When we took a weekend trip to Bacolod, we commuted to Silay to explore two ancestral houses: Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House and Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House, a.k.a., Balay Negrense.
One of the ancestral houses claims to have a Stradivarius violin in its possession, the other, the first-ever bicycle to roam the streets of Silay.
Once the abodes of influential people in Negros Occidental, these two ancestral houses now serve as museums for people to peek into the past.
Although I have seen a lot of old houses in previous trips, Silay’s ancestral houses still managed to feed my curious eyes. Here is a photo tour, courtesy of our amateur camera.
Inside the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House
Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House provides guided tours to visitors for an entrance fee of 40 pesos per person. Our friendly guide, Amor, was dependable enough in providing interesting facts and answering our “tough” questions.
Karitelas (carriages) are parked at the ground floor of the ancestral house. We were told that only the very rich were able to afford such luxury in the past. That would be something like owning luxury cars in today’s world.
This chair sitting at the lobby may look ordinary, but it has some odd function aside from being a means for rest or relaxation. The bottom part was used as enclosure for chickens. The two decorated squares are actually sliding doors for placing the chickens inside.
Intricate designs at the top of the walls are not only for aesthetics. These wall ornaments, which were imported from Europe, help improve ventilation in the entire house.
Without electricity and air-conditioning at that time, these ventilating frames made life more comfortable for the residents of the house. The tour guide told us, hopefully not to rub it in, that these were very expensive ornaments that only the very rich could afford.
Inside the living room, an expensive Steinberg piano, harp, rocking chairs, help adorn the room where guests were entertained. The curtained doors lead to the bedrooms.
An old phonograph takes you there — to the screechy sounds of past music. Underneath that is cased, a Stradivarius?
Amor pointed our attention to this violin in the receiving room, telling us that it is a Stradivarius violin.
I know Strads are no ordinary violins and are quite legendary, so I was surprised to hear that one of them was right before my eyes.
Famed for a distinctive sweet sound that other violins are unable to produce, Stradivarius violins are quite rare, with only very few being accounted for (see the wiki story).
To my skeptic mind, Jalandoni Ancestral House may need to show proof authenticating that this is a real Stradivarius.
A gallery picture of four long-haired men caught my attention. They were kapampangans rebelling against the Spaniards, according to our guide. Our guide, however, commented further that during the American occupation, they were inclined to easily betray their fellow Filipinos.
I am not familiar with such stories, nor with the hippie-looking people, but it could be as one friend suggested, that it’s expected for Negros and Pampanga people to form biased opinions against each other, having been tough rivals in the sugarcane business in the past. Still, I am not sure.
In the house’s kitchen area, we were treated to items that we’ve never seen before. This wooden box, for instance, is simply not a storage bin. It served as the refrigerator of olden times.
Back in the days, ice was rare and expensive to make that they could only be imported from Massachusetts, USA. The family regularly paid a huge amount of money just to buy ice. The ice blocks were then set inside this wooden box to chill drinks and preserve perishable goods.
The kitchen was set to depict how it was back then. Tables were adorned with fruits, Negros delicacy piaya, and the other old items they used, such as this stove that used wood for fire.
Water jugs of clay, or banga, were used to store water. As they were made of clay, water seemed to turn a bit sweeter and cooler. The beige container on the table is actually a container used as a water filter.
Amor showed everybody the use of batirol in making traditional chocolate drinks. The items perfectly describes typical everyday living more than a century ago. A wooden equipment used to prepare dough, weighing scales, gas lamp, and beer bottles are just some of the items that made this kitchen table interesting.
Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House
Frenchman Victor Fernandez Gaston was the owner of this ancestral house, located some walking distance away from the Jalandoni ancestral house. For an entrance fee of 40 pesos, we got a guided tour of the two-story house, better known as Balay Negrense.
The house is more than a century old and has undergone renovations at some parts to help preserve it.
The curator first showed us this big round table that lists the names of the descendants of the original owners. Some familiar names of celebrities and politicians can be found there, in fact.
Balay Negrense’s living room looks both comfy and fragile. On the center table, one can find a couple of sungkaan, which used to be the best way to pass the time back in those days. The game is called sungka, played by two people aiming to take all of the opponents pieces. Read more about the game.
The stairs to the second floor are split into two, so designed to separate the ladies from the gentlemen. Women walked on the right side, while the men used the left staircase.
At the second floor is another receiving area, which, in its heyday, must have been a very comfortable place to socialize because of the superb ventilation design. The broad, curtained doors lead to the bedrooms.
One of the bedrooms showcases the once hi-tech gadgetries: a radio, electric fan, a printing press, and a typewriter.
At the back part of the house is an old bicycle. Our lovely guide proudly presented it as the first-ever bike to roam the streets of Silay.
One interesting thing about Balay Negrense is that every part of the house seems to have had functions other than for decoration. The basement door carries a note explaining the importance of the basement design. The basement was built in a way that it enhanced air circulation, which helped preserve the integrity of the house.
Finally, tourists can visit Balay Negrense’s souvenir shop at the ground floor, which offers colorful Masskara display items, shirts, bags, and other artsy fancies.