Back in the days when sugar barons own large pieces of land that makes a hacienda, Negros was the biggest sugar producer in the country. The wealth of the island of Negros is from its volcanic soil, which is ideal for agriculture. The collapse of the textile industry in the 19th century attracted Spaniards from Spain and Manila, the French and people from neighboring provinces, which started the sugar industry. But what are known as the Negrense Hacienderos (sugar barons) are from its neighbor Ilo-ilo in origin and ancestry.
The expansion of the sugar industry in the 1850’s and the opening of the Suez canal flooded Bacolod with European fineries and artworks. Baroque churches and sprawling mansions rose across the Negros landscape and Spanish culture blossomed in the tropics.
Silay’s most famous landmark is the Church of San Diego.
The Negrenses lived the good life in those days. The golden years of the sugar magnate, however came to an end in the 1980’s and the sugar industry swiftly declined leaving many tycoons landless.
Many however held on to their ancestral homes, turning them to galleries or museums. Some actually still live in it like that of our hosts’ residence, where we stayed during our stay. The house was once used as a set for Oro Plata, Mata, a well-acclaimed film of period setting.
Silay and its neighboring towns such as Talisay abound in well-preserved ancestral homes and aside from staying in one, we dropped in on some. Come, let’s explore some of these houses together.
Balay ni Tana Dicang
One house that is in perhaps the best state of preservation is the stately 1880 “bahay-na-bato” (literally house of stone) of Don Efigenio Lizares y Tyeres and Doña Enrica “Dicang” Alunan y Labayon built in coral stone and various hardwood. Engaged in the production of sugar and owning several haciendas, they built their 1st house of modest size, it however was burned down by the guerillas during World War I. What is standing today is their 2nd house built in 1880 in Talisay, larger than the first hence the name Balay Dako (big house). The couple had seventeen children, Efigenio died in 1902, leaving his widow to raise fifteen children (2 died early) on her own for the next 4 decades. Kapitana Dicang as she was popularly known (which was later shortened to just Tana Dicang) assumed the management of the haciendas and continued to acquire more. She was an extremely enterprising lady, apart from being a great haciendera, she was a grocer, cigar manufacturer and a famous confectionery as well. How she raised her children was one that was instilled in stern discipline in the family and her sons and daughters took her word as law.
The bust of Don Efigenio and Tana Dicang
That’s a set of encyclopedia.
Windows were made of capiz shells
This recently opened balay, although not as famous as Balay Negrense, echoes the lifestyle of past splendor down to the chinas, furnitures and other accessories.
The ground floor houses K (for Kapitana) gallery and the stairway leads to the entrance hall on the 2nd floor. The floors are from “balayong” wood custom cut – meaning the floor planks stretched from one point to the other in one piece.
Balay ni Tana Dicang 36 Rizal St., Talisay City Negros Occidental For details call: (34)4952104
More houses to come… For a glimpse of other worlds, click here.