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Archive for the ‘Memory Lane’ Category

Nope, it’s not as controversial as it sounds, although that is literally what happened– with a camera.

As we drove around Iloilo last January, I couldn’t help but notice that there were tons of beautiful old houses amidst the urban sprawl. I drew my camera a bit late, so I was only able to take a few shots.

Disclaimer: I don’t know the owners of these houses. If one of them happens to be you and having a picture of your house here offends you in some way, please contact me and I will gladly take down the photo.

To begin, let’s start with this very interesting house which has been turned into a boarding house (presumably for young people studying in nearby schools).

Eros Boarding House

The house itself is probably only a few decades old, although its design imitates a much older era. Painted white and red, the sign at the gate identifies it as the “Eros boarding house.” Yes. I’m not kidding.

Iloilo House

This second house typifies the old bahay na bato (stone house) of Spanish colonial origins. The bottom floor, which would have normally been used to house the family business and its storage rooms, is now being used by a local bank.

Iloilo House

This house appears abandoned, which is really a shame. I can picture it in all its glory, freshly painted, lit up and bustling with the sound of laughter and music during its heyday. (Cue ladies in 1950’s hair and vintage cars)

Iloilo House

One of the things I absolutely love about old Philippine houses are their windows— wide to let in the abundance of sunshine and allow the winds to circulate throughout the house to stave off the humid heat of the tropical islands.

 Iloilo House

There is really something about houses from this bygone era that make them so stately and elegant. There was a whole range of logistical, environmental, social and supernatural considerations that went into the building of each of these houses, which I hope to discuss at length one of these days. But for now, these houses are a reminder of an era of old world glamor, when Iloilo was the Queen City of the South, the hub of international trade after Manila and the capital of the sugar industry.

I find current architectural designs absurd, if not a little pretentious, when the instigators (really, instigators!) attempt to mimic houses in the Western hemisphere where there are winters, springs and autumns, leading their “modern” houses to require massive amounts of air conditioning and lighting.

I hope that people who own such ancestral houses know the cultural treasure in their hands and cherish it. I’ve seen a few such cultural/historical treasures demolished to make way for ugly commercial buildings, simply because the owners could no longer maintain it.

If I was filthy rich, I would definitely use the money to preserve such local historical treasures. Unfortunately I am not, so I have to be contented with drooling over these houses and engaging in armchair analysis.

One thing I can do, however, is to apply the lessons of the past to my own future. When the time comes to build my own house (and that time will definitely come), it will hew closely to the principles of the bahay na bato.

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R and I are proud Negrenses. We were born and raised here, our home away from home has that distinct Negrense flavor, and we continue to talk, think and behave the way we were taught by our Negrense parents.

(A Fil-Am friend who visited us earlier this year expected to learn more Filipino during his two-week stay at our house. He went back to the United States speaking Hiligaynon.)

Despite the time we spend away from Negros, we always make an effort to educate the Babii about her roots. And yesterday, we took her to the Negros Museum.

 Negros Museum facadeFacade of the Negros Museum

The Negros Museum used to be housed at the Provincial Capitol a few blocks away. The Provincial Capitol used to be the seat of the Governor, but over the years, some Governors stopped using the place and it was given over to the Museum. Some years back, however, Governor Joseph Maranon revived the Provincial Capitol as the office of the Governor (rightfully so, I think). The Negros Museum was moved to a smaller building behind the Capitol, formerly occupied by the Provincial Library if memory serves me right.

Negros Museum floor

I have a weakness for old tiled floors, and the Museum’s is no exception. I dream of  my future house having tiled floors like this (I cringe when I see houses and buildings tiled with bathroom-like tiles). The walls in the Museum display a good number of paintings and murals depicting pre-modern and modern life in Negros.

Talibong

At the entrance, one is greeted by a huge talibong. R says the length indicates it was wielded by a tall man.

I was looking forward to showing the Babii the gallery of international toys which made a big impression on me ten years ago, but sadly the gallery was closed. We moved on to the second floor.

Negros Museum stairwayStairway of the Negros Museum

The Museum, fittingly, has a grand stairway. The Babii, however, asked: “What is that thing at the top?” (Uhm, I don’t know, maybe it’s some revolutionary theme?)

At one wing on the second floor is a display depicting life in the sugar industry, the backbone of Negros.

Hacienda House

Above is a typical model of a hacienda house. Note the 360 degree view on the veranda and the little watchtower at the top for, uhm, certain activities.

Hacienda ViewA mural on hacienda life.

Further in, gadgets related to the production of sugar are displayed in various cabinets and tables.

Sugar Gadgets

On the left is a “quedan machine” according to R. Quedans are those little slips of paper confirming how much sugar a haciendero has in a particular sugar mill. This machine is supposed to type out those quedan amounts. On the right are laboratory equipment used for testing the concentration of sugar in the sugarcane brought into the mill.

Negros Museum food vendorA vendor selling local delicacies. But who eats at a food stall wearing a barong (formal wear)? (Ok, maybe the guy just came from High Mass.)

Negros folk songs

Local folk songs printed on canvas hang from the ceilings. A nice touch. I was quite surprised though when R started singing them.

Negrs Museum closed section

There was another display involving a huge boat and religious figurines, but the gallery was also temporarily closed.

On the right end of the second floor is another display on Negros life and the Negros Republic.

Negros Museum Wedding Dress

I took a lot of pictures, but posting them all here would just be picture overload. Above is an old wedding gown, probably donated by some kind soul. I forgot to take a closer picture of the details, but it was clear that each flower was painstakingly sewn and attached with a lot of care. One of my grandmas used to make dresses this way, but they don’t make dresses like this anymore (unless you want to pay an arm, a leg, and your first born child to a designer label, that is).

The Negros RepublicA brief history of the Negros Republic

Very few Filipinos know that when the Tagalogs launched the Revolution in Luzon, Negros launched its own revolution and won against the Spaniards. The Republic, however, was short-lived as the Americans arrived and the rest, as they say, is history.

Some observations and unsolicited (amateur) advice:

1. The Museum has a lot of potential, but space limitations are very noticeable. The Provincial Capitol was a lot bigger, and displays that are evenly spaced from each other give a significantly different impression compared to ones that are placed right next to each other. Sensory overload, and sadly some stories may fall into the cracks.

2. Aside from the stray foreigner who arrived just as we were leaving, there were no other visitors in the Museum. Unfortunately, this just confirms my observation that not too many Filipinos visit their own museums (aside from the mandatory school trip). If we don’t make an effort to know where we come from, how can we go anywhere?

3. I suppose that funding, as in most historical institutions, is an issue. I am sure that museum officials are exerting their best efforts, but sometimes the best of plans can’t move without funding.

4. I hope that the Museum can soon migrate its website to http://www.negrosmuseum.com from negrosmuseum.blogspot.com. Having recently migrated our company files, I know that it takes some time and effort, but it can be done for a minimum fee or even free (if you’re a geek).   The hardest part is generating the content, and I would recommend including  a history of Negros, its geography, and short introductions to each gallery/section of the museum. Who knows, it may just garner more attention from potential funders.

5. Christmas season is the time when Negrenses come home for the holidays, often with some non-Negrenses/non-Filipinos in tow. This is the best time to showcase the Museum, but having certain sections closed is disappointing for visitors.

6. There was a scooter parked in the Museum. Right beside the Governors’ Gallery. Paging the parking police….

Scooter in the Negros Museum

The Negros Museum is on Gatuslao St. behind the Provincial Capitol. Entrance fee is P50 (US$1.14) for adults and P20 (US$0.46) for students.

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And now it begins…. The two-week countdown to our long-awaited Bacolod vacation. While the Babii counts the days (R already went ahead), I make a list of all the food stops I have to make to make sure I don’t forget any of them:

1. Bob’s on North Drive (I know the street is now called something else but I like calling it North Drive) for some Chicken Sate, Sate Babi, fruit punch, and siopao. I think I’ll need more than one trip for this one.

2. Apollo Restaurant (old school!).

3.Chicken House on Mandalagan – People say the ultimate inasal experience would be at Manokan Country at the Reclamation area, specifically Aida’s. I’ve been there and I agree, but I don’t like living dangerously =P

4.Kai Sei – The best value-for-money Japanese food in Negros, in my humble opinion. I used to take for granted the fresh, inexpensive seafood available in island life. Never again.

5. L’Sea – If Apollo is full (which it always is), this is a good alternative.

6. Mai Pao – It’s easy to take good Chinese food for granted in the Philippines. Where I am, however, is another story altogether. I intend to stuff my face with duck, dumplings and all sorts of stir-fry during this vacation.

7. Cansihan in Shopping – I know it has a name but it escapes me at the moment. I just know where it is. Assuming it’s still there. (Oh no!)

8. Calea – The list of things to eat here are endless, but the first thing I would order would be the cream puffs. Years ago they never advertised it on the menu, but we knew it was there. It still haunts my dreams.

9. Pendy’s – Only because I am tired of people giving me incredulous looks when I tell them I’ve never been there.

10. Jollibee – Gasp! I can’t believe I almost forgot this one. No trip home would be complete without a Chicken Joy meal. Or a dozen.

11. Ted’s Batchoy – Self-explanatory.

12. Kiss King of Balls – When R and I were starting out (read: unemployed), we would go on dates at the Kiss stall in one of the local malls. Ahh, nostalgia.

13. Roli’s – All these years I have never come across chicken sandwich as good as theirs. I wish it could have expanded in the same way as Bob’s, but I suppose the owners had other priorities.

I know I most probably left a lot of good restaurants out (senior moment), but I intend to comb every nook and cranny of Bacolod for good food. In Negros, that’s not hard at all.

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