Known as a Heritage City in the Philippines, Silay in Negros Occidental is home to some of the most beautifully preserved ancestral homes and buildings – all exuding a great fusion of both foreign and local initiative. The exquisite architecture and fine artistry can be seen and admired in all of these old structures. Truly, these picturesque, deep-rooted structures are worth visiting and more.
If you’re into ancestral homes and other old buildings, then you will definitely love Silay City. Travel back in time by walking its streets, and see 29 surviving ancestral houses up-close.
The National Historical Commission classified all of these structures as national treasures, several of which have already been opened to the public. The Balay Negrense, Don Bernardino Jalandoni Ancestral House, and Manuel Hofileña Heritage House are just three of these homes that have been rehabilitated and turned into museums.
Ideally, you can see all of these old houses in under a day. But it’s best to stay in Silay for at least two or three days to fully experience the city. My friend and I went to see several of these homes at a leisurely pace, and we were able to locate most of them (and a few other notable sites) in our 2-day stay.
1. The Balay Negrense Museum (Don Victor F. Gaston Ancestral House)
The Balay Negrense Museum (restored by the Negros Cultural Foundation) was the first ancestral home that we visited. A family of Sugar Barons who emigrated from Normandy, France, owned the beautiful property by Cinco de Noviembre Street. Believe it or not, eight of Don Victor F. Gaston’s twelve children lived in this abode.
The Balay Negrense, which shows a coming together of both Spanish and American colonial architecture, has 12 bedrooms and two huge hallways. The 2-storey Hacienda house made of stone and wood, with its polished Balayong wooden floors (a native hardwood tree), features a beautiful double staircase. It also contains an exquisite set of furniture and décor (the French windows are remarkable).
There is an entrance fee of ₱60 per person. The museum is open daily except Mondays and some holidays, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For guided tours and inquires, you can call +63 34 714 7676.
2. Manuel Severino Hofileña Museum
The Manuel Severino Hofileña Heritage House, which is also located at the far end of Cinco de Noviembre Street, is the first ancestral home that was opened to the public. Not only does it contain a great set of classic furniture and memorabilia, it also keeps an exquisite collection of paintings from many distinguished Filipino artists — all of which are owned by the very friendly Ramon Hofileña. Mr. Ramon’s paintings range from works made by Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, and Manansala (just to name a few). We had the privilege of meeting him in person (who was also the subject of some portraits), where we ended up talking about the history and heritage of Silay.
There is an entrance fee of ₱60 per person. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For guided tours and inquires, you can call +63 34 495 4561.
3. Bernardino Jalandoni Museum
You’ll never miss the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum, as it’s the only “Pink House” in town. Not only is its exterior worthy of admiration, it’s also one of its kind, as it prides on having the most rare and valuable pieces in Silay’s history. You’ll find a collection of old wooden furniture and vintage photographs (mostly of ancestral homes) on the ground floor. The second floor, on the other hand, is where the Jalandoni Family’s personal furnishings and belongings are kept and preserved.
There is an entrance fee of ₱60 per person. The museum is located along Rizal Street. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For guided tours and inquires, you can call +63 34 495 5093.
4. Cinco de Noviembre Marker
The Cinco de Noviembre Marker is quite historic, as it marks the location where the Filipinos and Spaniards first exchanged shots. But what makes it more momentous is that it was said to be the first bloodless rebellion in the Philippines. This happened on November 5, 1898, which is now recognized as Negros Day — an important date that highlights the Negrenses who’ve proudly fought and claimed their land from the Spanish conquerors.
5. Municipal Hall Museum
The Municipal Hall Museum is a small gallery. But it’s packed with a lot of information, dating back to Silay’s roots all the way to its present. A collection of dioramas, documents, and even pieces of clothing can be seen displayed in this exhibition hall.
The gallery is free, and is located at Silay City Tourism Office, Sen. Jose C. Locsin Cultural and Civic Center, Zamora Street.
Where to Eat
Your trip to Silay won’t be complete without trying their famous Guapple pie (a guava version of apple pie) at El Ideal Bakery & Restaurant — the oldest establishment of its kind in Negros (established in the 1920’s by the late Cesar Locsin). You can order a slice of Guapple Pie for only ₱45, anytime from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM. They are located at 118 Rizal Street.
You can also try Mac Shawarma District for a quick, late night binge! Their shawarma wraps are good and cheap. The fast food joint is located along Rizal St., and is open from 8:00 AM until 2:00 AM.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for the ultimate Silay experience, then stay at the German Locsin Unson Ancestral House. The spacious and beautiful home is a heritage house turned Bed & Breakfast (located at 5 Zamora Street). But if you prefer to stay at other lodging options, you may try Baldevia Pension House, Pegasus Pension or Richmond Inn.
Silay City, Negros Occidental
+63 34 495 0272
Silay City, Negros Occidental
+63 34 495 5907
How to Reach Silay City
Silay is less than 55 minutes from Manila by plane via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific Air. Taxis and public transportation are available at the Bacolod-Silay International Airport. Taking a cab from the airport to Silay City will only take you around 20 minutes.