Monday, July 6, 2015

The Museums of Negros Occidental

1-3 June 2015. Negros Occidental.

Balay ni Tana Dicang

Enrica Labayen Alunan was married to Efigenio Treyes Lizares in 1872. Three years later, the couple engaged in the production of sugar. By 1883, the family was very well established and a grandiose house was such an indication.

The house is the oldest surviving house in Negros and the most preserved. It is the main ancestral house of the Lizares family, one of the most powerful sugar lords in Negros Occidental. I was impressed with how preserved everything seemed to be and equally impressed with how the rich of the old lived their lives.

The house consists of two follors, built on a 6,000 square meter lot in Talisay City. The lower level was used as a parking space for the family carriage, the carosa for Holy Week processions, farm implements and supplies, and eventually, the family's automobiles. The rooms of Tana Dicang's male children were also located in the lower level to guard the female children from suitors.

The mosaic hand-painted floor on the lower level is still the same floor of long ago, preserved to impress the visitors. A grand staircase with intricate carvings on the wooden balustrade brings the visitors to the second level. The second level houses a receiving area and I was told that the reception of visitors by the matriarch depended on the thickness of the hot chocolate served on them: if the hot chocolate was rich and thick, Tana Dicang will entertain the visitor; if the drink is too watery, there was no use waiting for the matriarch as she would not receive you as a guest.

It seems that the rooms on the second level adjoin each other through wide double-doors that when all these doors are opened, the second level looks like one big hall. I was told that Tana Dicang wanted everything in or within her sight so she stays in this room that has a view of all the rooms on the second level when the adjoining doors are opened. Long after the visit, more than the splendid and well-preserved pieces of furniture I saw, I was impressed with how Tana Dicang, a widow at a young age, was able to raise a big family. 

The Balay Negrense

Located in Silay City, this ancestral house showcases the lifestyle of a late 19th century Negrense sugar baron. Balay Negrense or Gaston House was originally the ancestral house of Victor F. Gaston, a son of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston and Prudencia Fernandez. The elder Gaston was a native of Lisieux, France, and married a Filipina from Batangas. He was credited as one of the pioneers of sugarcane cultivation in the Negros island. 

The house has two floors but what makes this house different from a typical bahay na bato (stone house) is the function of its lower level. Where the lower level of a typical bahay na bato was used for storage and as carriage depot, the Gaston House's lower level was used for offices and sleeping quarters. A grand imperial style staircase leads to the second floor which houses a grand living room. I particularly love the high ceiling and large windows - more natural light and good ventilation.

The Negros Museum

Although conceived in 1987, the Negros Museum opened only on March 16, 1996 and served as Negros Occidental's provincial museum. It transferred to its current location in Gatuslao Street, Bacolod City in May 2003. I loved how the museum did not seem constricted as the windows and doors on both the first and second floors were very much open. I had a feeling you could touch anything in this Museum. It was that open. An area where taking pictures is not allowed, however, is the Toy Section showcasing figurines from different parts of the world artistically displayed that I suddenly wanted to start a collection of my own. I was warned too late in the day about the photography restriction though so I was able to take pictures.

Laguerta, Home of the Vintage Glass Museum

'You have good karma,' said Mr. Tomas Casiano when he opened the gates of his Vintage Glass Museum. He was referring to the fact that I was able to set an appointment with him to have a glimpse of his glass collection. Apparently, setting appointments with him is difficult as he is always out of the country. Funny thing was, I merely inserted this museum in my itinerary as a filler because I had nowhere else to go. I am mighty glad I did though and I am also grateful that I was able to catch Mr. Casiano while he was still in the country.

This museum is one of a kind. Inaugurated on December 12, 2012, the museum showcases Mr. Casiano's delightful collection of glasses acquired over 20 years. The two-story structure located in Barangay Sum-ag, Bacolod City was grand in its simplicity. The glass collection is located on the second floor which has a balcony that sometimes serves as a stage for cultural performances. On the edge of the balcony is a water fall which cascades down the front of the museum's building. No wonder the museum also is a favorite spot for wedding receptions.

The collection was nothing I expected. It was jaw-dropping. Arranged per color, the glass pieces range from dinnerware, decanters, decorative pieces to commemorative plates. His glass collection was also featured in books which made me realize I was seeing the real thing. He offers the museum for free but donations are encouraged.