Sunday, April 18, 2010

Intimations of My Mortality

After my short adventure in Sipalay, south of Negros, I proceeded to Silay - the Paris of the Visayas during the early 1900s. Home of the local barons and baronesses of the then booming sugar industry, Silay is famous for its old buildings and its well-preserved ancestral houses - affording us a glimpse of affluence and the sweet life of the town's landed gentry during that time.

The city was somewhat typical. It was laid out the way most of the small towns in the Visayas were: town plaza in the middle, with the municipal hall, Catholic church, hospital, cafeterias flanking its sides. The streets were narrow and one can walk around all the main streets of the city in an hour. What was most remarkable however was the unmistakable feel of antiquity hovering over the place - the stores, banks, restaurants were all situated in what appeared to be century-old establishments, with the ornate 1930s style awnings still undamaged, capiz-shell windows still intact, and the thick elaborate pillars still sturdy. some of the faded hand-painted signs were still visible, occasionally carelessly posted over by modern tarpaulins and computer-generated signages.

I visited two of the ancestral houses that were open to the public: the Bernardo Jalandoni Museum, also affectionately called the Pink House (although I didn't see pink at all), and the grand and imposing Gaston Ancestral House, also known as Balay Negrense.

The Pink House was just on the main street, near the public market, where the smoke from vehicles can readily corrode into its ancient wooden walls and fixtures. Nevertheless, the Spanish-style residence still retained its old charm. The receiving area, with the relics of the aristocratic horse-drawn carriage imported from America, parked side-by-side with the local carabao-drawn wooden cart, still emanated class and a stately charm. The second floor displayed a dining room, complete with antique hand-painted china, an original pre-Hitler Steinway piano with complete ivory keys, an authentic early-edition Singer sewing machine, an old phonograph and a wall telephone, and other priceless antiques that should have been more carefully stored and immortalized. The presence of a local museum guide who was able to expertly answer relevant questions made the museum tour more interesting and educational.

A restored ancestral home in the middle of Silay City, now a modern bank, but still retaining its old world charm.

One of the antique dolls in Balay Negrense. This one reminds me of Chuckie. If I'm not mistaken, that is blood on his face. Perhaps it was native revolutionary blood.

A seraphim on the wall, silently watching, perhaps for the past 100 years.

One of the rooms in Balay Negrense, perhaps the sanctuary of a sick master, with his old wheelchair by the window.

Silay City at dawn. Despite the rapid and overwhelming changes brought about by technology and industrialization, it brings me great comfort to know that some things remain just the way they were.

Balay Negrense, on the other hand, was located on the city's side streets, a few minutes walk from the town plaza. It was in the middle of a walled-off lot, with an old fountain in the center of the driveway, conveying aristocracy and high-class living. The huge parlor was flanked by three airy rooms on each side, with a grand piano on the left corner, and several black-and-white portraits of the old owners on the walls, giving the house a somewhat eerie atmosphere. The original wooden floors made of hardwood from Mindoro were still shiny and very well-preserved. Even the tiled bathrooms with the ancient lavatories and toilet bowls were still intact, though this was already cordoned off from the few tourists like me who have a peculiar interest for the toilet habits of the old rich.

The second floor displayed the bedrooms of those times. There were several four-poster beds with knitted bed covers and drapes made of Chinese nylon and lace. There were also a number of porcelain dolls, reminiscent of Michael Jackson's Neverland. If there was any perversion involved with these dolls, well, I could only wonder.

Old churches, old houses, and old towns always make me pensive. Sometimes I just touch their walls and I imagine the old years, an era I never saw, a history I could only read about with wonder. What was life like during their time? How much of my life now would change if not for them? What would it be like in the next 100 years? Would I even be remembered? Does that even matter?

William Wordsworth was right when he said that "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting." It would be wonderful to live your life the best way you can, live a life of anonymous greatness and leave the world just a tad better than when you were in it.

To live and die nobly but anonymously - that is my dream. But it would have been nice if somebody else will celebrate my life and mourn my passing. And yeah, perhaps it would be really sweet too if somebody will have even the faintest memory of who I was, what I did, and how I lived.


will said...

Love 'em introspective travelogues!

Reena said...

scary yung doll! and the seraphim looks more like an elf. hehe

i haven't been to that part of the visayas yet. i'll add that to my list of destinations.

AngelMD-No-More said...

tsk tsk hindi man lng nagsabi ang iba jan na pupunta sila ng negros...did u forget that im from bacolod?haha anyways, hope u enjoyed your trip jean esp the food. should have i known earlier, i might have hooked you up with a guy friend para may tour guide ka.hehehehe kidding.