Sunday, October 28, 2012

Silay Heritage Mini-tour for Bloggers

Last October 21, 2012,  sixteen food and travel bloggers from all over the country who were here for the Masskara Festival, came on a mini-tour of Silay, organized by the Negrense Blogging Society, Inc.  This side trip was made possible with the free use of the new Merci bus courtesy of it's CEO, Mr. Jonathan Lo.  We were only going to do a half-day tour because the bloggers were scheduled to watch the Masskara street dancing in the afternoon.  The short itinerary included visiting the two lifestyle museums of the city, the Bernardino Jalandoni House (Pink House) and the Yves Gaston House (Balay Negrense).  We stopped for a while for some photo-ops at the Maria Ledesma Golez House, now a bank, the RCBC and the Lope Severino Building, half of which is now a hotel and the other half, commercial stores.

Next stop was the Jose Gamboa Ancestral House which was used in part for the iconic movie, Oro, Plata, Mata.  This house is not open to the public but it's current owner, Mr. Buddy Jison was very kind to allow access to his ancestral home.  In fact, he personally welcomed and showed us around, giving us some history about the house.

photo of Jose Gamboa House courtesy of Maricar Dabao of Viaje Negrense
The next ancestral house we visited was that of Dr. Jose C. Locsin, Silay's most notable son. This house is also a private home but it's occupants, Neil Solomon "Solo" Locsin and Tita Charet Locsin willingly opened it's doors to us. Solo is Dr. Locsin's grandson and also a consultant of the city, responsible for many of it's current historical and cultural projects. The house is beautifully preserved and is one of the biggest in the city.  It is also a house which has witnessed history happen within it's walls.

photo of Dr. Jose C. Locsin Ancestral House courtesy of Neil Solomon Locsin

We were served with homemade tsokolate and biscocho, a traditional Silay merienda, at the Locsin house and from there, we finished our short tour passing by the Lacson house for some food tasting of original Silay recipes and then on to the San Diego Cathedral for a quick view of the church and the ruins of the original church behind it.  

To our blogger friends...hasta la vista! See you next year and we promise to give you a more comprehensive tour of my beloved Silay...where life is indeed sweeter and the past is forever!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Silay Marathon 2012: Mt. Patag Eco-Adventure Trail Endurance Challenge

Silay is not only about arts, culture and heritage but eco-tourism and sports as well. One important sport event that has caught national attention is the Silay City Marathon which first began in the late 90's as a 5K and 15K run and eventually evolving into a half marathon by the year 2000. For the first time this year, it will be full marathon with a distinctive feature: a non-stop ascending route that ends on top of a mountain. To bring attention to the city's forest preservation and eco-tourism efforts, the Silay Marathon 2012 is aptly called the Mt. Patag Eco Adventure Endurance Trail Challenge.  It will be a  34k / 42K (solo) and 42k (relay) marathon to be held on November 3, 2012. 

For inquries please contact Dr. Bob Ledesma 0947-7896317 and Boyet Rentoy 0928-9084888.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Am Proud To be A Silaynon

The theme of celebration for Silay City's 55th Charter Anniversary last June 12, 2012 was ‘I AM PROUD TO BE A SILAYNON’.

This theme is a celebration of togetherness and achievements in all levels of Silaynon endeavor according to Mayor Jose "Oti" L. Montelibano.  Here is a short documentary about Silay's past, a project of the city's Tourism Office in tandem with the PIO.  Watch it and know the reason why I am very proud to be a Silaynon.

Researcher/Director/Editor: Neil Solomon Lopez Locsin
Videographer/Artistic Director: Gary Lake Liza

Friday, June 8, 2012

Silay City Charter Day Celebration: Hugyaw Kansilay!

Silay City became a city on June 12, 1957 by virtue of Republic Act 1621. The city then has 2 main fiestas, the Charter Day Celebration every June 12 of the year, and the Feast of San Diego de Alcala, it's patron saint, every November 13. But frankly, I don't remember any merrymaking or commemoration of the Charter Day when I was growing up. To me and for most Silaynons of my generation, the parish church's fiesta was always the one that the people celebrate.

However in the last 20 years or so, the Silay Charter Day Celebration has gradually taken over the parish fiesta as the primary festival of the city in terms of scope and grandeur. For the June festivities, the city government has week-long events that focus on the rich culture and history of Silay, while the November fiesta has activities that highlight the religious aspect of the celebration. For the last 4 years, Hugyaw Silay, Inc., an NGO whose objective is the promotion of tourism, culture and arts of the city, has been managing the charter celebrations of the city. The main features are the Lin-ay Sang Silay and the Hugyaw Kansilay Streetdancing Competition.

I am more interested in the street-dancing competition because the first and last time I saw it was when it was first introduced in the 90's.  This event disappeared for a while until it was again revived in 2008 by the current city administration.  The present-day competition is bigger and more dramatic depicting the ‘Legend of Silay’ through dancing, using a lively original musical composition of "Hugyaw Silay" and colorful costumes. The costumes must be made of indigenous materials. Each group is led by a maiden who represents Kansilay, a main character in the legend of how Silay got its name. Other characters of the folklore like the fairy, Diwata and the warrior, Lawaan are also represented.

The video above was taken during the opening of Panaad Sa Negros 2012 last April. Source: YouTube of Silay City Public Information Office.

‘Hugyaw Kansilay Festival’ of Silay City was chosen by the Department of Tourism as the official entry of Negros Occidental in the Kasadyahan Regional Cultural Competition in Iloilo City last January 2, 2012.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Adaptive Reuse of Silay's Ancestral Houses

Silay City is full of heritage houses but most of them are still residential homes, lived in by the descendants of the original owners or bought by others who continue to live in them. There are few however that have been converted to museums or offices.  This action is called adaptive reuse, referring to the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was built or designed for.

Among the first of those ancestral houses for adaptive reuse was that of Maria Ledesma Golez which was bought by Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC in 1992. I remember attending birthday parties in this house, going up the stairs at the left anterior part of the building.  In fact, I have some memory of the living quarters upstairs and I still have a picture of myself at the age of 5 or 6 years at their balcony.  The first floor used to be a soda fountain where they sold really good siopao.  RCBC remodeled the interiors of the first floor into their Silay branch while the second floor is used as a storage area.  The exteriors have been preserved well.

The next two ancestral houses were bought by the Silay City government and converted into offices. These are the Angel Araneta Ledesma Ancestral House which is used as the Arts and Culture Office of the city and the Armin Jalandoni Ancestral House which is now the Sangguniang Panglungsod building. These are both found in Plaridel Street, where I and my cousins would stroll on weekend afternoons.  This street has been  renamed to Generoso Gamboa Street.  

Another heritage structure that has been converted is the Lope Severino Building which is now owned by two separate individuals. The left wing of the building was bought by an Indian businessman while the right wing was bought by the Baldevia family. Both owners converted their properties for commercial use.  The second floor of the Baldevia side is a pension house with function rooms available for rent while the other side is rented by a religious group.

A few old buildings that were dilapidated or structurally unsafe were completely rebuilt like the Cine Silay now known as the Jison Building and the North Elementary School Gabaldon building.  In the past Silay's main street was lined with beautiful buildings.  They were used as commercial areas in the first level and residential areas in the second.  Many of these buildings are still there, having withstood the test of time with new owners and a new life.  But there were a few which were burned to the ground in the late 60's or early 70's and nobody will remember the other Severino house fronting that of the Lope Severino building, the Hofileña building besides it (now with a new building rented by Mang Inasal), the house of the Lecaros family where Rising Drugstore used to be and one that I vaguely remember, the building besides The Bernardino Jalandoni house which their family also owned.  

I hope that when architects are hired to plan for new buildings in Silay, they will always consider the aesthetics of a heritage city in mind. They can create modern day structures without sacrificing the old world charm of Silay.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Silay Honors Mr. Ramon Hofileña And His Ancestral House

Who doesn't know Ramon Hofileña?  So many people have written about him that he is easily the most recognizable name when it comes to arts and cultural history in the Province of Negros Occidental. Although he lived abroad for a period of time, his love for Silay lured him back home.  He took it upon himself to bring to Silay art exhibits and workshops of artists like Manuel Rodriguez Sr., Lamberto Hechanova, Vicente Manansala and Hernando Ocampo. I remember participating in one of those printmaking workshops during my high school days.  Ramon also single-handingly conducts the Annual Cultural Tour of Negros which is now on it's 38th year.  His ancestral house where he continues to live in to this day is preserved with much love and you can see this in the way Ramon talks about his beloved home. He regales his guests with stories and the memories that goes with each and every furniture and fixture,  all precious antiques. The second floor is where you can find even more art treasures - paintings of Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Manansala and even a sketch done by the young Rizal as well as a painting by Goya and Picasso. There is however one painter whom Ramon to this day talks about with sadness and regret...Conrado Judith, an unknown but very talented Silaynon painter who due to illness and poverty passed away early. His few works which Ramon was able to acquire are displayed right along those famous ones.  

His love and passion for the arts, culture, history and heritage prompted him to open his family home, the Manuel S. Hofileña Ancestral House (c.1934) in 1962 to the public.  This was fifty years ago and last May 3, 2012, the city gave honor to this man who unselfishly gave his time and talent for the promotion of Silay as the seat of culture and arts of the the province of Negros Occidental. Today, Ramon is busier than ever.

While before people usually make an appointment to see his house, they now come at anytime of the day and almost every day.  He says he misses having his siesta but he cannot find it in his heart to refuse their request. Listening to him say that during the short program, I suddenly realized that there will never be another like this man, indefatigable in his mission to bring culture to the people.  In fact right after his speech, he went on to give his guests a tour of his house.

Although I have seen his house so many times before and heard his stories, there always seems to be something new to learn and discover about Ramon, his home and it's history. He is always enthusiastic and is a master story-teller. It is obvious that he loves doing this.  It is also because of this love and passion that he and a group of like-minded Silaynons fought for the preservation of the heritage houses in the main highway around the plaza. These houses was up for appropriation and then demolition because of a road widening project in the 70's. The group won the fight. Today, those houses have withstood the test of time and the shortsightedness of government.  Silay has been declared a heritage city since then because of the work of this group of individuals. Without them, the city would have lost it's old world charm.  And while he lives and breathes, Ramon Hofileña continues to be at the forefront in  the efforts  to preserve the history and heritage of his beloved Silay. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Silay Stories: The House With The "Maldicion"

This story is another Silay family secret. Sometime in the 50's an affluent family in Silay put a "maldicion" or curse on one of their daughters for marrying a man they did not approved of.  It is said that the father placed a big handwritten notice in front of their house stating the name of the daughter and that she is "cursed and will never be allowed to come back and step inside the house for as long as she lives". This happened so long ago but the story never really died.  It would come up in conversations but somehow as the years past, people forgot which of the old houses in Silay put up this "maldicion".  Of course, the elders who saw it for themselves still remember the story vividly.  In fact my mother was one of those who saw and asked about it when she first came to Silay, but was left wondering till today because nobody really told her anything except to say that a father was displeased with the marriage of his daughter.  I myself don't remember this story and became curious after some people mentioned it. After a little sleuthing, I found out the names of the maligned daughter and what happened to her. She settled in Manila and from what I heard led a comfortable and happy life. Indeed the daughter never came back to Silay although she and her family would occasionally visit Bacolod where her husband has relatives.  I don't know if she ever reconciled with her parents. My version only tells the simple facts.  I really do not know the complete story and if ever there was anyone who does, it would be the relatives of the family and present owners of the house.  However, they are very private persons and would not be the type to talk about family secrets.  The people of the stories are long gone and the house itself has long been empty and recently, it was sold to a Chinese businessman who bought it for it's hardwood.  The owners of the house did not sign the MOA with the NHI and NCCA and therefore is not listed among the protected heritage homes of the city.  The last family who lived there (pro bono according to stories) were known tikoy makers until the mother died and they too left the place.  Although I used to pass by this house everyday going to work, I never really paid much attention to it.  Now that it is almost gone, I suddenly had this urge to immortalize it, even if only on paper.

photo above courtesy of Maricar Dabao
photo taken last week
going....(taken today)

Update: As of this morning, the second floor has been taken down.


Someone informed me that the signage had the word "Kamatayan" written before the maldicion...that's scary!

According to a reliable source, the daughter is still alive, albeit elderly and yes, she was eventually forgiven but only after the husband died.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Muscovado Mills

Before the existence of the modern sugar centrals in Negros Island, there were the Mucovado mills. When I was little, it was not uncommon to see the "simborio" or smokestack of the old muscovado (brown) sugar mill found in large sugar plantations of the province.  In the farms surrounding Silay City alone,  from a distance I think I saw about 3 or 4 of them, grey stone structures which stood alone and imposing in the middle of unending fields of green. I remember asking my dad what they were and his simple answer was "old sugar mills".  It was much later that I learned that they were part of a century-old technology of milling sugar, and were actually the smokestack or chimney part of the muscovado mill. In the old days, almost every plantation had it's own muscovado mill. It must have been cost-effected if not energy-efficient since most of the owners had really large plantations. Some smaller landowners also had mills but these were primitive in type and less efficiently run. Today, however, these antique structures are not very visible anymore in the province. I can only guess that perhaps many have been destroyed to give way to modernization. I believe that LGU's, historical or heritage groups should document the few left standing in their respective areas so that these could be preserved and protected for it's important historical value in the evolution of Negros sugar. Among the many cities and municipalities of Negros, La Carlota City still has a relatively intact Muscovado mill in Hacienda Canman-ug, although this is no longer functional. 

Location:  Hda. Canman-ug, La Carlota City
(all photos above were taken from

Silay City has immortalized the muscovado simborio as there is a replica of it as one enters the city in the south boundary. This picture is the background of this blog.  Of course, it is a stylized version but the symbolism for the city does not escape the viewer.  Silay, after all has one of the biggest group of families who migrated from Iloilo and who became big landowners of sugar plantations.

So it was a very pleasant surprise to know that there was one right in my backdoor.  A FB friend and a Silaynon took a picture of the ruins of a muscovado simborio that is still standing in Hda. Fortuna.  It is ironic that nobody who lived in that area nor the owners of the farm has mentioned this or gave it much importance.  I think this relic from the past should be properly documented.

Location:  Hda. Fortuna, Silay CIty
Photos courtesy of Mr. Edwin Estrobo Mijares
Who knows how many more unseen ruins are still in existence around the city?  Maybe like the WWII pillboxes, this too could be included in our Silay walking tours.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

PUREZA, The Story of Negros Sugar - Remember...Learn...Act

Last Monday, I wrote about the first ever documentary film on the sugar industry in Negros, PUREZA.  Last night I attended the premier showing and came out of the movie house feeling sad and in deep thoughts. I was unusually silent, which is so uncharacteristic for someone who is normally garrulous.  Driving alone on my way home, I felt the profound effect of the film on me.  The film started with the story of the sacada, moving on to the beginnings and evolution of the sugar industry, it's ups and downs, to the present time and the future.  It is a disturbing documentary because it is brutally honest and courageous that needs to be seen and heard if we want to save the lives of those dependent on the sugar industry. It definitely stirred in me dormant memories of a time I would rather not remember.  You see, my family became victims too of those dark days. We lost our home of 27 years because of the sugar crisis. How? Well, after years of being leased, my father decided to manage their family's small farm in Cadiz City.  This was in the early 70's when they were having many problems with the lessee.  Unfortunately just as my Dad was beginning to get the farm running and profitable, my youngest brother had his accident which put him in the hospital and rehabilitation for a year.  My dad had to travel to and from Iloilo where my brother was confined, as well as manage the farm. To make matters worst, the sugar industry took a sudden downturn.  It is to my Dad's credit that we did not lose the farm unlike many others who faced foreclosure. That's because instead of the farm, he put up our house and 1000 square meter lot as collateral for the crop loan from PNB.  Years later, when we moved to a smaller home in a smaller lot, an interested buyer bought our old house for Php550,000 (actual arrears was Php600,000) which was paid directly to PNB.  The loan principal was only Php120,000!  When the Sugar Restitution Bill was finally passed, PNB refunded us back Php90,000.  By the time my brother was finally able to come home, my parents were jobless, the farm unplanted while my other brother and I struggled to continue our studies in Manila.  Although life was hard, it wasn't bad maybe because my parents raised us to live simple lives. We did not have the same kind of lifestyle as those others in Negros (of course, we were never as rich).  We never owned a brand-new car (second-hand was good enough for us), never travelled except to visit our maternal grandparents in Manila (taking a boat, at that), never bought branded things, never spent more than we needed. If there were things we wanted, we saved for it. We did enjoy dining out once in a while, watching movies and going to the beach as a family.  I think our biggest luxury at that time was our education (we went to good schools), and books.  Until today, we have books that we have not yet read.   Looking back, I realize that even if we had to do away with many things, our lifestyle did not drastically change...we just simplified our life some more. But after seeing PUREZA, I told myself that is nothing compared to the life  of the workers in the haciendas. For us who live a relatively comfortable life, seeing the life of the sacada can be gut-wrenching. This is what I felt when I saw the documentary. Somehow, I forgot that I have seen similar living conditions years before and at that time, my reaction was the same.  How could I forget?  Was it because it was not in our farm?  To be honest, I have been to our farm only 3 times in my lifetime...and I did not even walk around.  Since it has always been leased (except for those few years that my Dad worked on it), we had no relationship with the families who lived and worked there. I can only remember Tyo Kisin who was a trusted foreman of my grandfather and some of his children.  Or maybe because then I thought I was judging this by my standards and I convinced myself that it is all about perception. After all, when a family friend once said that he was feeling sorry for the sacadas because they were working barefooted in the Dad told him "they are used to that kind of life, so it's not a sacrifice for them; now if it were you doing that kind of work...that is a different story".  This is not to say that the farm workers and the sacadas do not deserve better...they do and they should.  What I am trying to say here is that solving the plight of the sacada is not the solution to the's just that it is the one that is visible to those who are critical of the industry.  However, like what the documentary says, the sugar industry has to shape up...or else. There are economic, political and bigger social issues involved. But once you solve the bigger problems, the sacada's life will also improve. It is not going to be easy as there are so many stakeholders involved and market forces to overcome. The people interviewed gave many opinions and they all agree on one thing, it is partially our fault.  Putting blame aside and the fact that we only have till 2015, I hope this documentary film once it is shown to the concerned public will be the catalyst that will mobilize all stakeholders as one force to save the sugar industry.  I pray that whatever gains this film makes won't stop after watching it. This film was not meant to entertain but to inform. It is not enough to just watch and talk about it.  There is still time.

To Director Jay Abello and his team, to Mr. Joey Gaston, SRA Chair Gina Martin, Agnes Villar....Madamo nga salamat, Bravo!!!

Important UPDATEPUREZA will be shown at Rockwell on May 31, 2012.  For those living in MetroManila, I hope you can get to see it or better yet,  don't miss it!

Monday, January 30, 2012

PUREZA - A Sober Look At Our Sugar Heritage

Sugar is the lifeblood of Silay and the rest of Occidental Negros.  It is in Silay City that Hawaiian Philippines Company, one of the biggest sugar centrals in the country is located. In fact, a few months ago, I wrote about the last remaining steam locomotives or iron dinosaurs still being used there today. But that is not the topic of this post... Sugar is and how this industry has affected the lives of the Negrense a.k.a Negrosanon.

On February 7, 2012, a full-length documentary film on the sugar industry of the island of Negros will be shown at SM Cinema, Bacolod.  The title is “Pureza: The Story of Negros Sugar”, produced and directed by award winning cinematographer Jay Abello, himself a scion of rich landowners from Silay and Isabela.  The documentary traces the history of the Negros sugar industry and seeks to explain why the sugar industry today has "plunged from its proverbial pedestal into its inglorious present state".  This however isn't the first Filipino film made about the sugar industry, although it is the first ever documentary.  Remember Behn Cervantes' "Sakada" in 1976?  I remember how I negatively reacted to a preview written in The Varsitarian (UST's school paper) to the point where I even wrote the author about my displeasure.  I believed then that it gave an unfair portrayal of the situation in Negros. Of course that was probably because I was isolated from life in the haciendas.  My grandfather was a small landowner who had his farm leased out and my exposure to hacienda life was meeting Tyo Kisin, the trusted farmhand who came to Silay once in a while to give updates to my grandfather on how the farm was being managed by the lessee.  But as I matured and became more involved with social issues, I realized that my perception was far from reality. And when I eventually saw the movie Sakada much later in life, I belatedly knew that indeed it did show a lot truths.  How silly I must have sounded to the author (I remember he was a law student) of that article. If I had the chance to meet him again, I would say...mea culpa.  And I would not be making that same mistake.  

At present the small farm our grandfather left the family is still being leased, however for this crop year the lessee has informed us that he will no longer renew his contract. Why? For many reasons but mainly because he lacks workers and the high costs of fertilizers makes it unprofitable for him. The outlook for the sugar industry for the next 5 years is not good and for small landowners like us, that is really bad news.  To be fair, during the last 30 years or so, the sugar industry has undergone a lot of good changes. Still, that seems to be not enough.  Perhaps this documentary film may serve as a wake-up call for people who have the capacity, resources and power to make a difference for the survival of the sugar industry.

The film is produced by Bonfire Productions and Negros Pureza Foundation with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Executive Producers J. ABELLO, JOEY GASTON
Director J. ABELLO
Director of Photography J. ABELLO
Visual FX Supervisor RICHARD FRANCIA


February 7, 6:30pm – Premier at SM City Bacolod Cinema 3 (by invitation only)
February 11 – Free screening at Robinsons Place Bacolod as part of the Bacollywood: Cinema Rehiyon 2012
February 17 -  Regular screening at SM City Bacolod

Metro Manila showing: to be announced.  Please check the Pureza page on Facebook for updates.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Silay Stories: Remembering Idad Buang

Everyone who lived in Silay in the 50's up to early 70's knew of her. She would go around Silay in a black baro't saya, a veil, face fully made up and would kneel on the houses' stairs or doorsteps and start chanting in a singsong voice.  What you thought sounded like latin prayers were really more like incoherent words.  The "chant" would take about 2 to 3 minutes after which she is given money and then she quietly leaves to go to the next house. This happens in my Grandfather's  house at least once a week.  We all called her "Idad Buang".  The children were all a little bit scared of her because she looked like an old witch with her black hair and clothes. She never says a word except for her chanting and although she rarely looks at people, when she does, she had a really scary look.  I remember the househelp would use her to scare us everytime we start being unruly.  But who exactly was she?  Was she really crazy as everyone thought? Was she a beggar?  What was her story?  The story I later learned was that she was not the crazy woman beggar we all believed.  It seems that she was not really destitute (funny that people thought that, when she was always neatly dressed) and that the reason why she went around houses and doing the things she did was because of a vow or panata. And it was not to all houses in Silay that she went to because although she regularly came to my ancestral home, I don't remember her going to my grand aunt's home behind us. I also noticed that she usually went to houses with balconies and where she can kneel on the 3rd or 4th step.  People said that she was quite sane and functioned normally as soon as she finishes her "rounds". According to them, she looked quite different once she changes to her ordinary clothes.  To this day nobody really knows why she made that vow and nobody has really claimed that she was their family. I still don't know who she was...nobody bothered to know who she was then and on hindsight, I could have asked her but was too afraid for fear that she would put a hex on me if I even dared talk to her ( about the househelp's conditioning).  One day, she just stopped coming to my grandpa's house and we all assumed that she must have passed away. I remember that there were other "crazy" people around Silay in those days, but for sure, there was no one quite like Idad Buang.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Silay Stories: The Woman Who Never Spoke Again

Silay, just like small cities elsewhere has its share of ones, hidden ones and the not-so-secret kind that everyone knows a little something of but is not usually talked about. The story I am about to tell you is of the last kind.  It was talked about in whispers by our old folks but as kids, we were never really interested. I became curious about it when I started getting interested in the history of our heritage houses and in the course of my research, I learned more about this story our grandparents used to talk about.  Of course, I dare not write about it, thinking this was a not to be talked about secret...but someone did and he was family! This story was mentioned in passing in an article written by Teddy Boy Locsin about his summers in Silay in the April 2009 issue of Rogue Magazine. He writes, "like the woman with the long black hair who still lives in what is left of the best example of antebellum architecture and had spoken to no one since her parents had refused her marriage to someone poor—not even to her parents on their deathbed".  Well, now I can finally write my own version of that story, not because Mr. Locsin wrote about it, but because the main character has passed on.  The woman of Mr. Locsin's summers eventually became the old woman with long white hair.  I later found out through our genealogy book that she was a second cousin of my father from his father's side, making her my aunt, but I never knew her.  In fact, I have never seen her.  It was my son who mentioned her existence since he saw an old woman with long white hair in a wheelchair when he attended a friend's 18th birthday dinner, whose family happened to be living at the back of the main house. He of course did not know that she was a relative, and when he mentioned to me that he saw her...I was so excited! He gave me a puzzled look and so I told him our version of the story.

The woman who lived there was an only child of affluent parents.  Like most parents during that time, they tried to manage her life to what they deemed was best for her.  This daughter fell in love with a young man, studying to be a dentist.  He was not poor but he was not in the same level as her family...besides the family wanted her to marry within their own family circle. In spite of her parents opposition, the girl continued to see this young man. When it reached a point where she was not allowed to go out of the house alone, she locked herself in her room but continued to communicate with him through letters and notes via her best friend who was their common cousin. According to a nephew's version, typical of young love, she and her boyfriend made a vow to wait for each other even how long it takes or until her parents moved on to the next life. What was ironic was the fact that her father died in 1950 and her mother, in 1954...but by that time it was too late for her (she was 36).  You see, time changes things and after many years of playing the waiting game, the boyfriend and the bestfriend/cousin/confidante developed feelings for each other.  Eventually these two got married (maybe two or three years before the her father died in 1950 which, if you do your math, was a very late marriage in that era) and began a family.  Perhaps even more devastating for this aunt of ours was the fact that they lived one house away from hers across the street. She could see them from her balcony and second floor window.  So it's no wonder that this poor lady lost most of her rational mind.  It is said that she had her second floor removed (probably in the 60's) after her parents died.  Some says it's because she wanted a more modern home but I think it's because she just did not want to see that house across the street anymore. But those in the know says that it was not her decision but of those who were entrusted to care for her.  I don't exactly remember what the original house looked like, paying not much attention to it since it's facade was more or less covered with trees and other foliage, but when the second floor was removed, one can't help but notice because suddenly it did not look quite right.

And thus, this is my family's version of the story about the woman who never spoke again.  We, who are not privy to the complete story may never know what really happened and there are manyr versions, but all have one thing in common...a young woman in love, undesirable lover, parental objection to the relationship and a broken vow.  Last September 2, 2011, she passed away. She would have been 97 years old in 3 weeks time. She outlived both her lover and best friend.  She was always seen writing and left behind hundreds of notebooks where it is said she wrote her life story and rewrites this again and again for fear that the writing would fade and her story will disappear forever.  When I asked if the notes can be read, I was told that you need to use a lens to read the writing because beautiful though it is, it was very small.  I hope someone in her immediate family will have the patience to decipher the writing.  It will give us an insight to the person that she was.

Tita (I can finally call you that), Rest in Joyful Peace...