An artistically crafted museum in Silay City, Negros Occidental showcasing the lifestyle of the Negrense sugar baron 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 house in Silay City.
Balay Negrense Museum
Formerly the house was an ancestral property owned by Victor F.Gaston the mansion was known for sugarcane cultivation. Prudencia Fernandez and Yves Leopold German parented Gaston. Negros Occidental in Gaston’s time started sugarcane cultivation.
The 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.
Living Room at the second floor
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.
Main Living Room
Local Negrenses group then took up the project on themselves to repair and restore the heritage building who were later recognised as the Negros Cultural Foundation.
They acquired the house from the heirs of Gaston who left it abandoned with the money they collected through a donation from prominent individuals of the town along with fair amount of financial assistance from the Department of Tourism.
The Dining Area
The money helped them in repairing the structure, renovating and refurnishing it in the style of a museum with fixtures and period furniture’s. In October 6, 1990 the heritage building was officially inaugurated as a museum.
Collection of Old Books
The front of the house has a nice garden and water fountain. The house is structured like a “house of stone”, that incessantly reflects colonisation in the Philippines. The lower storey however has a brick construction instead of stone. The foundation pillars for the building build of trunks of a local hardwood, the balayong tree. The tree wood form 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 also on the foot of the larger ones that have 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.
Balay Negrense Museum Souvenir Shop
Things to watch out at the museum
• The house is full of exhibits and architectural artefacts.
• 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. The servants however 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 Php 50.00. 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. 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