Bacolod Bash

I was born too late [ January 1967 ] to have attended those famed “Kahirup” and “Mancomunidad Pampanguena” balls but what I experienced last Wednesday evening, 10 September 2008, in Talisay city, Negros Occidental, must have come very close, in essence, to those legendary occasions.  If I remember correctly, “Kahirup” in “Hiligaynon” [ the dialect of the Ilonggo people of Iloilo and the Negrense of Negros Occidental ] means “togetherness,” and absolutely wonderful togetherness it was that magical evening…

The Lizares-Alunan clan and their friends had gathered that evening for the formal ceremonies opening their legendary ancestral house “Balay ni Tana Dicang” [ “The House of Capitana Dicang” ] as a museum and cultural center, not only for their hometown of Talisay [ city ], but for the whole of Negros Occidental.  The “Balay ni Tana Dicang” is the stately 1880 “bahay-na-bato” of Efigenio “Eniong” Lizares y Treyes and Enrica “Dicang” Alunan y Labayen built of “coquina” coral stone and various hardwoods.  The Lizares-Alunan family was a principal player during the decades-long “sugar boom” — the “golden age” of Negros Occidental when endless, lucrative sugar exports created the vast fortunes of several enterprising families.  The house is a remarkable and fortunate survival from 1880 because of the continuing fortunes of the Lizares-Alunan descendants.

Our dear friend, Adrian “Adjie” Lizares, has long been the indefatigable engine of the project, and it was mostly because of him that a whole contingent of cultural “movers and shakers” from Manila flew to Negros Occidental for the occasion.

Heading the Manila contingent was heiress-businesswoman-arts patroness Maria Victoria “Marivic” Madrigal Vazquez.  Also there were businessman-top Filipiniana collector Richard Barnes Lopez and his beautiful wife Sandra de la Rama Batestuzzi-Lopez; Filipiniana designer Beatriz “Patis” Pamintuan-Tesoro and her husband Atty. Jose Claro “Tito” Tesoro;  publisher Josephine “Opat” Labrador-Hermano;  artist Victor Magsaysay;  artist, director, and bon vivant Placido “Don” Artadi Escudero Jr., famous trompe l’oeil artist Susana “Tats” Rejante-Manahan, top production designer Gino Gonzales, and I [ we traveled together ];  heiress-businesswoman-philanthropist Maria Teresa “Tess” Zamora Lopez and the magnificent Museo De La Salle’s creator and major benefactor Jose Ma. Ricardo “Joey” Panlilio;  low-key heiress-businesswoman Jenny Fernandez de los Reyes;  gallery owner Albert Avellana;  “Town & Country” Philippines’ art director Manny Chaves and his son Joey; et. al..

The lone representative of what I like to call “the other grand Talisay clan,” the Lacson-Araneta [ descendants of Aniceto Lacson y Ledesma and Rosario Araneta y Emilia { Cabunsol } ], was Carmen “Nena” Claparols Rossello, who came in a Muslim-inspired outfit which she told us the next day was somehow a reference to her part-Muslim ancestry as her Claparols-Lacson great-grandmother, Rosario Araneta y Emilia [ Cabunsol ], was descended from the old, royal Islamic Kabunsuan line of Mindanao.  Her popular philanthropist first cousin, Anna Claparols Balcells, was unable to attend.

The popular and goodlooking Gastons of Manapla town were there in full force:  Monsignor Guillermo “GG” Gaston, nephews Joey and Jomi, and Joey’s wife Ina.  The splendid Gaston ancestral home in Silay City has become the “Balay Negrense” museum; the family has long preferred to reside at their Hacienda Santa Rosalia in Manapla town, where they built an elegant “casa hacienda” in the 1930s, a residence that has gained lasting popularity as the “house” in the landmark 1982 movie “Oro, Plata, Mata” of director Peque Gallaga.  The Gaston table is justly renowned and both Joey and Jomi are restaurateurs:  Bacolod’s “Trattoria Uma” and “Cafe Uma” are theirs.

All the guests were charmed by the hundreds of big, beautiful hibiscus flowers [ of imported varieties ] liberally but elegantly strewn on the various tables of the house.  To the avid gardeners / plant collectors among the guests [ I being one of them ], it was a mystery to see the various hibiscus flowers in full bloom detached from their plants, because they tended to shrivel once cut; hibiscus do not make good cut flowers.  The flowers came from the splendid garden of the renowned horticulturist Francis Wong Te.  The blooms had been picked early in the morning, refrigerated the whole day, and only strewn on the various tables an hour before the affair.  The effect was so elegant and yet so understated.  In the “comedor” dining room, unusual plants with small pretty flowers and long tendrils on the antique pedestals elicited “oohs” and “aahs” from the plant aficionados like Marivic Vazquez, Patis Tesoro, Tats Manahan, Don Escudero, Gino Gonzales, and I, also Tess Lopez, Joey Panlilio, Manny Chaves and his son Joey, and several others.  We were told that the plant was popularly called “bin Laden”!!!  “bin Laden”???!!!  Francis Wong Te later told Patis the scientific name of the plant.  All the aficionados then wanted to make a beeline to Francis’ garden the next day to avail of the pretty and really unusual plant:  “I want one!!!”  “I want one too!!!”  “Me too!!!”

There was a very open bar, true to the Negrense tradition of hospitality.  All kinds of wines and spirits flowed throughout the evening.  The guests were told that there were many more bottles of wine waiting to be consumed… courtesy of a family friend.

The interesting menu was created by George Lizares and catered by his cousin Mia Lizares.  It featured fascinating and delicious hors d’oeuvres with the most inventive combinations but nonetheless Negrense in inspiration.  The guests raved over their newly-discovered favorites and consumed them with gusto.  The many waiters served endless platters of the crowd favorites throughout the evening, and these were eagerly taken by the merry guests just as soon as they were served.  I, for one, took too much of this and too much of that [ too much of everything, in fact!!! ], and Manny Chaves and his son Joey snickered at the sight of me precariously descending the “escalera principal” principal stairway with my protruding “Egyptian belly.”

The several “lechon” were absolutely delicious and remarkable for their natural farm freshness [ they simply didn’t taste like the usual, veterinarian-bred, Manila “lechon” ].  They were young so the rinds were crisp and the fats would separate easily from them.  I liked it so much I must have consumed a third of the rind of a “lechon” [ hellooooo to cholesterol and hypertension!!! ].  Friends then quipped that a tall and elegant Pampangueno guest, a renowned “lechon” aficionado, must have consumed half of the rind of a “lechon”!!!

Conviviality was the mark of the evening.  Everyone was in good spirits.  Many members of the Lizares-Alunan clan and their friends from neighboring Bacolod, Talisay, and Silay, as well as the Manilenos, chose to sit at the round tables set to the right of the house.  The artistically inclined huddled in the various “entresuelo” ground floor rooms near the newly-installed art gallery.  Family and friends posed for photographs casually seated at the “escalera principal” main staircase.  Other family members and their friends congregated in the commodious “comedor” dining room with its “vajilleras” glass-fronted cabinets filled with antique china and crystal.  The young members of the clan and their friends gathered in the “sala” living room occupying the elegant 1880s Ah Tay-style settees and armchairs surrounding a grooved marble top table.  There were such beautiful and soignee people in that soiree, in that elegant house that one perfect evening…

It was also on that evening that I was finally able to discern, for myself, the difference between the Negrense temperament from that of their traditional rivals up north in Luzon:  the Pampanguenos, the “race” to which I belong.  In contrast to the Pampanguenos, the Negrenses are kind, cordial, accommodating, optimistic, very generous, and certified masters of “arts de vivre.”   The Pampanguenos in general are proud, with a superiority complex [ “Of course, we’re far better than those Ilonggos and Negrenses!!!” is the usual line 😛 ], calculating, shrewd, pessimistic, oddly austere and inelegant, even crusty, despite considerable wealth, and surprisingly frugal except on food.  The Ilonggo temperament — that other proud “race” which insists on distinguishing itself from the Negrense — on the other hand, falls in between the Pampangueno and Negrense ones.  The epiphany was startling.

Yes, there is admittedly a certain Negrense charm found in both the ladies and the gentlemen.  In general, the ladies are exquisite, graceful, and beautiful.  The gentlemen are cordial, courtly [ and oftentimes lordly ], worldly, and handsome.  Despite the obvious sophistication, there is a charming ingenuousness.  Their social graces are effortless, as if they were reared from birth to preside and revel in elegant gatherings…

Of the “Balay ni Tana Dicang” project, prime mover Adrian “Adjie” Lizares said:  “The family of course is big and many individuals have their own opinion on the big house.  To some it is a burden without responsibility, to others a white elephant, to many it is something to be very proud of, and that is the sentiment I wish to cultivate, I choose to reject the negative ideas seeing there is no future taking things down that path — so it is a culture of positivism that we wish to inculcate — the practical problems and issues to be dealt with in black and white.  Then we can always move ahead…”

Yes, after all those forgotten decades, the “Kahirup” spirit of the Negrenses, in its truest, most socially responsible, and most politically correct form, is alive and well.

The lesson has been learned:  the renewed “Kahirup” spirit has been taken to a higher, nobler, unimpeachable level.

[ Many thanks to our dear friend Adrian “Adjie” Lizares, without whom that experience of a lifetime simply wouldn’t have happened…   🙂 ]

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12 Comments

  1. August 22, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Andrea:

    Hello again!!! Feel free to quote or link anything from here which you find useful or interesting. Adjie is a dear friend and his first cousin Danny is a brother-in-law. So you are almost family to me. 🙂

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  2. August 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    You are such an interesting read. I was present that evening and I love how you describe the different scenes in the Balay that night. Right now, your articles about the balay and Lola Dicang are the best I can find anywhere. But even with your articles, I hope you’ll agree that the Balay is too important and too wonderful not to have its own website. Since I make websites as a hobby, I started a website for the house and have already posted a few articles and a good number of pictures. An excerpt of this article and of your other articles on Enrica will be invaluable additions to the content of the site. I will not post the entire articles, I will acknowledge you as author, and I will add links to your site. Thanks.

  3. September 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Kindly, if at all possible. Try and post memorable gowns worn in both BALLS. It wouild be nice for us hungry for pictures to accompany this INCREDIBLE very CREDIBLE blog and all the comment personas who I personally adore.

  4. September 17, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Myles:

    It is my theory that if the Ilonggos, Negrenses, and Pampanguenos had just stayed true to the early, essential ideals of the “Kahirup” and “Mancomunidad Pampanguena” associations, and not trivialized themselves and indulged in socially-insensitive “conspicuous consumption,” then they wouldn’t have run into all the trouble and criticism they did in those last years.

    If they had gathered for the sake of unity, as business and social organizations helping their communities and therefore the less and the least fortunate, if there was far less emphasis on parties, dresses, and jewelry, then those two organizations may not have run aground.

    And of course, it was partly the zeitgeist: anything “old” in the Swinging Sixties was considered “out”!!! 😛

    Toto Gonzalez

  5. Myles Garcia said,

    September 17, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Kahirup? I heard “Ka-hirap” and “Ka-hayop!” 🙂 🙂

    Mention of those balls era brings back memories of a debate in senior class high school when, given the perspective of time, I ask myself now: what was I thinking back then?

    Yes, as the 1st Macapagal Era was ascending (ca. 1964) and the appearance of the Ilocano-Waray power tandem were but low rumblings on the horizon, the “Mancommunidad” and “Kahirup” balls were in full swing on the Manila social calendar. Of course, there were also stirrings of conscientiousness and social awareness vs. those totally ‘frivolous’ affairs which seemed to harken back to a a socially stratified time. And buzz words like ‘burgis,” “elitism”, and “ostentatious displays of wealth” were creeping into the social Filipino/Manila vocabulary.

    Thus, it was on that last season when the two rival events waged their game of social oneupsmanship with high stakes (1964) that it was decided to conduct a debate at my senior class at that most Jesuit of institutions, the Ateneo. Strangely, because of an article in the Manila Times Sunday magazine, I found myself defending these (‘mindless’) displays of the rich vs. the rest of the class (some of whom were the sons of Manila elite) crying “Foul” and “Pasikat” in favor of the other side. (That might have been the difference — some of my classmates’ familes who were the creme de la creme of Manila, therefore, Philippine society — did not partake in these ‘vulgar provinciano’ orgies — i.e., the Central Luzonians showing off vs. the Visayans.)

    Anyway, in the class debate I argued that these so-called ‘frivolous pastimes of the rich’ actually was good for the economy since there was a ‘trickle-down effect’ to all the support services and craftspeople who were employed to realize these balls. The couturiers and their army of costureras, the hairdressers, the manicuristas, the “tsupers,” the florists, etc., etc., were kept busy and remunerated fairly by the participating upper class. (Wow! Me, a budding ‘economist’ at that age. If only… 🙂 And what would have been the alternative? The rich could simply have stayed home and conducted smaller, quieter cocktail parties where the “over-flow” spending would not have benefited a greater number of middle-class people that the ‘mindless balls’ did. (I, of course, forgot that that scenario did not play out too well in France 1789 and in Czarist Russia 1917. Duh!!)

    The other side argued ‘conscience’ and I argued economics. To my surprise, I swayed most of the class (including the sons w/ the silver spoons but pretending to be all ‘socially conscious’ and ‘politically correct’) and I won the majority (vote).

    Of course, now, some 40 years later, it’s ‘… what were you thinking, jose’ ???

    So looking back fondly, there was one derisive play on words for ‘Mancommunidad’ — “Mancomun-ni-Dadong.” Not quite as biting as the “Kahirup” equivalents.

    Disclaimer: my parents neither attended nor belonged to either faction.

    Those were the days…(But I’ve seen those contemporary ‘Santacruzan’ outfits/ternos which are even more ‘estramboticos’ and more ‘lujosos’ and ‘eye-popping’ than any Olympic Opening Ceremony can dream up!!)

    Myles

  6. steve betts said,

    September 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    That ILAGA trivia is quite interesting. How very jolly and ‘malambing’ people formed this extremely violent group. I guess they were pushed too hard.

  7. September 15, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    It’s 9 a.m. in autumn-turning Washington and I just had my steaming pot of Jasmine tea for breakfast. The tele had Billie Holiday and Satchmo dueling in 30’s blues and jazz while I was perusing your NONSENSICAL but all too wonderful and fun-filled blogs with equal doses of COMMENTS from inventive intellectual bloggers. LONG LIVE la Suprema, Remembrance of Things Rehashed, Repast and Re-collected. It’s Monday and my day is made. No, make that my WEEK. Kudos TOTO, we love it. We love it.

  8. Chong Mo said,

    September 15, 2008 at 6:56 am

    The laid back and easy going demeanor of people from Negros and Panay can’t be mistaken for being less assertive and driven. These two islands are difficult areas to manage in terms of agriculture and yet farms and haciendas have thrived. Iloilo and Bacolod are very old towns and its people are rich in history and culture.

    In reference to Mindanao, there are places in North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat that are virtually Ilonggo country. People who have left their home towns and braved a harsh and violent environment in Central Mindanao to find a better life. The Ilonggos were the ones who created the infamous ILAGA. Every time there are rumors that ILAGA has been reactivated, the MILF gets really really worried.

    Cheers!

  9. Ramon Lagtapon said,

    September 14, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    As a Bacolod City-native now residing in the US, I agree with the qualities mentioned. For us, the ideal woman is definitely the “mahinhin” type and not the “mataray” one.

  10. randy b said,

    September 14, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Probably a problem of religious doctrine. The Islamic Koran preaches differently from the Christian Bible. And few of our Islamic brothers understand our system of land registration [ adapted from the American one ].

  11. Myles Garcia said,

    September 13, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    So why are the Muslims in the south more bellicose and belligerent than their northern countrymen?

    I would normally agree with your statement, especially in the countries with MORE temperate climates. But the Visayan islands are just three to four hundred miles south of Manila and Central Luzon — still in the same humid, tropical belt. So really, there is not that much difference in climate there.

  12. randy b said,

    September 13, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Anywhere in the world the northerners are always tougher, driven, colder and more austere and the southerners are gentler, warmer, more easygoing and self-indulgent. Has to do with the climate.


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