Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House
An artistically crafted museum in Silay City, Negros Occidental, showcasing the Negrense sugar baron lifestyle of the 19th Century is popularly known as the Balay Negrense Museum. It is the first museum to come up in the Negros Occidental province and is one of the most visited heritage houses in Silay City.
Formerly the house was an ancestral property owned by Victor F. Gaston. Prudencia Fernandez and Yves Leopold German parented Gaston.
The sugar cultivation was started by the eldest Gaston after he married Prudencia Fernandez from Calatagan Batangas. He began experimenting with sugar cane production at his farm and then later relocated to Negros.
The history that encircles Balay Negrense Museum
The building was built in 1897. Victor Gaston inhabited the place and was survived by his twelve children since 1901. Gaston and his parents stayed there until his demise in 1927. After they abandoned the structure in the mid-1970s, the mansion suffered rough times without up keeping.
Local Negrenses group then took up the project to repair and restore the heritage building, which was later recognized as the Negros Cultural Foundation.
Negros Cultural Foundation acquired the house from the heirs of Gaston with the money they collected through a donation from prominent individuals of the town along with a fair amount of financial assistance from the Department of Tourism.
The money helped them repair the structure, renovating and refurnishing it in the style of a museum with fixtures and period furniture. On October 6, 1990, the heritage building was officially inaugurated as a museum.
The front of the house has a nice garden and a water fountain. The house is structured like a “house of stone” that incessantly reflects colonization in the Philippines. The basement however has a brick construction instead of stone.
The foundation pillars for the building used trunks of local hardwood, the balayong tree. The tree wood forms the floorboard of the building as well—galvanized iron coats wood for the upper storey instead of tile.
The building has a four-meter high ceiling and large windows coupled with ventanillas, for easy ventilation and air circulation.
There are smaller windows on the foot of the larger ones that has easy to open sliding panels for more ventilation. The first storey is a meter-high leaving only a crawlspace; however, with proper ventilation, dampness is prevented.
Things to watch out at the museum
- The house is full of exhibits and architectural artifacts.
- There are a lot of antique utensils showcased in the kitchen.
- There is an open-air pantaw that leads to the stairs from the lower floor. However, the servants have access to the work areas and living rooms through the stars from the pantaw.
- The Balay Negrense is not only about a family, but it denotes the story of the town from its lifestyle, culture, and tradition. It reminisces those days gone by.
The museum currently has an entrance fee of Php50.00. Balay Negrense can be found at Cinco de Noviembre St. in Silay City, Negros Occidental.
How to get there
Silay City is just a 30 to 45-minute Bus or Jeepney ride from Bacolod City. Take a Silay City-bound jeepney and get off at El Ideal Bakery. From El Ideal, Balay Negrense is just three blocks away.
*photos courtesy of Gael of Pinaysolobackpacker.com