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.