Town of the Sugar Barons
Silay Travel Blog› entry 5 of 31 › view all entries
Just before leaving for Silay (Si-lie) I had to change hotels. I moved maybe a block up the road from Pension Bacolod to the 11th Street Bed and Breakfast. But more on why I changed hotels later.
I've been to Vigan so I wondered how Silay would compare. Because of the hotel change, I only got there a little before 11 a.m. This meant that though a tour indoors of the old houses would help me escape the heat of the sun (and the UVA/UVB rays!), the lighting to shoot their facades would be very bad. I decided to drop by first at the Green House were the tourism office was located. The Green House turned out to be one of the 31 recognized ancestral homes of Silay.
In visiting the houses, it struck me again that I often am the only visitor when I arrive. In Vigan I remember being just one of many hordes of tourists; but then it was also the Holy Week holiday.
Silay houses so emphasize that the town once had a glorious past full of wealth and grace. The furniture were made of hardwoods from long-torndown forests, the crystal from the chandeliers were Baccarat, and they had conveniences that were modern and not readily available at the time, such as Berkefeld Water Filters from Germany, ice chests from the U.S. or escritorios from London. The children played with dolls from Europe and elsewhere abroad. Their women were musical and gifted, judging from the musical instruments that were located within the home. Not to mention being dressed in the best embroidered ternos.
The Victorias Milling Company still exists to this day, but their steam locomotives do not. After visiting the Hofilena House where I met Mon (Such a character! More on that later). The company has its own compound and its own church -- St. Joseph. I was toured around by Emma, who gave me a hardhat, had me sign a waiver (in case of accidents), and warned me that no pictures were allowed within the refinery. She also told me about the locomotives and the rail tracks that they had torn down, because it was too expensive for the company to keep them. The tour gave me a better appreciation of the sugar that we take for granted. I was delighted to note that nothing of the sugar was wasted. The stuff that was not used to become "white sugar" was turned to organic fuel (they'd given up bunker oil to power the engines) or turned to ethanol (e.g. for Tanduay) or put back into the earth as organic fertilizer. I thought only the cocunuts could be used in so many ways. Emma was equally delighted that we practically came from the same field. Her day job was really in Advertising/Corp. Communications, but would turn tour guide now and then for the factory after the company had to give up its full-time guide.