J. Albert Gamboa-125

FINEX Folio

SILAY CITY — This component city of Negros Occidental province is the gateway to the “Sugar Bowl of the Philippines” and the site of the Bacolod-Silay International Airport. Home to more than 30 centuries-old heritage mansions, some of which have been converted into museums and restaurants, Silay is often referred to as the “Paris of Negros.”

Founded in 1565 during the Spanish colonial regime, Silay became a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 1621 enacted during the administration of President Carlos P. Garcia in 1957. Today it is a vibrant cultural hub that belongs to the Metro Bacolod area, which consists of six cities and five municipalities in the central part of Negros Occidental.

Silaynons played a crucial role in the bloodless Negros Revolution against the Spaniards that led to the establishment of the Cantonal Republic of Negros on Nov. 5, 1898 led by generals Aniceto Lacson of Talisay City and Juan Araneta of Bago City. A historical monument along Cinco de Noviembre Street honors six Negrense revolutionaries from Silay, namely Nicolas Golez, Leandro Locsin, Timoteo Unson, Melecio Severino, Vicente Gamboa, and Olympia Severino.

Since 1989, every Nov. 5 has been celebrated as “Negros Day” after President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law Republic Act No. 6709, which declared “Al Cinco de Noviembre” as a special non-working holiday in Negros Occidental. The short-lived Negros Republic was a canton or administrative division of the First Philippine Republic and later became a protectorate of the American colonial government.

Here at the Silay Heritage Zone, the focal point of the Cinco de Noviembre commemoration was at Balay Puti, the Ledesma-Locsin family’s neo-classical mansion that has been transformed into a gourmet restaurant by chef Stephen Escalante. Balay Puti was designed in 1920 by Italian architect Lucio Bernasconi — who was also commissioned to redesign the San Diego Pro-Cathedral, the only domed church in the province.

Cinco de Noviembre was commemorated for the first time in Metro Manila through the inaugural Namit Namit Food Festival at Rockwell Center Makati last Nov. 4-6, 2022. “Namit” is the Hiligaynon word for delicious food, which was exhibited at the gustatory event sponsored by the University of St. La Salle Alumni Association’s Manila Chapter, Globe Telecom, San Miguel Brewery, Don Papa Rum, and Rockwell Center Bacolod.

Eleven iconic Negrense food brands participated in the weekend foodfest that featured heirloom recipes as well as novelty products, including authentic chicken inasal from JT’s Manukan, sate babi from Café Bob’s, napoleones from Roli’s Bakeshop, puffyanis from Quino’s, the Ilonggo version of bulalo from Pat-Pat’s Kansi, and Silay’s very own morcon from a half-century-old roadside eatery called Sir & Ma’am.

Filipinos are known throughout the world for their excellence in terms of hospitality. When it comes to entertaining guests and showcasing culinary ability, one can count on the Negrenses to turn up this level of hospitality by several notches.

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J. Albert Gamboa is the chief finance officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and chair of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.  #FinexPhils www.finex.org.ph