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.