Posted by: nastypen | November 17, 2006

The Bacolod Trip (the fun part), part II

Whenever you mention Bacolod to me, these images come to mind: sprawling plantations, mestizas fanning themselves at the upper part of their house daydreaming of excitement from the fairy tales they read when they were young, trying to escape the ennui, while dons and doñas lounge about discussing their next trip; señorito is packing his belongings to ready for the university in Manila as la abuela prays at the altar; she is fanned by her servants, as if perspiration before the holy images are sinful.

This sort of opulence was real in Bacolod. Perhaps, it still is. I remember the National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose told me of an experience he had in a hacienda in Bacolod. He was invited to stay at this mansion. This was in the post-World War II era in the Philippines. He had dinner with his rich hosts. It was at the long table covered with white embroidered tablecloth. The food was succulent. Then F. Sionil Jose noticed that there was a draft wafting his legs. He looked down the table and saw a little boy, the son of one of the farmers, fanning his feet. There were other small children fanning the feet of the masters. It was a disturbing microcosm of the Philippine society. Jose was so taken aback because this was the little boy “assigned” to him to cater his needs.

Jose did not grow up in such an environment in Ilocos. In fact, his grandfather’s land was grabbed by the landed mestizo gentry. Jose saw himself in that boy. At the course of small talk, the little boy expressed his deisre to have shoes because his feet hurt and his slippers are worn. On Jose’s last day, he bought the little boy a pair of shoes from town. The little boy ran after him with glee in his eyes as Jose left the plantation. I could just imagine the cold stare of the mestizo masters waiting for these small children to fan their feet.

Such is a scene from Bacolod’s concentration of mestizo mansions in Silay.

It is very much like the American southern plantations ala Gone With the Wind‘s Tara plantation. The Bacolod sugar barons offered the island a taste of opulence and class, which, depends on who you ask, may or may not be a good thing. Sugar was gold for a time. But then again, (free) trade pacts came in making it possible to import cheaper sugar from other places. Furthermore, the demand for sugar dipped. If these sugar barons did not diversify their investments, they are f*cked. Some of them invested in boats, some invested in more land, but at the end of the day, Bacolod’s dominance over the sugar market crumbled. Wendell, the driver who took Lace and I around Bacolod, commented “Fertilizer is more expensive than the (sugar) crops.”

So, quite a number of families lost their fortunes and the mansions went into disrepair or were bought by the church and transform it into a school or was made into a dance school.

As we were entereing Silay, it was like entering a fantasy world. I noticed of the mahogany trees by the side of the road looking like an Austrian forest as captured by the painter Gustav Klimt. The island dissecting the road had a lush bed of green grass with a garderner tending to it. Then we entered the town sqaure with old bahay na bato (colonial stone houses) creaking and groaning by the streets. This sort of architecture is prevalent in Filipino mestizo society where the the foundation of the house is made of stone hence (bahay na bato) whereas the ordinary citizens live in wooden houses. The second floor of the bahay na bato is made of wood and this is where the masters live. The walls are flanked by tall sliding windows with capiz shells. At the bottom part of the upper floor, there are ventinillas, small perforations for air to get in to cool the masters.

The bottom part of the house is reserved for storage and where the servants lived. It is also a welcome platform for guests. the more important guests are led upstairs to the family rooms and sala (living room).

I was pretty excited to see a Silay mansion to taste the culture of stratification that was brought upon the Negros people. It is a great thing to witness and learn such harshness and demarcation brought by wealth. People always glamorize and romanticize the Spanish past forgetting how we were subject to such inhumanity.

The Balay Negrense is the only mansion we went to.

It was owned by the Gaston family and saw the tumultuous times from the time it was built in 1897 (a year after the revolution against Spain started) to the entry of the American “benevolent assimilation” to the Japanese atrocities (where a lot of the mansions in Bacolod were used as houses for the Japanese soldiers) to contemporary times of Martial Law and now.

The house is pregnant with history and cultural context and I could not, as a history whore, pass this up. So, Lace and I took a tour at the Balay Negrense and here are the pics:

the rooms of the mother and the daughter
This is the tattered dress of a daughter of the Gaston family. The rooms are connected to each other and separated by just a door way. The ladies are on the one side, the gents on the other. It is the sala upstairs where the women and men interact.

la unica hija's toys
These are the toys of the little girl Gaston. The daughters of the prominent families in such a feudal set up are used to augment incomes by marrying them into other rich families. So, the daugters of the dons and doñas are expected to be elegant and knowledgeable of the rigors of being a woman of leisure. One of the Gaston descendants was a pretty mestiza who was, at one point, the flower of the Visayas. Such titles up the value of these ladies. I hope there were strong-willed girls who intimidated men for breakfast.

elegant yet creepy
These are all found inside the little girl’s room. What use does she have for ivory carvings anyway? Nothing. It is jsut there to show how wealthy this family is. there was a cordon disallowing visitors from entering the rooms. Well, I snuck in. I didn’t care. I wanted to take nice shots of the room. Lace then says that at night when we were about to sleep, she feels a small child watching over us and it sat on her thus waking her up. Brrrr…..this house is creepy.

Boo, bitch, boo!!!!!

This is me trying to look scary. The “bat” overhead is a Halloween decoration. I thought it was pretty funny that such an old house celebrates Halloween. But then again, there ARE spirits in the house. I can feel it. Perhaps my pose made them cringe.

this is their Toilet?!?

This is their toilet. It is so big, it holds a couple of toilet bowls and more space for the bath. So, if I grew up in this house, my sister and I would just sit on our designate toilet seats and share what happened to us at school that day as she urinates and me, defacates as our dad, who is taking abath right in front of us. This toilet is located on the second floor, ergo for the masters’ use only. I was told that it is inherent in Spanish mestizo families back in the day to share lavatories. Why, the case de Manila in Intramuros has a toilet where people can sh*t and play chess at the same time. By the way, there was a tiny blood splatter by the door. So, that is a bit freakish.

Desperate houswives

Here’s Lace’s and my homage to Desperate Houswives. Lace and I were talking on how we would rather be housewives than be in a cubicle dealing with morons at office politics. Anyway, the kitchen is found at the back near the small dining hall. But, of course, in a Bacolod mansion, the housewives do not really cook. They have people to do that. The have a battery of slaves maids in clearly-marked garb (uniforms) to do their bidding.

yaya, where are you?!?!?  I want to drink water naaaa!!!!!
This is where the maids go. There is a gilded shaft at the back of the house’s second floor where maids enter. The second floor is generally for the masters adn the amids are not allowed inside unless they are called for to fan or to help the señoritas fit in that dress or whatever menial chore there is to fulfill. Otherwise, the maids go about the house through this shaft and god knows what other tunnels are there for the maids so as not to disturb the masters.

What are you WEARING?!?!?!

This is me scrutinizing the gown in one of the rooms. I thought it was for one of those hideous beauty contests at the provinces. I’m sure the materials for this particular dress cost a fortune, but still, I am not at all happy with the design and the cut. It is something as ghastly as what Luli Arroyo wore at the Philippine leg pit stop of the Amazing Race. It is gaudy! It looks like it was a cake designed for a drag queen’s debut. This dress just goes to show that despite the wealth, some people cannot afford good taste.

This is Lace by the garage door at the back of the mansion. The caretaker points where the parties are and tells us that he sleeps in the house and there are spirits but do not disturb him. This is where the rolls royce or whatever car that the masses cannot afford pass by to collect the masters and go to the nearby church. Remember, in Philippine sociopolitical structure, if you live near the town plaza and the church, you are quite rich. We can see the church from the window.


Lace and I were feeling all hoity toity in this mansion. We decided to pose as if we owned the place. this is my rendition of Napoleon Bonaparte. Lace wanted to know what pose she had to do. I told her to pose like Maria Clara, clasp both hands and place it on a strategic area to be like a chastity belt. We laughed hard after this photo was taken.

Las dos Señoritas

Nobody was looking so I asked Lace to sit on the lounge chair and act as if she were a bored rich woman who had nothing to do but smile to the camera. Lordy, you can see that type of women when you open the newspapers’ society pages. We posed like we were both the imperious divas of the household. I wanted to get into the act and start throwing ashtrays at the maids and screaming for my corset! I wanted to sit on that chair but I might destroy it, so I had to be content at flashing that sneer at the back of the seat.

textmates, anyone?

This is me attempting to send a bluetooth message to the dead. The rich people were the first ones to get a telephone in Bacolod. I wonder what they did with the phone considering not everyone had one. Perhaps, the masters used it to call their friends to talk about their not-so-rich aquaintances who did not have a phone yet.

Let me eat balls!!!!

This was taken outside where the parties are usually held. Small balls made of capiz shells illuminate the garden as the rich ones sashay about showing off their fashions dispensing gossip on which particular señorito impregnated a maid amidst talk of money. I wanted to pay my respects to these tiny garden balls. These are the ancestors of the disco balls. I wanted to laugh because I saw a tiny nipa hut where the little señoritas can play house. As if they will end up living under thatched roofs! There was a bench made out of concrete. Perhaps concrete with its qualities can be more cool to the bum rather than a lowly wooden bench.

But among all of the pictures, this is my absolute favorite:

Bodabil bitches

This is by the grand staircase. Women only take the left, the men take the right. I saw the hats and canes of Don Gaston and decided to camwhore. What better way to deal with this social stratified farce than by an act of irreverence? I hoped we astonished the ghosts of the rich folks by our short dance routine.


Anna Nemus asked me toupload the photo of the ghostly apparition.  I thought it was nothing and showed it to my friends and they said what I initially thought, it was just the reflection of my hand.  The “apparition” is supposed to appear at the photo of Lace and I doing the chorus line.  You see it?  I just see my fat hand reflected by the mirror. 



  1. sana matupad na ang wish nating maging housewife! 🙂
    i like all our photos! ^_____^

  2. buti di kayo sinita ng caretaker dyan….

    anyway, glad you tried the calea cakes!! NOW, HOW ARE THEIR CAKES COMPARE TO THOSE IN MANILA ??(SUGARHOUSE?)

  3. CALEEEEA!! CALEEEA!!! MMMmmm… just bought a few slices of their white chocolate cake (P50) and their butter pecan pie ala mode (P62)…. mmmmmm….

    oh, and Bigby’s here (TGIF equivalent) will have an eat-all-u can for only P199. I hope you were here to taste it…

  4. I think I went to Bigby’s in Cagayan de Oro. I love the cake in CDO Bigby’s.

  5. Calea cakes are great!!!!! The ambience is very nice.

    There is a place in Manila that sells great and cheap cakes….better….MUCH better than in sugarhouse (haven’t eaten there in YEARS! I hate the cakes there). hehehheeh like an entire cake of vienna brownie cake costs just 500 pesos. tapos the cakes are not made in a factory type of lineup. I’ll write about it in another blog entry soon.

  6. sorry i know i’m coming out of nowhere but i came across your site searching for pictures of old houses. this is very nice… you guys are funny. =) yes, silay city is pretty pregnant with history, and one of your pictures here got me close to tears when i saw one of the wooden “sala sets” that used to be ours. i grew up watching tv and eating my afternoon merienda on those wooden things, but more than a decade ago my lolo donated them to the museum to represent his branch of the family. and don’t worry, the mirror in the picture only shows your hand holding the hat. 😉

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