felt I was on a quest to discover more of the city.

Originally known as the New City Cafe or the Kapehan Sang Silay is also the ancestral home of Kapitan Marciano Montelibano Lacson.

Vendors at the Silay Public Market selling native kakanin to americanized hambugers and footlong sandwiches.

It was only 6:00 am when I reached the public plaza. The streets were quiet with only a few trucks carrying loads of sugarcane passing by and only the swoosh-y sound of street sweepers can be heard.  At the nearby Silay public market, vendors line up the corridor properly arranging their merchandise in makeshift tables. The variety of their goods was a bit strange – from rice cakes and native kakanin to hamburgers with soggy buns and spaghetti inside ballooned plastic bags, which actually looked like fighting fish inside oxygenated bags.

The San Diego Pro-Cathedral

San Diego Pro-Cathedral

A block away across the Silay Public Market is the Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala also known as the San Diego Pro-Cathedral. Built in the 1920s by architect Lucio Bernasconi, the cathedral’s dome resembles the one in St. Peter’s Basilica. I was just in time for the morning mass when I entered the church. I was listening intently to the priest when I realized the mass was said in Illongo. Though I couldn’t understand and I was just taking my cue to reply, kneel and bow from other parishioners I finished the mass. Afterwards, I offered my silent prayers asking for His guidance as I go on with my trip.

Maria Golez Ancestral House (RCBC Bank)

Meeting a kind-hearted stranger and my tour guide for the day

After hearing mass, I decided to go to the city hall to ask where I can grab a map so I can do a walking tour by myself. I asked a street sweeper in front of the city hall where the tourism office is but she just glanced at me looking perplexed without any word to say. I figured out she was deaf-mute. Just before I left, she made a hand gesture asking me to wait for a while. After a few minutes, she emerged from the back of the building together with a man whom I believed was in his 40s because of his receding hairline. The man approached me with a fatherly smile. “Saan punta mo?” he asked me, maybe he knew I was on a trip with my huge backpack on. I told him I was looking for the tourism office and he pointed across to the civic center. I thanked him as I went ahead. “Ingatan mo gamit mo, baka masalisihan ka” were his last cautious words of advice.

Unfortunately, the tourism office was still closed and will open after an hour. I have no choice but to wait outside their office not until the man with the receding hairline approached me again. “Mag-isa ka lang ba?” he asked. “Gusto mo ako nalang mag-tour sayo, mag-rent nalang tayo ng padyak. Tapos na rin naman duty ko.” I was quite apprehensive at first but after knowing that he was a night shift security guard at the Silay city hall, I agreed with his offer. I found out his name was Kuya Rene. I felt his intentions were pure and I realized that it’s best to tour the town with someone who’s familiar with the streets at the same time gain local insights from him.

The pedicab/padyak I rented to get around Silay. Kuya Rene is the one wearing a cap.

Silay’s Ancestral Houses

Silay City is known for its well-preserved and century-old ancestral houses. It is also known to be a museum city next to Vigan in Illocos Sur because you can actually walk its streets and experience being brought back in time during the affluence of hacienderos or sugar barons centuries ago. Riding the padyak, which Kuya Rene rented, was indeed a sight-seeing trip as we passed by different ancestral houses – most of which still remain intact and some have already gone major repairs to keep it standing. According to Kuya Rene, Silay has around 31 ancestral houses and he brought me to the oldest house owned by Antonio De La Rama Locsin; the ancestral home of national artist for architecture, Leandro Locsin which is estimated to be 150 years old. Most ancestral houses in Silay were named after their owners, but some are more famous because of the house’s unique characteristic and colors – like the white house, the green house, the pink house and twin house.

(TOP) The Manuel Severino Hofileña Ancestral House. Entrance by appointment.

The Red House and the White House.

The Green house (Angel Araneta Ledesma Ancestral House) which also houses Silay City's Culture and Arts office. For more information about the Green House, please read the comment of Ms. Maritel Ledesma in the comments below.

Jose B. Gamboa ancestral house

Alejandro Amechazura ancestral house

The colorful facade of Silay's fire department.

Another landmark in Silay - the Cinco de Noviembre marker.

Jose Ledesma ancestral house built in 1917.

The 150 year-old Antonio dela Rama Locsin ancestral house. Known to be the oldest ancestral house in Silay. Its original balustrades and metal window grills are still intact.

The Twin house.

*Tip: Get a map from the Silay tourism office (Culture and Civic Center) in front of the City hall with a list of ancestral houses to visit. It is a numbered map, so it will be easy to get around. Hire a pedicab/padyak for P100/half day to tour you around the city’s ancestral houses.

The facade of Balay Negrense

Balay Negrense

I asked Kuya Rene if I could actually enter those houses we passed by. He said we have to ask permission from the owners but he told me that I could visit the Balay Negrense and the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House which is open to the public with an entrance fee of P40.00. Our first stop was the Balay Negrense also known as the Victor Gaston house, one of the largest colonial houses in Silay and according to Kuya Rene is a favorite setting for horror films. I shouldn’t have heard that comment in the first place but the giant balete tree beside the brown house was already giving me the creeps. Kuya Rene decided to be left outside the house so he could look over my belongings as I take pictures inside the house. The caretaker told me that I could take photos inside except for the second floor where it is prohibited because a tourist once made his photos into postcards and sold it. (But since I was alone, I sneaked some shots for my blog with no intentions of selling the photos just to promote Balay Negrense to my blog’s readers.) Though the balay have undergone a major renovation and was finished in the year 1990, its form and structure was preserved from the original house. The house is furnished with different pieces of period furniture and accentuated with old artifacts donated by families from Silay.

The cozy and breezy reception area inside the house.

Notice the piaya? Piaya is a famouse Negrense delicacy made from muscuvado sugar.

A vintage electric fan in one of the rooms inside Balay Negrense.

The grand staircase to the second floor.

*Balay Negrense is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Entrance Fee: P40.00 (Adults)

The Paris of Negros and the Jalandoni House

After Balay Negrense, I visited the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House (Pink House) along the national road where I met Mr. Jorge Po, the museum’s curator. I felt I was on a field trip listening to Mr. Po as he toured me around as he gave insights and facts about the town and the Jalandoni house. According to him Silay is also known as the Paris of Negros, because during the Spanish colonial era Silay was the seat of culture and arts in Negros Occidental. The reason for this was the construction of the biggest and longest port in Silay where cultural exchange was made possible.  As for the Jalandoni house, Mr. Po said that it is one of the biggest ancestral houses in Silay next to Balay Negrense. It follows the form of a typical nipa hut and almost 80% of the house’s materials are not replaced from the original. Today, the Jalandoni House is under the preservation of the Silay Heritage Foundation.

The sala on the second floor.

(L) This bed is made by a famouse chinese carver named Ah-Tay, hence the name Ah-Tay bed. (R) A ventanilla, a structural device used for air ventillation.

Since the rooms doesn't have its own comfort room, an arinola is used instead.

The old port of Silay. Known to be the longest and biggest in Asia before.

*The  Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9:00am – 5:00pm. Sundays from 9:00am – 4:00pm. Entrance Fee: P40.00 (Adults), P30.00 (Senior Citizens), P25.00 (Children)

In the middle of a sugar cane plantation

Just in time for lunch, I treated Kuya Rene as gratitude for being kind enough to accompany me around town. I checked my notes where I am headed next so I could ask him for quick directions. I told him I was going to the Hawaiian Philippine Company where vintage locomotives can be found in the middle of sugar plantations. Luck must be really on my side since he told me he was also going there to visit a friend. After having lunch, we hitched a tricycle going to the place and afterwards we found ourselves plying with huge trucks carrying loads of sugar cane in the middle of a dirt road sandwiched by tall sugar cane plants. The sugar plantation in Silay was extremely vast; no wonder Negros Occidental is called the Sugarbowl of the Philippines. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see locomotives but I am glad to experience a road trip in an authentic Negrense way.

Tall sugar cane grass

Trucks carrying loads of sugar cane harvested in Silay.

Sugar canes delivered at the Hawaiian Philippines sugar plantation.

A sugarcane farmer with his son getting ready to harvest.

That was my last stop in Silay. I bid farewell to Kuya Rene but he was persistent to accompany me to Talisay because he was concerned that I might get lost, but I told him I will be fine. Having met a total stranger who offered me kindness, I was confident to go on with my trip and see more of Negros Occidental. I know I was off to a good start.

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18 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi,

My husband loves locomotives and he wanted to see the one in Silay. Do you have any idea how he can see those locomotives.

faith

Comment by Faith

Hi Faith,

Thanks for dropping by 🙂 You can find the oldest locomotive train at the Victorias Milling Company in Victorias City. It’s 45 minutes away from Bacolod City. I think you will be needing a private van/car to get there. 🙂

Comment by walksofkulot

your photos have a lot of character. your detailed post will be very helpful as i’m heading back to silay the 2nd time.

Comment by teresa

Hi Teresa,

Thank you for appreciating the photos and for visiting WOK 🙂 Have a safe trip!

Martin

Comment by walksofkulot

Awesome photos… very detailed post… well-written! 🙂

Comment by mervz | pinoyadventurista.com

Thanks Sir Mervz! 🙂

Comment by walksofkulot

For the record, the green house named above is the Angel Araneta Ledesma Ancestral House. We sold it in 1992 and the buyer did some repainting (as in painting it dark green, when it’s original color was more grass green) and added another bathroom (there were already 2 in the main house and 1 in the servants quarters) outside one of the groundfloor bedrooms cutting into the main dining room! Being an astute business man, he later sold it to the city government for more than triple what he paid us. People called it the “green house” after it became the cultural office of the city…much like they call the Jalandoni house, the “pink house”.

Comment by Maritel Ledesma

Hi Ms. Maritel,

Thanks for the information. I am sure it will also be helpful to the readers of my blog. I will make necessary changes in my post.

I will visit Silay again this month and I will visit your ancestral home again. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

-Martin

Comment by walksofkulot

I’m from Bacolod City and I was in Silay last Sunday. I didn’t have much time to see and shoot the sights but I had coffee and made a blog entry about my little time at the Kapehan sa Silay.
http://givemetravelfunds.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/another-city-another-cup/
I just started this blog a few days ago and i hope to just throw whatever random stories and photos I can.
Thank you for including Silay and Talisay in your woks

Comment by givemetravelfunds

Hi! Thanks for passing by.

It was really my pleasure visiting your hometown 🙂 There are just too many places, not to mention old houses in Silay I enjoyed taking photos of. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out the coffee in Kapehan sa Silay, maybe on my next visit. Anyway, I visited your blog and you have great photos! Good luck on your new blog! 🙂

Comment by walksofkulot

Hello, I had fun reading your article about Silay because I was once in your shoes (minus Kuya Rene of course). I also like going on solo trips. I have been there before and will come back next month. I just want to ask if the El Ideal bakery was open by the time you got there early in the morning. We have the same flight time and I want to have my breakfast there.

Comment by Carlo

Hi Carlos,

Thanks for visiting my blog. Anyway, this was actually my first solo trip and I think I will do it again next time.

With regard to El Ideal, I am not sure if the bakery was open when I arrived but I think it was still closed. Since you will be arriving early, I suggest that you do a walking tour around town or maybe visit the cathedral first of the Silay Public Market. You don’t have to worry because these places are walking distance to El Ideal. I hope I was able to help. Enjoy your trip!

Comment by walksofkulot

Thank you! I’ll do what you say.

Comment by Carlo

You’re welcome 🙂 enjoy your trip!

Comment by walksofkulot

Hi.. your site is really excellent, I was checking all of your pictures even in coron, all of those were great shot. I think I can relay more because I had the same trip last September. I was in Coron , davao, boracay and bacolod in the expand of two weeks. Island hopping talaga. but I was just kind of disappointed in bacolod because i got sick with the batchoy I ate, so it turns out I didn’t enjoy my trip there because i end up staying inside the hotel only, good thing I travelled by myself there otherwise i will spoil the trip if I’m with somebody but for sure I want to explore bacolod again. Want to thank you for sharing all these pictures. Maybe on my next visit to Philippines I will try to contact you. I love adventure, and I travel a lot as well whether by myself or with company. i am so happy to know same person like I do.

Comment by bong favis

Hi Bong,

Thank you for the kind words. It’s always my pleasure to share my travel stories and photos to my blog’s readers. Anyway, I am sorry to hear that you got sick during your Bacolod trip. Actually, there’s not much to do in Bacolod other than eat. They call it a gourmet paradise because “food-tripping” is what you can actually do there. I’ll be posting more articles regarding my Negros Occidental trip and I hope that you keep visiting my blog.

Thanks again for visiting and I hope that you get to visit more places in our country.

Comment by walksofkulot

Silay (and Bacolod) was where I used to spend my summer vacations. I was even baptized in San Diego church! It’s been a while since I toured the city. I think I’ll do it again. I hope you had fun. But next time, tell me naman so my cousins can tour you around. Magaling sila sa food trip! Haha!

Comment by Aia

Hi Aia! I am glad that I was able to relive your childhood memories and past summer vacations through this article. I really enjoyed the sights in your hometown. Not to mention, even Negrense food is the best! I’ll let you know when I go back and looking forward to my free tour of the city. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

Comment by walksofkulot




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