Category Archives: History

ANP’s Silver Tiangge Coffee Table Book: A Negrense Must Have


Inset: Foreword page of ANP’s coffee table book “Silver Tiangge”

The foreword Carmen Guerrero Nakpil in the coffee table book Silver Tiangge must have been by itself an ample introduction to the Negros Trade Fair and the Association of Negros Producers. Last year, I was given a privilege through ANP Vice-President for Media Jojo Vito to be part of the 26th Negros Trade Fair held in the semi-permanent location at Rockwell Tent. The event resulted to eight blog entries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), new friends and new experiences. Too bad I was not able to join the 25th Negros Trade Fair which was the best one so far but the essence of the celebration is captured in Silver Tiangge.

Inset: Featured is the kitchen exhibit at the Balay Negrense Museum

What is Silver Tiangge? That is the coffee table book produced by the Association of Negros Producers for the occassion of the 25th Year of Negros Trade Fair in Manila. You see, Negros Trade Fair is the longest provincial trade fair that has been running consistently that has breached a decade and an amazing feat it would that it would soon breach third decade. “Tiangge” in Silver Tiangge does not come from the Tagalog term but rather from the Hiligaynon term which means a “sari-sari” or variety store. Indeed, from a small series of booths in SM Megamall, it expanded to include over fifty enterprises now.

Inset: Silver Tiangge’s Table of Contents

While the 25th Negros Trade Fair has long passed, the  Silver Tiangge is still in publication. Ms. Teena Gacho Rodriguez from the Association of Negros Producers reached me last week that there are more stocks available. This coffee table book is actually a must have for Negrense homes since it details not only details the products from ANP Showroom and the Negros Trade Fair but the evolution of Negrense industry that was forced to diversify due to the fall of the sugar industry in the Marcos regime. What was then as a means of extra income for sacadas has become a multi-million dollar export industry.

Inset: Various kakanin, sweets and coffee from Negros Island

Even with sugar‘s dominance since the late Spanish Era leading to the short-lived Republic of Negros, these industries found their roots in the countryside with Negrenses utilizing whatever resources they have to produce new products for consumption. A few of them like furniture-making dates back to the time when hacienderos would commission copies of furniture designs they have come across palaces of Europe, while foods like Bas-oy and Cansi were Negrense food innovations at a time when the poor was limited to scrap meats and innards. Soon enough, even the hacienderos caught on the taste and ate them too.

Inset: More food articles inside the coffee table book Silver Tiangge

Interesting, isn’t it? Association of Negros Producers has slashed down prices of the coffee table book to P1,500 which is very much affordable for a piece of Negrense history that every Negrense home in Negros Island and Beyond must have. The book is available in the ANP Negros Showroom Main at Lourdes Center in 9th cor. Lacson Streets, Bacolod City or at their branch at Central Citywalk in Robinson’s Bacolod, just look for Teena Gacho-Rodriguez or staff to purchase one.


People on Focus: Direk Jay Abello


It was Saturday and in the early afternoon when I caught the train and headed to Ayala Center. I was going to Kuppa Fort Bonifacio to meet with the Director/Executive Producer of PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar and he is none other than a kasimanwa, Direk Jay Abello. Through the course of our correspondence until the meeting, I have always called him Direk for he has notable for such films as Namets which featured Negrénse cuisine at its best with a flare of a love story. I was running late then clad with my formal clothing for an even afterwards. My rap-dash walk was replaced with a sigh of relief when he told me he will be late.

When I entered Kuppa, I sat by a good spot by the window waiting for Direk when he texted me that he was already there in a shirt colored grey. I immediately noticed him in the other corner and went to greet him. His simple attire and humble disposition makes the coat and tied clad me a bit shy. He invited me to sit down and with a French-pressed coffee at hand, he greeted me and asked of how I was since I looked haggard from all the walking I did. Direk Jay has lived for many years now in the busy Metro Manila and was educated here too, in De La Salle – College of St. Benilde to be exact in a course actually unrelated to filmmaking.

Direk Jay graduated BS Management with plans to work in big companies like San Miguel but was drafted by his father to work as a farm administrator in his family’s farm in Isabela for three crop years. In the lean months after planting sugarcane, he routinely spends time in Bacólod City. It was here that he developed an affinity with performing arts when he got involved with a theater and the intricacies of production. He eventually managed his sister’s orchid farm and cut flower industry when she went to a convent in Marawi City. Feeling that is was called more for performing arts than farming, he went to Manila and pursued film.

When asked if what of all his films gave him the hardest effort, he immediately quipped PUREZA since it entailed countless hours of research and interviews. The idea to film PUREZA date back in 2008 at the successful premier of his film Namets when a group of sugar planters from a foundation asked him if he can do an audio visual presentation on the events of the sugar industry. If one can remember, the last part of the 1970’s in the height of the Martial Law era heralded the fall of the sugar industry. The group led by Joey Gaston, Gina Martin and among others met at Joey Gaston’s Café Uma and laid work for the film PUREZA.

It was agreed that Direk Jay would produce the film while the foundation will be in charge of raising funds. After rounds of raising funds by convincing sugar planter and farmer groups that this would be good for the sugar industry, the film was in the making. It took them ten days of going around the province to gather a pool of people to interview. According to Direk Jay, they interviewed in the course of the film a total of one hundred and sixty (160) people and that does not include those people interviewed off cam. The number includes ninety (90) to one hundred (100) sugar planters and sixty (60) to seventy (70) farm workers in total.

They also interviewed for academic information economists like Prof. Solita “Winnie” Monsod of the UP School of Economics and fellow Negrénse Dr. Bernardo “Bernie” Villegas of the rival UA&P School of Economics. The economists were able to give compact and comprehensive view of sugar’s economic aspect especially Dr. Villegas, whose family is involved in the sugar industry as well in Negros Oriental. Asking him about the “seven-year cycle of sugar planting” that was mentioned in the trailer, he said that it was mentioned by his Dad. Incidentally, my Dad also mentioned seven years, though unrelated, with muscovado sugar.

A setback with producing the film that Direk Jay mentioned is there are countless issues involved with sugar. Most often, there are new issues coming out like the recent Coca-Cola premixed sugar controversy among many others. It is easy to get distracted with a number of irrelevant issues which he tried avoiding on the course of filming PUREZA. From a number of issues tackled, PUREZA boils down on the question of the industry’s oppression, land reform and the controversial ASEAN Free Trade Agreement which is a looming threat to the sugar industry with the opening of the Philippine market to rival cheap sugar from Thailand.

All of the filming and recording left them with approximately 360 hours of material which includes all possible angles for tackling issues on the sugar industry. In the initial editing, the had a film that ran for three hours and was trimmed down to two hours and fifteen minutes. This was even trimmed down to one hour and forty-five minutes. Much of the production is how the directors sees the situation of the sugar industry but the questions tackled at hand will not have an answer. It is up to the readers to answer those mind-opening questions. When will this be shown in Manila? Very soon enough and something to look forward to.

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Most photos taken from the PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar discussion group page. The schedule of the Manila premiere will be posted in that page and this blog’s like page.


Around Negros: Time Warp In Silay’s Streets


While the seafood treat was good in Balaring, I ought to bring my guest for what Silay City is known for – ancestral houses. Unlike other cities in the Philippines that has lost countless ancestral houses post – World War II either to bombing or development, there are still a number left in Silay. A walk around Silay City is like a time warp to the time when classical buildings and houses dots the city center. It was a hot day but tons of food made us ready for a walk. I am not a stranger to Silay since I’ve been here a few months ago for the free tour of the Philippine Blog Awards Visayas Participants last Nov. 13, 2011.

Going around Silay City, there is one formidable question that is sure to be asked: “What’s the difference between Silay and Vigan?” The question does make sense since Silay and Vigan are both heritage cities and has been known for their best preserved ancestral houses. I remember that being asked before and thankfully I have an answer for my guest. Vigan City’s ancestral house are actually of Mexican design as a consequence of being a port stop of galleons from Acapulco, Mexico while Silay City’s have variety of design ranging from Castillan, American and French Countryside with Filipino elements mixed.

While a number of ancestral houses are well-preserved, Silay’s ancestral houses saw period of darkness when a significant number were threatened to be destroyed. At the time of the Marcos dictatorship, the highways north of Bacólod was widened to accomodate a growing traffic. Since a number of ancestral houses and heritage buildings are close to the streets, they were slated for demolition but Silaynons pushed for them to be spared. Fortunately, these ancestral houses and heritage buildings were spared and the people of Silay realized the sentimental, cultural and tourism value of these structures for Silay City.

Apparently, not only ancestral houses are spared but also the countless century-old trees that dot the landscape. They are remnants of the times that saw a revolution, a golden age, world war and another round of tough times. Branches speak of generations, pasts that reminds us of how sugar’s wealth built Silay. This reminds me of the unfortunate news few years ago when age-old trees at the Intramuros area were cut off to be replaced by supposedly “more authentic” fire trees. Indiscriminate planning does take a heavy toll on heritage. My wish is that Silay would be vigilant in safeguarding these grand old trees.

Few minutes of leisure walk, we reached our destination – Balay Negrénse. Balay Negrénse is the ancestral house of Don Victor F. Gaston, the son of the French haciendero Yves Germain Gaston. I am no longer stranger to Balay Negrénse since this is my second visit to the house-museum. We rang the courtesy bell to call in a guide to let us in and show us around. Unfortunately, there was no guide available but by the stroke of luck, the Museum Director herself, Mrs. Maida Jison, wife of a former Silay City Mayor was very accommodating enough to show us around. Talk about hospitality at best and finest here.

Though I know the drill in Balay Negrénse, Mrs. Jison offered a fresh new view of Balay Negrénse and it’s history. She proved to be a really good guide after all since she has personal involvement with how the house was refurbished. Mrs. Jison even showed some photos before the house was turned into a museum. She told us that she used to disdain passing by this mansion when she was still young since it once looked like your image of a haunted house. She told us of many ghost stories about the house which made hairs stand up even up to now every time I remember her stories that are quite vivid and detailed.

Sensing the apparent scardycat I have become, she assured us that no such stories have been accounted since the house was turned into a museum. The restoration of the Gaston House came as a challenge for Negros Cultural Foundation, the foundation that runs this museum and Negros Museum since it entailed millions of pesos. Out of generous donations and financial aid from Silay City ‘s various agencies, they were able to restore the structure. Since the house was bare when it was totally abandoned in 1970s, museum pieces were generously loaned or donated by elite families showcasing Negrénse lifestyle.

Mrs. Jison also talked about Silay from her childhood especially with how the City Plaza used to look before changes were done in the Marcos era. She showed us the picture of how the plaza looked like before and was wonderful with classical lightings, benches where the old folks used to chat and the former fountain. The old plaza was of sunken style, much like what UP’s Sunken Garden is but with more elegant trappings. She was frank to tell us that she disdain seeing the plaza in the current state from what used to be of European-style. Every Silaynon indeed shares same tearful sentiments as she expressed.

As if in a jump of thought, she relayed to us another mystery story about one of two statues of Pan that used to adorn the fountains of the City Plaza. Pan is the Greek god of fertility which sports a set of horns and hind legs. Familiar image, isn’t it? It is said that placing the statues in the middle of a fountain of water served a purpose. When the plaza was demolished, one of the statues were placed in a house of the certain Silaynon which burned down mysteriously. The statue was left unscathed and the next house that hosted the statue also burned down. This stopped when it was made into pond centerpiece.

Mrs. Jison was so enthusiastic with her stories that we didn’t noticed we already spent an hour’s time. Our conversation with her was cut short when a visitor arrived at her office. I took over from her to tour Doc Chard on the receiving area on the second floor. All was well in the area except for the fact that the ballroom-sized bathroom was closed to public. I would have loved to show Doc how spacious the room was. After a few snapshots of the place, we decided to go down since there were no seats or chairs for us to sit on. We decided to continue on the tour and bade Mrs. Jison goodbye in her lovely office.

Since we were already in the Calle Cinco de Noviembre, I decided to take my guest to the marker on the spot where a farmacia used to stand. The farmacia was owned by Leandro Locsin where Negrénse revolutionaries were secretly planned for revolution against the Spanish authorities. This was the Cinco de Noviembre that ushered my blog’s namesake, the República Cantonal de Negros or República Negrénse in short. This was an event in the history of Negros I am proud of since it was the time that Negrénses proved their cunning and established a functioning government started in this simple street corner.

Walking down the street, I suddenly noticed the grand orange mansion bit of distance. As I can remember well, a notable Silaynon lives there and he is Solo Locsin whom I met last November 13, 2011 during the bloggers’ tour of Silay. Just stone’s throw from this house is an odd-looking ancestral house that has another story to tell, a sad love story to be specific. The house was meant to be of two stories but the second floor was chopped off by the owner. The story is very interesting since it is a classic tragic love story of a haciendero daughter and a guy of simple stature whom a fellow Negros Blogger wrote about.

Since Café 1925 was just nearby, I decided to take Doc Chard inside to cool down before telling him the story in detail. The walking tour of the city revealed a lot of stories that an average tour would not have mentioned. This makes me interested to write about the stories of each ancestral house we passed by. Who knows what more stories awaits for us to discover, may it be success stories, an interesting number of horror stories like those we heard in Balay Negrénse or tragic ones like the house beside Café 1925. I suggest that when you walk around the city, go with locals for I am sure he would have stories to tell.