The gateway to Negros Occidental by plane, Silay City is one of the best-preserved heritage towns in the Philippines. More than 30 ancestral homes, built between the late 19th century and early 20th century, have been officially recognized as Heritage Houses by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) within the Silay City Heritage Zone.
These opulent mansions of various architectural styles were erected by wealthy landowning families who reaped from the economic boom of the cane sugar industry during Spanish and American colonial times. They are concentrated around the compact city center, which can be easily explored on foot. With new accommodations and restaurants – some of them in heritage houses – opening up in recent years, Silay is worth rediscovering time and again.
Travel tip: The following walking tour route doesn’t cover all the heritage homes within the historic core. If you have a lot of time to spare, feel free to wander down side streets to see other heritage homes. On the other hand, if you only have time to visit a few attractions, you can focus on the best ones written in ALL CAPS. Short hops around town on tricycle or pedicab cost only ₱10 per person.
At the northeast corner of the heritage zone, start the walking tour at BERNARDINO JALANDONI MUSEUM (open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9am to 5pm, entrance: ₱60), a pink-colored bahay na bato, built in 1908, right along Rizal Street – the main highway that traverses the city. This was the first heritage house to be recognized as a national historical landmark by the NHCP.
As you walk southwards along Rizal Street from the museum, you can see a series of heritage buildings which now house commercial establishments. Maria Ledesma Golez Heritage House was repurposed into a bank. The first department store in Negros opened at Lino Lope Severino Building, which now houses budget accommodation Baldevia Pension House and several commercial establishments. The next buildings down the road are Michelle Arcade and Jison Building, an Art Deco edifice, which used to house Cine Silay, a movie theater.
Turn right to Zamora Street where the cathedral stands. Before walking down this street, admire another row of heritage houses along Rizal Street, across the public plaza, which now house restaurants and retail stores: Kapitan Marciano Montelibano Lacson House, Antonio Novella Sian House (now a McDonald’s), Manuel de la Rama Locsin House, and Josefita Tionko Lacson House (the only heritage house with an elevator).
Walk down Zamora Street, where you can find the SAN DIEGO PRO-CATHEDRAL, designed by Italian architect Lucio Bernasconi and completed in 1927. The Romanesque church is the only pro-cathedral in the country, a parish church that temporarily serves as the cathedral or co-cathedral of a diocese. Across the cathedral is the leafy Silay Public Plaza, originally designed by Bernasconi, but renovated to its present-day look in the 1970s.
Further down the street is Silay City Hall, which will be turned into museum when the new government center will be completed, and the twin houses of the Generoso Reyes Gamboa Ancestral House. One of the twin heritage houses has been restored by the present owners into 1898 Casa & Restaurante, a five-room bed and breakfast and Italian restaurant.
CINCO DE NOVIEMBRE STREET
From Zamora Street, turn right at Cinco de November Street to visit the MANUEL SEVERINO HOFILEÑA ANCESTRAL HOUSE, built in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles in 1934. This was the first heritage house in the city to open its doors to the public, since 1962, three decades before the next one did.
Backtrack down Cinco de November Street, walking southwards to BALAY NEGRENSE – also known as the Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House –(open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9am to 5:30 pm, entrance: ₱60), which is perhaps the most-visited heritage house in town. This heritage house was built by the eldest son of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, a Frenchman who settled in Silay in 1840 and pioneered the commercial production of cane sugar. (This popular house shouldn’t be confused with the Gaston Mansion, 26 km north of the Silay City Heritage Zone, in Hacienda Santa Rosalia in Manapla municipality, where the 1981 Filipino classic Oro, Plata, Mata was filmed.)
Continuing down the street, you will see Digna Locsin Consing House on your right, followed by the Cinco de Noviembre Memorial at the corner of Jose Pitong Ledesma Street. This historical monument marks the site of Farmacia Locsin, a drugstore which became the secret meeting place for revolutionaries during the Negros Revolution of 1898.
JOSE “PITONG” LEDESMA STREET
At the corner of the Cinco de Noviembre Memorial, turn left at Jose “Pitong” Ledesma Street, where you can find more ancestral houses: Teodoro Morada Ancestral House, on the left side, then Jose Ledesma Ancestral House and Dr. Jose Corteza Locsin Ancestral House, on your ride side. Behind the Locsin house, along Valencia Street, is the Antonia de la Rama Locsin Ancestral House, reputedly the city’s oldest surviving heritage house, built in 1870.
Further down J. Pitong Ledesma Street, there’s the Adela Locsin Ledesma Mansion – which now houses the upscale restaurant Stephen’s at Balay Puti), Leandro de la Rama Locsin Ancestral House, and at the corner of the Rizal highway, the Soledad and Maria Montelibano Lacson Ancestral House.
When you reach Rizal Street, turn left towards the Cesar Lacson Locsin Ancestral House, which houses the famous EL IDEAL BAKERY. The Locsin family started their bakery business in the 1920s, selling SIlay delicacies like piaya (sweet flatbread), dulce gatas (milk candy), and their famous guapple pie. It’s an excellent spot to enjoy snacks or a meal at the end of your walking tour.
If you need to catch a flight right after your tour, airport shuttle vans (₱100 per person) can be conveniently found just down the street from the bakery at the corner of Zulueta Street.
How to Get There
Silay City Heritage Zone is only 5 km away from Bacolod-Silay Airport. Take a airport shuttle van or tricycle for ₱100. If you’re coming from Bacolod City, take a Bacolod-Silay jeepney, or any northbound bus from the Ceres North Bus Terminal (₱25).
Where to Stay
To really soak up the old-world atmosphere of the heritage zone, I recommend staying a night or two at an accommodation housed in a heritage building, like 1898 Casa & Restaurante, Baldevia Pension (Severino Building), German Unson Ancestral House, or Balay 8 Suites.