Si­lay, Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Her­itage City

The Freeman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ray­mond Letaba

It is a rare ex­pe­ri­ence to be able to walk back in time. Rare maybe, but def­i­nitely

pos­si­ble. It does not even have to in­volve

a magic spell.

There are places to visit in the Philip­pines where it can hap­pen. In the Ilo­cos re­gion, there’s Vi­gan. In Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal, there’s Si­lay.

Si­lay is touted to be a her­itage city. The place re­tains beau­ti­ful rem­nants of glory days past – beau­ti­fully pre­served an­ces­tral homes and build­ings – all ex­ud­ing clas­sic artistry. The ex­quis­ite ar­chi­tec­ture of the struc­tures con­veys times of the good life.

Times may since have changed in Si­lay, par­tic­u­larly in terms of econ­omy, but not the grandeur of the phys­i­cal sur­round­ings. The lav­ish­ness of Si­lay’s past is still very much around, at least hints of it. The good thing is that it may now be en­joyed by any­one, no longer ex­clu­sive to the orig­i­nal rich-and-fa­mous res­i­dents and own­ers.

Be­ing in the provin­cial city would quickly suck any trav­eler back in time. Its streets still echo foot­steps from the past. And 29 sur­viv­ing an­ces­tral houses still breathe of op­u­lence and el­e­gance.

The Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion clas­si­fied all of the ex­tant struc­tures in Si­lay as na­tional trea­sures. And many of these struc­tures are now open to the pub­lic. Sev­eral have been re­ha­bil­i­tated and turned into mu­se­ums, like the Balay Ne­grense, Don Bernardino Ja­lan­doni An­ces­tral House, and Manuel Hofileña Her­itage House.

Ac­cord­ing to travel writer Mai Flores, at www. in­, it takes only a day to visit all of Si­lay’s old houses. But she sug­gests that one stays in Si­lay for at least two or three days in or­der to fully ex­pe­ri­ence the city. Flores lists five of the places to see:

Mu­nic­i­pal Hall Mu­seum It is a small gallery – but packed with too much in­for­ma­tion, trac­ing Si­lay’s roots from way back un­til the present. A col­lec­tion of dio­ra­mas, doc­u­ments, and even pieces of cloth­ing are dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion hall. MU­NIC­I­PAL...

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