When you say Silay Tour, most of the tour guides would lead you to various ancestral houses to see the vast wealth accumulated by the hacienderos of olden days. However, there is much to the hacienda life than just houses or wealth of the hacienderos. Obereros, the descendants of what should have been transient workers or sacadas, have developed a culture so unique that they too need to be discovered and experienced up close.
Most of these obreros have grown up in the hacienda whose life is also centered in the hacienda. Their births, christenings, courtships, weddings and funerals all happen in the hacienda. Since there is not much to do, they composed songs detailing about their fun and hardships. Most of these songs and tunes are unique and original to this hacienda with the farmers themselves being the musicians, singers and composers. Unlike the hacienderos and their kids, they were not schooled in the best and brightest conservatories of Manila or Europe yet was able to compose these colorful tunes about their life.
As their lives are centered around the hacienda, the hacienda is centered around the village plaza. Following the Spanish town planning, the chapel and the administrative offices are located across the plaza. The bodega or storage houses and the garage for the farm tools or heavy tractors are also located across the plaza, so as the baranggay hall too. Long time residents also have their residence near the plaza in order to protect these important structures from the likelihood of any harm.
The administrative office is not your typical office in the metropolitan cities but only a simple one to conduct business or disburse salaries. Most of the time, the administrative office acts as a bodega of some smaller supplies or as a library filled with some old books for those who want to learn. Apparently, the internet has not yet reached this secluded niche and books are still the reliable sources of information. According to one of the farm workers, they value education for their kids for this is the only way their generation can actually go out of the farm and have a higher pay.
One of the few partially documented folk songs in the hacienda is the Chant to San Roque which was composed by the villagers in the height of the cholera epidemic. San Roque or St. Roch is the patron saint in the Roman Catholic Church who attributed him to mystically protecting the lives of the people during the Black Plague. This epidemic also saw hundreds of lives being snatched away and the people found it fitting to call on the saint for protection. Thus, San Roque became the patron saint of the hacienda and the fiesta commemorating him continued.
Some not so tragic events are also documented in song like the wife’s rant about her absentee husband. Farmer husbands are often absent in the home since they work 24/7 in the fields and sometimes takes days before they are given a day off. Many of these tragic composos talk about the hardship of the wife in taking care of the home and how husbands would go home drunk and abuse them. Not much abuses are in the hacienda but these songs have been passed on to the next generation.
Funerals have their own accorded tradition too. Before majong has taken the ground as a form of pasttime for mourners and their guests to stay up the whole night, there were funeral skits that were performed by the guests. Most of these are conversational skits which one answers the skit of the other. The rule is that there must be rhymes and usually, those who fail to do so are given penalties in any kind. Even these lines are also inherited from the past generation and talk about history too.
Not much has changed today except for the fact that most of the transient workers being hired as extra farmhands are not anymore sourced from Antique or Iloilo but from the neighboring sister-province of Negros Oriental. These workers work for weeks during the harvest and milling season which requires a lot of farm work in the fields. Payment is by pakyaw system which one ton of sugarcane load will merit them P60 each and for the succeeding tons will multiply their payment. This must be very hardwork since most of these canes are carried by carabao to either the trucks or by rail in transloading stations.
The rail transloading stations still exist with trains plying the route to the nearest sugar milling and refinery station with the Hawaiian-Philippine Company as being the closest one. Every day, except Sunday, trains would stop by the transloading stations to get the latest cane cuts from the hacienda. Hacienda Adela happens to be the last station for the trains and so some canes from nearby haciendas would also stop there and load their canes.
If the carabaos are not in service to carry the canes to the transloading stations, they are used too as transportation to carry produce like bananas, coconuts and other fruits to the nearest highway to be transported to the markets of Silay or Bacólod. For the Manila folks who have not seen a carabao up close, the passing carosa or carabao-pulled wagon was the star of the day. Carabaos are pretty much the friend of farmers since these creature aid them in their work even in plowing.
The tour of Hacienda Adela opened my eyes to the real hacienda life, especially those of the workers who are working hard to keep the bloodline of the sugar industry. Much of the accolades have been given to the hacienderos but this time, the Negrénse society must recognize the contributions of these longtime workers at large. Historians and cultural anthropologists must also examine the culture and folklore living for they are complete with history soon threatened to die out. For those who wants to experience the other side of Negros, I recommend going on a tour of Hacienda Adela as well.
More photos on Hacienda Adela in the Photo Blog.