The facade of Balay Negrense, which is now a museum.
What used to be the ancestral house of then sugar magnate Victor Gaston, Balay Negrense is now a museum. It was built in 1897 where Gaston, his wife and twelve children lived a comfortable life. Okay, maybe comfortable is an understatement since these people were extremely rich back in the day when sugar production in the Philippines was at its peak. Perhaps opulence would be a better fit.
The house was reportedly abandoned in the mid-1970's and was slowly fading away until a group of concerned Negrense (people of Negros) took interest in it. The Negros Cultural Foundation was formed and the property was acquired from the Gaston descendants through a donation. More donations poured in that allowed the house to be repaired and be furnished with period furniture and other memorabilia, bringing it back to its old colonial glory. The museum officially opened on October 6, 1990.
The view upon entering the ancestral house.
A peek into what's upstairs.
The living area is spacious and airy, with huge windows that allow for good ventilation.
The intricate staircase.
A measly entrance fee of Php 40 allows one to roam freely around the house and get a good look at how rich people lived back in the day. The living area was huge, with a number of seating options courtesy of different hardwood furniture. A piano room sits on one corner while a study is on another section of the house. Huge windows and ventilation panels protected by iron grills allow both sunlight and air to come in.
There are several other rooms in the ground floor, and the rectangular dining area, sits right behind the staircase. It has two round tables on both ends and a long and narrow rectangular table at the center. The kitchen is right by it, accessible by descending a few steps.
A section of the study.
The sliding windows have patterned glass pieces. I do appreciate all these details.
The dining area.
While ovens and refrigerators are commonplace today, not many people could own such pieces back in the day. So these people must be really rich to afford such things.
Having "dirty kitchens" seems to be a common thing here in the Philippines (But why can't we all just use the kitchen?), and the Gastons also had one.
A collection of vintage china.
Despite the summer heat, it was bright and airy upstairs. There is another living area here that opens up to huge sliding windows. Several bedrooms bordered the whole length of the floor on both sides, and each bedroom is furnished differently.
It's all bright and airy upstairs.
A child's room, I assume?
Without a doubt, this has got to be a guy's room.
The vanity is a giveaway. It's a lady's room.
Spooky, eh? It's almost like you were expecting a ghost to appear in the background. This is a period baro't saya (blouse and skirt), on display in one of the rooms.
Balay Negrense is definitely an awesome place to take pictures or have your picture(s) taken (like I did here). With all the stuff I see inside -- intricate picture frames, hardwood furniture with lots of carving, etc. -- I can't help but be reminded about how bland most things are today. So it's definitely nice that we still get to see and appreciate the beauty of things in the past, thanks to certain people who are concerned about preserving our heritage.
Don't you just love the details on these photo frames?
A vintage electric fan by White Westinghouse -- all hard iron! Today, most electric fans are well, plastic.
The Macs and PCs of the day.
Long before smartphones became ubiquitous, there was this.
The second telephone I saw in the house.
The ancestor of the Harley.
I definitely had a good time here (at least until a big noisy group arrived). For me, if you happen to be in Bacolod or Silay, I'd recommend you drop by Balay Negrense. It's worth a visit.
Do I look like I belong here?
Balay Negrense is along Cinco de Noviembre Street in Silay City, Negros Occidental. It's open Tuesdays through Sundays. I'm not sure what time they close, though. Just don't go there late in the afternoon to be on the safe side.
Silay is just a 30 to 45-minute ride from Bacolod. You can take any jeepney plying the Bacolod-Silay route and get off at El Ideal bakery. I'm not sure of the fare but it should be a lot less than Php 20. It's just three blocks away from there on the left side.
Or for convenience, you can just take a taxi or hire a car to take you around, especially if you intend on going to other spots as well.