Silay City: A Gateway to the Past

"The present is the key to the past," this was the quote I read which I introduced to my students when we were talking about the age of the Earth; comparing uniformitarianism and catastrophism - two contrasting Theories of Earth Geological Evolution.

"The present is the key to the past," was the very line I can relate with as I had my trip in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

The sugarcane plantation lining the concrete road is a manifestation of Negro's industry.  Then I learned the story of the Maskara Festival. During the late 80's, the sugarcane industry plummeted tremendously in the Philippine market. Various reasons were cited including the import of sugar from other countries. When the economy went down, workers were retrenched and that was the cause of the great fall of Negros.

However, the pure Ilonggo's spirit driven by culture and mindset never gave up. Ilonggos are always proud people. They put on happy faces and continued to survive despite of the circumstance. Thus, the Maskara Festival - a masquerade to cover their difficulties. Ate Charyl, Mai's sister-in-law, narrated the story to us while we were on the road for Silay.
I could sense that we were now in a different city. From the towering building construction of Bacolod, I felt I was displaced by time. The real essence of Silay City was comparable to that of a Spanish Colonial Era.
The houses were made of strong wooden materials, windows that of shell decoratives in squares, and coral stones served as the foundation of each casa. I was beyond mesmerized. There was something magical in the place. It was something unexplainable yet beautiful.

We first dropped by at Cafe 1925 for a short coffee break. After which, Ate Charyl brought us to Balay Negrense Museum. It was located a block away from the cafe. An ancestral house of Victor Fernandez Gaston that was later on turned into a heritage house. It was considered as one of the oldest houses in Silay or maybe in Negros.

The place was enchanting, at the same time, inviting but mysterious. Nonetheless, I was excited to get inside. Maybe it was because I am in love with something conventional that brought my feet inside the mahogany floor of the house and my soul to bewilderment in this Spanish casa.
There were different displays of Filipiniana dresses, old lampshades, an old record player, photographs and some other antiquities. Mai and I walked around each room. One time, I happened to get inside a room filled with photographs. From there, a strange feeling enveloped me. There were tears of great sadness flowing from my eyes as I lingered inside the room. When I went out, I told Mai about my experience. At a moment, I couldn't utter a single word from the brief encounter. It was so peculiarly melancholic.
The second floor was more bewitching than I could ever imagine. Though there were different rooms, we were not allowed to get inside. Paying a visit in Balay Negrense means you only had the chance to see the display in each room outside but you aren't allowed to touch any single thing.
I looked at the nursery room. There were plenty of dolls, and books for children. It was in this room that I suddenly felt the chill. My legs weren't moving. As if my spine was braced to that cold metal that somewhat paralyzed me. I told Mai again. I told her that the room was totally strange. She confirmed.
At the opposite room across the nursery was something supernatural. As I busied myself looking at the different Filipina dresses, a sudden flash of white dress with a hollow face appeared next to the dress I was looking at. I thought it was just a reflection. I looked at my back but there wasn't any mirror. Then the hair at my nape stood up as if it was unison of a silent orchestra.
Was it just my imagination? Was it just something that I created in my mind to convince me that the place was totally ancient and there were spirits living in the area? Those questions popped in my mind. Mai and I went down to the souvenir area as a man appeared behind us and introduced himself as the guide. He accompanied us to the shop.
He said that the place is a common place for ghost hunting since it was abandoned for a couple of years until it was restored. Additionally, at the shop, there were paintings from different local artists and some other crafts. The guide even pointed at us the underground. I was curious to get inside the last part of the house but then he stopped me. He told me that the strongest entity lives there. I was about to get inside but I felt the chill again. It was so strong that I opted not to.
Since the clock struck 2 in the afternoon and Ate Charyl had an appointment to make, Mai and I hurried back to the entrance door to meet her. Then we passed by Cinco De Noviembre Street. There stood a pseudo-farmacia. It was interesting to note that a fake drugstore was built to help the guerillas fought off the Spanish soldiers. 
My visit to Silay City though short was something memorable, informative and exciting. It was a race against time. It was supernatural. It was something not conventional. So, I pose this question: Knowing that the present is the key to the past, do we still value what was traditional in this contemporary world or do we allow modernization to succumb us and eventually, to forget who we were once? How do we value our past amid the present?
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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