Search and You Shall Find in My World

04 January 2013

FIRST TIME TO VISIT: SILAY AND ITS SECRETS



Negros Occidental is like an enchanted place. So near yet so far. I heard so many stories about the place. Some tall tales. Some, grandpa promised, real and true. Grandpa would tell us of sugarcane views as far as one can see and haciendas and hacienderos and the joke, I would like to believe, about uncut men of Negros. These childhood stories made me long to visit that place and kept a promised to myself to kiss the ground when I go there like it’s the holiest of places.

That dream was realized just recently.

First stop- Silay

Everything has a story in Silay. Stories of lovelorn couples. Stories of forbidden love because of social disparity. Stories of why that house was built, or that cafe. Some were whispered, some were whispered loudly and some remained an open secret. From the decrepit house in a corner to the dulce gatas being stirred in the kitchen, Silay never ran out of stories.

My story will become a part of the huge library Silay already has.

Silay City is like an old, quaint town in Negros Occidental. Despite the addition of a new airport (the old one is located in Bacolod, Negros Occidental’s capital), the city’s aura of progressive development was drowned by the old houses and buildings. The heritage houses were actually a contrast to a new city life.

Unlike most cities, Silay has kept its culture (including her heritage) intact.

Kapehan sa Silay

Our tour organizers-cum-hosts Lee Santiago and Lynell Gaston brought us to this old building to have coffee and some breakfast goodies, my first taste of Negros. The Kapehan sa Silay was a good example of well-kept heritage site and reminded me of Cuban movies where folks while the time away, drinking dark coffee, talking about cockfights. The old musty smell of the place combined with good coffee wanted me to linger and know the place more. Personally.

But there were so many things to discover in Silay that lounging in the Kapehan is not a good start.

photo by Lynell Gaston

Next stop- 1925 Cafe

Mayor Montelibano of Silay
The smell at 1925 was intoxicating! Whatever the kitchen was cooking wafted back inside with a delicious guess of what the next plate would be when it comes in. No! I was not in the year 1925! The aroma of food was never this old but I believed all that has been cooked here stayed in the tiniest crevices of the walls of 1925, the café.

The smallness of the place made dining there really intimate and personalized. We chanced on the mayor of Silay, Mayor Montelibano, eating there and we were introduced like we used to be friends with him.

The Locsin ancestral home

The Locsin house was a home, that I am very sure. Despite its antiquity, the Locsin Home was still functional and without doubt being lived upon. The special edition literature pieces written in Spanish were intact. So were the gynaecology books, still in Spanish, in good condition. The old-style toilet, the handed-down china, kitchen paraphernalia, the lamps, the well-polished floors, the luggage bags in the attic, everything in the Lacson household were well-preserved and well-kept.

This was where I tasted my first Dulce Gatas sang Silay.

photo by Lynell Gaston

Emma Lacson’s

Emma Lacson’s house was like a fortress to those who were not familiar with Silay. But if you were privileged enough to get in the premises early in the morning, a gustatory wealth awaited for every welcomed visitor upstairs. Lacson makes the best of Silay’s delicacies involving pili nuts, the rest being lumpia and hopia.

It was here I saw a real pili individually pounded by hand just to get the nut. Sure it was nuts cracking them like that.

Mambag-id, Silay

One of the most exciting part of my Silay travel was the trip to Mambag-id. This place used to be a big sugarcane plantation with special railroads for transporting harvested sugarcane to waiting ships at the Mambag-id dock. Nowadays, with the decline of the sugar industry in the country and the imposition of the Agrarian Reform Law, the railroads have become obsolete.

But some enterprising residents made innovative ways of transportation to make use of the tracks. It was then that the Bagoneta came (some called it Karito), an improvised version of a kariton, pedal-powered ride using train wheels and slabs of wood formed like a platform where commuters 10 persons up hopped in and ride towards the now non-existent docks.

photo by Lynell Gaston

At the end of the ride where a community lived there, we were treated to a confusing array of Silay’s favorite kakanin: baye-baye, puto lanson, ibos mais, lumpia, siomai, and fresh piaya of Silay.

I dozed off in an airy nipa hut beside the river.

Balaring, Silay

As if the gustatory offering in Mambag-id were not enough, our hosts brought us to barangay Balaring and stuffed us again with fresh seafood the city can offer. It was at Ken’s, a cozy nipa hut close to the sea where the lapping waves would remind you that you were in the territory of the things you were eating. 

Being a person born in the hinterlands of Bohol, I am ignorant of the names of the seafood species. But my host said we were eating: tinola nga lison, fried tilapia, grilled pork chops, grilled squid, alimusan with gata, kinilaw nga tangigue, talaba, with ripe mango slices as dessert.

THE Charlie Co

My stay in Silay was made complete when we were invited by Ann Legaspi-Co to taste her frozen brazos and sans rival in their residence. The brazos and sans rival were honestly without rival until we met Ann’s husband, my idol artist from Negros - Charlie Co!

photo by Lee Santiago

The Negrense’s way of saying goodbye

Each moment of my stay in Silay was worth the trip. Our goodbyes were made more memorable when one of our hosts, Lynell Gaston, made a sendoff lunch for all of us.

Maybe this was the Negrense way of saying goodbye - stuffing guests until they could no longer move with ecstatic joy.

How about coffee to top it off?

photo by Lynell Gaston


 Addendum

We were actually the guinea pigs of Lee Santiago when he thought of a Negros Food Tour. With the help of Lynell Gaston, they cooked up an interesting combo of food tasting and having a beautiful experience in Silay, Bacolod and nearby towns of Negros Occidental.

There are no specific rates to the tour. Wherever we go, we share the van rentals. Whatever we decide to eat, we share them with the group and divide the payments per person. We pay our own accommodation.

Since Lee is outside of the country as of this time, I could not be sure if this kind of trip is still going on.

I fly in and out of Silay City with free tickets courtesy of my sister who works for Cebu Pacific. Cebu Pacific flies from Cebu to Silay City/Bacolod twice a day.

4 comments:

Sreisaat said...

Hay, I am green with envy! But reading your post felt like I was on the tour myself :)

MOOOOOAAAR travel stories pa, ser :D

Edik said...

Thanks maám for following me and my travels.

Sure, more to come.

Kate said...

I love the very first photo :) Looks like a very happy and yummy trip!

Edik said...

Thanks Kate. That pic was taken by our host- Ms. Lynell Gaston who hails from Silay City.