Silay Beyond the Landmarks

A Silay City beyond the landmarks is what the bloggers discovered during a heritage tour of Silay as part of the activities for the Philippine Blog Awards Visayas.

We are very familiar with images of Silay with its grand ancestral mansions but what really make Silay special are beyond those landmarks. It is its people, their culture and traditions which make the “Paris of Negros” stand out.

A guided tour personally facilitated by no less than Silay City Tourism Officer Ver Pacete made the bloggers discover a different facet of Silay that we don’t usually see. Some of it may not be positive but it will give any visitor a more understanding of life in Silay City.

Who are the Silaynons? What makes them tick? From the time the Spaniards landed on a village known as Carobrob in 1565, it has become a melting pot of people and culture. Silay has perhaps more than any other town in Negros Occidental, is where most Panayanons (people from Panay Island) migrated to. It was Fr. Eusebio Locsin of Molo, Iloilo who was instrumental in inviting his family and friends to come to Silay where the land is fertile. And so came the Locsins, Lacsons, Jalandonis, Lopezes, Javellanas, Montinolas and other affluent families who became the hacenderos of Silay.

hacienda adela, silay city
Hacienda Adela residents

Silay not only attracted the affluent families from Panay but also the seasonal workers we call the sacadas. We were brought to Hacienda Adela where the people still practice old Ilonggo oral traditions such as the composo and luwa. Most of the residents trace their roots to Panay and these traditions were handed down to them by their forefathers.

silay pottery makers
Silay Pottery

There are also traditional crafts that still exist today. The maninihon (artists) of Brgy. Guinahalaran still make clay tiles, pots, stoves and garden accessories. Although pottery is an ancient art, it is on the verge of disappearing. In fact, the pottery makers in Guinhalaran are the remaining three groups still existing in Negros Island.

Just like any community in the Philippines, stories and legends abound in Silay to explain mysterious incidents. Stories of enchanted trees and places refused to die especially when fed with our rich imaginations. There exist two century-old trees in along the highway going to Silay which nobody dared cut-down lest they earn the ire of its “residents”.

It’s also always interesting to talk to locals who spent their childhood in Silay.  It’s from them that you get to hear what only get to be whispered. Family secrets would almost always be far more interesting than the architecture of their houses.

One never goes to Silay without sampling its native delicacies. The oldest bakeshop in Silay, El Ideal, opened in the 1920s. In Silay, you get to taste the best piaya, lumpaiang ubud, pili squares, and other local delicacies not from pasalubong outlets but from the kitchens of its makers. Most of these are family recipes handed down from generations and are not available anywhere. Aside from the local institutions like El Ideal, there’s the manuglibod who goes around Silay selling local delicacies. Most kakanins traded in Bacolod are from the manuglibods of Silay.

fresh star organic farms
Fresh Star Organics Farm

Silay is a microcosm of a society undergoing change constantly. The opening of the Silay Airport opens a lot of opportunities for industries within Silay City. With the priority of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental to make Negros the organic food bowl of Aisa, the vast land of Silay is a resource waiting to be tapped. One of the first companies to into organic agriculture was Fresh Start Organics whose farm is located in Hacienda Maquina. The company now produces and markets its organic produce not only in the province but even to Iloilo and Metro Manila.

Clearly, there’s more to Silay than meets the eye. All of these are just waiting for you to discover and experience. As what we bloggers discovered, beyond Silay’s landmarks is a Silay pulsating with life and a culture that’s unlike no other. No wonder migrants have found their home in Silay. Life is definitely sweeter here.

Stay tuned for more features on Silay City.

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