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Moving Forward, Looking Backward

Many people associate progress with the emergence of spanking new buildings cladded with aluminum sheets and "clean" lines which actually border on bland.  In the heart of the Visayas, where two regions are comfortably nestled, the Western Visayas Region, and the newly formed Negros Island Region better known as The Sweet Spot of the Philippines, such may not be the case.

Here at the heart of the sugar industry, where elegant mansions were erected at the turn of the century due to the sugar boom catalyzed by a British man named Nicolas Loney, the locals are training their sights on enshrining their culture by preserving old houses, instead of knocking them down.

In Iloilo City, citizens were first aghast at the idea that the famed Yusay-Consing Mansion in Molo district could be demolished by its new owners, the SM Group .  Thinking that the Yusay-Consing Mansion would fall prey to the wrecking ball, recent photos have shown that the SM Group is sticking to its 2014 press statement in restoring the ancestral home through adaptive re-use, hiring no less than Architect Augusto Villalon.

SM emphasized that there is an adaptive reuse plan for the Yusay-Consing Mansion, which faces the plaza in Molo and gothic-designed Roman Catholic Saint Anne Parish Church.  While a commercial building will be built within the compound, the mansion, which was in a decayed state, is currently being rehabilitated for use as a heritage museum with a cultural retail shop.

“The mansion will showcase the best of Ilonggo arts, crafts and delicacies,” SM said in a statement.

Built in the 1920s, the Yusay-Consing Mansion was originally owned by Doña Petra Lacson-Yusay. It was later handed down to the family of Timoteo Consing Sr., who served as Iloilo governor from 1935-1937.  The mansion was said to be where Presidents Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña were hosted and stayed in when they would visit Iloilo.

Art Deco Staircase of Balay Daku
Across the pond in the island of Negros, families have been refurbishing their homes to further showcase to visitors, the splendor of a glorious past.

Just as what is happening in Iloilo, a number of houses have been brought to better shape to show future generations the Negrense life as it was in the first half of the 1900s.  Museum Curator John Silva recently made a public post on Facebook showing the Most Beautiful Art Deco House in the Philippines.

Located in a street which was once known as Millionaire's Row, the Generoso Villanueva house, also known as Balay Daku (big house) continues to wow its limited visitors. 

On the same street, Burgos Street, another similar balay daku also shows the shining past of Negros and Bacolod City.  This is the house of Don Mariano Ramos.

Between the two houses and other mansions for which Negros is known for, Ms. Bambi Harper had this to comment on John Silva's post on Facebook, "Negrenses appear to have better taste than Manileños.  Think of all those Art Deco houses in New Manila that were replaced by condos of no particular artistic value."

Ramos Ancestral Home

Photo credits to : Hawili Hurom (Iloilo), Voltaire Siacor and John Silva (Daku Balay), Lloyd Tronco (Ramos Ancestral Home).

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