Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Offering at the Silay Public Plaza

Every year for the past 5 years, the Silay Public Plaza is turned into a mini museum showing Christmas-themed exhibits of the different barangays and public schools in the city.  This is the Silay City Christmas Village, which has won a national award from the Department of Tourism and Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines as Outstanding Festival – Cultural Category.  This year, the San Diego Pro-Cathedral Parish Council participated in the switch on ceremony last December 9, 2011. The pictures below are only some of the displays, which include 16 Christmas archs, 21 five-foot tall angels, life-size Belen characters, 40-foot tall Christmas tree. These will be displayed for the public until the New Year. For those who want a guided tour, please contact the City Tourism Office at the Jose C Locsin Cultural and Civic Center fronting the City Hall.

A replica of the steam locomotive 6 of HPCO

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Silay's Original Christmas Village

Before the Christmas lights on ceremony and the Christmas Village and Angels display participated by the different barangays and schools, there was the first and original Christmas display of Lola Josefit Lacson who was the best friend of my grand-aunt, Lola Siday and the grandmother of the city mayor now, Mayor Jose "Oti" Montelibano.  This original Christmas village was displayed in the Lacson ancestral home fronting the plaza every year beginning the 3rd week of December. It was a replica of the town of Bethlehem and showed Mary and Joseph as they traveled to the town, up to the birth of Jesus.  It is the story of the nativity in miniature. After Lola Josefit died in the 80's the tradition stopped and I think the area was made into a restaurant, (The Food Basket) but this display was resumed in the mid 90's. My son was about 4 or 5, when it was put up again and you can imagine my excitement upon seeing it...I felt like I found a lost friend! I was so happy that my son could experience this.  And so, today the tradition continues, and children and adults alike come to view this display with much awe and enjoyment.

all photos by Romeo Miguel Ledesma


This Christmas display has brought much happiness to many children of Silay.   As one of those children, I can still remember the feeling of anticipation while waiting for the display to be opened to the public.  Somehow even after all this time, people never get tired of looking at it...there is always some variation or design every year, although as a small child I thought it was huge (grin). I don't know about the others but I know it brings peace to my heart every time I see it. Maybe because it tells me that no matter what happens or changes there are to my beloved city, this is something that will always be there. The antique figurines are probably between 50-70 years old now and they are marvelously preserved.  I pray the family will continue the tradition for many years to come because while there will always be Christmas activities, events and presentations sponsored by the can never replace this Nativity village display. It was and always will be part of Christmas memories in Silay.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Church in Silay: San Diego Pro-Cathedral

In December 25, 1994, Most Reverend Camilo D. Gregorio, DD, then Bishop of the Diocese of Bacolod, declared San Diego Parish Church as a pro-cathedral.  What is the difference between a cathedral and a pro-cathedral? According to Wikipedia, the church of a diocesan bishop is a cathedral like the San Sebastian Church while a parish church temporarily serving as the cathedral of a diocese is known as a "pro-cathedral". Why then of all churches in the diocese was the Church of San Diego chosen?  This church is the second biggest in the Diocese of Bacolod, next to the San Sebastian Cathedral.   This is the reason why San Diego Church was declared as a function as a cathedral in case something happens to the San Sebastian Cathedral. Of course, we pray that would never happen, although a fire did damage the entire second floor of the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace) in 1985. Thinking about this now, perhaps this incident prompted the declaration for the San Diego Church?

Ruins of the Spanish Colonial Church in Silay made of coral/limestones

The first church in Silay was a temporary structure made of bamboo poles, amakan (bamboo slats), nipa (a local palm) and cogon grass. Eventually, a more permanent structure was built, made of coral stone but this too fell into ruin by fire. It's ruins is found at the back of the present church.  A bigger church made of bricks and cement was built perpendicular to the old church but this remained unfinished and unfurnished, lacking seats and pews.  As the community grew, there began a clamor for a better place of worship and one Silay resident, Don Jose del Rosario Ledesma and his family offered to shoulder the expenses to build a new church.  The designer picked was an Italian architect, Lucio Bernasconi who made a design based on Romanesque/Renaissance influence. The high arch of the facade is Romanesque, but the twin bell towers and the dome is Renaissance.  Building of the church began in 1925 and before it was completed, contributions from the parishioners were accepted so that it would become everyone's church and not just funded by the Ledesma family (although by this time it was 75% completed). The new San Diego Parish Church was completed and inaugurated in 1927.  It's distinctive dome with it's big cross lighted at night could be seen from the sea and serves as a beacon to seafarers.  The original clock in one of the towers (donated in 1938 by the Montelibano family), the bells and the church's original iron fence and gates are still in existence to this day. The clock was repaired in 2005 and the fence repainted in the same year too.  The statues of the 12 apostles placed on the pillars of the fence were added features in the mid '90s.  Pedestrian entrances were also added at the left and right front gates aside from the ones in the front middle gate.
photo credit: Christian Sangoyo of LakadPilipinas
Prayer Room and Grotto
The ruins of the old Church have also been put to good use.  Ever since I can remember the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with an area for saying mass on her feast day and an elevated area at it's left side (which could have been part of the old church) has always been there. We used to play in this area. Perhaps this was built in the early 60's?  And the prayer room?  This was built on the elevated area sometime in the 1990's and I believe the Silay Parish is one of the first, if not the first who built one among all the other churches in the diocese.  Here the Blessed Sacrament is exposed from 6 AM to 6 PM daily.

In spite of only 2 regular priests assigned to minister to our big parish, we are able to hold twice daily masses and 7 Sunday masses in the pro-cathedral...quiet a feat, I must say. 

Daily Masses Mon-Sat: 6:00 AM/ 5:00 PM
Sunday Masses: 5:00, 6:00, 8:00, 9:30 AM
                           4:00, 5:15, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Silay's Patron Saint: St. Didacus of Alcala And His Rightful Place In The Altar

The Patron Saint of Silay is San Diego de Alcala (St. Didacus in English) but not much was known about him.  I for one grew up not knowing who San Diego was, except perhaps that he was a friar wearing a brown habit by looking at his huge statue right there in the main altar.  That was how I always remembered it was a small shock to see him relegated to the pulpit at the left side of the church when I came home in 1980 (in his place was a statue of the Risen Christ).  I still wonder to this day how they managed to put poor San Diego inside it.

photo by Antonio Abong
The next parish priest took pity on our patron saint and decided to place him back on an altar niche...the right side altar this time. The tall statue can barely fit though. The picture below is blurry, but you can clearly see that it is still the Risen Christ in the main altar...

Then in 2005, after many consultations and finally putting it to vote, San Diego was back to his rightful place and that is in the main altar.  Of course, there were some dissenting opinions especially in the light of Vatican II...but the San Diego Church was built before Vatican II and the head of the commission of liturgy ruled that the statues or icons of the patron saint in pre-Vatican II churches should be placed in the main altar.

Retrieved from
And the Risen Christ?  Church authorities placed the statue in the the church mortuary which I think is appropriate enough...after all, death brings about eternal life.

But who is San Diego or St. Didacus?  San Diego de Alcala became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis at a very young age and eventually took his solemn vows as a lay brother of the Franciscan Order. It was only in recent years that the parish first began a massive information campaign on San Diego. Researches were done and a play was written about the life of this relatively unknown saint and was shown during the fiesta in 2005.  Prayer stampitas were also given out and people were encouraged to attend the novena masses. All that effort paid off because today the Feast of San Diego is a week long celebration actively participated not only by church volunteers but by the community as well.


Almighty and eternal God, who in Thy wonderful condescension hast chosen the weak of this world top confound the strong, mercifully grant to our lowliness, that through the pious intercession of Thy holy confessor St. Didacus, we may deserve to be raised to eternal glory in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Side of Silay: An Hacienda Life Tour

The Philippine Blog Awards-Visayas held in Silay City has just been concluded but the fun did not end there. It is good that Mayor Jose "Oti" Montelibano is tech-savvy and was very supportive of the whole event. He even honored us with his presence, prompting PBA president, Juned Sonido to comment that this is the first time that an LGU has shown real interest and support to bloggers.

Photo of Mayor Jose "Oti" Montelibano taken for PBA Facebook page

Silay City also scheduled a free tour for the participants the next day.  This was a "different" kind of tour which Mr. Ver Pacete, Silay Tourism Officer called...The Hacienda Life Tour.  The group coming from Bacolod was picked up early Sunday morning by the Silay City buses and as they reached Silay, they picked up participants who were booked in Silay inns. First stop was Hda. Adela, owned by the Unson family.  Unfortunately, I was not able to go on this leg of the tour because I was busy in church helping with the San Diego de Alcala feast day celebrations.  From their stories, I gathered that they were shown first hand the simple life of the mamumugon or farm laborer. As most of them have never set foot on an hacienda, it was a real eye-opener and a humbling experience. They were given a sample of folklore chants and composition (luwa and composo) by the  Asosasyon sang mga Mangunguma (AMA), the farmworkers' association that preserves these old traditions.

Next place they went to was Hda. Maquina, owned by the Jalandoni family.  This is where Fresh Start Organics Farm, one of the sponsors of the event is located.  The group was met by the farm owner, Ramon "Chin-Chin" Uy Jr.,  who is married to Francine Jalandoni Marañon, daughter of one of the owners of the hacienda. Here they were shown and explained on organic farming methods like the conversion of biodegradable waste into processed compost and fed to nightcrawlers.  It is the waste of these nightcrawlers that is used as fertilizer!  From there, the group proceeded to Balay Negrense where a sumptuous organic lunch prepared by Fresh Start's Chef Ronnie Guance was waiting for us (I joined the group by this time).

photo by Maricar Dabao of Viaje Negrense
Photo by Maricar Dabao of Viaje Negrense
photo by Glady Tomulto of Experience Negros
The lunch was so good! You can read about it here in Republica Negrense where blogger Mark Magallanes described it with gusto! The next and last place to go to was the Balaring Mangrove Park, but because lunch was so leisurely, meaning extending to native coffee (latte or cappucino, anyone?) post-lunch and a demo on how to make a piaya while the afternoon breeze made most of us sleepy plus the fact that the Manila group will be flying out by 5 pm, it was decided that this part of the tour be cancelled since a trip to the park and back will take about 2 hours. There will be a next time :)  I had to leave too because my mom was patiently waiting for me at the newly blessed Katilingban (Community) Center of our parish church.  I regret not being able to join the tour because this tour showed a different perspective of the city that I love.  Frankly I know all about Silay's rich history on culture and arts, the families who built the homes and mansions and the food handed down through generations. I even know many of the family secrets. But I doubt if I know anything about hacienda life.  There are also the skills and crafts that made Silay famous in the past but are slowly disappearing like the pottery shops of Barangay Guinhalaran which in my childhood used to line both sides of the highway for about a kilometer long.  Now it is down to about 2 or 3 shops only. It would be interesting to know why this is fast disappearing.

I am happy that the Tourism Office is reinventing Silay to include stories, sights and adventures off the beaten path because it is a fact that Silay has everything for everyone.  Silay's heritage is more than just its's the continuing saga of the people who live and die I said in previous posts the demographics of the city is changing, slowly but surely...the future belongs to the now.  All in all, it was a day well spent and as a Silaynon, I was quite proud of my city and our gracious Mayor and Tourism Officer...Thank you Mayor Oti and Mr. Ver Pacete!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Silay's Iron Dinosaurs

The Hawaiian-Philippine Company or HPCo as it is commonly called hereabouts, is the oldest and still very much operational sugar central in Silay City. It was established in 1918 and is currently owned by Jardine-Davis, a U.S. Company. Since then it has improved its facilities to meet world class standards. HPCo is also the owner of several "iron dinosaurs" or steam locomotives which are used to transport cut canes from the haciendas to be brought to the millsite. These iron dinosaurs started operations in the 1920's with Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia as the major supplier of steam engines.  HPCo is one of the last mills in the province that continue to use their steam locomotives until the present day.   However, maintenance is difficult and using bagasse, as fuel even though it is clean and free was labor intensive and thus, not economical. Other milling companies have already converted their trains to diesel fuel and HPCo too have converted many of their steam locomotives.  In fact, in 2003 HPCo advertised some of their steam locomotives for sale.  Two of these steam locomotives, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works  (c.1899 and 1916) were originally owned by the Honolulu Plantation Company until they were sold in 1947 to HPCo where they were used until 1998. In 2004, these two trains found their way back to Hawaii. The Kilohana Plantation in Hawaii recovered these steam engines and bought them to be used again in their newest attraction, the Kauia Plantation Railway.  For them it is a major feat to have been able to locate a matched pair of Baldwin engines with a Hawaiian history, which they will be renovating for future use. 

retrieved from

Today, HPCo's trains no.5 and 7 are the only ones left running on steam.They continue to service the route from the neighboring farms to the mill site.
retrieved from
retrieved from
I hope HPCo management continues to maintain and preserve these trains which is part of the history of sugar in the country.  This is their contribution to heritage. These steam locomotives does not necessarily have to continue being used for transporting harvested canes, but perhaps they can be used something akin to what the Hawaiians are doing...transporting the past into the present. This is a wonderful retirement option for these trains in their old age.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Silay Got It's Name - The Legend Of Kansilay

Who was Kansilay?  Was she fact or fiction?  

Legend tells us that long before the Spaniards came to the shores of the island east of Panay, then known as Buglas, now Negros, there lived a beautiful lin-ay (maiden) named Kansilay in a village by the sea called Karobkob. She was the only daughter of Pinunong Bubog, the village head. Kansilay was betrothed to Lawa-an, a handsome and hard working “ulitao” (gentlemen) of the village and they were soon to wed. However before the wedding, Lawa-an joined the young men of the village for the yearly “ pangayam” (hunting for wildlife) which would be for one full moon. While they were away, pirates raided and plundered the village killing many including Kansilay's father. Kansilay gathered the other maidens and sought the help of the fairy Diwata who gave her a sword but was told that this is not a magic weapon. They fought valiantly but could not repulse the pirates. Lawa-an and the other men arrived in time to help and the pirates were defeated, but at the cost of Kansilay's life. In grief, the people lovingly buried her. One day, they saw a plant growing on Kansilay’s mound. The plant became a sturdy tree with purple-pink flowers, which they named after her, the first Kansilay tree, a tribute to a brave maiden.

That is the official version.

Other historians and history buffs give the supposition that if ever there was a Kansilay, the time period she lived was not during the datu and rajah era but much earlier. If this is true, then swords are not yet made at this time. But even this idea cannot be validated as there is not much information on the original settlers of Negros. The earliest date on record is 1565 and nothing much before that.

The original settlers of the island of Negros are thought to be of the Ati ethnic group also found in Panay, Bohol and neighboring islands in the Visayas. They most probably arrived from Borneo 20-30,000 years ago, through what is believed to be an isthmus that in the prehistoric times connected the Philippine archipelago to Borneo via a land bridge. According to some oral traditions, they also predate the Bisaya, who now inhabit most of the Visayas. An article written by Robert Lindsey says that the Ati of Negros have apparently gone extinct. This is not true. We still have Ati communities in the mountains of Silay, particularly in Sibato.

Our oral history has handed down the story of Kansilay through the centuries and preserved by our ancestors, so whether it is fact or fiction is not a really that important. Our beloved Silay exists and to me that is all that matters.

But now I wonder...was Kansilay an Ati or a Bisaya?

photo retrieved from

source: GMA

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Countdown To The Philippine Blog Awards-Visayas

We only have 2 days more to go before the event.  There will also be a Heritage/Eco-Tourism tour scheduled for November 13. Only limited slots available/  You can pre-register here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Celebrating All Saints and All Soul's Day in Silay

Silay celebrates All Saints and All Soul's Day in much the same way as the rest of the country, except for one difference...all of it's 3 cemeteries are located within walking distance of each other.  There is the public cemetery (Cementerio Municipal), the Catholic Cemetery (Patio Pari) and the privately owned Lasting Peace Memorial Park.  Ledesma St. (formerly Mckinley St) from the corner of the public cemetery to the corner of the parish cemetery is closed to traffic, so that all vehicles going to the airport are advised to take the Locsin St. (formerly Freedom Blvd) route.

View Larger Map

The tomb of Melecio Severino, a hero of Cinco de Noviembre 1898 and the first governor of Negros, is found right at the entrance of the Cementerio Municipal.  The Silay public cemetery is composed of two areas, the necropolis (those with tombs) and the potter’s field (those without tombs). It has also the boneyard used for unidentified old cadavers buried in the potter's field exhumed by the cemetery authority. 

The Silay Catholic Cemetery was probably started at about the same time as its first recorded Catholic Church in the 1780's.  This is where the dead of prominent families were buried or families who could afford to buy burial lots from the church.  Here, you can see old mausoleums, as well as new ones.  There is no one buried below ground in this cemetery because there are no facilities for it. Lot prices here have remained affordable so that even the middle income families can now acquire lots here...but of course, they have to be Catholic.

And last but not the least is the Lasting Peace Memorial Park and Chapel developed by the late Jose Maria Locsin.  It is a typical memorial park with both below and above ground burial lots. There is also what they call the "condominium" which is basically just burial vaults at the side and on top of each other.  The area for the below ground burial lots is elevated and each vault is cemented up to the ground with very good drainage. My family bought our below ground lots years ago when it was still relatively cheap.  When my father died in 1991, there were only a few people buried in our, it is almost full...and the lots are now expensive!

Historical trivia about Melecio Severino:

In October 2, 1899 - Eight months into the protracted Philippine-American War (1899-1914), the invading Bald Eagle nation sponsors the first elections under the Negros Constitution, with revolutionist Melecio Severino, who fought both the Spaniards and the Americans, being elected civil governor; the imperialist United States officials, however, fearing Severino's anti-Americanism, would soon undemocratically arrest him and appoint Jose Luzuriaga and, later, Leandro Locsin, to take his place as civil governor.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Silay, Cinco de Noviembre and the Republic of Negros

There have been many stories written about the Negros Revolution of 1898 now popularly known as El Cinco de Noviembre. This was the day that informally ended Spanish control of the Island. It is commonly known that from November 3 to November 6, 1898, the revolutionaries led by Aniceto Lacson in the north and Juan Araneta in the south rose in revolt against the Spanish authorities headed by politico-military governor Colonel Isidro de Castro. The planning began in Silay when a committee headed by Lacson which included Nicolás Gólez, Leandro Locsin and Melecio Severino assembled and decided to begin the revolt on November 5. They then advised Juan Araneta of their decision. Cinco de Noviembre played a significant role in the history of Silay. On that day at about 2:00 in the afternoon, Silaynons gathered in the street corner now known as Cinco de Noviembre Street and from there they proceeded to the Spanish garrison near the Catholic Church. It was a bloodless revolution. At first the Spanish civil guards refused to surrender. They were entrenched inside the municipal building, but surrendered without a fight when they realized that the townspeople were determined to burn the building to the ground should there be resistance. The Silay parish priest, Eulogio Saez, a businessman named Juan Viaplana, and José Ledesma persuaded the Spanish forces to lay down their arms, but in order to save face, the lieutenant had it appear in the official records that the capitulation was the result of a bloody battle with "dead and wounded littered all over the field of battle".

A Little Known Fact

What is not commonly known however is the fact that Negros was once a republic albeit short-lived. What is the story behind the República Cantonal de Negros, established on November 27, 1898?

The history of the struggle against foreign domination in Panay and Negros showed that, after being victorious against the Spaniards, two Ilonggo groups across the Guimaras Strait manifested opposing reactions to the coming of the Americans. Whereas those in Panay resisted with utmost determination against the new invaders, the elite of Negros decided to organize the cantonal goverrnment of Negros, declaring it as a protectorate of the United States and recognized American sovereignty. It must be recalled that the Ilonggo revolutionaries in Panay under Gen. Martin Delgado who desperately resisted the Americans as early as December 1898, had always looked down on the pacifist and apathetic attitude of the Negros leaders. To understand why, one must see who the leaders of the Negros Republic were. Most were landed hacenderos with two clear motives: one was the search for a market for sugar. Another was the search for a reliable security cover. Annexation to the U.S. would facilitate the entry of sugar into the American market. The Americans were also in the best position to provide security for the Philippines, compared to either the Spaniards or the Filipino revolutionaries. It was also recognized that a war with the US would be devastating economically. Not only would the sugar fields be destroyed, the American market would also be lost. The choice then became clear. The Republic of Negros surrendered to the Americans, without any resistance, thereby saving the island from a devastating war.

However, there were revolutionaries who kept up the fight. When General Araneta and General Lacson deserted the cause "without the expressed consent of the people" and agreed for accommodation with the Americans, the Negros revolucionarios enthusiastically put themselves at the command of General Delgado. This breakaway group (majority of whom were from Silay) who earlier participated in putting to an end Spanish sovereignty in Negros formed a new outfit, a regiment of sharp-shooters and machete wielders and took to the field. According to Francisco Varona (Negros-It's History and People, 1938), among the prominent leaders of this revolutionary group were Colonels Vicente Gamboa Benedicto, Juan Ledesma Hiponia, Buenaventura Ayalin Lopez, Remigio Montilla, and Ramon Valencia; Majors Marciano Lopez Ayalin, Anacleto Santillan, Gil Severino, and Miguel Severino; Captains Romualdo Gestoso, Fausto Javelona, Antonio Valeria and Segundo Yorac; and Lieutenants Porfirio Lopez Ayalin, Ramon Gamboa, Maximino Lopez, Arsenio Rafael, Benito Sanchez, Felix Severino, Tomas Severino, and Felix Yorac. With the presence of the revolutionary group in Negros, the Iloilo command under General Roque Lopez sent a contingent of officers and picked soldiers to reinforce Negros. The Iloilo expedition was led by Col. Luis Ginete, accompanied by Captains Elias Magbanua, Fausto Jalandoni and Lieutenant Legaspi. From their stronghold in Gintabuan, a mountain peak of difficult access in one of the mountain ranges of the municipality of Saravia, the revolutionaries waged a guerilla warfare against the Americans for several months. It was not until the Americans organized the Filipino scouts that a company of these led by Capt. Nicolas Bariles, together with some American officers, captured Gintabuan, resulting to the death of many Filipinos, including the young Captain Magbanua.

Retrieved from
The República Cantonal de Negros came under U.S. protection on April 30, 1899. On July 22, 1899, it was renamed the Republic of Negros, but on April 30, 1901, this was dissolved by the United States.

Cinco De Noviembre was declared by President Corazon Aquino as a special non-working holiday in the province through Republic Act No. 6709 signed on February 10, 1989.

Silay Marker

Silay City Cinco de Noviembre Commemoration
Schedule of activities

A bit of family trivia:

Buenaventura Ayalin Lopez was my great grandfather :) He was the son of Don Eustaquio Lopez, half brother of Gen. Roque Lopez and nephew of the national hero, Graciano Lopez y Jaena.

Henry F. Funtecha, Ph.D, (2008) The Opposition to the Americans and the Canton Republic of Negros Retrieved from The News Today

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Silay History Trivia: Graciano Lopez Jaena And His Cousin, Eustaquio

Graciano Lopez Jaena is a national hero. He is also the first cousin of Eustaquio H. Lopez who settled in Silay around the mid 1800's.  Eustaquio is from Jaro, Iloilo. His parents are Fermin Hilaria Lopez and Fernanda Hechanova. Eustaquio is the eldest among a brood of 11 other brothers and sisters. La Solidaridad editor and reformist Graciano Lopez y Jaena is the son of Placido Hilaria Lopez, brother of Fermin.

Graciano Lopez y Jaena
The family of Eustaquio Lopez with his last wife, Ana Ayalin
Silay's oral history says that Eustaquio was one of the richest men in Silay during his time with at least 18 haciendas to his name, which included Hda. Dalinson in Kabankalan Norte. In fact according to those living there, you can find remnants of the winding stairs of his house somewhere in the hacienda. Not many people today know that Barangay Estaquio Lopez in Silay City was originally called Kabankalan Norte. During the Spanish colonial rule, Kabankalan Norte was a separate town from Silay. It had its own local government and parish. The successful Cinco de Noviembre revolution that triggered the end of colonial rule in the island of Negros was almost foiled in this town. A woman told the parish priest of Kabankalan Norte, Fr. Tomas Cornago of the impending revolt. He then inquired of his friend, Doroteo Quillama, cabeza of the barrio, seeking to verify the report. The cabeza claimed no knowledge of the revolt, when in fact he was very much involved in the planning.  After the revolution, Kabankalan Norte was already popularly known as E. Lopez probably because almost 99% of the landholdings in the area belonged to Don Eustaquio. On April 2, 1902, provincial governor Leandro Locsin decreed the annexation of E. Lopez to the nearby progressive town of Silay.  E. Lopez ceased to be a town and became a barrio of Silay.  Today, it is officialy known as Barangay E. Lopez.

So what about our national hero? Graciano went to live in Negros to escape the fury of the Spanish authorities in Iloilo after he wrote Fray Botod. It was never officially published, but a copy was widely circulated in the region to the ire of the friars, fortunately for Lopez they could never prove that he wrote it.  However because he was openly defiant against authorities and fought for justice, he got threats to his life. He decided to leave Iloilo and stayed with relatives in Silay and Saravia. With the help of his cousin Estaquio, Graciano Lopez fled to Barcelona Spain after staying in Silay for two years. While in Spain it was said that Eustaquio sent him regular financial support.  Eventually, Graciano feared that his relatives in Negros will be persecuted so, he added 'Jaena' to his surname to separate himself from the them and thereby sparing his family from suspicion. His family through his uncle in Saravia in gratitude for his help, gave Eustaquio a wooden Santo Niño which has since become a family heirloom and has been passed on to my family in 1981. What is ironic is that we only confirmed this as fact more than a hundred years later, when we were able to connect with Graciano Lopez Jaena's descendants - those of his brothers' families.  You see, Eustaquio Lopez is my great-great grandfather. When I was growing up, the story about the Santo Niño ranged from the improbable to the plausible. According to a grand aunt, the Santo Niño was hand carried by Lopez Jaena from Spain which to my young mind was impossible since this was not a small statue. And besides, my grand aunts were never were able to establish our family relationship to the hero. Graciano Lopez y Jaena never married.  He died in Spain, sick with TB and destitute.  But he had lots of nephews and nieces who now live right here in Negros Occidental. It was during an accidental meeting in 1994 with Mr. Rolly Espina, a prominent Ilonggo newsman, that I finally learned the true relationship between Graciano Lopez and my grandfather Eustaquio. He invited me to join them in the planning of a Lopez y Jaena Reunion.  After meeting with long lost relatives during the first Lopez reunion, I was able to get a more believable story about how our family got our Santo Niño.

Graciano and Eustaquio were close first fact Graciano came to Silay twice, the first time he stayed for 2 years before deciding to move to Spain, and the second time was when together with other nationalists, he came back to the country, but after being sent word that there was a pending arrest order from the Spanish authorities in Manila, he decided to go to Silay instead before escaping to Hongkong.

It's a pity that this part of Graciano Lopez Jaena's history has never been properly documented.

* The now defunct AIDSISA Sugar Central is located in Barangay E. Lopez.

Reference: The History of Brgy. E. Lopez
                Lopez Descendants of Silay

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Families Of The "Paris of Negros"

I love genealogy and for the past few years, I have been dabbling in it, trying to make my family tree.  My attempt is amateurish and relies more on data gathered from relatives rather than actual authentication from church or government archives.  Maybe when I have the time and resources, I could get into it more seriously.  My cousin to the nth degree, Ramon Conlu Severino is someone who has decided to make it his life's work.  He published in 2009, the first edition of the Ledesma Genealogy Book and it continues to be a work in progress as more and more descendants are interested in knowing their ancestral history. I learned from Ramon's research (source: Francisco Varona "Negros--Its History And People") that most of the families of Old Silay came from Jaro and Molo, the 2 most important towns then in the Province of Iloilo.  Among the first were Simeon Ledesma and Juan Hidalgo who arrived in Silay in 1860 and established haciendas at Bagacay.  Aside from the Ledesmas, there were the De La Ramas, Jalandonis, Hilados, Severinos, Jaymes, Locsins and in the later years other families followed like the Lopezes, Gamboas, Jisons, Hofileñas.  Each of these families who came to Silay carried their own revered genealogical tree and brought with them the culture of Molo and Jaro in terms of fiestas, balls, food, music and literature. It is no wonder therefore that this very social lifestyle earned for Silay the monicker "Paris of Negros". Intermarriages, was common among these families. It was not surprising to see a Ledesma marry another Ledesma for example, or a union to happen between cousins, of course not to an incestuous degree (although there were uncles to niece and vice versa but these were not common). I think the reason for this besides the obvious one (keeping money within the family) is the fact that taking into consideration the dynamics of society at that time, most families move only within their social class and their sons and daughters mingled only among themselves so that there was little chance to meet, much less know other people outside their circle. So who do they marry but someone in their own social class and most probably a relative either up or down the line. Also according to Ramon, the Jaro natives, the Jareños (Ledesma, Lopez, Gamboa, Golez, Jalandoni, Javellana, Javelona, Jayme, Severino, Hilado, Benedicto, Hechanova, Hofileña, Jereza, Montinola) marry their fellow Jareños while the Molo natives, the Moleños (Locsin, Lacson, Araneta, de la Rama, Yulo, Yusay, Unson, Consing, Maravilla, Montelibano, Regalado, Conlu, Tionko, Tinsay) marry their fellow Moleños. There is only a small percentage wherein a Jaro native marry a Molo native. When they migrated to Silay, a "merger" of families happened.  This is probably how my great-grandmother who was a Locsin-Araneta from Molo happened to marry my great-grandfather, a Del Rosario-Ledesma from Jaro.  Most if not all of the heritage and ancestral houses of the city are still owned by these families but many are no longer occupied by them. A lot of their descendants except for those of us who stayed, either opted to build houses in Bacolod or Metro Manila.  Recently however, I have noticed that a few are returning to live in Silay either to take care of the family farm, retire or just to lead a more laid back lifestyle.

By the mid-80's, the rise of the middle class as well as the many OFW's and Expats married to Filipinas have also brought about new families to Silay society.  People from other places in the country have also settled in Silay, perhaps attracted by the old world feel, country-like living (but with urban amenities) that is forever lost in big cities like Manila and Cebu. Silay demographics is surely changing, but the old families of Silay and their ancestral houses will forever be part of its past and the present glory.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The "Oro, Plata, Mata" House in Silay

I am sure many people are familiar with Oro Plata Mata, Peque Gallaga's 1982 multi-awarded film but few seem to know that the opening and early scenes in this movie was filmed on location in Silay City. This is the scene where Cherie Gil and Sandy Andolong were talking by one of the windows of "their house"...that window belongs to the Jose B. Gamboa Ancestral House, one of the more beautiful heritage homes in the city.

Here is the movie trailer, where you can see the interior of the house.  The house looks exactly how I remembered it as a child attending children's parties there.  I don't think anything much has changed...except for the fact that the owner is now one of the grandsons who to his credit has preserved his family's ancestral home really well.

PS. The rest of the scenes in the movie was shot on location further down north in the town of Manapla, using the Jose Gaston Ancestral House in Hda. Rosalia.