Farewell Fort San Juan: Negros Occidental Old Provincial Jail Demolished to Give Way to Shopping Mall

Fort San Juan or the old Provincial Jail as we know it has been demolished to give way for the construction of a shopping mall. Capitol Hill Land Development Corp. who owns 888 Chinatown Square won the bidding for the long term lease of this 1.1 prime property of the provincial government.

Although I already knew this would happen, I was still surprised to see the property almost cleared Tuesday afternoon except for the arch where the old gate of the jail used to be. After the Provincial Jail was transferred to Bago City in 12011, the old structure was not used in any purpose so there are a lot of people who are probably happy that it will be used for a shopping mall.

fort san juan gate
Old Provincial Jail gate before the demolition (Photo by Jennylind Cordero)
provincial jail demolition
Demolished Old Provincial Jail

Although I have never been inside the old Negros Occidental Provincial Jail, I’ve seen pictures of marker stating the establishment of the jail 1890 and brick facade dating as early as 1889 which can be saved for posterity. That’s why I was alarmed when I saw broken bricks among the concrete rubble.

fort san juan bricks
Brick wall at Fort San Juan before the demolition (Photo by: Jennylind Cordero)

I immediately texted Maricar Dabao and together we went to the site and talked to the workers to save the bricks to be given to the Negros Museum. The workers told us that most of the bricks got mixed with the concrete rubble and were dumped on the ground for levelling.  Those may just be ordinary bricks to the workers but I find it hard to see something more than a century old go to waste.

We also did not see the marker anywhere among the rubble. On the other hand, the steel gate had a better fate since it was saved by the General Services Office and will later be restored in the new structure.

fort san juan marker
Old Negros Occidental Provincial Jail marker before the demolition. (Photo by Jennylind Cordero)

Why did we go through all that fuss just to save some old bricks? Because we believe those bricks are part of our history and their preservation will make us remember Fort San Juan and the role it played in Negrense history.

Aside from the date marking 1889, the bricks also have the markings  La Castellana, La Paz and La Asturiana. Based on this website, the practice of marking bricks became popular in 1860s to about 1950. Aside from La Castellana, I am not aware that there were towns in Negros called La Paz and La Asturiana so they probably came from other places. Who knows, they could have been shipped all the way from Spain.

bricks for the negros museum
Turnover of bricks to the Negros Museum with Maricar Dabao

According to the magazine Handurawan, construction of Fort San Juan started in 1889 a year after the construction of the San Sebastian Cathedral was finished in 1888. Father Mauricio Ferrero, the Spanish Friar who laid out Bacolod, constructed  Fort San Juan in exchange for the use of prisoners in the construction of the San Sebastian Cathedral. It was ironic that after the Cinco de Noviembre in 1898, thirty six (36) Spanish friars were ordered incarcerated at Fort San Juan.

There’s always this conflict between heritage and development. Is it ok for century old structures to be demolished in order to give way to new establishments which bring investment and jobs?  This does not only happen in Bacolod but in other places in the country including Manila. I hope our authorities can find a balance such that we do not compromise our heritage in exchange for so called progress.

Farewell Fort San Juan: Negros Occidental Old Provincial Jail Demolished to Give Way to Shopping Mall by

Comments

  1. FERMIN L. MEDINA says

    THE DEMOLITION WAS AN OUTRIGHT VIOLATION OF THE LONG LINEAGE OF HISTORICAL LEGACY OF OUR PEOPLE. BUT TIME HAS CHANGED PEOPLE’S OUTLOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE. IT ALWAYS GIVES A ROOM FOR ECONOMIC GREED AND POLITICAL COMPROMISE. SURPRISINGLY WE IN MANY WAYS CONDONE AND BECOME COMPLACENT, AND THAT’S THE IRONY OF THE AGES…SIGH!

  2. Richard Aspillaga says

    I am not from Bacolod but my wife and I enjoy visiting Negros every year since 2009. Perhaps, the positive lesson of preserving landmarks should be appreciated by looking at “The Ruins” and the ancestral houses in Silay, etc..Perhaps, the mall developers should preserve the remaining portal of this old prison (if it is not yet too late) and install the marker and some remnants of the bricks and incorporate it with the design of the mall. For locals and visitors (like us non-Negrenses) people can marvel that this mall was once a historic jail in the past. Singapore had its experience in the mid-90s when they started demolishing old buildings until people protested to save their historical buildings and markers so a law was put in place to stop demolitions..

  3. Carmen Joan says

    Kasubo. I grew up passing that structure for the last 41 years of my existence here in Bacolod. Though yes, this landmark, was not maintained and kept well all those years, it had a chance of being preserved (tani…), when the provincial jail was transferred to another location. The markers and the bricks could have been preserved and retained by the new developers in its original place. Architecturally challenged I guess, but if we want to preserve our Negrense heritage, we all should make an effort. A piece of history in this new mall would be a great conversation piece for locals and tourists alike. And can still be landmark on its own.

    Thank you Glady and Maricar, for rescuing the bricks and markers and bringing them to Negros Museum. Kudos the both of you!

    This is just how I see it.
    Best Regards,
    Carmen

  4. Bryan Lee Sammis says

    I’m surprised the designers did “refit” the prison’s interior and made the mall that way. Like what they did to Eastern State Prison in Philadelphia Pa:”the alcatraz of the east coast”

    Originally destined to be demolished. Then the developer had an idea to convert it to a museum and “haunted house”. And he’s been making money ever since.

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