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!