When I was in Negros in April, I took an afternoon trip to Silay City to visit my great-grandfather's ancestral home. But that would be in another post.:p For now, let me share these snapshots I took while walking the streets of Silay City that rainy afternoon.
Dubbed as the "Paris of Negros", this is where the island's sugar industry started in the 18th century. The first sugar mill (Horno Economico) was built here in 1846 by a Frenchman who was married to a Filipina. Haciendas were later established in Silay, and families from the nearby island of Panay also settled here because of the promising sugar industry.
The hacienderos (land owners/sugar planters) grew rich in the sugar boom---the ancestral houses built during the golden age of the sugar industry speak eloquently of the lavish lifestyles. When the 1980's sugar crisis hit the sugar industry, planters were faced with economic hardships forcing many of the sugar barons to abandon their farms and curtail their spending. People who worked in the haciendas went through a more difficult life--the province became so impoverished that many people went hungry.
This is the Maria Ledesma Golez House---bought and restored by a bank (RCBC) in the 1990's. The house at the background (with red roof) is my great-grandfather's ancestral home.
There are about 31 well-preserved ancestral homes in Silay today--some of them have been turned into museums, most of them are still privately-owned.
Below is the main street in front of the plaza and cathedral. My aunt used to live behind the light blue building--and if my memory is correct, it's also where El Ideal Bakery was located. El Ideal is an institution in Silay, baking traditional cakes and pastries in a huge wood-fired oven. We used to buy snacks in the bakery almost every afternoon when I was about 6 or 7.
If not for the rain, I could have visited more ancestral houses. Well, maybe next time.
These days, Negros is slowly regaining the vitality it had during the sugar boom in the last century. But with the 2015 ASEAN Free Trade Agreement hanging over its head, the sugar industry is again facing new challenges on how to compete with cheap imported sugar in the market.
Silay City is where the new domestic airport is located. It is an hour flight from Manila, and about 15 kilometers north of Bacolod City, the provincial capital.
Posted for My World Tuesday