Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colegio de Santa Teresita

The Missioneras Siervas de San Jose came to the Philippines in May 1932 and established themselves in San Jose, Antique. In 1933, they moved to Silay, where they established the only private, Catholic secondary school in the city to this day.  The name of the school was adopted from the original name of the parochial school in the city, calling itself Colegio de Sta. Teresita however this was later anglicized to St. Theresita's Academy, more popularly known by its acronym, STA.  Initially the school was established in a house rented from Don Jose "Pepe" R. Ledesma on June 13, 1933 with pioneer sisters Mother Amancia Bautista, Milagros Sarmiento, Anunciation Marco and Olivio Moreno as teachers. This area is now the Rural Bank of Silay City, owned by the descendants of Don Pepe. Part of the original wall of the building and the grills are still intact as you can see in the second picture below.

In 1950, the school transferred to it's present location in Rizal Street offering educational services for pre-school, primary and secondary pupils. The High School department was for female students only, until 1984 when they started accepting boys in the secondary level.

Seventy eight years after the sisters arrived, a lot has changed.  Once upon a time we called them Mothers (I was told that this was their title when they become professed nuns) they no longer use that title and are all referred to as Sisters regardless of rank. They used to have internas...usually children of well-off families from the southern and northern part of the province who found it difficult to travel to and from school everyday.  Spanish was a major subject taught daily from kindergarten to high school.  It was even one of the academic awards a student can get at the end of the year.  I can still sing the Spanish nursery rhyme Niña Bonita  taught by Mo. Magdalena Braganza, my pre-school teacher who is turning 90 in November, retired and yes, is on Facebook :)  Today Spanish is no longer taught. Work Education is now HELE and unlike before when we were required to make samplers of stitches, now-a-days it's all about computers. Yes, a lot has changed...even the name of the congregation has evolved...from MSSJ to SSJ.  But all these changes have not altered the school's mission of providing integral education to its students using the Holy Family as a model teaching the Nazareth values of austerity, humility, simplicity and charity. I would like to believe that majority of the graduates of STA continue to live these values in their lives.  I know I do.

The SSJ and STA have every reason to celebrate this year. Their foundress, Blessed Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro will be elevated to the register of Saints on October 23, 2011. Gracias a Dios por esta bendición!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tsokolate and Silay's Bizcocho Principe

An afternoon merienda staple in my grandparent's house was tsokolate and bizcocho principe.  The tsokolate is made from cacao round tablets (tablea) and fresh carabao's milk, although now-a-days because it is hard to get this, we use Alpine full cream milk instead, which is a good substitute in terms of taste. About 6 years ago, a friend who regularly goes home to Iloilo brought us tableas sourced from her hometown (Passi) and they smelled exactly like the ones my grandparents used to have. From then on, we would buy our stocks from her. It is also cheaper than the commercial one we used to get in supermarkets, the brand Antonio Pueo.  I also noticed that while before they only had the pure cacao, they have diversified into different products like the mixed kind of tablea which is more easily available here than the pure kind. But the taste of the Iloilo tablea in my opinion, is much better than this commercial one.

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To this day, we cook our tsokolate in the same way as my grandmother's cook, Culing did...pure unadulterated tsokolate! We would have it during breakfast, poring it over our rice, or afternoon merienda together with suman, toasted pinipig, but the best for me was bizcocho principe...the original Silay version...and it is not the sweet kind of biscocho with sugar and baked butter on top or the ones that taste like toasted sponge cake sold in Bacolod and Iloilo.  The bizcocho principe I grew up on was a crunchy, mildly flavored, breadlike slice that literally melts in your mouth. For the longest time I have been looking for the original...and failed.  The ones being sold in Silay are what they now call...Kinihad, thin slices of toasted bread much like biscochos without the butter and sugar.  SIGH...then one fateful day (exactly one day ago), my Mom attended a meeting and she came home with.....yes! the bizcocho principe of my youth!  She said it is available in Hda. Luguay, a farm near the northern border of Silay which operates a bakery that makes specialized bread. This is the family where the owners of the famous 21 Restaurant of Bacolod belongs to. The bakery, I believe is a joint enterprise between the owners and farm workers which helps augment income during off sugar season.  This afternoon we ordered 2 packs and it was delivered just before merienda time :)

my afternoon merienda-09/23/11 - Tsokolate and Bizcocho Principe
I might as well share my family's Tsokolate recipe. I can honestly say that none of the other commercial tsokolate I have tried tastes as well as ours...but of course, I'm biased.  It is very rich and probably (^_^) fattening...that's why we use the little cups :)

My Family Tsokolate

3 tablea
3 cups of Carabao's milk or 1 (one) 370 ml can Alpine Full Cream Milk

Melt 3 tablea in 1 cup of carabao’s milk in a deep sauce pan using medium heat. Once melted, pour the remaining 2 cups of milk.  Bring to a boil and start mixing using a batidor (see picture above).  How to use a batidor: Place it in the saucepan, then roll the handle quickly between both flattened hands until bubbles are formed in the tsokolate. Serve in small espresso cups.


To order Hda Luguay's special breads (french baguette, bizcocho principe) either call: 4950536 anywhere in Negros where there is a PLDT phone. You can order their products and they deliver anywhere in Silay. Or you can pick it up in an agreed location. Or you can drop by their is on the left side of the highway after the bridge before the road to Central Hawaiian, if you are coming from Silay City.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forgotten Ruins - The Old Port of Silay

As a child growing up in Silay, I would listen to stories of the past told by my dad and later on as a young adult, by my grandmother who would be my off and on roommate when she was in Silay.  One of these stories was about the old port in Silay.  I have never been near the ruins but then there was no need to go near it because it was very visible from the distance at a time when the surrounding area was just tall grass and weeds. In the 60's and even up to mid-70's all we had to do was drive down to the Boulevard...the name we called the south road to Mambulac, a coastal barrio of  the city....and there it was....awesome!   Now-a-days, you won't see it unless you go near the area.  I remember the first time I saw it, I think I was 6 or 7 yrs old and I felt this great sense of fascination...perhaps an early sign of my interest in history.  I wonder now if  up close I would get that same feeling as when I saw it from afar back then?   Probably not, because  then nobody really paid much attention to it except that it was said to be the longest port in the country in the Spanish era with a distance of 2 kms or, you were a history buff like my dad.  Even today, there is not much information about the port said to have been built in the early 1800's, which seems logical because that was the time when Silay began to be called "Paris of Negros"...where arts, culture, music and good food were all part of the inhabitants' daily life.  I can imagine the ships that brought to the shores of Silay artists, singers, commercial goods and luxury items coming from Manila and abroad. I can just picture the hustle and bustle of the port and how exciting life must have been. When and why did the Silay port fall out of use...the most logical reason I believe is due to natural the years went by the coastline moved further so that the changed sea level no longer allowed the ships to dock, or...coastal erosion may also have happened.

I don't know if the city has any plans to develop the area of the old port, but I hope they will do something to preserve what is left of it.  After all these ruins have withstood the test of time on its own.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Bob Lacson

How to get there:

DIY via Barrio Mambulac.  Your friendly tricycle driver can bring you there.  Please be warned to wear boots or rain boots because it is quite muddy.

or visit the Tourism office in the Silay Civic Center to get a guide or directions

For those who just wants to see it from a short distance (not up close) the best place for viewing is Sunburst Bay Resort, where you can take a hike through their fishponds and see the old port in all it's glory. There is a small entrance fee to the resort (P30 to 40).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Lolo's House

Silay City is known for it's ancestral houses, thirty one (31) of which have been listed and certified by the National Historical Institute and the National Commission for Culture and Arts as heritage houses, although to this date only 8 have been given markers mainly due to lack of funds.  What makes Silay's ancestral homes different from many others is the fact that all these are well preserved and livable.  Most in fact are still occupied by families of the original owners and are not open to public viewing or a few have been converted to offices, restaurants etc.  My Lolo's house is one such ancestral home.

The Angel Araneta Ledesma house was built in the 1930's (exact date was anytime between 1934-1937) using huge logs from my Lolo's lumber yard business, in the empty lot facing Plaridel St. behind my Lola's parental home (which faced 5 de Noviembre St).  It had a very good location being right beside the City Hall, Police and Fire Department, a very short walk to the town plaza, Silay North Elementary School, San Diego Church, the Puericulture Center and the commercial areas of the town. The inside of the house was not beautiful compared to other houses in Silay but it was big and had lots of places to hide in, which served us kids very well during our games of hide and seek. I remember that we would scare our household help witless by hiding in the big closets, powdering our faces and covering our heads with white blankets while putting a flashlight under our faces. We gave our Lola endless anxious moments as we ran around the house and jumped off the stairs and verandas. The front lawn had a bahay cubo which was also our playhouse and where I would spend many hours reading my Nancy Drew books.   The house was surrounded by starapple trees which gave hundreds of fruits every year and we had so much fun trying to hook one from the upstairs balcony using an improvised "singit". But while the starapple trees were so fruitful, the lone mango tree in the front yard would yield exactly one fruit a year...while the santol tree's produce were one of the most sour tasting fruits ever...which gave my Lolo much frustration, of course. In the afternoons we would drowsily sit in the rocking chairs in the second floor sala while my Lola would have her afternoon siesta in one of the rattan lounging chairs in the upstairs balcony.  This is also the place where we would have the daily Rosary before the Angelus.  I have a lot of good and unforgettable memories in this house.  My parents lived here for a while after they were married since my dad was still in his last year of law school. When he took the bar in Manila, they decided to stay there when he found work.  It was another 3 years before we eventually returned to Silay, because my dad unbeknownst to my mom was asked by his uncle to run for politics. For a little more than a year, we lived here before moving out to have our own home. Lolo's house then became "pihak balay".  "Pihak balay" was where we would spend our weekends, holidays, summer is where we all converge for Sunday is where all the grandchildren played and caused much ruckus to both houses in Plaridel and Cinco de Noviembre.  
my brothers and cousin with our blue chevy at the back

But all good things come to an end...and in 1992, the family decided to sell the house. My Lola was staying in Manila with her daughter all the time now and the year before that, my father passed away.  There was no one among us who was interested to live in such a big house.  A few years back we had it rented out for a while but the tenants found it hard to maintain.  Eventually we closed it and hired a family to guard and clean the house allowing them to live in the servant's extension at the back. When we offered it up for sale, it seemed that it was going to be difficult to sell it because of its size and the fact that it was a heritage house.  Fortunately, one individual took interest and honestly, we sold it dirt cheap...a heritage house on a 750 square meters lot was a give-away at P375,000!  The new owner with a very good business sense sold it to the city after a few years of having it rented out to foundations and families. His price?  A million pesos. Be that as it may, I am happy and grateful to God's Divine Intervention, because the next buyer was the City of Silay. I was content with the fact that our ancestral home will be preserved for generations to come. None of us could have imagined that in the future my Lolo's house would become the Office of Culture, Arts and Tourism of the City of Silay as he was totally not into those things, or at least that's what it seemed to us, his grandchildren.  Then again, many of us today are into of my cousins is an accomplished painter, a few of us could hit the right notes, some great grandchildren plays good guitar, are dancers, actors, and even my late Dad was a very good piano who knows?  Perhaps my Lolo in another life could have been an artist too.  To complete the story, soon after they bought my Lolo's house, the City also bought my late grand-aunt's dilapidated and structurally damaged wooden house at the back.  However that house in Cinco de Noviembre was later torn down and has since been replaced by a new one-story building. They have also repaired and painted the perimeter fence and I heard from the Tourism Office that there is already a budget for repair and repainting of my Lolo's house.

From "pihak balay" to "Balay Verde" (The Green House-Culture, Arts and Tourism Office, Silay City)...hey, not bad...I am sure Lolo, Lola, Daddy, Tito Monet must be smiling in heaven.

You might want to see this:


Lolo - grandpa
Lola - grandma
Tito - uncle
pihak balay - other house/ next house/ next door
balay verde - green house

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Silay City "Gabaldons"

The City of Silay has three certified Gabaldon school buildings, although I still have to check if the Gaston Elementary School (1936) is also a Gabaldon.  What are Gabaldons?  In 1907, the Philippine Assmbly passed Act No. 1801, authored by Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija, widely known as GABALDON ACT. This act appropriated a budget for the "construction of schoolhouses of strong materials in barrios with guaranteed daily attendance of not less than sixty pupils…"  These schools were known as "Gabaldon School Buildings" or simply "Gabaldon," long after the expiration of Act 1801. They followed standard plans designed by Architect William Parsons and were built between 1907 and 1946. The earlier ones were built of wood, while those that came later were partly made of cement. The North Elementary School was completed in 1907 while the South Elementary School was finished in 1919.

In 1960, our small family moved to a rented apartment right across Silay South Elementary School. I was not in school yet and so it was my daily routine to go and play in that wide expanse of grass across the street. I spent many happy, carefree days here playing with my childhood friends and neighbors, Daiding and Chona.  I remember that there was this really humongous well at the south side of the front yard of the school which we were not supposed to go near, but then curiosity got the better of us. My "yaya" (nanny) would come with us to look at it and tell all kinds of horror stories which scared us enough never to go near it unless "yaya" was there.  During weekends, this was our private playground and the 3 of us had the time of our young lives, running up and down the corridors, the quadrangle, rolling in the grass, playing hide and seek, and making my "yaya" a nervous wreck!  It never entered our young minds that this school had a lot of history and was a future heritage structure.  Later, as a voting teen (our polling place was located here) I revisited the area and that well did not seem to be that big anymore, but I  guess when you are 4 years old, it was pretty huge.

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The North Elementary School besides the public plaza was the school where my father spent part of his elementary grades.  Their ancestral house was just on the other side of the plaza, behind the city hall and less than a one minute run away. Although I never got to enter the premises, it was an imposing structure being located right at main street at the center of the town.  The main building was condemned a few years back and I thought, it will be gone one of these days...but last week, I was happily surprised to see that it was being repaired and restored. I heard that this was made through the efforts of the current DepEd Director for Region 6, Mrs. Mildred Garay who is an alumni of the school. Thank you, Ma'am!

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and so....I am happy to say...Finally, this Gabaldon will live again!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

El Circulo Femenil de Silay and the Silay Puericulture Center

The Silay Puericulture Center was built in 1915 for P8,000 under the leadership of Dr. Jose Corteza Locsin, (later Senator and Secretary of Health), together with a group of women who called themselves El Circulo Femenil de Silay.  Their mission was to serve mothers and their babies. The center had a doctor, 2 nurses and 3 midwives offering medical services to the community during a time when infant mortality was high.  It was solely supported through the tireless efforts of these women raising money for its operations either by soliciting donations, government support, fund-raising activities like summer balls and bazaars, carnivals, concerts, food fairs, rummage sales, etc.  I remember fun summers as a teen when we would help in their activities since my mom was an active member and one of the last presidents of the club before it dissolved, mainly because government support for the puericulture center ended as well as the use of the building. Later, we learned that the building was used as an extension of the Silay City Health Office for rehabilitation and nutrition services.  Eventually, this too was transferred to another new location.

Looking at the old buildings and heritage houses in Silay brings back much memories and longing for things of the past. Life was so much simpler then. The puericulture center is where one of my brothers was delivered (an emergency one!), it was the place where Lola Miss (Miss Silva) spent all her years of dedicated nursing work, it was where we would ran for first aid every time we get hurt when playing in the plaza or in the surrounding neighborhood, and most importantly, it was the place where women could always come for free or low cost maternal health services. Behind the building used to be a large tennis court which also served as the venue for cultural shows and balls.  Today, the puericulture building is old and deteriorating.  It currently houses the different rescue groups of the city but I have a feeling that this building will be gone soon as it is not in the list of heritage structures.  It's a pity because it has a lot of important history in the growth and development of health services in Silay.  Maybe because I too am growing older that I feel that the present should always appreciate and learn from the past (yes, good and bad)... it is fact that the past has a lot to do with what we are now in the present.