Tana Dicang Museum

HOW TO MAKE AN ANCESTRAL HOUSE. The bahay-na-bato of our forefathers with its aged patina on stone and wood is impossible to replicate today. Building materials like coquina, piedra china, adobe, wide narra and balayong planks, the well-seasoned hardwood like molave and guijo are unavailable nowadays. The sentimental charm of an ancestral house emanates from its history made by the different generations that lived together and were bounded by the same traditions and memories that endured at least a century.

A good example of a well-made ancestral house is the Lizares House in Talisay City. It was converted as Tana Dicang Museum in honor of a town matriarch, Capitana Enrica Alunan-Lizares.

THE LIZARES BAHAY-NA-BATO. From a quiet street, the Lizares House stood simple, stately, and ancient. The house spans four generations of Lizareses and took eleven years to build from 1872 to 1883 following the building tradition for Visayan houses of having coral stone for the ground floor and weather-proofed molave for the upper floor. Molave wood was directly sourced from the forest and was cured for three years in sea water before it was used for construction.

The dungeon-like silong has the traditional layout of a townhouse built during the Spanish era with the main door that opened directly from the street into a cavernous zaguan where a bulky carroza awaits the next procession under the intricately-carved grand staircase.

A GRACIOUS HOME. The wood of the staircase gleamed with age from the generations of guests that went up to the main floor of the house. A bastonera greets visitors of the past and the present like a butler taking the gentleman’s cane and hat and the ladies’ parasol.

The top floor has a symphony of period furniture and fine craftsmanship as seen in the rose tracery panels that allowed music from an orchestra stationed in the caida to be heard in the main living room and dining area.

QUEZON AND OSMEÑA WERE HERE. Wide double doors at the caida opened on opposite sides to the sala major and comedor.  A formal arrangement of period furniture is presided over by a bust of Tana Dicang by Guillermo Tolentino in the sala major. In the olden days, the sala major was reserved to personal friends and important guests such in 1938 when Commonwealth President Quezon and Vice President Osmeña graced the Lizares House during Bacolod City’s Charter inauguration.

The comedor has a long dining table where the influential Tana Dicang sat at the kabisera while she hosted meals for important politicians. A vajilera in one corner of the formal dining room displays the dinner set that was used during the Quezon and Osmeña visit.

ART NOUVEAU FURNITURE. The bedrooms boasts its own set of period furniture from aparadors with tall crest of flowers and scrollwork to the canopied and posted beds carved with Philippine art nouveau patterns. These beds bear monograms of Tana Dicang children that totaled to 16!

A small door in the matriach’s bedroom led to her office on the ground floor. The well-loved and hardworking Capitana continued to work past her retirement age. In her will, she bequeathed the Lizares House to her children and specified that ten percent of the earnings from the sugar plantations be used for the preservation and maintenance of the ancestral house.

EPILOGUE: FORGET ME NOT. The news is plagued with reports about heritage buildings being demolished here and there to give way to another high-rise condominium building or its parts being stealthily moved piece-by-piece to a ‘heritage’ theme park in Bataan.

While we are in a day and age where the past is set aside and the lessons of history are forgotten, the Tana Dicang Museum is a testament that it is unforgivable to forget the legacy of ancestral houses.

Published in: on March 18, 2018 at 1:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Charlie Co

HARBINGERS. The co-pilot announced his welcome spiel and weather update. From 29,000 feet the plane began to descent, slicing through thick clouds like a charging mechanical white horse from the Book of Revelation. An outline of the island was revealed. The sun was shining bright in Negros Occidental, the country’s sugar bowl.

From the moment I saw patches of cotton-like cumulus clouds around Mount Kanlaon, I knew that I will be spending a great time in Negros’ Sugarlandia. As the plane readies to touchdown, it casts a shadow that took the shape of a sinister figure with outstretched wings straight out from Charlie Co‘s apocalyptic paintings over the vast plantations of sugarcane.

GALLERY ORANGE. Hosting day one in Negros was sculptor Joe Geraldo. A month earlier, we planned out this four-day Negros odyssey to make sure that my itinerary covers more than just tours to historic and heritage sites but also visits to art spaces and artist studios. From Silay airport, we sped off on two motorcycles en route to Victorias for Ossorio’s Angry Christ mural. We passed through the sugarcane fields that I saw from air a few minutes ago and raced against trucks loaded with sugarcane. There was something decadent watching the sakadas in their colorful clothing go about their day out on the fields with nonchalance under the scorching sun and tenacity for hard labor.

By noontime, we were out of the farmlands and entered cosmopolitan Bacolod City. Joe brought me to Gallery Orange, where I was confronted by artworks that depicted disturbing scenes from the canefields and rural Negros that I had glimpses earlier that morning only they were set in a doomsday future with stylized mechanical horses and humanoid clowns engulfed in a choking texture of blazing reds, oranges, and yellows. These were poignant social and political commentaries painted by artist Charlie Co.

CHARLIE’S ART HOUSE. I first met Charlie in 2013 at Art in the Park  where his clown sculptures were the focal pieces of the event. Years later, I found the same clown sculptures displayed in Rustan’s Edsa Shangri-la Plaza. This trip in Bacolod was my second time to meet Charlie. That afternoon, we met him at a cafe he co-owns with his wife. Ann Co Cakes serves as a rendezvous place for Charlie’s Manila-based patrons, friends and followers. Here, we sat and conversed about his art over coffee and homemade brownies before heading to his home studio.

I immediately knew that we arrived at Charlie’s art house upon seeing a couple of robotic clowns with rounded joints, pointed Pinocchio noses, and colorful lines and patterns alluding to the sakada’s cheerful clothing. These figures are repeated in Charlie’s free-standing sculptures and works on canvas as a traditional portrayal of the Negrense like in the Maskara Festival but fashioned from Charlie’s playful imagination and self portrait as happy on the outside but can be sad and at times angry or suffering from pain in the inside.

MEMORABILIA OF SECOND LIFE. Charlie revealed that he suffered several life-threatening illnesses. Serving as memorabilia from surviving a kidney transplant, he fashioned a transparent mannequin where he displayed blister packs from the drugs he was required to take for a lifelong medication therapy.

In one corner was an iconic Dragnet Chair by Kenneth Cobonpue that Charlie painted the cushion with yellow clock faces and asked his artists friends to adorn it with clocks for his birthday. This is another memorablia to what Charlie calls his second life and testimony to his extended time on earth.

6 HOURS AND 38 YEARS. Born in a decade before the declaration of Martial Law, Charlie lived and pursued his art and social commentaries in his hometown. Together with some intrepid Negros artists, he pioneered in making Negros art and the harsh social gaps between the hacendero masters and destitute sakadas known to an art-conscious Manila and a global community provoked by third world social realism.

Charlie’s home in Bacolod City is also his studio where his artworks were made over a long stretch of time. Despite his debilitating diabetes, he still paints on large canvases and draws intricate details on paper six hours a day. For Charlie, art-making is not achieved at an instant. In fact, it took him 38 years of practice and life lessons to put on canvas the expressive strokes and fiery colors he uses for his historical retelling and social commentaries of current events.

EPILOGUE: SALVADOR MUNDI. During this visit, Charlie was preparing his piece for the 2018 Art Fair Philippines. On a huge canvas is Da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi with the ever present sinister harbingers engulfed in Charlie’s choking fiery hues in the background. This artist’s commentary is about the Christian icon that was sold at an auction as the most expensive artwork in history to a Muslim businessman for $450.3 million dollars.

Published in: on March 4, 2018 at 12:34 am  Comments (1)  


SEPARATION ANXIETY. I arrived early in Silay and with just a few hours before boarding the flight back to Manila, I already felt nostalgic of the four days I spent exploring the sugar towns of Negros Occidental.

This separation anxiety must be a hundred times greater among the town folks of Silay when they woke up one morning to the sound of a demolition. It was in the 1970s when they watched helplessly while the Beaux-Arts fountain, bandstand, benches with lion’s heads and bronze Rizal Monument were being erased forever from the town plaza of their childhood. A few years later Martial Law was declared and Malacanang ordered a road widening project requiring the demolition of the ancestral houses along Silay’s Calle Rizal, including the Cesar Locsin House that was home to the El Ideal Bakery since the 1920s. This time, the people stood up for their well-loved heritage and won.

PARIS OF NEGROS. I immediately felt that heritage preservation is big in Silay upon seeing the  Maria Ledesma Golez house and Hotel Beldevia. Borrowed European influences and sculptural elements in the corbels, columns, and carvings on these Pre-War structures are repeated on the graceful facade of the San Deigo de Alcala Pro-Cathedral and in other American and Spanish era houses surrounding the public plaza.

The well-preserved ancestral houses and the adaptive reuse of these Beaux-Arts buildings as modern commercial spaces gave this neighborhood in Silay a fitting sobriquet as the little Paris of Negros.

HOUSES THAT SUGAR BUILT. Silay is part of the necklace of  sugarcane haciendas that became repositories of individual and collective memories of the landed families and the plantation servants who worked to give rise to the sugar industry of Negros from the 19th century to the years before World War II.

For a hundred years, generations of sugar barons and their families lived in stately ancestral manors of which 31 have been declared as Heritage Houses and three were opened as museums and monuments to Silay’s ancestral culture and the well-appointed homes of its founders.

JALANDONI PINK HOUSE. Standing since 1908 at the north end of the heritage neighborhood is the house built by Don Bernardino Jalandoni and wife Doña Ysabel.  This was one of the several houses that was saved from the demolition to give way to a proposed road expansion project in the 1970s. This bahay-na-bato was for a time became a hardware store before it was converted into a lifestyle museum.

Under the searing morning sun, the house from the outside was in faded pink with capiz window panels on the upper floor. The ground floor has a display of farming implements, a carroza with image of the Blessed Mother and a couple of horse-drawn carriages to evoke the time when this space functioned as garage and storage. The main living area on second floor has a massive flooring made of hardwood planks which have stood the test of time. The embossed tin sheets that spread on the ceiling from Germany and the graceful floral traceries on the callados complimented the collection of antique furniture and artifacts in the caida, living and dining rooms, bedrooms and kitchen.

BALAY NEGRENSE. Tall walls that stretched up to the ceiling where light and air filtered by the graceful floral carvings defined the spaciousness and admirable ventilation of Balay Negrese Museum at Calle Cinco de Noviembre. The massive twelve-bedroom bahay-na-bato was built in 1897 by the French-Batangueño mestizo Victor Gaston. He was the eldest son Yves Leopold Germian Gaston, a Frenchman who together with his Filipina wife Prudencia settled at Silay in 1840 following their failed sugar business ventures in Calatagan and Iloilo. The elder Gaston pioneered the sugarcane industry in Negros and introduced the first horno economico, an iron sugar mill that replaced the crude wooden mills to increase the mass production of commercial sugar.

The Gaston Mansion was abandoned and left to deteriorate in the 1970s until a local heritage conservation group began restoration work and draping the musty doors and four-poster beds with lace curtains and linen and filling the house with period furniture to recreate the sweet memories in this house that sugar built as Balay Negrese.

The zaguan displays the first motor bike in Negros. A fitting recap to this article because it alludes to the means I traveled around the island province.

I explored Silay only for an hour that day because I need to check into the airport to catch the flight to Manila. As the plane lifted into the sky, I looked at the vast sugarcane fields from above and began to retrace my journey as a replay of sweet memories from Bacolod and Talisay to Victorias and Sagay in a jeep, in a bus, on a bike and on foot.

– 25 February 2018 | EDSA People Power

Published in: on February 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm  Comments (1)  


A TRIP TO THE COFFEE SOURCE. I noticed that Kapeng Barako has been out of stock in our neighborhood grocery store since New Year. I wondered what’s taking the delay to replenish the grocery shelves with ground coffee. Could be that stores were hoarding their stocks in anticipation of the new tax reform? But I couldn’t wait any longer.

The night critters were still chirping in darkness and the air was viciously cold when we left home for a road trip to find freshly ground coffee in Cavite’s uplands. A light drizzle peppered the windshield when we passed by Imus. Mists began to disperse over the fields in Silang. Tagaytay began to reveal its ridge with the breathtaking Taal Volcano in the morning light. A few more turns on sloping roads, we arrived in the town of Amadeo.

AMADEO, A PRINCELY TOWN. A sign greeted us to the Coffee Town, a fitting welcome title since the town folks of Amadeo has been into coffee farming since the 1880s. Its early settlers found the sloping terrain, volcanic soil, and the all-year round invigorating nip that is often associated with the Christmas season perfect for high altitude crops like coffee.

Amadeo was known as Sitio Masilaw for the abudant dapdap trees in the area that once bloomed with glaring red flowers. It was Governor-General Rafael de Izquierdo who renamed the town as Amadeo in honor of Prince Amadeo Fernando Maria of Savoy, the second son of  the reigning Spanish monarch of that timeDuring the Philippine Revolution, the town was given a sobriquet as May Pagibig.

ECHOFARM. From Amadeo’s town proper, we were led to EchoFarm, a vast plantation that practices and promotes sustainable living through organic farming. The farmers here apply vermicasting into their farming method to produce vegetables and crops that are safe and healthy to eat because they are free from harmful chemicals and pesticide residues.

The sprawling EchoFarm is owned by Chit Juan and has been supplying organically-grown produce to the popular ECHOStore.

KAPENG BARAKO ORCHARD. In between a pineapple plantation and the organic farm is a kapeng barako orchard. Lipa in Batangas has been traditionally known for farming liberica coffee beans and historically famous from the years 1886 to 1888 as the world’s only supplier of coffee. During that period, this Batangas town became a national sensation for its wealth and the envy of other towns in the country. The liberica coffee bean variety got its local name as barako because it was said that wild boars were found by coffee farmers eating the beans from its tree.

Harvesting coffee beans at the EchoFarm is part of the manual labor of its farmers. Ernesto Sales with wife Marvic showed us how freshly picked liberica beans are sorted and dried under the sun. Liberica is the biggest of all the coffee bean varieties and can take up to 40 days to dry under the sun because of its very thick pulp. EchoFarm exclusively grows liberica beans. Traditionally, Amadeo has been growing the arabica variety locally called Kapeng Tagalog.

PAHIMIS BLEND. From the EchoFarm, we were brought to Cafe Amadeo for a morning snack and to observe the coffee roasting method. Cafe Amadeo produces the pahimis blend, a combination of arabica, excelsa and robusta varieties that are all grown in coffee farms of Amadeo.

Guided by the aroma of roasting coffee, we followed the trail into the factory where dried and de-stoned coffee beans are roasted, poured into the grinder, packed and sealed as Cafe Amadeo’s Pahimis Blend.

EPILOGUE: THANK GOD FOR COFFEE.  I had my first taste of coffee at age eight. It was with pad de sal soaked in coffee. Fifteen years later, living by myself, ground kapeng barako beans has become part of the grocery list.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee has become the signature aroma for our home. I like serving coffee when friends come by. I like drinking coffee while having a conversation and when writing. When the caffeine wears off, it’s easy to brew another pot of unlimited happiness we got straight from a coffee farm. Thank God for coffee.

-14 February | Ash Wednesday

Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 12:35 am  Comments (2)  
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AMIHAN IN INDANG. The climate towards the southern uplands of Cavite gets progressively cooler especially during the season of the Amihan, the northeast trade winds that brings cold weather to most parts of the country. In the municipality of Indang, Amihan can bring day time temperature down to 20 degrees much like in the country’s landmark summer capitals. But unlike Baguio and Tagaytay, Indang is relatively known for its built heritage and its historical sites.

After spending day break at a coffee farm in Amadeo, we went for a side trip to Indang to see its 17th century church and its historic monuments.

HISTORIC SKIRMISH. It was probably the coolness of its climate that Andres Bonifacio together with his wife Gregoria de Jesus and brothers Ciriaco and Procopio preferred to camp out in Indang after the Katipunan leader was cheated and insulted by pro-Emilio Aguinaldo faction during the Tejeros Election on the March of 1897.

One day in April 1897, Aguinaldo sent Colonel Agapito Bonzon and Major Jose Paua. The two officers were accepted cordially by Andres. On the next day, Bonzon and Paua with their men arrested Andres on the orders of Aguinaldo for the alleged crimes of trying to burn the church in Indang and terrorizing its villagers. Ciriaco died from the exchange of gunfire. Gregoria was raped by Bonzon. Procopio was beaten and Andres was stabbed on the neck by Paua and suffered a gunshot wound on the shoulder. From Indang, the Bonifacio brothers were jailed in Naic while awaiting military trial and were later killed on the foothills of Maragondon mountains. The shrine in Barangay Limbon was built to commemorate the historic betrayal and skirmish as Pook Pinagbarilan.

FIESTA DAY. It was the fiesta day of the Santo Niño when we arrived in the town plaza of Indang. The town folks showing their devotion to the Infant Jesus through a gleeful revelry and a grand procession of Holy Child’s statues all dressed lavishly on their respective carrozas.

The statue of the Sto. Niño that arrived in the Philippines with Ferdinand Magellan, that was recovered, and re-enthroned by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi is the oldest Christian image in the country. The Sto. Niño de Cebu is believed to have been carved in Flanders in the 15th of century and was same image presented by the chronicler Pigafetta to the converted Queen Juana of Cebu.

INDANG CHURCH. Indang has a church that dates back to the 17th century. The stone church was completed in 1710 under the supervision of Fray Luis Morales. This is the same structure that Bonifacio allegedly try to burn down before leaving Cavite. Although modernized some of the ornate craftsmanship is still visible.

Just like its cousin in Maragondon, San Gregorio Magno Church has heavy church doors that were ornately embellished with carved floral designs. Trompe l’oil paintings in old rose, turquoise, and gold cover the ceiling. This color theme is extended to the carved pulpit and retablos the contains the life size image of St. Gregory the Great at the main altar and Dominican saints on the side niche.

EPILOGUE: CHURCH TREASURES.  There was a huge holy water font used for the sacrament of baptism at the right side altar. Overlooking it is an icon of the Seven Archangels of the Apocalypse standing before the Holy Trinity and some Catholic Saints. This subject in religious painting became popular in the 1500s as inspired by the frescoes in Roman basilicas and the 16th century print by the Flemish engraver Hieronimus Wierix. This particular icon of the Archangels in Indang we said to have been found by a parish priest rolled up among the trash.

As we left the church from a side door, we took a close inspection of the pulpit decorated with Baroque carvings. A folksy green parrot with yellow beak is directly carved on the newel as a finial of the stair leading to the pulpit.

-Feast of the Candlemass 2018

Published in: on February 2, 2018 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment